Over 60 whitewater enthusiasts, guides, instructors, clubs, media outlets, outfitters, retailers, and manufacturers from across the U.S. and from as far as Canada, Switzerland, and South Korea gathered at host outfitter Wet Planet in Husum, Wash., for the 2012 National Whitewater Symposium. Heather Herbeck, the event organizer, set the tone for the weekend when she said, "We're here to work and we have lots of work to do." The idea of the Symposium is for all facets of the whitewater paddling community to come together and work to develop widely supported ideas aimed at growing and supporting the health of the sport.
One of the main missions of this Symposium was to find ways to create new whitewater paddlers, and to get paddlers who have dropped the sport to find interest in it once again. Some key "agreements" on how to grow the kayak community that will soon be published from the Symposium include: telling your story, which conveys the rewards of paddling; promoting the availability of the sport at all levels; creating awareness that whitewater is a great fit for youths and families; promoting a positive image of the sport; and providing better support to kayak clubs in order to increase safety skills and to get more paddlers on the water.
Even though the Symposium was indeed a lot of work, there was also a ton of time to explore different disciplines in whitewater paddling, such as SUP, slalom, and rescue, to social media strategies, GoPro-use and more. Wet Planet was an amazing host right on the beautiful White Salmon River, and the food and Ninkasi beer flowed freely all weekend providing great opportunities for casual networking between all attendees. The huge group paddle down the Middle White Salmon capped off an amazing weekend with friends and colleagues.
One way that each and every one of us in the whitewater paddling community can spread our passion for this amazing sport is by answering the question: "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.