As I quickly scroll, page to page, investigating the fine print. I begin to build confidence on the decision I am about to make, but I am still uncertain on my decision, as I have a few more things to research. This process continues for some time as I gather more and more data, often I move from the internet to friends and families thoughts and experiences. And then, I make my decision. This is how I make most purchases, investments and become involved in events. And I am confident I am not alone as I hear similar stories from customers, when I engage with customers at my place of employment, Blueline Surf and Paddle. In our beloved sport of paddling, I have noticed that the above mentioned protocol, is often overlooked. I have a pretty good insight on why, we change our decision making process and lend our support to something or someone that may not deserve it. 127 comments, 10 shares and numerous Facebook, Instagram and text messages brought to light that we are passionate about helping our sport grow and are well aware of the mistakes that have occurred and continue to occur. However as a whole, we have not taken a stand, and put this passion into action. As I mentioned above, as consumers making any purchase, we do our do diligence. We research, review, interview and put the company on the stand before we buy. It is a full blown process that takes time, and often times we uncover good reasons to not make the purchase, or to not make the purchase.
In racing, it appears more of fear of missing out (FOMO) support, and impulse buy. If we don't go we won't see our friends, we will miss out on a good time and this is a "big" event. We then follow it up with overlooking all the short comings, such as, expensive entry fees, not giving back to the sport, not changing with what the community is asking for, not caring about the support that has been provided year in and year out and most importantly, not making those in the non headliner race feel as special as the pros. This isn't just us participants on the ground level, it is also occurring at the top of our sport, with organizations, manufacturers and others, turning a blind eye to what is happening, using the same justifications mentioned above to continue to attend and support the event. Many will tell me that we have to keep supporting this big event because it is all we have. But I have a really hard time swallowing that, especially when I am watching first hand, a growth of the sport in many regions. What I am asking, is for us as a community to think bigger, to challenge what we have been doing, be an educated consumer who do their due diligence, and put their dollars in a place that is investing into our future. It is not easy and not everyone will agree, but if we start looking outside the box and doing things differently, we will stumble upon events that align with our goals, those goals you all spoke about on my Facebook post. For those that are unsure what events may be the hidden gems, check out what is happening at the Midwest Paddle League, the same in Eastern Canada, with Derek Schrotter and his Tuesday Night Social League (TNSL), same goes with Tommy Budday and what he is doing with the Lake Sup Gliders as well as other events. David Becerra and the crew at Trident SUP Atlantic are also always hosting paddles and events. The Mid Atlantic has a thriving community with some great events led by Carleen Birnes and ChesSUPpeake. The Southern Stoke Series has been quietly running races that most have not heard of, and same goes for the Goat Boater Series in North Carolina. Here in Florida we have a lot of community driven events, many that do not receive the same attention as a "big" race but are rivaling the attendance and more importantly everyone comes back with friends. And I am not just talking about what we are doing in Jupiter with Tuesday Night Race League and our Community Paddles. Danny Smith is hosting a unique and fun concept in the Melbourne area with the Paddle Sports League and Robert Norman is bringing people to paddling through a different avenue, with is K2 online paddle School. The Northeast still has some fun events popping up such as the Charles Island SUP Cup hosted by Jack Egan, and theres the Seacoast Paddleboard Club always on the water doing fun things thanks to Chris Carragher and his passion. The west coast is a place where I learned a lot about community events as I watched Anthony Vela pour his heart into Performance Paddling, his group has been leading the grass roots push longer than most and is still doing so. There also is a push to get the race scene back going in Norther California, where it once thrived, thanks to Jay and Anik Wild. They have added events and all types of watersports to their menu at Waterman's Landing. One of the entities, Tahoe Waterman Paddle Racing, is bringing events back to Lake Tahoe. The So. Cal Winter Series is still one of my favorites of all time and that has a lot of great locations and paddlers. It has fueled my excitement to learn from other events as they continue to grow annually and give back to the communities. There are a few events that are "big" and are well worth looking at too, Chattajack, Hanohano, and the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge are the ones that come to mind. I have attended all three and they never disappoint.
This summer I have put two races on my calendar, which has been empty over the last few years. On July 28th I am supporting race hosted by my good friend Kelly Hilton-Green, Flying Fish Summer Challenge, bringing back one of the events that our community raves about. The location is one that you must see, and there's so much to do beyond the race itself. The other event is hosted by John Batson, another gifted watersports enthusiast, who has put together an event that I keep hearing lots about. The OluKai Low Country Boil Paddle Battle, is hosted on beautiful Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. The course meanders around the creeks of the low country. From what I'm told the food is worth the trip alone, but the community and paddle make this one a must see. From afar it may seem the sport has declined, but if we look at the local communities, the sport is alive and well. I have changed my view drastically on how we can grow this sport, thanks to many of you and your insights, experiences and feedback. We can accomplish all the things, local communities, grass root events, high profile events and the Olympics. But in order to do so one thing is very important, the community must be heard and the focus. Those involved in the high level decisions must also make the same switch, put the community first and we will succeed, focus on today and we will continue down the path of the past.