kayak group info. wanted

I started a woman’s monthly (weekend) kayak meet-up group this spring and have approx. 50 women on the email list.i built a blog and emailed all info./dates etc… at the beginning of the season w/ monthly reminders and even reminded members at the beginning of the paddle date week. we got really lucky with the weather and had no rain dates. as the summer wore on the participation dropped off.there became just 2-3 regulars. when i send out an email asking for a response…maybe 6 people respond.i think i am very organized, i have business cards, a blog for the group, info. packets , email account, they have my cell #. what am i doing wrong? are my expectations to high maybe? is there only room for a few obsessed kayakers in our area? Also a friend formed a Monday evening techniques and water rescue/safety exercises.again, some interest in the beginning…then it just came down to the same 4 people. It was amazing how much i learned this summer from these FREE lessons and paddles. i guess i am asking if this normal behavior from paddle group members. is it because the paddles are on the weekend? people kept asking if i was going to do a weekly paddle? WHAT? i can’t even get them to come 1x per month! should i quit now or stick it out one more yr.? Oh, the local paper did a big story on it at the beginning and i put them in the weekly calendar events section of the paper also. hmmm!!! I’m getting discouraged! please help…i don’t want to give up so soon if there is something i can do, i have a lot of time and work into this. BTW the blog is womenonwaterh2o.blogspot.com

any feedback would be helpful!

enjoy it for what it is
Its not uncommon for people to be gung ho at the beginning and then things taper off.

I doubt you are doing anything wrong though I find your description of paddling in Northern New Hampshire misleading.

You are mostly doing western NH and southern NH. Because of those blasted mountains…its too far for me. It takes me two hours to get to Lincoln.

If you were really doing Northern NH near Errol, things would be better.

However no one lives there…so just enjoy the companionship of those whose have become your friends.

If you did not confine yourself to kayakers you might have more participation.

A Social Thing…
Many people are looking for more of a social outing than a sport. When you ask people to get involved in actual physical activity the results can be disappointing. It’s like stray cats, the good ones will find you.

Miami had the largest “snow ski club” in the country. There were large monthly meetings at fine restaurants, fashion shows, weekend trips with tennis and golf tournaments and many picnics. It was basically a meat market as less than half the members ever saw a slope.

Hang in there, GH

ok , may be a stupid ? but
where is there snow in Miami? or am i missing the point?

they call the far north part of the

– Last Updated: Oct-14-09 7:34 PM EST –

state "the Great north woods" so we call where we are just northern NH, north of Franconia notch. at my first meeting i asked for suggestions and ideas etc... we picked places the group as whole wanted, places close by ,that they had never been to before...we also asked how far people were willing to travel. only a few listed 1-2 hours. parking was also something to consider and fees at state parks etc... i tried to think it all through in hopes to make it a success.members were also offered to invite anyone at anytime for a paddle using the email address's or blog.no takers on that though. we also used a book from AMC called quiet waters as a guide as well. most members have this book.( some of the photos on the blog were from trips that a few of us w/ sea kayaks have gone on aside from the monthly paddle group, for us die hards that will travel to great water.)

They would organize trips to resorts
But what I’m saying it was more of a social thing.

a common problem
A couple groups I belong to have hundreds of members. Maybe 20 are sort of regular and 5 very regular. Many sign up at first because they want a social outlet or want to start exercising and think kayak might be fun. But many are already busy with other groups/activities, others had a different idea of what a kayaking trip might be, some don’t have boats and can only go if there are rentals, family emergencies, too much work, etc… I often paddle alone even with all those members just because no one could make it on some day.

yeh, i get it, i was in the horse world
for a long time…it’s all about the social thing w/ that group too!

maybe i have just set the bar
to high…i have the winter to mull it over.

stick it out
if YOU love what you are doing. Word of mouth works but it takes time. If you aren’t having fun anymore, stop.

What might help is to have a consistent monthly outing on the same day of the week. That might help people plan better.

All VT NH and ME is hard to get around, especially east to west and reverse. Those mountains make the saying true “you can’t get theare from heah”. When day trips take six hours of driving its inevitable you eliminate some potential paddlers.

It is what it is. I dont think you are doing anything wrong and the numbers are as expected.

Four or five seems about right
More kayaks than that on the water at one time is a mess.

Clubs are by

– Last Updated: Oct-14-09 8:18 PM EST –

definition "social", even paddling clubs. The more rifle the approach the fewer members but maybe the hardcore paddlers you are looking for. You could go a more shotgun approach with the events primarily around paddling but include some hiking or meeting socially for dinner occasionally.

It is not blasphemy to mix paddlers and non-paddling social activities, in fact, you may form a tighter group. Do you really want your friends to be only paddling friends? If the weather sucks and you can't paddle would you want to take in a movie or maybe have a get together doing something non-paddle related? If they are only your paddling friends, then what are they without a paddle?

The devil is in the details when it comes to clubs and sometimes too organized is just too damn organized. When the politics, waivers, website, insurance, bylaws, and rules bastardize a group of friends just getting on the water to have a good time....interest and membership won't be a problem, you'll have neither.

Keep it simple, keep it safe, and keep it social.

Skinny on the rules and fat on the fun

Pretty normal group behavior

– Last Updated: Oct-14-09 8:35 PM EST –

In my own experience, it always seems that out of any organized group, about 10% or less truly participate.

