That’s right…with a ‘k’. Just like Hard Kore. The Hunter Hard Men of Paddledom. Not quite. In fact, not by a long shot. Compared to other members of the club we are soft on but let me tell you how it all started…
You will recall a post I wrote about the Ning social networking site. You do recall this right? Good. Now, before I return to this let me tell you about the NSW Seakayaking club of which I am a proud member. This club consists of, I think, round 400 members. Like most organizaions of any type, this club has a core of foundation members who established the club and represent the central ethos. These members are based largely around Sydney to Bundeena. There are also several very well known and kinda famous paddlers further afield who have a strong attachment to the core and who also are representative of the club’s foundation ethos. This sort of thing is characteristic of pretty well every organization in existence. As a Freemason, I have seen it over and over again. It’s just the way these systems evolve.
The problem is growth. Once a people-based system grows to include members outside the central core a few phenomena occur. Outsiders from the core become alienated and leave the group, especially if the organization offers little benefit to the member. This is modern Freemasonry. If there are benefits of belonging, outsiders continue as members and the structure may even experience growth. However, there is a strong sense of marginalization and left unattended, the organization will eventually begin to decline as there is little communication with fringe members and no sense of inclusion in the central ethos. The NSW Seakayaking Club runs this risk. Mitigating these eventualities in the club are the several benefits of belonging and an adequate and evolving communications system.
The problem the club faces is that the membership is scattered over a very long distance, mostly along the coast of NSW but also into the ACT. There are pockets of paddlers in various locations who have no organization at the local level and few have any real connection with the central core of the club. What the club needs to do is to harness the potential of the local and bring it all under the banner of the NSW Seakayaking Club with future activities directed at solidifying local chapters or clans.
That’s why I set up the Ning site. I have lamented long and hard about the paucity of paddling in Lake Macquarie and the Hunter but recently that whole thing changed. My Ning site i.e. Hunter Kayak Klan, took nearly a year to get more than cursory interest. It had 3 members for most of that time (thanks John Anderson and James Musgrave). I’d given up and only checked in every couple of months to see if anything happened. Then, all of a sudden, this year, I get a new member, Simon, who knows John. My mate Jodi gets his boat and joins the clan. Pretty soon I’ve got 10 members and we are paddling together in routine training sessions. This has resulted in netting isolated paddlers we come across who are looking for some sort of structure for their sport. Kaboom! Klan.
We are organized and in regular communication. Most of our clan are members of the NSW club as well. Simultaneous to our development is the Sydney Clan who now have an active Ning site as well. There’s also the Central Coast Tea & Cake paddlers with Ben and Ted. All of a sudden there’s a whole lot of organization evolving due to the capabilities of social networking technologies. My kayaking life has improved immeasurably and we are now looking for collective training sessions.
The challenge from the NSW club is to harness this potential to make itself stronger as it is a law of creation that systems that do not grow, die. There is no stasis. The NSW club needs to recognize formally the existence of the clans and sanction them with some mechanism. It should then apply some standards to them and establish a reporting process so each clan knows what the others are up to and interaction can be planned. Events such as Rock n Roll would take on a whole new look as clans arrived under their colours and representing themselves. Of course, the club would supervise training and certification but the sport would evolve rapidly and the prestige of the club would be lifted to be the arbiter of Seakayaking.
All this can be done fairly easily with current web technologies and little extra administrative overhead. The upside is a vastly improved member experience, better trained members and more frequent trips. If each clan were responsible for providing registered trip leaders, events like RnR would not have the hustle of finding trip leaders and the disappointment of not being able to go on trips.
Whether the club does anything about it or not is almost irrelevant as the clans are beginning to form by themselves and I know that if the club doesn’t organize training for my clan, we will just pay a trainer to do it. I can see that the Sydney clan has well trained instructors and trip leaders already and the challenge for ours is to get in that position as well. We are all roughly the same standard in terms of ability and have a lot of potential to become a force in the Lake & Hunter for Seakayaking. I hope the club does not miss out on this opportunity as I’ve seen hundreds of Masonic lodges, some over 100 years old, rot and die because of failed chances.
Until something like this occurs, we will continue to develop our local sea clan and most will continue membership of the NSW Seakayaking Club as it really is something worth belonging to.