World Kayak Seeks to Double Participation in Five Years

Ambassador network and online portal combine to make it easier for paddlers to keep paddling and get new paddlers to join the fun.

Participation in whitewater kayaking will double in the next five years if the newly established World Kayak organization is successful in meeting its ambitious goals. World Kayak's initiative to grow the sport is based primarily on the belief – widely held by many sports organizations - that providing new and intermediate boaters more opportunities to paddle will convert them from occasional participants to frequent enthusiasts.
“The goal of the program is to give more opportunities to paddlers to get out in a good communal setting,” said World Kayak coordinator Colin Kemp.
Jackson Kayak has thrown its support behind the initiative offering, among other things, American Whitewater membership to the first 300 people who register at World Kayak's internet home base, is being designed to be a hub of kayaking community information, sortable by towns and rivers. On the site, boaters can find the contact information for the ambassador in their area as well as a list of local kayak clubs, instructional opportunities, social paddling outings and more, all supplied and updated by World Kayak ambassadors.
At the heart of World Kayak is the cadre of ambassadors Kemp enlisted to help evangelize new and lapsed boaters in their respective regions. With 20 already established and trained, Kemp is well on his way toward realizing his goal of 25 ambassadors in the first year of the initiative.
Kemp carefully selected each ambassador for the program, looking not just for the hottest boaters but boaters who are friendly, positive and an approachable contact for the average boater. They include well-recognized pros to rising stars like Heather Herbeck and regionally well-known boaters like Eric Sneeringer.
One such ambassador is former Olympian and Nantahala Outdoor Center Paddling School Director Wayne Dickert. Dickert said he's “really fired up” about World Kayak. “It's the best, most concerted effort to grow the sport that I've seen.”
The ambassadors have duties designed to help strengthen connections among boaters in their respective communities including making sure such things as event info and gauge readings are accurate and updated as needed. Ambassadors will also contribute two route descriptions about their home waters; one for new and beginning boaters, the other for intermediate boaters.
Ambassador James Sneeringer, a part-time instructor at Valley Mill Kayak School outside Washington DC, said he signed on as an ambassador for World Kayak because he believes the initiative offers the best opportunity to enhance the sense of community that keeps people kayaking. Kayaking is about lifestyle, Sneeringer said, and he is optimistic World Kayak can be the platform to help the paddlesports community become even more closely connected.
While much of the beta online right now is from North American paddling destinations, the goal is for the site to be the global hub of paddlesports info and resources.
For their efforts, ambassadors will receive special discounts on boats and other merchandise from Jackson Kayak boats and other participating paddlesports companies, Each ambassador also will be given six AW memberships, one for themselves and five others to distribute to valued assistants and contributors to the World Kayak effort.
While the initiative is the brainchild of Kemp and Jackson Kayak founder and president Eric “EJ” Jackson, Jackson was quick to stress that it is “immaterial that Jackson Kayak is leading this effort. What is important,”Jackson said, “is that World Kayak is successful growing the paddling community.”
Both Sneeringer and Dickert agree the brand-neutral approach of World Kayak is key to helping grow the sport.
Jackson's lifelong dedication to instilling his love of kayaking to others was recognized by industry and media when he was presented the inaugural Everest Award for kayaking at the 2005 Teva Mountain Games in Vail. The award recognizes not only outstanding athletes but those whose contributions to their sport has had an enduring impact.
To learn more about the program and how to get involved, visit