Pro-kayaker or Pretender

I apologize to those who misunderstood the intention of, “How to meet girls and get them to photo you hucking stouts.” Was it sexist? Sexism is the blatant part. The full intent of the blog was to expose whilst poking fun at self-labeling “pro-kayakers” who believe that because they are great kayakers that they can use those around them. And this is not limited to using women as the blog graphically satirizes.

I am very concerned with an attitude of entitlement prevalent within kayak niches identifying as “gangster pro-kayakers” or “players.” In a way I am glad this article brings up a lot of controversy. While, the previous blog caught much attention the case below illustrates more realistically the level of using others versus contribution.

Pro-Kayaker Ambassador

There are many admirable “pro-kayaker ambassadors” that should not be tainted by the image of the “gangster pro-kayaker” or “player” wannabes portrayed in the previous blog. Recently, I interviewed Jackson Kayak ambassador, Clay Wright, about the topic or working as a professional in the kayak industry. Clay articulated that from an economist perspective companies have streamlined jobs. With JK each athlete would travel and represent as professional athletes and ambassadors. But JK needed something more tangible. Thus, as paid professionals each athlete-ambassador had multiple tangible positions that were their responsibility.

“When I hear kayakers say they should pay me for this or that I ask, Why? They (companies) ask you to rep them as an athlete on the water, to help with R and D, to help with marketing at the plant, and to rep at events. They ask for tangible things that they understand they need. Even at JK each have a niche that the company needs to be met. Stephen is photographer, Nick and Dane are our videographers via JKTV, EJ is product manager, Emily maintains the site with content and manages event staffing and she does pretty much everything, Kristine does sponsorship and I manage the team. ” –Clay Wright

This may come across as self-righteous as I’ve made a fool of myself in the past. We all live and grow. The blog, “How to meet girls…” took the identity of the “player kayaker.” From my point of view in the heart of Chile’s waterfall wonderland you pass kayakers daily on the streets and in restaurants speaking to, observing and hearing the conversations. It was easy to piece these observations into a blog mocking pro-kayaker pretenders. Local restaurant and business owners often voice their frustrations with me after “pro-kayakers” break their bar, get in fights, get kicked out, and abuse their resources… It’s a self-agenda take take take lacking in contribution that separates the “professional” from the “pretender.” And if you don’t like it then you might get a “Fuck you.” That and a group smear is exactly what have been said to my face when I’ve spoken direct to individuals about this behavior.

Professional: n, a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs:  a golf professional.  

According to dictionary.com definition for “professional” as related to sports you earn a living. An economist would ask to see who is making a living and who is pretending. 

As the owner of a kayaker’s hostel I’ve experienced both the negatives and the positives.  The pretenders tend to show-up when there is a shuttle, food, attractive women or helping them out of trouble they have gotten into.  They disappear when there is work, rent collecting, a bar tab, a class III run or a shuttle needed. Early on, as a way to create community and help the hostel I created work-trade positions. Sadly, I’ve had to kick out wannabes incapable of functioning in a mature setting and damaging property, meet with individuals to discuss rules of life and how to contribute, transport guests to the hospital, pickup guests in broken down vehicles, run their shuttles, set their safety, loan them gear… It goes back to the point of acting as if you are entitled to being paid for everyone else having the glory of your presence.

At the same time I’ve experienced positive ambassadors: Billy Harris leading development kayakers down class III, Kurt Casey teaching students how to plan first descents, Pat Keller volunteer coaching high school students, Jon Clarke leading a youth program, Clay Wright volunteering to repair property gear coach and more, guests volunteering to cook their favorite dishes or run a shuttle, Melissa Vaughn creating web content, Stephen Wright coaching youth tirelessly, Tino Specht and Sam Fulbright creating video content, Stacy Naden sharing her art … You name it and I’ve pretty much encountered the full range of kayak adventurers.

What we need in our community are more pro-kayaker ambassadors. It doesn’t matter how good you are at kayaking. Because you ran an 85-footer or can stick an airscrew and make a video of yourself does not earn you respect when you self-label as a “pro-kayaker.”