I have a local paddlers' Yahoogroup I started in 2004 when I started kayaking. I also was very pro-active, posted frequently, posted paddles, took lessons, advanced my skills, shared with others, and organized events. Yet it was always pretty much the same half dozen who came out to paddle. Once in awhile, a new person or two would join us, but then their lives intervened, and they did not have the time to join us anymore.

That's just the way it is with groups. You aren't doing anything wrong; in fact, you are doing everything right. You deserve a kudos for being so dedicated.

Just keep having fun. Work on your own skills; you haven't lost anything, but you've gained experience. There is nothing wrong with having the same few folks to paddle with all the time. In fact, that sounds pretty good to me.

Now I use my local paddlers' Yahoogroup (which has about 250 people in it) as a message board to pass on items of interest, trip reports, etc. to the people in the group. Many out there just like to read about what and where others are paddling, because they don't have the luxury to get out and paddle. I post the occasional paddle or outdoor activity invitation, too, like sledding or snowshoeing in the winter. We have had a Paddlers Potluck Dinner every winter, too. Yes, it is a social thiong as well as a paddling thing. But, ultimately, I don't rely on my Yahoogroup to find paddlers to go out with anymore.

Bless you for being so dedicated. Enjoy those who do choose to join you on the water, and don't worry about the rest.


My local club, Paradise Paddlers.

Is now Paradise Paddlers and Peddlers. Sometimes we do both on the same day.

…you need a little diversity in your events. One might be aimed as a good workout, others might be more touring speed and then have a beginners’-type event.

Some ideas
Yes, this is very typical group behavior. I tried to run an outdoor activity group once. Less than 10% of the people who joined ever showed up for anything at all. Less than 50% of people who confirmed for an activity came. It takes about 10-12 confirmations to get 5 people to show up. And it might take 200 members to get 10 confirmations, so in fact 50 is a small number of members—until they get committed.

My gym has thousands of members. 95% of them go once and never come again. People impulsively sign up for things and then their interest flags, along with their good intentions.

I think people start to commit themselves to a group when bonds are formed. That takes time. I hope you will be patient and try this again next year.

I did some brainstorming and thought of 13 ideas that might help you expand your committed membership.

  1. If you only offer one trip per month, there’s a good chance that the chosen day won’t work for a lot of people. If you offer one trip per week, there’s a better chance that at least one of your four trips per month will be convenient for people.

  2. If people have to go to a website to find out about trips, they aren’t likely to do that. It’s better to send a weekly e-mail describing the next trips. NE Seacoast Paddlers has a good model for trip announcements that makes it easy for people to find out about the trips.

  3. Possibly rethink not including men? There is a limited kayaking community in northern New Hampshire. Your low numbers may be due to eliminating 50% of potential kayakers. Also, some women might prefer a mixed group. I would personally.

  4. Offer kayak camping, including to Vermont, Maine, and the Adirondacks.

  5. Extend your season well into the fall. You might still have Indian summer. Start again in early spring.

  6. Offer midweek paddles in addition to weekends. Many people are busy with their families on the weekend.

  7. Change your geographical identification? Especially since you go to places like Squam. “Northern New Hampshire” immediately evokes, “My God, I can’t travel all the way up there!” when in fact many people CAN travel to a central place like Squam.

  8. It’s hard to find your webpage because there are so many other things called “Women on Water.” It’s like opening a business—first you have to find out if the name is taken by anyone else. When I google “NH women kayakers” your group doesn’t come up, making it hard for newcomers to find you.

  9. Offer more than one activity each week but specify a minimum number of participants required to run the activity. If a lot of people sign up for two activities and you don’t want to lead both, you can choose someone else to lead one.

  10. Form a partnership with 3 other trip leaders, so you aren’t carrying the whole burden alone and can offer more trips.

  11. Add Grafton Pond as a destination. People love that place. It’s easier for beginners to paddle and is very interesting. Squam isn’t a good beginner’s lake on some days.

  12. Sollicit trip destinations from people who sign up, so you know what places appeal to people.

  13. Allow people to send you their own trip notifications asking for people to join them.

    Those are my ideas. Hope one of them has potential for you! Do some brainstorming and don’t give up. Your idea is great. :-)))

Setting the level
Above are some good suggestions for general club/group paddles. But one thing you may want to use cold weather to think about is where you want this group to live in terms of paddling level/skills. It seems that the surest way to thin the crowd of any gender of paddler in inland areas is to start upping the expectation of skills, integrating practice into regular paddles etc. More challenging paddles, or paddles where there may be a perception that everyone will share an interest in better skills, all start seeming too daunting.

And sadly it seems more women fall off than men.

Your web site presents a group of women that really are working on skills - the pics showing rescue practice on front, that kind of thing. You may want to think about two groups really, and figure out how much responsibility you want to carry personally for making that more complex structure.

If you have found just a few people who
share your interest in developing skills and paddling regularly, I’d say you’re doing pretty well. Our local club went through just the same cycle. Now, a good turn out on a regular club paddle might be 5 or 6 participants. But there’s also a small core group that paddle regularly, take classes, work on skills, and do an occasional expedition. And every now and then a new person comes along who moves from the first group into the second group. I think it’s just the nature of groups to work that way.

Why not just enjoy yourself with a few .
of the women instead of trying to get a whole bunch together.

In my get togethers with a group of paddlers, I have found that five or six is a good group.

Ten or more, and there are two many varying opinions, likes and dislikes, and the group seems to go helter skelter.



the smaller the number the
easier it is to keep track of people and boats. i do agree w/that.