By Eugene Buchanan

Like two rivers joining at a confluence to form a stronger entity, two of the leading industry voices for paddlesports may soon become one.

The Professional Paddlesports Association (PPA) is conducting an official vote of its members on May 15, 2012, on the potential unification of PPA and America Outdoors (AO).

"AO and PPA have agreed to the principle considerations necessary to enable the two organizations to begin the due diligence that could lead to unification of the two organizations if approved by the respective members and governing bodies," says PPA board chairman Don Roberts. "This agreement is a first step and does not constitute an agreement to unify. It enables the two organizations to exchange information for the due diligence necessary to finalize a unification later in the year if approved by our respective members and governing bodies."

While it won't be the first time the two organizations have tried to negotiate these waters – the two groups have attempted to combine forces a handful of times before – both parties feel that this time the timing could be right.

"It's something I feel will be a great move for both organizations," says AO president and former PPA member Mike Mills, who owns Arkansas's Buffalo Outdoor Center. "We had meetings 20 years ago, and even farther back than that, that explored unification, but something always got in the way. Both Don and I are very much proponents of this and feel it will best for both associations."

Each PPA member in good standing with membership dues paid in full by April 21, 2012, will be allowed one vote per company (vendor members do not vote). Each company will receive an email information packet before the end of the month, followed by a mailed ballot. Ballots must be post marked by May 8 to be included in the vote. The PPA Board strongly encourages each member to vote on this matter, which could well give paddlesports the loudest lobbying voice it's ever had.

"It will unite two organizations that have always mirrored each other in who we are and what we do," adds Mills. "PPA is a great organization full of great people, and this will help us become more successful as an organization, from our lobbying efforts in Washington to our ability to offer more diverse programming."

Adds Roberts: "Things look positive and I feel it's a good idea. The issues that face the outdoor industry today are such that a stronger, more unified voice will benefit everyone involved."

Regardless of the vote's outcome, the two groups have already agreed to host a joint AO-PPA tradeshow Dec. 4-6, 2012, in Daytona Beach, Fla., much to the delight of exhibitors and buyers who have long had to attend two back-to-back shows held within weeks of each other. "That makes sense as well," says Roberts. "It seems like there's a big alignment of the stars this year and I think the outcome of the vote will favor unification."

If the vote passes, adds Mills, PPA would fold into AO, combining charters, accounts and tax IDs to achieve economies of scale in the new operation. Members with questions are encouraged to contact Don Roberts at the PPA at (540) 631.5467 or