Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sutton's Law

When I was doing my residency in internal medicine I had a wonderful mentor in the form of the chief of pulmonary diseases. When ever those of us in training were unsure about which tests to order he would always say, "Remember Sutton' law." Willy Sutton was, as you may know, a famous bank robber who finally was captured and brought to trial. When the judge asked him why he robbed so many banks, Sutton is reported to have answered, "Because that's where the money is." The chief was implying that we order the test that is most likely to give us a definitive answer.

All this is by way of introduction to a discussion about the millions of dollars we kayak instructors make annually. Not. The fact is that, aside from someone who owns a shop and/or a guiding business, I know of no one who makes their living teaching kayaking. Sure, some famous paddlers are paid to appear at various gigs, but I speak here of the great unwashed (explains that neoprene smell, doesn't it?).

The main reason most of us teach is because we love the sport and we love to teach. It even goes a step further for me. When I see a paddler who has progressed to a certain level I encourage him or her to take instructor training. I really don't care if they ever teach, but I know the training will make them an even better paddler and a safer paddling partner.

Back to the hard, cold cash end of this mercenary business. Teachers' pay varies depending on whether it is a private lesson, a lesson sponsored by a shop and so on. In most instances, kayak instructors, like myself, never realize a significant gross profit. One needs to remember that we have to buy equipment (more than the average paddler), pay for training (IDW) and testing (ICE), take wildnerness first aid courses and belonging to the ACA safety what ever committee. Then, too, there are re certification costs and, most of all, the cost of gasoline (classes in Madison mean a 160 mile round trip for me). On the asset side is the fact that the shops often give their instructors a favorable discount on equipment. In fact, I doubt that many pay checks make it out of the store.

Remember, too, that many of us give freely of our time and do presentations for groups and local paddle shops. We do this as a give back for what we have gotten from the sport (and I'm not talking money here).

You may want to know that most teaching assignments are done on a hand shake. This is true for classes with a shop or private lessons. I agree to be there, They agree to be there, I show up, they show up, it's all good.Kayak not follow through on their obligation?

Any way, if you want that big mansion, the big car and the expensive clothes, become a kayak instructor and use what little you make to buy lottery tickets.

Paddle safe...


1 comment:

canoelover said...

Having been on both sides (getting paid as an instructor and paying instructors), I can offer a sincere thank you. No one in our industry is getting wealthy, but I sure enjoy the people.