A Few Words About the Future of WestCoastPaddler

Dan_Millsip

Paddler
Joined
Mar 8, 2005
Messages
9,325
Location
Beautiful BC
Hello everyone, today, March 18th, marks 15 years since we started WestCoastPaddler.com back on this date in 2005.

In 2004 there wasn't much available online about sea kayaking. A small group of us who met geocaching started paddling together. We were inexperienced but we had kayaks and were eager to get out there. Admittedly, we really didn't know a lot about paddling but all of us had extensive experience camping and backpacking so we at least had that. And so we began learning and paddling together. And we took photos. A lot of photos actually. After a few months, I decided that we should start a website where we could ask others about paddling, share our preparations for trips, and post our photos.

It didn't take long before we had quite a few people signed up for our forums. Definitely there was interest and a need for a paddling community in British Columbia. The site, and in particular, the forums soon became a hub for sea kayakers and we quickly began benefiting from the advice of those who had been paddling longer than us and from those who learned alongside us. People came from around the world. The sharing of knowledge was exciting and we were thrilled that what we were doing was benefiting others as well as ourselves. Our goal of providing a website with relevant and accurate information for the community was coming to fruition.

But over the years, things changed with the initial core group. Life got in the way of paddling and for a few of us circumstances changed and over time, a few drifted away from paddling and from the site. Fast forward to about five years ago and nearly all of us had moved on from paddling or didn't paddle nearly as much as we previously had.

This brings us to today. For myself, I haven't paddled a kayak in over two years now but I never stopped checking the forums nearly daily - yes, I've read practically every word posted on the forums. Kayaking is still something that I very much enjoy but as with most people, things change and we move on from one thing to another - as have I.

So I had to ask myself, where do we go from here? What is the future for WestCoastPaddler? It would be a shame for this kayaking resource to go by the wayside so I began deliberating what to do with it so that this great paddling resource could continue to be maintained and provide useful information for paddlers.

And so I made a decision a few months ago to pass on the reins to someone who still paddles passionately and could keep the site going. I kept coming to one name -- Philip Torrens, aka, Kayakwriter - a seasoned paddler who has adventurous stories that are the envy of all who read his entertaining words. I contacted Philip to discuss my ideas and plans with him and he graciously accepted to take over the site.

I will be maintaining a small percentage of ownership and will continue to work with Philip on the technical and front-end aspects of the site. Philip will be the primary and majority owner of the site and will have control over all aspects and decisions from today forward.

Mick Allen, who has diligently moderated the forums through the absence of the other core members will be staying on as a part owner of the site as well.

We also have a new addition to the fray -- Raj Persram aka, Tongo-Rad, is now looking after the back-end programming and maintenance for the site. A huge thanks to Raj for his efforts in the past weeks to breathe some new life into WestCoastPaddler -- it's very much appreciated.

From here, Philip will make all decisions as to the future of the site and I'm confident that the site is in very good hands. I hope that everyone here will offer their support to Philip as the site continues to grow and blossom.

In particular, I'd like to thank the original six members of WCP - Mark Schilling, Steve Fairbairn, Darren McQuitty, Robert Meyer, Andy Ferguson and later, Mick Allen, who all helped so much from the outset to create a venue that turned into a paddling community.

As for myself, several major changes have occurred in my life over the past four or so years but WestCoastPaddler has always been and will always remain to have had a very large influence on my life and I've garnered some of the best memories and experiences that anyone could hope for while paddling and camping with friends, family, and many who frequent these forums. I'm happy to have been able to contribute to this community in a positive way and look forward to seeing WestCoastPaddler thrive.

It's been an exceptionally fun and satisfying ride for the past decade and a half -- thanks to everyone who has visited the site and for making it a success over the years and for years to come.

So with this, I bow out to allow Philip to carry the torch.
 

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
755
Location
Bend OR USA
Dan, Thank you so much for your time and effort in keeping WestCoastPaddler alive. Since the end of SeaKayaker magazine, this has been my Go To site for all things relating to sea kayaking - especially trip reports and gear/safety discussions.

I don’t know if you are doing Philip any favors. I hope his new WCP responsibilities do not curtail any time he has for adventures.

