The 2012 Whitewater Symposium was held at Wet Planet Whitewater in Husum, Washington on the weekend of October 12-14, 2012.
It was a gathering of whitewater's most inspirational and influential individuals from all parts of the industry: instructors, professionals, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. It was an exciting event, full of various presentations and facilitated discussions in which the past, present, and future of the paddlesports industry was discussed.
Amidst these discussions were various classes and demos: River Rescue Scenario Practice, SUP basics for flatwater and whitewater, Roll clinics, Editing with GoPro, ACA Instructor Certification, and much more!
This year myself and fellow Confluence athlete Rush Sturges were lucky enough to take part in the conversation:
"What is the Role of Professional Paddlers and Who is Paying for Them?"
In short, we determined that over the course of the last ten years, the definition of professional athlete has become somewhat fuzzy. While there used to be small groups of professional "elite" paddlers, the numbers have grown as there are now Ambassadors, Regional Athletes, Global Athletes, Factory Team athletes, etc. To some extent there are different levels of a professional kayaker, making it difficult to pin down an exact definition. With this in mind, we collectively brainstormed words that described a professional athlete.
Role Model (Positive Image of paddling)
What is clear, however, is there is an expectation of professional paddlers to positive representation of the sport, and encourage others in the sport of paddling. It is their role to provide product feedback, as well as media content (photo/video) - a return on investment, so to speak for the company they represent. It is also their role to support events, and new initiatives, to work within the community to support local shops, and paddle programs.
After great discussion, we came to this conclusion: Each and every one of us has a role in the paddling industry, and each and every one of our actions has an impact on the paddlesports industry, for better or for worse. In order for the paddlesports industry to grow, we must all work together: instructors, professionals, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. It can no longer be about Shop #1 vs Shop #2. Shops need to work together to coordinate local events, support regional competitions, and collectively host movie premieres. Athletes need to have more a presence in the community, visiting shops, attending community paddles, and being more accessible to consumers. Everyone has a role in the paddling industry, and if we work as a team, can grow and strengthen our sport for generations to come.
Bryon Dorr of Exploring Elements said it best, "Ask yourself, "How has paddlesports impacted your life? Please share this question and your answer through the myriad of social media outlets that we all engage in everyday, even if that social outlet is a chat around the campfire. We all have different answers to this question that are valuable stories to be shared with the community and our non-paddling friends alike."
Despite our sport being “less than one generation out of the garage,” it is time to open and improve communication between all stakeholders in order to build on the growth and strength of our community for future generations.
Special thanks to Wet Planet for hosting such a great event!
Pray for Rain,
Kim Becker (Russell)