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Since it may end up as germaine to Saturday's membership meeting (which I can't attend, as it's my only day off this week), here's some background on how NSPN got started.

The club started as a simple email list first. Bob Burnett formed it as an open network for any paddler around who wanted to find other seakayakers to paddle with. He intended the list to be welcoming, all-inclusive, and geared towards forming on-water cameraderie. For one he formed the group because his wife wouldn't let him paddle alone anymore, and also because the only other local seakayaking club was somewhat hostile if not downright unwelcoming towards new paddlers. I was lucky enough to hear about this informal list, got onto it, and start paddling all over the place with all of those on it. This was more than five years ago. The atmosphere was informal, along the lines of, hey, this trip was fun, where do you guys feel like going next week? Anyone know of anyplace cool?

The list quickly became huge, the number of paddlers on the informal show-and-goes enormous. Seakayaking was very in, it was taking off, and the list grew bigger and bigger weekly. One day Roger Wilkerson said to Bob "so, is this going to be a club?"


Bob, myself, Roger Voeller, Brian Duplisea, Casey Carey, Peter Logan, Bruce Gordon, Keith Attenborough, Chris Perkins and a few others (I think Jill Aaron and Bob Baldridge) started meeting informally at each others houses to talk about how to form this list into a club, as the trips were become unmanageable. It quickly become obvious that providing a forum for others to post show-and-goes opened all of us up to liability concerns if someone posted a trip and someone on that trip got injured or killed. To become a club, we needed liablitity insurance, and to get liability insurance, we had to become an ACA affiliate. To become an ACA affiliate, we had to be a formal organization, and in order to become a formal organization we needed bylaws, some sort of incorporation, and non-profit status.

Jill Aaron found an attorney who not only incorporated us as non-profit but also got us our bylaws. We were all on the board, and stayed on the board, because we simply happened to be there as a nucleus wanting the show-and-goes to continue but our personal liability to be reduced.

Once we became an ACA affiliate with non-profit status, we looked over our affiliation requirements and what it would take to fall under the insurance umbrella. The only standard, written by the ACA, was that a club have trip-leadership standards. More important, it seemed that what those standards were to be was entirely up to the affiliate so long as those standards were documented and adhered to. So the Trip Leader Committee was formed: Scott Camlin, John Leonard, Mary Mlodinskza, myself, and later others. We had at it, we hashed out some ideas, Scott wrote a lengthy curriculum, and there you are: NSPN with its current leadership curriculum and self-rating concept for leaders. Self-rate was meant to always keep us in each others eyes, to force the notion of "I need to know you as a paddler, you know to know me as a paddler, and we each need to know each other well enough as paddlers to have a clear idea of each other's limitations of skill, experience, and on-water judgement." We chose the self-rate because no-one (would you?!) wanted to assume the massive, onerous task and responsibility of being THE ONE to judge others leaders' abilities. And if all trip participants knew leaders were trained ad-hoc and had rated themselveds, then we all knew what we were getting in to on-water.

Anyways, so too was nurtured NSPN's ongoing ideal of "Pass It Forward". The club wanted to welcome anyone of any level, unlike many other organizations. But the primary tenet has always been this: "I teach you what I know, you teach me what you know, and together we teach something to that newbie over there. And next year, that one-time newbie returns and teaches something to us."

Paddlers like Brian Nystrom and Jed Luby are prime examples of how the ideal works. First trip out with me, Brian capsized on a baby's wave. No biggie, he was a newbie. Now Brian teaches us how to outfit our boats, does it like a pro, is an accomplished Greenland paddler and can extricate himself from whatever the ocean throws at him, no matter how rugged the conditions. Same thing with Jed. First trip with him, he got dumped by a boomer on a bony piece of reef. The rest of us were just chillin', swimming near our boats in incredibly warm water. Jed rolled and didn't come up with a busted head. No biggie, just a new paddler. Now he's certified to teach open ocean skills, runs NH skills sessions, and makes open-ocean crossings with others from Woods Hole to the Vineyard to Nantucket.

The deal of it is, and has been from the beginning, is "Pass It Forward". If you as a paddler are certified or skilled or know something we don't, then post something or teach it. Pass it Forward so we can pass it on to others.

In the best organizations, "what goes around comes around", and what goes around only goes around faster if what's given is given openly, freely, and often.

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Thanks for the background and history of NSPN.

I appreciate your spending the time writing it and helping us all understand how we got to where we got!



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Right on! Just don't forget Bob and Geri Hayes had a big part in starting the club. It was Bob's 40+ trips schedule that I became the default leader on that first year and almost lost my marriage. :)

The nine day trip to Maine didn't help either.


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Nice summary Adam. A few additional notes. I wasn't in the group at the very beginning, but close. I would note that by the time I got involved and was on the Board, NSPN had already been organized as an ACA club and was on its second generation of Board members. It was at that point that, largely for liability protection reasons, we were advised to incorporate.

Once should not have the impression that the by-laws were imposed upon us. I worked directly with our lawyer, and brought many decision points to the Board, one of which was whether to have a voting membership or a Board which elects officers and its successors. The latter was chosen primarily because of the difficulty and expense (which still exists) in convening the membership of a big club (and had a rather large number of members even then). However, for a long time, the members were given an opportunity (through the website) to volunteer or nominate others to be considered for vacancies on the Board. Unless I missed something, and it wouldn't be the first time, that process has not continued, and at a very minimum, I think it should.

The purposes you see in the by-laws -- education, education, education, were approved by the Board and they are the reason that we qualify as a tax exempt organization (some call that a non-profit and think it means you cannot earn money, which is a misnomer).

A word about how professional instruction came about. Very early on in the club's lifetime, Bob Burnett thought it would be cool to organize a class with Derek Hutchinson. I believe it was essentially done at cost and Bob personnally guaranteed to Derek that his entire fee would be paid (and Derek ain't cheap). The class was a hit. The next year he was invited back for more classes. Around the same time, I introduced Karen Knight to the club. She started out with both women's workshops and dancing on water, but she also taught rolling, leadership and "how to teach" workshops for those who were budding leader and instructors. These were unique opportunities and they filled so quickly it made my head spin (I had to take the sign-ups). The idea was to provide something well beyond the very basics that folks could get from skills sessions and elsewhere. Waiting lists formed, and people begged for more.

Somewhere in this, Bob B. also arranged for Armand Mikune-Santos to do an ACA Instructor Development Workshop and Instructor Certification Exam. This past year we added Nigel Foster and Bob Foote to our line-up and both got rave reviews. Obviously we are offering something that folks aren't getting enough of elsewhere.

It is also my understanding that late last year, the Board made a contractual commitment to at least some, if not all, of those who taught last year to teach specific dates in the 2004 season. This is standard practice with those who travel around the world/country and have to create their schedules well in advance.


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> However, for a long time, the members were given an opportunity >(through the website) to volunteer or nominate others to be

>considered for vacancies on the Board. Unless I missed

>something, and it wouldn't be the first time, that process

>has not continued, and at a very minimum, I think it should.

Hi Jill,

This process has been continued. The "call for nominations" has been posted every fall and people are encourgaged to self-nominate or nominate someone else. One of the problems with using the message board for all communications is that such a post can quickly get "buried" by other messages. Hopefully, creating a separate conference on the message board for "club business" will help. There seems to be a lot of support for that approach. We'll see what people think at the membership meeting on Saturday.

Liz N.

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  • 3 years later...

A quote from Adam that I just wanted to bring back for you to read if you are new to NSPN.

"In the best organizations, "what goes around comes around", and what goes around only goes around faster if what's given is given openly, freely, and often."

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