There may be a relatively small number of core participants, but it is so nice to have a site we can suggest to anyone who want to advance their knowledge and experience.
 

kayakwriter

Administrator
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
987
So first, a huge shoutout to Dan Millsip, Mark Schilling, Steve Fairbairn, Darren McQuitty, Robert Meyer, Andy Ferguson and Mick Allen.

I’m incredibly honoured to have been deemed worthy of helping carry on the legacy of such an accomplished group.

As Dan noted, he and Raj are going to be holding my hand on the logistical and tech aspects of the forum, which are mostly black boxes to me. What I hope to bring to the campfire are an updated look, regular content updates and some fresh ideas.

Any changes will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and I’ll always be open to comments and feedback. On that subject, a couple of ideas I’ll float out there for you all to think about and comment on:

Neither Dan nor I think of WCP as a “get rich quick” scheme or retirement plan, but it does cost money to run and we’d like to at least break even on it, and not be out of pocket. In previous discussions on these changes, some of you had very kindly asked if there was a way to contribute to the costs. We’d like to give you the opportunity to do so soon, thank you.

As a public service, I’d like to keep all WCP content accessible at no charge. To cover the costs of the public free version, we will be looking at some ads in the future. These would be limited to goods and services directly relevant to the WCP community, so gear, courses, rentals, etc. No timeshares or MLM “opportunities.” Ads would also have to be static - no animations, sound or pop ups. And they’d be restricted to the side margins and bottom of the page. No having to scroll past six million ads to get a half page of content. No “sandwiches” of one skimpy paragraph of content layered between two thick ads.

We’d also like to offer an ad-free version to those willing and able to invest in a paid subscription. You may already be familiar with this model from podcasts you listen to. (Though just to clarify, unlike some podcasts, the subscription version of WCP would not offer “members only” exclusive extras; we want to keep all content accessible to all, including paddlers who are rich in enthusiasm but not in funds.)

We’re working on the rates and logistics of ads and subscriptions. It will be at least several weeks and possibly a few months before we roll them out.

Meanwhile, here’s a second possibility for you to chew on: welcoming touring Stand Up Paddleboarders into the WCP community. Here’s why I’m suggesting this: from my experience in retail paddlecraft sales and instruction, I know that sea kayaks sales peaked quite a while ago. For a long time, the growth areas in paddlecraft sales have been sit-on-top and fishing kayaks, and Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs.) In many cases, SUP sales and instruction have been the only thing keeping your local independent paddle shop afloat. (In Ecomarine’s final years, SUPs were half our sales by dollar value.)

Just as kayakers are divided into several subspecies - whitewater, surfski, touring, etc. - so are SUP paddlers. They include aerobic exercisers, competitive racers, casual recreational paddlers, folks who do yoga on their boards, and the group we overlap most with: touring SUPers who strap their camping gear on their boards and head out. We have common interests with these paddlers, and common cause in promoting and preserving access to areas and landable campsites. If sea kayakers can get along whether they use rudders or skegs, Euro blades or Greenland paddles, I’m sure we can ally with the single-blade, no-cockpit set.

Many of us on WCP - myself included - are old enough to remember when we sea kayakers were the radical upstart arrivistes on the paddlecraft scene, and neither whitewater kayakers nor touring canoeists were quite sure what to make of us. But we were eventually welcomed into the fold. Let’s not let SUPers have to wait for acceptance.
 

JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
2,755
Location
Victoria, BC
I'm very thankful to Dan and all 'the crew' who have made WCP such a great resource. I know the forum is in good hands with Philip, so hopefully WCP will continue for many years more. So, a big :thumbsup: to you all, from me!

My preference would be to have a voluntary donation system to support WCP.
It does seem a bit abrupt to go from the present system of 'we don't need your money, thanks' to 'pay up to get rid of those ads'. One possibility beyond a 'donate if you like us' system would be to require payment if people want to post 'For Sale' ads.

Sales of new sea kayaks aren't necessarily a good indicator of the number of people in the sport. Glass kayaks last 'almost forever'; I paddle often with friends who have used the same boat for 20+ years. So there are more active sea kayakers than retailers may think.
One interesting question could be why there is such a low participation rate here at WCP from people who are members of sea kayaking clubs. There are probably 400+ kayaking club members just between Victoria and Nanaimo; how many are members here?

Are members here seeing a lot of 'Touring SUP' trippers at campsites?
 

