Let me note, I’m a firm believer, in peace, love and harmony but this “lettidor” may sound a bit contentious. It is what it is and it’s not sour grapes. It’s not meant to call out any one person, race or brand out. It’s what I hope are PROACTIVE suggestions from a middle-to-the-back of the packer who likes to race and often joyously comes in last. I’m not sponsored or paid by anyone in the sup industry. I’m not perfect but I have bought a zillion boards (ok maybe half a zillion), a trillion more paddles and gear; and spent truly, countless dollars, on hotel rooms, restaurant meals, race fees and clinic costs. I THINK I represent a solid percentage of purchasing demographics for stand up paddling and I’m hearing some “grumbling” from the masses.
Here’s the contentious part
Why aren’t Race Directors, Sponsored Athletes and Brand Manufacturers; getting “who”, pays the bulk of race fees, buys the products and in turn motivates us to do so? What I feel and what I am observing, is a bit of a disconnect from the top down to the racers in what marketing and public relations focus or targets should be; vs. who actually has real purchasing power for their products and race fees. For example and in
Your race advertisements and recaps of races (that get splattered all over social media) usually only show the very top competitors. Top competitors are awesome, this is after all a sport, but seeing a video that is INCLUSIVE of first to last place will encourage new paddlers to try. Show everyone in your videos; every paddler size, shape, gender and board. THOSE people in your videos and your marketing material will grow your race. Just a thought. Eh? And kid’s races, they should be free. If you’re trying to grow a “sport”, get those kids out there. FREE!
Race classifications and finisher acknowledgements, it’s all about public relations. There is a fine line of following “to a T” the podium or finishing classifications by a governing body and making ALL your racers feel important. For example, I have raced several years in one fun fall event. Each year the race fee goes up so you would figure the quality of the experience would go up. Right? Not so, last year my times and the times of several other racers were left out of any published record. This year that same race didn’t list in the official press release the one stand up paddler in a new long course event. How can those mistakes be made? This year fees went up for the same event but they ran out of size appropriate t-shirts and awards. It’s a small race, so not many awards are given out, but they ran out? Maybe that sounds like sour grapes, but my point is that this is a PEOPLE sport. Let me reiterate, THIS IS A PEOPLE SPORT. Public relations are important. Make ALL PADDLERS FEEL IMPORTANT.
You’re all awesome and we greatly respect your athletic gifts along with the hard work you put in to get to the top of the podium. I really don’t have anything to criticize you about. But, just a small suggestion, consider waiting around to cheer for all of the racers on the course and especially that last place finisher. You will win our loyalty forever to you, your board, paddle and gear brands. Want to build your clinic numbers, same thing, just make the everyday paddler feel important. The professional athletes who have fun with regular paddlers or share our breakfast table at the Carolina Cup, you’re now all true winners in our books. Be real to us. Have fun. Say good job and be approachable. Bring us a beer when we’re done. Your behavior and good will does more than where you place. Set an example.
Manufacturers – Boards, Paddles, and Gear
I’m just going to finish with a repeat of what I started with: why isn’t anyone getting “who”, as in basic “demographics”, pays the bulk of race fees, buys the products and in turn motivates us to do so? What I feel and what I am observing, is a bit of a disconnect from most product manufacturers in what their marketing and public relations focus or target; vs. who actually has real purchasing power for their products and race fees. I will never spend my dollars because of a shiny ad showing an 18 year old in a booty hugger bikini. Is that body envy, maybe, but the bottom line is, if you want ME to buy your product, market to ME. Don’t patronize me either. I love seeing Brand Ambassadors who are real people of real ages with real bodies and a variety of skills. Those brands are smart. Do you know who your true demographics are or are you just going by sales numbers and not understanding why they aren’t growing?
We need to set examples too. We need to cheer on all finishers. We need to suck it up when we have a bad day on a race course and not complain. We need to use our voice for positive change in a constructive way. We need to be respectful to volunteers; anyone who isn’t should be barred from competition. We need to be loyal to our brands and our shops. Be loyal to those who are there helping you Sherpa your gear after your race. Help others start paddling. Be a good sport. Support big and small charity events & be informed with knowing what % of the profits REALLY goes to that charity of choice.
One Last Hill to Die On
I know that there is a lot of discussion before races, after races, during races on board classifications and pro or not pro categories. Blah, Blah, Blah. It’s time that “discussion” by governing bodies and pro athletes and industry professionals stop, and action actually happens. It’s a sport. Get some consistency in race guidelines out there, but REMEMBER, it’s a PEOPLE sport. Not just one for pro athletes. The “masses” will be what keeps the sport growing and healthy. Listen to us too.
Me. Middle to the Back of the Packer. Often Joyous Last Place Finisher