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October 28 2004

Hey Guys:
Just in from the ‘Whitewater Symposium’ at the NOC: a gathering of instructors
and skills experts from around the country. Designed to provide top-notch
instruction on a multitude of subjects to attendees, the Symposium is
also a ‘meeting of the minds’ for the instructors, with ample forums to
discuss strategies to make kayaking easier, more accessible, and safer
for all.

I taught a 3 hour ‘Safety Clinic’ focused on prevention
strategies (dressing for water temp, group dynamics, rope carrying, put-in
talk, river signals, scouting, etc.). I had 12 participants sign up (max)
and most were straight from a ‘rescue/extraction’ course so the skill
level was high.

I attended several safety courses as well as EJ’s ’15
minute roll’, Eugene Buchanon’s "Making the most of your PR",
group forums concerning ‘the best roll for beginners’ that got into spin
momentum, boat choices for beginners, etc. The most beneficial part of
the Symposium were the conversations held during meals, in between classes,
and after dinner. I spoke with Chris Spelius, Mary Dereimer, Kent Ford,
Wyne Dickert, and Bruce Lessels (Zoar) quite a bit about various sport
/ industry topics (kinda felt like a voice for the ‘Pro-paddler’) and
discussed every accident / near miss in recent history with Sam Fauwkes
and Chris Jonessee (Safety Pro’s).

The Safety guys talked straight over my head about
tensil strengths, spectra (which they think we should use in our larger
bags), and the pros and cons of the different rescue vests on the market.
These guys use em all the time in the courses they teach, might be good
to get some feedback from them. We also discussed pocket mask use, education
about Rescue Jackets, and promoting safety courses for all whitewater

At the end of the Symposium I was asked to sign a letter
to the manufacturers concerning ‘marketing extreme kayaking (they don’t
like our Mesa Falls photo), developing products by and for women only
(ignoring 50% of the market) , using instructors rather than pro-boaters
when gathering feedback on new designs, and basically making it cool to
run class 2. I refused, but stayed 2 more hours to try and tone down the
‘accusatory’ tone and explain the manufacturers side of the coin.

There were few manufactures present – Kelly from Werner,
me from Lotus, and EJ’s whole family. Eric not only taught most every
time slot, but also got ‘manufacturer of the year’ kudos from many instructors
since he was doing all the things they were requesting already (sizes,
beginner boats, non-scarey images). He got into several discussions with
the ‘old-school’ers over boat choice/ lenght for classes and roll technique
but I think he was ‘star of the show’ – since no rep from Dagger, Liquid
Logic, Pyranha, or Astral showed up – despite the NC location. His playboating
class was full and Dane was a big hit with the tourists from the scenic

There was a bit of bitterness in the air – due to the
decline in the market and the cutting of budgets (the organizer was fired
by NOC just before the event – as were several others). One person mentioned
too much ‘male-bashing’ at some of Anna’s sessions – which were very popular.
Leland Davis’s creek sessions were all ‘full’ as were Mary Dereimer’s
and Ken Whitings. Everyone was united on trying to get more lifetime kayakers
into the sport. That over-riding goal was great unifier on every discussion.

The Symposium is a great forum in which to educate yourself on kayaking,
kayak instruction, kayak school marketing/business, saving rivers, and
so many other things. The instructional experience gathered is totally
amazing and the ease with which they discuss complicated issues (inflexible
people rolling, rescue liability, etc) was good to see. This would be
a great place to get feedback / input on new designs (rescue PFD, rope,
etc) and better understand the beginner market needs an concerns. It was
not, however, a place where sponsors got a lot for their $, which was
unfortunate. Few people there were very interested in the ‘silent auction.’
I’ll be sending in some suggestions so hopefully the next one (in Grand
Junction, CO) will be better.

Hope your weekend was sweet.