Pawistik

Paddler
Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
614
Location
Saskatoon, SK
Thank you Dan & crew for the many years of information that I've gleaned here at WCP. And thanks to the community for always welcoming a prairie paddler who doesn't get to paddle the west coast often enough. Thank you Philip & Raj for keeping this great resource going!

I was coming for some west coast paddling at PPS at the end of May as an assistant coach, then the sh!t hit the fan and plans changed. I was maybe going to come out to paddle anyway, but now I guess I'll try to cancel those plane tickets and stick close to home. If anyone ever wants to paddle Reindeer Lake hit me up (234 km long and thousands upon thousands of km of cliffs, bays, beaches & islands, and almost total isolation).

Cheers,
Bryan
 

mick_allen

Paddler & Moderator
Joined
May 15, 2005
Messages
3,299
We're [SKABC, BCMTNA] seeing some SUPers at sites close to high population areas. Even some SUP centric volunteers are showing up at work parties at sites. It seems to me that info here is relevant to small beachable craft of any means of non mechanized propulsion. Heck, an immense amount of info for BC marine trail sites came from books and talks and background documentation from Neil Frazer who toured everywhere in an interesting 16' alum motorized boat.

So people who kayak, canoe, SUP, dugout, small light sailcraft [even on our yaks, like Philip! for sure kite kayakers also are here], windsurfer, and immense variety of rowing craft - of plastic, glass, skin, wood or whatever material will all have all kinds of relevant info that could be of some use to some of us here - I sure can't see a reason to discriminate. Heck, it's really just about getting out there - method immaterial.

And some of us will try and throw Dan in a boat after some time and life has settled down, but with Philip here too - we're blessed.
 

JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
2,755
Location
Victoria, BC
Mick-
Absolutely, the more participants here, the better. At my destination campsite, not so much! :)

I was just thinking that looking for the reasons that we (WCP) can't seem to attract people from what was once the main 'target audience (sea kayakers and canoeists -aka 'traditional paddlers') might be a useful avenue to explore.

Something similar was the motivation for an exercise that SISKA went through a few years ago.
 

AM

Paddler
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
904
Location
Vancouver
Hmm. Lots to think about.

First off, thanks Dan for running such a great site for all these years. Truly a wonderful resource.

Second, funding. If WCP continues as it has, I will become a paid subscriber. Actually, I offered to do so many years ago, but was told graciously that the forum is a labour of love!

Third, expanding the user base. Hmmmm....I value this site as a place for touring paddlers. In that sense, I’ve got no problem with sea kayakers, canoeists, and SUPers mingling freely: they’re all interested in the same stuff. Expanding beyond the general rubric of “touring” is not something I would want.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
755
Location
Bend OR USA
My off the top of my head concern with SUP is I so often see what appears to me to be risky behavior. Like they are fine … if the weather stays sunny, if the winds are calm, etc. But mostly I see solo paddlers, dressed very lightly, PFD’s lying on the deck (Yes, happens with kayaks too), etc.

It just seems like one of those things that are fine - until their not. And when there not, And it seems like it would take much of a change in conditions for, in the words of that great philosopher, RoboCop, “there will be …trouble.”.

So it would be great if we could encourage safety first;bI’d hate to talk about a paddle from North Beach Orcas to Sucia and have a SUP person try it with just a tee shirt and swim trunks, with the wrong current or when some wind comes up.
 

mick_allen

Paddler & Moderator
Joined
May 15, 2005
Messages
3,299
But the converse is that virtually 100% of SUPers can self rescue pfd or no . . . but what percentage of kayakers? 30?, 40max?
essentially there are pros and cons.
 

Astoriadave

Paddler
Joined
May 31, 2005
Messages
5,687
Location
Astoria, Oregon, USA
I'll go along with the throng, pay or no pay, SUP yea or nay. (My boardhead son labels them "janitors" for their elegant sweeping motions.) We developed a friendship with a woman who started a local SUP outfitting business, mostly instruction and light touring around here. One or two supported downriver multiday trips on the Columbia, dodging headwinds and exploiting downriver current on the ebb -- demanding, sketchy concept. The business winnowed down to nothing, same fate as the sea kayak shop which fluorished in the 90s and petered out in 2005. Sea kayaking here is mostly a granola sport with solitary devotees of the birdwatcher ilk. The SUP crowd favors Spandex and quiet backwaters. Our open waters and robust breezes are poor prospects for the novices, but prime fodder for long downwind forays by the very skilled.

