Congratulations on your new position Graham. Tell us about yourself, where are you from and how did you get into paddling?
I’ve been working in the paddlesports industry since 1993 with a number of outfitters all across Canada. My longest stint was as manager of the White Squall Paddling Centre in Parry Sound, Ontario. I have always loved the water, swimming, canoeing, sailing when I was a young pup. Then YMCA camp canoe trips at Camp Stephens in Kenora, Ontario got me interested in the expedition part of paddling. White Squall got me into kayaking. Now I like getting out on any thing that floats on a river or lake as long as it’s non-motorized.
You are also a kayak instructor. Where have you done most of your teaching? How long have you been doing it for and what was the best experience ever teaching?
I teach mostly here in Ontario on Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron. I have helped with courses on Lake Superior with Naturally Superior Adventures and more recently in the St. Lawrence River for 1000 Island Kayak Company. I have enjoyed teaching in Newfoundland and Baffin Island out of Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Teaching and paddling on the Arctic Ocean in Iqaluit was a highlight, running a Level 2 kayaking skills course. This was the most fun and the most challenging course in terms of environment with tides, weather, cold water, and exposed coastline.
What do you think are the top strengths of Paddle Canada?
I would have to say that the people are our top strength (board of directors and instructor members). Our instructor services, training, and professional development committees for each paddling discipline are top notch. There are, and have been, lots of wonderful instructors and trainers who have volunteered many hours of their lives to growing the sport, developing strong and safe programmes for all of us to use and enjoy. It has been my experience that many instructors out there meet and exceed expectations of the recreational participants taking skill courses.
The weekend symposia organized recently have been a great success as well. They brought the members and board of directors together in one place, to share ideas, learn from each other, tie Paddle Canada together across our vast land, and... well ... just jump in a boat and go paddling together. That’s ultimately what we all want to do.
Looking ahead over the next 5 years, what do you think will be the biggest challenges facing Paddle Canada?
I think we need to start waving the Paddle Canada banner a bit more at a provincial, national and even international level . Raise the profile of the organization and develop some working partners with other like minded organizations, educational institutions, government and private sector (such as Canadian outdoor manufacturers – specifically paddlesports). This can only help sustain us long-term.
Keeping the members happy is another challenge with ease of course administration through our new website (updates to this process are in the works), benefits of memberships in terms of Kanawa Magazine, Heritage River Calendars, teaching resources in print or online (such as forums, teaching document sharing, videos). These are all things that need to be addressed in terms of our limited budget with input from the members and the board to just figure out what makes the most sense for our dollars in the future.
Update: Special thanks to Adrienne for fixing my poor grammer mistakes!