The Water Sports Foundation (WSF) hosted its second paddle sports safety meeting with the world’s largest recreational kayak manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City on Aug. 6. The attending manufacturers represent an estimated 90 percent of U.S. recreational kayak production.
The relationship started in 2015 when WSF, a U.S. Coast Guard non-profit organization grant recipient hosted a meeting to discuss a negative trend in paddle sports. During the previous five years paddle sports popularity showed steady growth and with this, boating deaths related to canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding showed an increase as well.
In 2014, 135 paddlers lost their lives while participating in these three categories and in 2015 the number jumped to 146. All this occurred during the same five year period* that total deaths from the larger power boating segment declined, creating the alarming anomaly.
“For the past year we’ve followed the direction that the manufacturers gave us to deliver video safety messages through their distribution channels. The video messages are currently in the market reminding paddlers to wear their life jackets and stay safe on the water,” Jim Emmons, WSF non-profit organization grant director, said. “The meeting at Outdoor Retailer was the chance to report on what's happened in the past year and to look for new opportunities that direct non-profit organization grant funds towards projects that make paddling a safer American pastime. It’s imperative that we do all we can to reverse the trend of increased deaths in paddle sports and it’s uplifting to have such great manufacturer partners that also believe in this mission.”
The meeting was attended by the United States Coast Guard along with others such as members from the American Canoe Association (ACA), representatives from the Stand Up Paddleboard Industry Association (SUPIA), several paddle sports consumer media brands including Canoe & Kayak, Kayak Angler, Paddling.net, and the paddle sports boat manufacturers – nine in total.
During the meeting the manufacturers asked organizers to repurpose the current safety videos in different ways so that they can re-share them. For maximizing social media effect, it was suggested that they should be no longer than 15 seconds and focus on only one topic – referred to as a “social cut.” This, along with a new initiative to produce safety messages for the stand up paddleboard market, are the two primary directives for 2016 and beyond. Discussions with the video producer to implement these suggestions have already taken place.
“We learned a lot this year, especially that the manufacturers are not as adamant about their brand being included and that our future projects will most likely be shared even if the message contains a competitor’s product,” Emmons said. “I grew up in the sports marketing world and I can’t remember a time where manufacturers put their own interests aside for the common good of humanity like they did in the August 2016 meeting. It was truly amazing hearing them willing to work together at almost any cost.”
On Sept. 9, WSF will host a similar meeting at Surf Expo in Orlando with stand up paddleboard manufacturers designed to coalesce the SUP manufacturing segment with paddle sports safety messages similar to what’s occurred in the kayak market. Also this fall, with the U.S. Coast Guard’s assistance, a jointly designed safety pamphlet will be printed and distributed to the kayak manufacturer partners. The pamphlets, printed to supply manufacturers for three years production will be included in kayak packaging so that they are available to consumers at the point of purchase. For examples please contact Emmons at 407-719-8062 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Headquartered in Orlando, the Water Sports Foundation is the non-profit educational arm of the Water Sports Industry Association ,and since 2011 WSF has received boating safety outreach grant funding from the U.S. Coast Guard for its outreach grant projects known as “Your Boating Dollars At Work.” The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund administered through congressional action provides funding for the U.S. Coast Guard’s recreational boating safety initiatives.
* According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Accident Report Data for 2014 and 2015