But WCP has been a wonderful resource for guys like me who poached those wondrous waters you have up there and benefitted greatly from the strong safety culture and support WCP has maintained these fifteen years. PS Graybeards Rule (Not!).
 

drahcir

Paddler
Joined
Mar 26, 2010
Messages
569
Location
North Idaho (Sandpoint)
Dan and associates have done a splendid job with this web site. It is an outstanding site in terms of content, helpfulness of other participants, and unobtrusive (and efficient) site management. I am certainly willing to donate or pay a membership fee.
 

kayakwriter

Administrator
Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
987
My, this thread is getting engagement, isn’t it? Which is great!

John: I take your point that sales of sea kayaks may not be an accurate proxy for sea kayak activity: lots of us greybeards make boats last for decades.

Andrew: Rest assured the focus will stay on touring paddlers, whatever craft they use. I feel that a Venn diagram of cultural overlap might show us having more in common with touring paddleboarders than we do with some other kayaker tribes, such as downriver slalom racers and surfskiers. I think it’s worth making overtures to the touring SUP crowd, since we have common interests. And who knows, we may bring a few over to the double-bladed, decked-craft dark side, especially as they age.

Cougarmeat: I hear your concerns about SUP safety. And I agree we should nurture a safety-aware culture around SUP touring, just as we do with kayak touring. As you’ve noted, s**t can also happen with kayakers who are ignorant or inexperienced. SUPers face some of the same challenges we do, such as dressing warmly enough to survive cold water immersion without having heat stroke in warm air, all while maintaining sufficient mobility. The choices they make may be different than ours, since reboarding a SUP is much faster than reboarding a kayak after a wet exit, so their swims are shorter. Conversely, they’re more exposed to the weather even when they are onboard their craft.

Much to think about. I’m looking after a couple of highly COVID-vulnerable individuals right now, so I will continue the discussion as events permit. Meanwhile, please continue to talk amongst yourselves. I’m learning lots!
 

a_c

Paddler
Joined
Dec 23, 2014
Messages
58
Location
Victoria, BC
The king is dead; long live the new king!

(someone had to say it) :)

As a relative newcomer to both paddling and this community, I can't say enough about what a valuable resource (both people and content) this place was/is. So to all involved: thank you, thank you, thank you.

As far as the business model for the future of the site, well, to quote that old maxim: evolve or die. If that involves drawing in the larger touring SUP/canoe/whatever community, I'm okay with that. That's what categories and sub-forums are for, right?

I guess maybe it comes down to the question of what would you rather be: the best sea kayaking site in the world that nobody comes to, or the home of a diverse, vibrant and active paddling community?

There is a wealth of knowledge here, for both present and future paddlers (I'm deliberately using the term 'paddlers', not kayakers); it would be a shame to lose it.

Interesting times indeed. Stay safe, be kind to one another, and let's get through this together.
 

AM

Paddler
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
904
Location
Vancouver
As far as the business model for the future of the site, well, to quote that old maxim: evolve or die. If that involves drawing in the larger touring SUP/canoe/whatever community, I'm okay with that. That's what categories and sub-forums are for, right?

I guess maybe it comes down to the question of what would you rather be: the best sea kayaking site in the world that nobody comes to, or the home of a diverse, vibrant and active paddling community?
I’m not sure the alternatives that you present are apt. The “best” sea kayaking site in the world would only be so because it had active members who were knowledgable and shared quality information. This site is currently better than anything I know of because we have a large enough user base of paddlers who actually know what they’re talking about. Admittedly, we have lost some key voices over the years, largely, I think because Facebook took off and people starting interacting on that platform. That is both their loss and ours: theirs because Facebook is actually a terrible platform for archiving thoughtful discussion; ours because a lot of those folks were very experienced in local waters.

The other site I pop into every day is Paddling.com (formerly Paddling.net), which also saw a decline in membership due to Facebook and an awkward software change. Many of the old guard are still there. But that site tried to diversify and the results were middling. Look at their SUP or fishing sub-forums: crickets. The active forums are the same ones that were always active, and those forums are populated by sea kayakers and canoeists (which are often the same people wearing two different hats). The whole site is now a sea of advertisements for cheap boats. It feels like an online Canadian Tire for anything paddle-related, with the sea kayakers huddling in the corner trying to have a serious discussion.

