Proposed merger of TAPS and PPA sinks

The Trade Association of Paddlesports and the Professional Paddlesports Association announced that they have halted their efforts to merge and create a new trade association.
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The Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS) and the Professional Paddlesports Association (PPA) announced that they have halted their efforts to merge and create a new trade association.

The process to merge TAPS and PPA began about a year ago, and this summer the organizations formed the Paddlesports Industry Unification Workgroup to spearhead the effort. The process appeared to have momentum as the Workgroup held meetings at the August Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show and the October Outdoor Industry Rendezvous. And this fall, PPA and TAPS were conducting due diligence, examining each other's financials, and the groups had agreed to work on a possible structure for a new association. But this month the deal fell through.

A joint press release from PPA and TAPS stated that the TAPS Board of Directors met December 6 and 7 and voted unanimously to drop the unification plans. However, the TAPS board encouraged TAPS and PPA to collaborate on future efforts to promote paddlesports participation and deal with regulatory issues.

"We are still committed to some kind of consistency in the industry, but we felt the process as designed wouldn't accomplish anything in the short term," Michael Pardy, executive director of TAPS told SNEWS®. "We're better off focusing on a few discreet tasks that would have tangible, more immediate benefits in the industry and would also go a long way to building some level of trust between PPA and TAPS."

The primary purpose of a new association was to give the paddlesports market a stronger, unified entity to promote paddlesports participation and address regulatory issues such as standards for buoyancy and capacity for kayaks and canoes. But Pardy said that PPA and TAPS could work on both issues effectively without merging. "Instead of spending another year talking about the process (of merging), we should go ahead and do some things," said Pardy. "We would get farther ahead more quickly if we put together a few really good concepts as a rallying cry and see what we can actually do."

PPA Executive Director Matt Menashes told SNEWS® that he still thinks unification is the right thing to do. "It's the best way for the industry to create one voice and to leverage what little financial resources this industry has into effective programs," he said. "But I understand the TAPS position, that they didn’t understand what the business model for this thing would be." However, he pointed out that the Workgroup had not even gotten to the point of determining the model for the new association when TAPS decided to withdraw. "It was still an open question that I wish we could have answered together," he said.

What may have killed the deal was a lack of trust between the PPA and TAPS boards of directors. Menashes and Pardy both said that there was probably not enough communication between the two groups to build adequate consensus for a merger. "Traditionally, TAPS and PPA have had no real relationship," said Pardy. "They have their own spheres of influence, and they have distinct and discreet memberships. Without trust in place, unification won't accomplish what it needs to accomplish."

"If this issue or idea comes to fruition again in the future," said Menashes, "it will really require the commitment of everyone involved to spend time to get to know each other." He added that, in retrospect, it might have been more effective to rely less on the Workgroup and put more emphasis on face-to-face meetings between the boards.

Though the attempt to merge failed, Menashes said the process produced some good things. Not only have PPA and TAPS agreed to collaborate and pursue key issues identified by the Workgroup, but also Menashes said the proposed merger drew interest from a wide audience in the paddlesports market, including business leaders who are not members of PPA and TAPS. "There was some real support behind the idea of having one organization," said Joe Pulliam, who was a central player in bringing TAPS and PPA together.

Still, this failed attempt leaves a problem on the table: there remains an alphabet soup of paddling associations, which confuses and frustrates plenty of members of the paddlesports market, and deters them from supporting PPA and TAPS. "We're still left with under-funded organizations that the industry is not fully behind," said Pulliam.

SNEWS® View: Disappointing, but not really a surprise given history. Talks of mergers and unification and cooperation for the good of the paddlesports industry have been going on for an eternity it seems. Back in early 2002, TAPS and PPA even signed an MOU decreeing a new future of cooperation, following the decision by TAPS not to merge with the Outdoor Industry Association. So where are we now? Once again with two organizations proclaiming a desire to work cooperatively, but really no closer to what the entire paddlesports industry actually needs – one unified association voice speaking for the entire industry.

Insiders tell us that the TAPS board blindsided PPA with the decision to end talks. Insiders also tell us there that neither organization trusts the other very much. To all, we say get over yourselves! There is only one agenda that matters here, and it is has nothing to do with stroking the egos of either association. Neither group is even close to being able to individually and properly address the representative requirements of the entire paddlesports industry.

What this industry absolutely needs, and should now start demanding, is one voice that represents all paddlesports -- retailers, manufacturers, reps, outfitters and more. Until that day happens, it will be nearly impossible to build the solidarity needed to ensure future growth and profitability for all.

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