A year after announcing the establishment of the Paddlesports Trade Coalition (PTC), the organization has completed a monumental task: electing its first board of directors. The election marks a major step for the PTC and the ability to move forward on initiatives, such as creating a gathering of the paddlesports industry.

According to the PTC, 11 seats were available on the board of directors, with four seats representing retailers and outfitters, four representing brands, two seats for sales representatives, and one seat for an associate member of the PTC. Associate memberships to the PTC are defined as those who have a strong interest or involvement in the industry but do not fit within the other categories.

The trade group has grown to 92 members since its inception a year ago. At the end of 2023, PTC members made nominations for the board using a third-party software, which allowed for a blind nomination process. The same software was used for the election.

“We had a good selection of people and we put up the ballot the week right after Christmas and required everyone to complete that by the end of the first week of January,” shares Jeff Turner, interim executive director of the PTC and sales director at Kokatat. “It wasn’t ideal, but we got great participation, good voting and we came out with our 11 board members.”

First Elected Board To The Paddlesports Trade Coalition

The 11 elected members to the board include:

Retailer and outfitter seats (4):
– Simon Coward, owner of AQ Outdoors
– Diane Jenkins, owner of Ozark Mountain Trading Company
– Brad Stephens, president of Sunjammers in Florida
– Brian Vincent, general manager of operations at Appomattox River Company

Brand seats (4):
– Jason Eccles, president of Branches LLC
– Emily Jackson, marketing director at Jackson Kayak
– Stig Larsson, owner of Level Six
– Jim MacAllister, director of U.S. sales at Northwest River Supplies

Sales representative seats (2):
– Rob Bossen of Bluewater Trading
– Ted Keyes, owner of Ted Keyes Industries

Associate seat (1):
– Kelley Woolsey of Lost Paddle Events

“It’s a marvelous team. It covers all aspects of North America,” Turner shared after his first meeting with the group following the election. “I was so impressed by the passion in that first meeting. I think they’re not going to drag anything at this point. I’m sure they’re going to pick up the mantle and keep pushing forward. We have to.”

Elected board of directors for the Paddlesports Trade Coalition.
Elected board of directors for the Paddlesports Trade Coalition. Top left to bottom right: Rob Bossen, Simon Coward, Jason Eccles, Emily Jackson, Diane Jenkins, Ted Keyes, Stig Larsson, Jim MacAllister, Brad Stephens, Brian Vincent, Kelley Woolsey. Feature Image: Paddlesports Trade Coalition

What’s Around The Bend For The PTC Board

When the PTC was established in the early days of 2023, volunteers like Turner stepped into leadership roles so the wheels could get in motion—forming an interim board as well as a steering committee to shape the vision of the PTC. Much of the first year was spent creating the organization’s framework, including its legal structure and bylaws as a 501(c)(6) business league. Now that a board has been elected, the organization has begun the transition from the interim team, starting with the first meeting Turner walked away so impressed with.

“It was a two-hour data dump,” Turner explains. “We had to give them a sense, from a governance perspective, what decisions and things they have to do.”

The board also has to hold an internal election to select a chair and vice-chair, among other positions. This is all part of a process Turner and the interim team have been vigilant to shepherd for the legitimacy of the organization.

Even Turner’s interim position as executive director will be up to the board to fill. When asked whether he would remain on if the board asked him to take the role, Turner explained why he joined the rally for the PTC in the first place.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work within industries that have strongly established associations, that have good legislative impact, or good programs that develop consumers and enthusiasm. So, I was always struck in this small industry by how important it would be for us to have that kind of organization.

“We’re a small enough industry that all the things that I’ve talked, debated and even argued with various constituents about in the industry, it’s all now on the table, and we just have to organize and make sure it’s generally supportive for what we want to accomplish. So yeah, I’ve got a passion for this, and that’s why I jumped into the interim role. What they choose to do going forward is entirely up to them. Were I offered the opportunity, I would absolutely consider it.”

Along with the laundry list of positions and formalities the new PTC board has to make headway on, are the strategic initiatives that are the driving force to build the coalition to begin with. According to Turner, the members of the interim group were adamant it should be the elected board and the leadership they put into place making the ultimate decisions as to how initiatives for the industry are tackled.

One of those initiatives is event-based and has already been in motion since it was announced to members at a PTC webinar in December—an annual gathering called the PTC Colab.

An Annual Industry Gathering Within Grasp

Turner believes an annual event is an imperative move for the organization’s momentum—from an industry gathering perspective, but also to generate proceeds to feed back into the organization, which ultimately needs funding sources.

“We did a survey back in July or August. We didn’t have members at that point, but basically about 700 to 800 names and emails we had collected. The survey was intended to touch on a few things. One was to get feedback on the PTC mission and initiatives.

“The other thing, the elephant in the room, was trade shows. There’s been uncertainty about what’s going forward in trade shows and what industries are going to do them, who’s going and who’s not, and so forth. As an interim team, we felt it was really important to have a gathering for the paddlesports industry. That was going to be one of the foundations of what we are. And we wanted to avoid what happened with the Paddlesports Retailer.”

The Paddlesports Retailer trade show ran for three years, from 2017 to 2019. A former iteration of the Paddlesports Trade Coalition, which Turner was also part of, endorsed the show and had a presence there. However, the trade association of the time did not own the show. The event was co-founded and owned by the event business of Sutton Bacon and Darren Bush. The show was meant to be a trade event better suited to the paddling industry than Outdoor Retailer. But after three years, the owners of Paddlesports Retailer changed course, absorbing Paddlesports Retailer within a new endeavor of theirs, The Big Gear Show.

In Turner’s view, it was as if the show was pulled out from under the industry—something the PTC is working to avoid with a new in-person event venture. In the webinar introducing the PTC Colab, the interim leadership shared how they would avoid the mistakes of the previous industry show. For this new event, the PTC would own the trademark of the Colab. All decisions regarding the event would be developed and managed by the PTC. And the PTC would license the event to a subcontractor while receiving a percentage of the revenue, which would go back into the organization’s operating costs.

The PTC Colab is tentatively set to take place in Oklahoma City at Riversport OKC September 3-6, 2024. Whether that event is limited to an annual gathering of the PTC members or has a trade show component has yet to be decided. In fact, the newly elected board still has to decide to move forward with the event and sign contracts with vendors. However, Turner has a high degree of confidence members of the PTC will have an in-person event in Oklahoma City to look forward to and says there is fun potential for a trade component. Turner adds, though, that these decisions will need to be made soon to market and host an event in September.


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