These days, I spend more time on the Hunter Kayak Klan site than I do here. That site keeps me in touch with the people I actually paddle with and the Aus Seakayak forum keeps me communicating with paddlers further afield. So this blog is getting relegated to its original intention and that’s to record the stuff I get up to on a personal level. As a retailer and marketer, I spent a lot of time trying to get this blog some readership and some influence. Motivating this was the desire to understand the blogging science so that I could use it in my ‘real’ career, such as it is. So lately I’ve been thinking about the success of my venture and where this blog now sits.
When I started, there was nothing much happening on the kayaking online scene. The most influential blogs were and maybe still are, Derrick’s “Kayak Quixotica” and Douglas’s “Seakayakingphoto“. I’ve been reading both for years but Derrick’s site has had the most effect on me from a promotional point of view. In Australia, there was nothing. Sure there were some hard coded, old-school sites from good paddlers but they were rarely maintained and offered zero interaction with the readers. Because I actively worked on making connections with people my readership exploded and to my surprise I started getting talked about. I met people on the water who asked me “are you the website guy?”. The first word Mark Sundin ever said to me was “arrh jimlad!” which bowled me over but created a connection that I’ve exploited ever since to further the sport (is it a sport?) in the Hunter Region. I’ve talked it to death but Mark’s Expedition Kayaks business is a paragon of Web 2.0 success and the influence this company now exerts on Oz kayaking is immense.
Now I don’t know how much, or indeed if any, influence this blog had but now there are numerous great blogs out there such as Damiano’s Gnarlydog and Matt Bezzina’s. These guys are better paddlers than me and exert more institutional influence I guess so it’s not surprising their sites are getting hit a lot. So the online landscape these days is a lot richer than when I started and that’s a good thing. Now that there’s this sort of activity going on, the intent of this blog has now changed again. I’m really concentrating on richer pastures now and that’s the klan site. Of course, this blog will still record the things that I think are relevant but I won’t be chasing readers as much and I’m now totally unconcerned about my site stats.
The Hunter Kayak Klan is the very thing I wanted to get running. As it stands right now, I will take credit for the establishment of the concept and the administration of the site but really, the amount of work I do on it is minimal. This site now belongs to the members who are extremely proactive. We have 32 paddlers and a couple of commercial members and we have evolved to the point of self-organization. We can have several events running in a week and there is always forum and blog posts coming in covering a range of topics.
Like most organizations there is a cadre of more active paddlers who routinely get out together and some good friendships have formed. Those who actively participate have all improved dramatically in skill and experience. The klan covers the region from Broken Bay to Nelson Bay which is rather large and includes some spectacular parts of the NSW coast. We have paddlers who have paddled in Scotland, New Zealand , America and more remote parts of Australia. Others like Simon and Anne have just completed the Hawkesbury Classic and a grueling Myall Lakes race in appalling conditions. So all in all, the klan is powering on to greater heights and I can say that it has achieved and exceeded its original purpose. We have also spawned a sister klan, the Manning Kayak Klan, which is the region just north of ours and this is starting to gather a few people from that area as well. It takes time for a group to gain strength and grow but I’m sure the Manning klan will be fine.
I am absolutely sure that the klan system works best for kayakers here. We have many advantages over the formal structure of a club. Since we are not incorporated or an association, we do not have to elect officers or pay dues. There’s no AGM or any administrative concerns outside the practice of paddling. More importantly, we represent our region and know each other. Events can be organized quickly and cheaply and we can count as successful even those events where only a few paddlers are involved. Our website is incredibly powerful for communications and this is the thing that gives us a real edge. A good percentage of us are also members of the NSW Seakayak Club and proud of it despite the now obvious limitations of that organizaton.
The club offers its members the things the klan can’t; official recognition of standards, expert training with fantastic instructors (mostly for free!) and large scale event planning like Rock ‘n’ Roll and more demanding trips. The club, however, is very impersonal except within its core cadre and is completely incapable of representation outside the Sydney area to the point of attracting outright hostility in some parts. However, this is not a reflection on the individuals who volunteer their time to do the hard yards. All organizations end up like this after solid growth. In fact, the club is run by very fine people and I am astonished at the quality of the events on offer and how this is all done with near negligible cost to members. This is why I will remain a member and proudly so. But the klan system is the solution to the club’s regional problems. If only the club embraced it as such, the combined strengths of each structure would only add to pleasure of our lifestyle and the advancement of our paddling skills.