WK State of the Union – 2008 in the books as a banner year, 2009 plans unfolding!

I’ll put on my English Lit hat for a moment:  As the Autumn colors flush the Ottawa River Valley, the water reaches that ‘cold’, that Fall cold we all know.  As the ironically red, yellow and blue (?) kayaks dot the river during our final warm-weather runs amongst the floating leaves… we put an exclaimation point on an amazing first full year for World Kayak.  It’s Fall, we continue to run our programs through to next year, but we’re feeling accountable and during this time of Canadian (soon to be American) Thanksgiving, we have to look to our new friends and thank them for the year we had.

But first, a review of our goals.  For those who know me, I’m a pretty stubborn fella when it comes to goals and measurement.  WK is no exception. This first full year was all about stoking up the fire in our communities.  Our goals were to bring programs in that helped communities get more active, then use that activity to show our favorite sport to non-boaters and finally drive those suddenly interested to those who are ready to welcome them into our sport… help them find the clubs, instruction etc. in their region.  To do this a few things had to be put in place:

  • A network of WK Ambassadors needed to be engaged and brought in to help connect to as many regions as possible.
  • Those Ambassadors needed the tools to be able to develop and manage a central place on the web for all that region’s information… descriptive, news, articles, events and more.
  • We needed to create tools and programs that stirred up excitement and further demonstrated our sporting culture to the rest of the world.
  • We needed to deliver those programs through the ambassadors who, in turn, had to engage their communities to help with these projects.
  • We needed to gain the trust and assistance of the paddlesports media to help deliver the message of World Kayak to the masses and to more and more communities.

Well… a tall order I thought, but truth be told, the communities rallied excellently and helped bring all of these goals to fruition.  My first volley of thanks has to go to Colin Kemp, our Program Manager.  His job is to … well… know everyone, everything and do stuff… lots of stuff.  His attention to our sport and his knowledge of pretty much anything and everything to do with our sport make him a great community building guy.  He was our main man on all this and he needs that virtual round of applause.  Thanks to him and his Ambassadors we got results.  Our results continue to filter through, but here’s the nutshell:

  • We now have 55 ambassadors spanning all continents.  It started in the US and Canada as these were closest to us, but quickly spread to South America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific … awesome.  Our Ambassadors typically are those guys and gals who have always been there stirring up the community activity, booking the road trips, volunteering to run festivals etc.  It is entirely their passion that drives our successes!
  • We now have two major web portals:  www.worldkayak.com and www.worldkayakblogs.com that represent our industry quite well.  Worldkayak.com is now a portal that anyone can quickly use to find regional based information.  Worldkayakblogs.com is a space that allows you to create full web sites for free… not just blogs!  We have 5000+ members with blogs and sites.  Combined they are the highest visited web space in our industry.  It is thanks again to our Ambassadors who keep their regional pages up to date and thanks to you, the paddler, who keeps our personalities visible and active at the blogspot.  Our www.worldkayakblogs.com/throwdown space was used to cover our events and most major US pro events this past summer.  Wow.  Who says rodeo is dead!  Traffic was incredible during the events, and thanks to Chris Wing of H20 Dreamin and the National Center in Charlotte, we had amazing coverage in text, photo and video!  The end result is a great source for paddlers and an effective source for potential enthusiasts to see our community at large and find a means to join us in our fun.
  • In 2008 we introduced the WK Hometown Throwdowns (www.worldkayakblogs.com/throwdown).  This was our first foree into event delivery.  We took the model of a very successful, fun, free freestyle rodeo (The Maryland Chute Out) and put it in a box.  Scoring was easy, points for front surfs and paddlewaves, prizes given out via raffle (not for points) and much more.  These rodeos encouraged skills development, fun, and helped the average boater find incentive to play, learn new moves, compete vs a friend and helped bring a community to the river… all in a low stress setting.  It rocked!!!  We set up online registration, promotions, signed all the gear sponsors you’d need and got 15 of our Ambassadors to try 4 to 6 of them in their region over the summer.  WOW again!  The final tally was 63 events across 15 paddling regions and in three countries.  Attendance ranged from 15 with the worst of weather, 80+ as a high!  The single largest freestyle events series ever.  Again special thanks goes out to our Ambassadors and their volunteers!  This was very cool.  Check out our results posts at www.worldkayakblogs.com/throwdown for samples of what went on at these events, photos, videos etc. are all there!    We need to thank MION, Jackson Kayak, Smith Optics, Immersion Research (IR), Mountain Khakis, Kayak Session Magazine, Red Bull and AW for all their help this year in providing prizes of all sizes to our Throwdown participants.  We gave a TON of stuff away.  Help us thank them by buying their goods… all top knotch and all caretakers of our sport throught their continual support of stuff like this!
  • Our media has basically opened their doors to working together.  WK has working relationships now with most of our print and web media.  I’d like to thank all of them for helping us out and spreading the word on our initiatives.  Much appreciated!  Our media are the spark that encourages our enthusiasm… special thanks go to all:  Kayak Session (really really kicked in!!!), Rapid Mag, AW Journal, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Paddler, Boatertalk, Playak … all you have done is appreciated!  Subscribe now folks!  It is important to keep our media healthy.

So that was 2008.  2009 sees a shift in program development as well as a shift in targets.  Where 2008 was about engaging communities and setting up models etc., 2009 needs to be about continuing our community fun, but also finding ways to attract the non-boater to those vibrant communities.  So keep an eye out for the following:

  • Ambassadors in upwards of 60 to 80 new paddling regions … we just signed on Serbia, Wales and a few more US / Canadian regions.
  •  We are introducing a significant Educational program that will take advantage of today’s social media to deliver educational aid to all of our paddlesports educators (instructors, schools, clubs, municipalities, camps and more.)  This will be a global intiative and lead by some of the best kayak educators on the globe.
  • Our web coverage will include ‘almost’ live video coverage of many of our Pro events … including the 2009 Worlds in Switzerland… as well as our growing pot of WK events.
  • WK will be hosting 120+ Hometown Throwdowns bringing the fun to many  more regions.
  • Our new Slalom Survivor series of events will bring our reach to those who want to try out downriver competition in a fun, friendly and exciting way.  Joe Jacobi is our host for this design… so look for it on a river near you! 
  • World Kayak will also be helping deliver a revitalized Total Vertical Feet contest (TVF).  With the help of ambassador extraordinare, Wes Bradley, and his friends, this will bring creek boating into our reach as a community building event.  Fun, safe and super exciting… stay tuned for more.
  • Our media programs will be reaching outwards to non-paddlesports media.  We are building a network of writers and contributers to enable the development and management of a World Kayak Press Feed.  One that local, regional, national and international news media can count on for Kayak news, articles of interest and competition results… hmmm… imagine kayak comp results next to those dog show scores in your local paper!  Nice. 

So.  Another big year ahead of us.  It is key to remember those who helped get WK off the ground.  World Kayak could not have done all this if it weren’t for our Program Manager, Colin Kemp, and our amazing group of Ambassadors and sponsors.  This was an unbelievable year and 2009 looks even more exciting, but we really couldn’t have done it without you all! 

Let us know if you want to get involved… always looking for a helping hand!

Cheers, and keep yourself dialed to this station… much more to come!

James ‘Pollo’ McBeath


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