So that’s what I want for this site: serious paddlers who understanding touring in local waters (BC, Alaska, PNW). And California too (for Peter!). What they paddle doesn’t matter to me: I myself paddle sea kayaks, canoes, and SUPs. If that is a smallish group, I’m fine with that, as long as Philip can pay his bills. If to pay the bills Philip needs to advertise Pelican kayaks and start sub-forums ”Guns ‘n fishing” and “SUP Tantric Sex”...well then, I’ll take my paddle and go home.

Off paddling now...
Cheers,
Andrew
 

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
755
Location
Bend OR USA
One idea - and I’m not sure I subscribe to it; I don’t always agree with the ideas that pop into my head - is to organize the Trip Report forum by Area. If someone was interested in the Gulf Island area, all the posts about gulf island trips could be found there. I can see the “plus” of that and also the complexity - like if someone paddles from Stuart Island in the San Juans to Rum Island in Canada - which sub-area would get that post.

I’m thinking of a site called SummitPost. If I want to climb a specific peak, I can seek to that mountain title and all the specs - trails, hiker’s reports, required permits, etc. is found under the page for that mountaintop.

Or maybe some structure - like in Trip Reports, listing the launch point, any parking/launching/camping fees, water and compost toilet facilities, trip duration, approximate miles paddled. Maybe a cool map like Alex provides. Then the story and photos part of the report. The point is, the “What do I need to know if I want to do this?” information is up front.

But part of sea kayaking mindset is FREEDOM from structure. So a trip report “format” might not fly … or paddle.

I’m just thinking how I use the forum. In no particular order, it’s to learn about trip opportunities with info I need if I’m going to try it. Gear and safety info on useful products and techniques. Entertainment with post content oriented towards paddling. Selling gear to an audience that would be most interested (other paddlers), and keeping in contact with other paddlers I might occasionally meet on the water.

Maybe this is a cycle, like sun spots. The latest BackPacker Gear Review issue came out and most of the stuff isn’t for aficionados; its for “fashionados”. Meaning I don’t see many “youth-of-today” doing the rigorous adventures (nor seeking the training) I had. You just can't buy your way into expertise. In ham radio, chess, sea kayaking (no, I don’t get a lot of dates :) ) - in all these I see older folk. The kids are just standing around looking at their phone - which is funny because as hams we were “nerdified” for carrying our hand held devices.

But like the sun spots, maybe there will be a resurgence after the lull. Some things don’t come back because they’ve been replaced - like horse and buggy by automobile. But there is no replacement for Sea Kayaking. You can’t go safely places a kayak can go on a SUP. You can’t go to places a kayak can go in a power boat.

In that sense, Sea Kayaking won’t be replaced. But how is someone inspired to put their phone down, leave the comfort of their home, brave cold salty water splashing on their face, and maybe pay a daily fee (along with to-and-from costs from home) for the privilege?
 

mick_allen

Paddler & Moderator
Joined
May 15, 2005
Messages
3,299
But how is someone inspired to put their phone down, leave the comfort of their home, brave cold salty water splashing on their face, and maybe pay a daily fee (along with to-and-from costs from home) for the privilege?

That's a/the key question which we're all struggling with to some degree. Hence the vessel type inclusion thoughts and others:

- publicity of the many other sites up and down the coast by the BC marine trails and other stewards
- and my pet interest: finding and securing sites next to high population areas such that no car travel is needed, just throw your vessel in the water and 'get out there'. For example all the work bringing forth Howe Sound sites next to Vancouver and all the other stuff that the BC Marine Trails is involved in.

So more trip reports and their beautiful photos for inspiration!
 

Pawistik

Paddler
Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
614
Location
Saskatoon, SK
As someone who considers himself a paddler rather than a kayaker or canoeist, I'm generally in favour of an inclusive approach. I'm especially in favour of an approach that promotes safety regardless of the paddling vessel involved. The community here is pretty good at promoting a safe approach to paddling and I would hope that we continue to do so, without pushing anyone away.
Bryan
 
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