This blogpost really should read “Letter to the Editor” as it’s my opinion on how all of us can help move the paddle sport we love so much forward. Whether we standup, surf sup, prone, boat in an outrigger, surfski or whitewater, we all have a voice. No matter if we do a 1 mile fun event, a short course, long course or epic adventure paddle; we all have a voice. Our voice is only good if it’s heard and heard in a way that impacts in a positive manner to produce growth. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of “if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch”.
What’s my point specifically? Get involved in our sport. Don’t just talk about changes that need to be made, get involved and pony up with what you can bring to the table. This sport really is new. It’s has growing pains. I literally hate the classification of “rec race” vs “elite” because it means nothing to the caliber of athletes in either. But my bitching about that isn’t going to change it. So I’ve pondered what would actually accomplish change vs. just be snarky talk. I’ve thought about what we can all do to help POSITIVE GROWTH in our sport. I ended up with the following suggestions. Which I hope just starts a dialogue that creates action.
#1 Get involved at a race as a “not a racer”
VOLUNTEER either on the race committee or on the day of. Been there and will continue to be there. This is super important if you have a local event. HELP THE RACE COMMITTEE rather than complain before, during and, afterwards.
#2 As a racer, no matter who you are or what your place, STICK AROUND AND CHEER FOR EVERY FINISHER
If you are a podium placer, good job, but if you still remember your first race and how hard it was…well, go pay it forward and cheer on the last place finishers. Those people who are the “DFL” are full of Determination Fortitude and Longevity. Give them your time. Let them know they are just as important as your podium finish.
#3 As a paddler, MENTOR SOMEBODY
Let them try your gear. Get them on the water. Show them what you love. This sport will only grow with new people coming into it. Don’t sell them crappy old gear. Make sure if they buy boards and paddles that they are buying quality gear and get a leash and a pfd with it. Show them safe bodies of water to paddle in. Tell them about the hazards of underwater logs or about crossing boat channels.
#4 If you have a voice on social media sites, use it wisely.
TALK POSITIVE and make sure every post makes a point with a solution if you were commenting on a problem. I started the 100/100 Paddle Challenge group and we have almost 600 members. I realize that although I am just middle to the back of the pack paddler, because of that group, I have a larger voice than most and I take what I put out in the internet world seriously. I try, TRY is the key word, to make sure everything I comment on, repost, share or ask for input on; is with positive or helpful intent.
#5 Support your local paddle shop
We will have access to good gear, only if we have access to good people at local shops. If I spend my dollars online and then have a problem, who can I go to resolve it in a timely manner? Who’s going to know about the water conditions where I live and what kind of board is best for the conditions? A local shop. Additionally, I suggest we all respect our local shops as being paddlers and business people. Don’t expect to demo 10,000,000 new and expensive boards and then buy online. That’s just rude.
#6 Find a medium to share your stories
This sport is about everyone, podium finishers and adventure seekers alike, and all of your stories are worth reading. Get them out there; submit them to Distressed Mullet or other online sites. Let us read what you dreamt about and accomplished, help grow our own bucket list. Cathy Hall likes to paddle and visit lighthouses in the NE, she puts out a blogpost called “neverboredinc”. I love to read about her adventures. Find a way to motivate others.
Yes, I said it, “RACE”. It is a SPORT with hard chargers and back of the packers just like me, all trying their best. Racing helps us challenge ourselves as individuals; it shows our character and our commitment. Race honestly. Get out of your comfort zone. Let it be silly or serious. But do it. Our paddle SPORT is the only one I know of where anyone can “win” and anyone can come in last. We race in a changing environment with winds, tides, marine life, boats, a multitude of gear and personalities. It’s a sport where we can still go out as “grownups” and play until the street lights come on. That’s pretty cool.
#8 JOIN A GOVERNING BODY
I’m putting this out there, because I personally get confused about “this” governing body and “that” governing body and who’s making the rules and why are the rules even that way? I don’t understand “rec race” vs. “elite race” classifications and I’d like to see race classifications changed to “short course”, “long course” and do a “pro” start of some kind. Lets the pros race the pros. Let them earn a “pro card” and get that recognition for their talent. I don’t know how to join a governing body, but I’m willing to do so. Call me.
So there it is, let’s take action and put the paddle to the water. Let’s talk more openly about what we need to do to see good growth in our community and then make it happen. Let’s be inclusive of everyone and do what will encourage others to join us.
Middle to the Back of the Packer
SUP, Prone, OC, and wanna be everything athlete.