Club/Outfitter relations

An issue has come up with our club giving classes (for which we charge money) and our relationship with the only local outfitter. We live in a small community with an active paddling club. Last year we had the outfitter teach all of our classes in order to have club members receive training. He gave our members a discount, but the club itself received no benefit. Since then several club members have become ACA certified instructors and we can offer classes, split the proceeds with the instructors to raise money for the club, and have more say over what classes are taught based on the needs of our members. The local outfitter is concerned about this cutting into his business. Especially since one of the club instructors, also teaches for the outfitter. Any other clubs deal with this issue? How have you handled it? I’d appreciate some experienced advice for a young kayaking club.

Club/Outfitter relations
Not sure about the overall issue, but the instructor that works for the outfitter has a conflict of interest. That one needs to make a choice of who to work for. Maybe the outfitter already made that choice.


– Last Updated: Oct-01-05 1:12 AM EST –

...does the club need the money enough to alienate the local outfitter. I would let the club instructors freelance lessons and let them keep all the money or better yet have them work through the outfitter. Then the club would not be in competition with the shop. You need each other and the outfitter has way more expenses than the club.

Sounds like the “club” has to benefit monetarily from every outing. If so politics can’t be far behind and you are in for a rough ride. The benefit should be in the camaraderie and friendships.

Local business mans view
As a local businessman I would see you as competition for my services. I make a living at my trade to feed a cloth my family.

You on the other hand have other jobs and are enjoying a recreation.

Seems to me you could have control of the content by having an open and frank conversation with the outfitter. If he is a professional, he should not have a problem with your input into the course content and may have some ideas of his own to contribute.

I really mean to be constructive here. Maybe you can both benefit from you mutual needs.

Our club has taken a different approach.
We negotiate a reduced fee with several outfitters, then the club member pays the club. In return, since our club treasury is rather fat, we REBATE to the member $25.00 of their $30.0/year family membership after they take the class. Of course the’rs only one rebate per family.

Our practice sessions are practice only. We ask that members take classes from the local outfitters and then we will help them practice what they learned in class.

We do not compete with the outfitters, we need their support. PLUS, they can then deal with the liability issues and not the club.

a way to do both in harmony
Last season I facilitated along with the help of many great club members a “club mentoring program” we called Thursday Rock n Roll Rescue & Skills. It is not in competition for and not billed as expert formal instruction. The reason for the mentoring program is the huge influx of recreational kayakers making for hundreds of paddlers with allot of enthusiasm, few skills, and allot of danger. In fact most of these folks see no need for instruction, see no danger, and are not motivated for formal paid training. We wanted to reach them not compete with formal instruction.

That said, the entire club began to have so much fun learning rescues, skills, etc. That many many kayakers began to ALSO SEE THE VALUE OF FORMAL INSTRUCTION. The mentoring program is a large group event. They saw how private instruction would benefit them in ways the mentoring program could not and was not designed to do.

I and a number of other local instructors enjoyed in a totally ethical and synergistic way students coming to us to further themselves with a fun and open spirit started in the Rock n Roll Sessions.

Hope this is food for thought.

What we do
Our club does not provide any formal instruction. We have pool sessions where members can share what they know, and an annual rescue clinic that starts off with a disclaimer that the clinic is not a substitute for accredited instruction – it is merely a demo of what you can learn. We also have numerous informal rolling & rescue jam sessions during and after paddles.

We do sometimes bring in professional instructors & big name paddlers, but the club runs those events at break-even (At least as long as I have been president), and the instructor is someone that cannot normally be found locally (Greg Stamer, Nigel Foster, etc)

What I find is that our approach generates more interest in learning, and may actually increase the business for local outfitters that offer instruction. We have very good relations with all the outfitters in our area.


how can you say that club members receive a discount but the club itself doesn’t benefit,the club is the members.

Does the outfitter offer tours?
If so, why is he complaining only about lessons?

Every club trip participant is someone who poentitally might have paid for a guided trip from an outfitter. This situation occurs everywhere that there are clubs in outfitters. Even so, clubs and outfitters generally seem to get along. Club members buy gear, and maybe even recommend the outfitter to friends not in the club. In many cases outfitters offer discounts to club members as a way to INCREASE business.

Figure out a way to play nicely together.

Very similar here
Thanks to irishman_ng for his efforts, we also have “skill sessions” on the water and in the pool. These sessions are meant to rehash and rehearse what we’ve learned from the pros.

We promote local outfitters’ courses via web board and email newsletter, and encourage our members to attend. Our local outfitters have kindly provided group discounts, demo days and pipelined new members to us in return. Win/win!