Is Whitewater Going Big-Time?
What Rush Sturges' national ad campaign means for paddling
“If I was doing this for the money I would have chosen probably golf or something.” Those words of wisdom from whitewater superstar Rush Sturges, in . . . Toyota’s “Keep It Wild” advertising campaign? Today, it passed 1 million views on YouTube. Toyota plans to air the spot on national television.
Spoiler alert: Sturges isn’t getting rich from paddling, and neither is anyone else we know of. As he says in the video, “To me kayaking for me has always been more of a lifestyle, really, than a sport.” But Sturges is at the vanguard of a new breed of whitewater boaters who have made the lifestyle into a livelihood. In the process, they’re boot-strapping the sport into the mainstream.
Bringing kayaking into the big-time means taking a sport that takes place in the bottoms of inaccessible canyons, often in abysmal weather, and sharing it with the world. Today’s professional kayakers are self-contained media machines. Paparazzi don’t follow them around; they film each other, then edit their own videos and spread the word. They don’t simply paddle the biggest and baddest drops. They bring back the story.
It’s not golf (thank God) but it pays the bills for a life worth living.