Everyone has somebody who was influential to their kayaking experience. That person was a friend to kayaking in general, and certainly to you. There are some special people who are influential and helpful to many people and take the total kayaking experiences of their local community seriously. I believe that these people are the “saints of kayaking”. They host club meetings at their house, organize local events, provide instruction for friends wanting to get into kayaking for the friends of friends. They always have gear to lend out if needed, and manage to find excuses for social events for paddlers. We all have our own social network of paddlers and each of us knows just how important it is for our own lives. New paddlers have a tough road in kayaking in that there are have not been any real clear paths from wanting to paddle to becoming a paddler with friends to paddle with and regular activities to participate in that truly engage them in the sport. Anyone who helps pave the way for new paddlers, clearly is part of the Soul of Kayaking that we can, and should support in any way we can. There are some people who feel that there are already enough kayakers in the world and that making it easier for new paddlers to join in is a negative. Obviously, those people mean, now that they are kayakers, we can stop making it easy. The selfishness of that attitude goes beyond ridiculous, and can usually be found in other areas of their lives.
World Ka yak was started as a support mechanism in 2007 to help those “kayaking saints” be more effective in making their local paddling scene more fun and active. We created a volunteer position called a “World Kayak Ambassador” where these people can funnel their energies with the support of World Kayak’s staff and resources. One of the things that they have been doing in the past two years is creating new, free, fun, events in their hometown, called, “Hometown Throwdowns”. These events are free to compete in, and are very local in nature. The ambassadors are putting on the events, handing out swag and fun prizes, and often are complete with an after party. There were 63 Hometown Throwdowns in 2008 and there will be over 120 in 2009. The popularity of the events is based on the simple concept that getting together in your hometown for a kayaking experience with other paddlers is fun. The heroes of this program are the World Kayak ambassadors who schedule the events, get the word out, and administer the events. World Kayak has secured sponsorships for the events in product that is given out to the participants by raffle. The events are typically freestyle events, on a grass roots level, that give beginner/intermediate paddlers a chance to show off their newly acquired playboating skills and have a chance of placing well or winning, as the pros are not there to steal their thunder.
When the ambassadors are not organizing events, you can find them collecting information and blogging about the paddling opportunities in the area. Each ambassador is the caretaker of their local community, that World Kayak calls a “region”. If you were to go to www.worldkayak.com you can find a globe with about 60 regions listed on it. Each region has a World Kayak Ambassador that is actively working towards making that region thrive with activity by helping to build the community’s lines of communications and filling in activities that bring paddlers together. The ambassadors are also creating an online community of bloggers in their area, sharing paddling stories, and communicating their ideas among others in their region. www.worldkayakblogs.com has become the second largest “WordPress” user in the world, second only to WordPress itself as a result of the ambassadors engaging the paddlers in their region. This blog is part of the worldkayakblogs network, and while I am an active blogger, I am dwarfed by some of the WK ambassadors in terms of blogging activity. The reason for the blogging network is to have access to other paddlers in your local area, sharing thoughts, ideas, trips, etc. that are from your paddling region. You don’t have to be a WK ambassador to be a strong part of your local community, of course, and not all of the ambassadors are equally active. However, just to accept this volunteer position is commendable.
How does this fit into the “Soul of Kayaking” series? Simply that there are people out there that are equally concerned about your paddling experience as they are their own. This is the type of person that makes the world a better place. Kayaking is lucky to have more than its fair share of such people. World Kayak ambassadors are just a sampling of those people. If you are one of those people, then I offer a collective “thank you” from everyone you have been a positive influence on. You are showing the world of paddlers that paddling is rich in soul, and you are a big part of that.
Some ideas on how to become a stronger “friend of kayaking” and make the paddling lives of others better, while improving your paddling life as well.
- Join your local paddling club- offer to run a program for them.
- Organize and event
- Help with instruction
- Put on a gear swap
- Become a trip leader and take people to a river they have never been on.
- Become a World Kayak ambassador-If you are interested in becoming a World Kayak ambassador, instructor, volunteer, blogger, or just want to know more, contact email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Set up a weekly or monthly get together where you watch a kayaking DVD, and plan more trips.
- Plan a river clean up date, that includes a river run, of course.
- Put on a kayaking event at your local run. That is how every event started, and how they all end- a single individual usually decides it is worth organizing and makes it happen, or quits after some time of doing it. Why not you? What kind of event do you want to see on your river? Playboating is always fun, as are fun races, like boatercross, slalom survivor, or simple downriver races. Fibark in Salida has been going on for over 60 years non-stop! I did my first downriver race at Fibark this year and had a great time. They now have the fair come into town, along with concerts with bands like this year’s “Lez Zepplin” (yes an all girls Led Zepplin tribute band ) Point is that the sky is the limit! Extreme races are always fun too, but limits the field a little bit.