February 2009

Support your local kayak shop!

Ya know, with all this business of the economy lately, how could I avoid making mention of it myself? Yes, I will agree that the reason that we take to an outdoor sport like kayaking, is in a way to escape the tedium and repetitive troubles of the metropolitan world around us, but sometimes it can still interject. So I am taking a moment to add some ideas for us all to think on about how we, as paddlers, can help out the economic situation, maybe just a little.

So let’s step back and consider a couple of basic principles of this sport. Kayaking is not necessarily cheap. There is simply a certain base set of things that you need to accrue as a kayaker to enter the sport. You need to go out and buy a kayak, a PFD, a paddle, maybe a spray skirt and perhaps some clothes just for your time on the water. Yep, that can come to a good chunk of change. But, perhaps you are a hard one to part with your hard earned wages. Maybe you decide to build your own boat, paddle, skirt, paddling suit, and more to save a little. Perhaps you entered the sport after the chance of a really good price on a used kayak came along, or maybe it was even passed on freely from a relative or friend.

Well, even after you have found that you have achieved the base set of things necessary to feel you can call yourself a kayaker, you start seeing more things that would make you a better paddler. Perhaps you start coveting the drysuits that you see all your paddling buddies wearing in the chilly waters of spring and fall. Maybe it is the VHF radio that the trip leaders of those fun paddles use to communicate on the water. New shoes, a helmet, a spare paddle, bilge pump, paddle float, dry bags, charts, whistle, flashlights, repair parts. Oh the list of things that a great paddler owns is huge, isn’t it?

Why is it always more gear that makes the paddler? I think it is simply because sea kayakers have a tendency to be gear-heads. We love the idea of new things; more things; better things. The more things that we have, the more fun the sport is. The more things we have, the better paddlers we will be. Perhaps it is simply the fact that for those sport loving people who are searching for their ‘thing’, if they do not flinch at the cost of a new sea kayak, they will just not stop after that is on its rack in the garage.

But all that is ok. I believe in gear. You should see my spare room. I have no garage.

So let’s bring this back to your local kayak shop, and the economy. How does this come together? Ok, you are considering that next piece of gear. Let’s say you want to buy a new spray jacket before SK102. You can and should consider where you are going to buy it from before rushing headlong into the first deal you see. I agree that sometimes it is easier to simply go to your favorite online auction house and buy that spray jacket from someone who specializes in passing off the best wholesale prices on stuff that is fly-by-night to them, but consider what else you can do. Many of the local retail shops in your area specialize in paddling gear. They spend their lives and livelihood gaining knowledge and experience which they pass on to you as the consumer. They can tell you which jackets are the best for your situation. They can even tell you the best deals. And they want to sell you that spray jacket because that keeps them going.

Alright, the pitch is out; buy local. We know that it helps out all those retailers, but what will it do for you? Consider the sport of kayaking. It has a larger life cycle to it than what is portrayed by this club. Sure the club does represent a good piece of what paddlers want and do. We, the club, give people opportunities to hone their skills; to meet others with similar interests; fun social times; trials by fire on trips already designed and much more. But we cannot begin to provide all that the paddling community needs. All paddlers need places to buy their gear; places to go to for instruction to take them to the next level; places to fix their weary gear; places to take them on their next paddling adventure abroad. These are the retailers and outfitters in your area. You know very well who they are! Without them, the club could not be; we as paddlers could not be. We need to recognize them and support them. And how do we do that?

Consider where you will buy that next piece of gear. Consider that next level of paddling instruction. Consider your next vacation. Consider taking your appreciation and business to a specialist and local provider of paddling gear, training, and leadership. Every single time we take our business to our local shop we do two things. We tell them that we are here to support their business and that we know how hard it would be for us if they had to close up shop. But more importantly, we tell them that we support them as our peers in the paddling community. We tell them that without them we cannot be the superb paddlers that we have come to be, and that without them, this club cannot be the great example that it is. It takes all of you great paddlers to make this club what it is, and it takes all the organizations, selling, leading, guiding, and socializing the paddlers to make the paddling community what it is. The clubs, the retailers, the outfitters and all involved in the paddling community as a whole work together proudly to make kayaking what it should be and is for every individual.

So be proud of your part in the paddling community, and be proud of your opportunity to help our paddling economy. Consider how you can help keep all of our community going strong while times are tough. Treat yourself as a reward to the superb paddler you are and buy yourself a new piece of gear. Buy it local, and be a part of our community!

By the way, only a few of the local paddling retailers and outfitters can be seen on the CPA Member’s Benefits Page where discounts at local dealers are described.

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