Tuesday, March 02, 2010

No MASK
To our south is the CASKA, the Chicago Area Sea Kayak Association. West of here, in the capitol city of Madison, are the HOOFERS ( U. of Wisconsin outdoors organization) and the MAD City Paddlers. Even the small towns north of us have organized into a dynamic North East Wisconsin group that gives assistance to those wanting to become instructors and organizes events and lessons year round. But, alas, there is no Milwaukee Area Sea Kayak anything, just a Yahoo Group site.

I am told that before I ever joined other paddlers in this area, they actually thought about forming one. If I understand correctly, a few lawyers in the group (remember, 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name; but I digress) feared the legal ramifications and liabilities of having something on paper. It never happened.We do have BS Squared, or BSBS, the Badgerland State Boating Society, which organizes the local winter pool sessions. I am told that over the years, the meetings have lost energy and the group has become one of mostly white water paddlers.

We have several instructors in our area, some of us level 4 ACA certified: but only one, Sherri Mertz, has developed it into a business. It was she who brought all this up at the pool session this past Sunday. Her thought was to reactivate the sea kayak "section" of the already existing BSBS. Not a bad idea. Certainly, she has a business interest in such a concept, but (let me be clear) Sherri has been around the retail end and teaching end of the business longer than I have been paddling. She has taught a whole bunch of people to enjoy safe paddling. She is one of the folks I go to when I need someone to watch me and diagnose when something isn't going right. She knows products and is an invaluable source of info for new paddlers looking into buying a first boat. She is not attached to any retail outlet (she does teach at her former employer's store on occaision).

First, and fore most, clubs are a place someone can go to find out about paddling. When there is no club around they are left to talking to retailers whose interests may not align with the novice's. A club can introduce inquiring minds to our sport, suggest ways to get started and maybe even get them onto the water for a taste. It is a place to be with other paddlers both on the water and socially. It is a place to take an idea from concept to fruition. It is a nidus for trips and outings and so on.

We are an area of over a million people. We are blessed with a monstrous lake that is, in essence, a tideless free-of-salt ocean with all the conditions one could wish for. More over, we are surrounded with large numbers of lakes with clean water and public access. What we don't have is an organization.

(BTW: I teach tomorrow all day and evening and am off to Florida on Thursday. Will post next when I can).

Paddle safe...
DS

11 comments:

John said...

"Nidus" is a great word to use in the context you did. Thank you for the Latin lesson, sorry I gave Latin up for Lent.

Silbs said...

Interesting comment, John. I usually only use the word at work as in a nidus for infection.

Rick Rojahn said...

I agree that "nidus" is a great word but also that the time is right to organize into a more formal group or organization. With all of the potential members in the Greater Milwaukee area we are currently missing a great opportunity. A formal organization would bring new paddlers along with new energy and enthusiasm. Keep up the great work and let me know if I can help.

Silbs said...

That's one...and that's how it starts.

Lee said...

Same thing up here Silbs. Here we are in the National capital and there is no sea kayaking group "on paper". It use to be however similar problems/fears of legal problems dissolved the group into a yahoo group and nothing more.

Russ said...

Years ago there was also a RASKA (Racine Area Sea Kayaking Association). It smoldered away much like BSBS. Many groups such as CASKA are ACA sanctioned clubs, which gives the offering of ACA insurance. On the other hand, I am not aware of any club ever being sued in a liability case.

Sherri said...

One of the main reasons that RASKA died was that the founding member of the group (and newletter editor) got married and moved to the Carolinas. The group had only been together a relatively short time and there really wasn't enough history, membership, and impetus to keep it alive. BSBS had a very active group back in the 90's (mostly whitewater), but they failed to get the new kayakers to take ownership of the group. They trained a lot of new whitewater kayakers in their 8-week beginner class, but no one else wanted to become a club officer, etc. Clubs require a large number of people willing to be selfless and newbies have to grow into leadership roles.

Rick Rojahn said...

Great points all! Being new to the group (2 years), I had no idea about the history of associations in the area. I just find it hard to believe that in an area as large as Milwaukee County (and beyond for that matter) and with our proximity to Lake Michigan and abundant inland lakes that there is not enough synergy to get something done. But maybe people just want to get out and paddle without all the "red tape" of belonging to a formal group. I guess that is part of the beauty of kayaking...a boat, a paddle, a lake and time to relax & get fit. Simple elegant beauty! Why complicate it.

Alex said...

As a former board member of NEW Paddlers, current member of Rapids Riders, and Northern Lights Qajaq Society, I despise the idea of paralysis due to potential litigation. Sure, in formal teaching contexts, we instructors need to take reasonable steps to try to keep our students safe, but there is a thing called personal responsibility.

Clubs that focus on developing safety skills and having fun are much healthier for everyone versus clubs that exist in name but live in constant fear of being sued. Best of luck and I hope Milwaukee can get a group going. There's so many talented and passionate paddlers there that it would be a shame if the beginners couldn't learn from you because of a lack of organization.

Oh, and that puppy is ridiculously cute.

Silbs said...

Thanks, guys. We don't really NEED a club, but would it help new paddlers and would it develop into more trips, outings what ever?

For me, having practiced medicine all my adult life, liability is real. One incident leading to a law suit can wipe an uninsured person out. I know some of the attorneys were addressing this when they discouraged a formal organization. If one were to form, I wonder if it should be an ACA affiliate and carry proper insurance. On the other hand, just thinking like this gives me a headache and makes me just want to go out for a simple paddle.

DavidP said...

What's the sea kayaking population in the area? Would be be high enough to support a club?