Aqua Bound is one of the founding members of the Paddlesports Trade Coalition, an organization initiated in 2023 and dedicated to becoming the “voice and soul of paddlesports” for the US and Canada.
Former Aqua Bound president Ed Vater and current president Jason Eccles have been heavily involved in the PTC’s beginning stages. They and others around the industry have worked hard to provide the foundation for a strong organization that represents all facets of the industry: manufacturers, retailers, sales reps, guides and outfitters.
Jason said, “Aqua Bound and Bending Branches are proud to be founding members of the Paddlesports Trade Coalition (PTC). The paddlesports industry is a small yet passionate group of retailers, brands, independent representatives, guides, outfitters, associations and media. Although there are a number of competing philosophies, all parties have a collective interest in growing our sport and introducing new people to our passion.
“We believe the most successful way to accomplish this is through a unified industry voice to share best practices and education, and to collectively implement solutions to remove barriers impeding entry into our sport.
“The vision of the PTC lays out the groundwork to grow paddlesports. At Aqua Bound and Bending Branches, we believe this is possible only through the participation of industry constituents. We are proud to play our part by actively contributing to the Paddlesports Trade Coalition and encourage all others in our industry to do the same.”
What Makes the PTC Different from Previous Paddlesports Initiatives
Jeff Turner of Kokatat is the PTC’s interim Executive Director. With over 40 years in the outdoor industry and the last 13 in paddlesports, Jeff has brought his breadth of experience to help the founding member group execute its proposed mission at the ground level.
Jeff said, “One of the key motivators of forming the Paddlesports Trade Coalition was to create an environment where we can dialogue as a complete industry. This has not been done before. Some of the previous attempts were much more manufacturer-driven but didn’t include retailers. We’re including retailers, outfitters and guide operations because they’re at the ground level—working directly with the consumer. It’s incumbent on us as an industry to engage and involve all constituents in the decisions we make to foster growth in paddlesports.”
Part of ensuring the PTC retains this value of an equal voice across the industry is in the way it has set up its board structure. The intent is to include four directors each from the manufacturing and retailer areas, two from sales reps and one associate—and to draw its members from both Canada and the US.
(photo courtesy of Cameron Lawson)
The Paddlesports Trade Coalition’s Beginnings
“Several of us in the industry got together and said, ‘Why don’t we have a summit?’” said Jeff. “It was a remarkable meeting. We had a good cross-section of about 35 brands over a day and a half. We concluded with a unanimous vote to form a trade association for the paddlesports industry.”
The summit took place in January 2023 in Bentonville, Arkansas. The group knew they needed to be organized from a business perspective so they elected a steering committee to drive their actions moving forward. They formulated and agreed on a mission statement, started to form bylaws and elected an interim board.
The group has received invaluable help from NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) for administrative services, legal advice, and registering Paddlesports Trade Coalition (PTC) as a 501C6 non-profit corporation and more.
Even at the time of this writing, PTC members are voting on its first official board. Votes will be counted and the newly-elected board of directors will be finalized in January 2024. “We [the interim board] will be passing our recommendations to the elected board about the initiatives, priorities, and meetings that have been initiated by the steering committee since the January 2023 Bentonville meeting,” said Jeff. “The new board will review the progress achieved by the steering committee and interim board, then discuss the next steps with a focus on the members they represent.”
In the meantime, Jeff and the interim board have been actively approaching retailers and the other industry front-liners to invite them into the dialogue and PTC involvement.
Currently, the next summit is planned for September 2024.
(photo courtesy of Scottie Peterson)
Mission and Vision
According to Jeff, the founding group members call this new organization a “coalition” for a very specific reason—everyone has a voice, not just the manufacturing brands.
As stated on its website, the Mission of the PTC is:
PTC member organizations are dedicated to advocating for and promoting the strength of the paddlesports industry in North America and supporting commerce and inclusive access in a coordinated effort to expand a vibrant community of participants in all human and sustainably powered boating activities.
We are a collaborative, authentic, and passionate team of brands, retailers, outfitters, and sales reps who choose to influence, advocate, and foster growth and development within the paddlesports market segment.
The PTC’s stated Vision includes three main components:
- Grow consumer participation in paddlesports. This includes strategies to build lifelong enthusiasts—new and existing—while encouraging inclusive access for everyone.
- Strengthen the paddlesports industry by addressing retailer challenges, advocating for access and sustainability, and educating the trade community.
- Drive efficient trade sales practices by providing leadership and building a solid community across the industry.
How Will the PTC Help the Paddling Consumer?
The way the PTC intends to engage enthusiasm for paddlesports at the consumer level is through the involvement of retailers, outfitters, guides and organizations like swiftwater rescue, et cetera.
Jeff said, “It’s critical to our success that people believe in what we’re trying to accomplish—equal voice. Those belief systems will take a little while for some and be no problem for others. We plan to focus on growth, focus on access, and invite consumers who may not think paddling is for them.”
It can only be good for you, the everyday paddler, that all areas of the paddling industry get together for the good of paddlesports. After all, it’s the end user who drives the success of the industry as a whole.
(photo courtesy of @five2nine)
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