Hasta Luego, West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium

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After a more than 25-year run, the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium is no more.

In another sign of the economic times, and beleaguered trade association picture, the Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS) recently announced the cancellation of the marquee West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium, held annually in September in Port Townsend, Wash.

“TAPS no longer has the cash or the revenue stream to run the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium (WCSKS) in 2010,” says TAPS Presdient Tim Rosenhan of Innova Kayaks. “We know this is very sad news, especially for the hundreds of volunteers who only for their love of paddling have given thousands of hours of their time and their hearts to run this event over the years. We deeply thank them all for what they have done for kayaking.”

The news comes a year after merger talks between TAPS and the Paddlesports Industry Association fell apart, which both taxed the organizations financially and effectively made the chance for a single, unified trade association for the industry disappear.

As for the recent announcement, it begs the question, what happened?

First, say executives, TAPS lost its funding from Outdoor Retailer (OR). Last year it received $30,000 from the tradeshow, largely for its efforts it promoting the tradeshow to the Paddlesports industry and running various paddlesports activities at the show. In previous years, when TAPS organized the OR Demo Paddle Tank events, OR supported TAPS with up to a $62,000 stipend. “We’re grateful for this past financial assistance from OR which helped make the WCSKS possible,” says Rosenhan. “This year that OR funding is going instead to the new Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) paddlesports group.”

Second, TAPS estimates that last fall the WCSKS lost about $15,000. In previous years the event has been modestly profitable. Last year the difference was largely a result of the inability to secure corporate sponsorship.

So will the WCSKS ever continue? Not unless another organization takes over the funding and management of the event, says TAPS. “We are out of cash,” says Rosenhan. “The Symposium was started 26 years ago by bootstrap efforts, and it might continue if key supporters immediately come forward.”

TAPS will continue to operate through 2010 and plans to watch developments with the new OIA paddlesports group. It also plans to listen to its membership as to what useful role they want the association to play. “We believe that above all everyone in the industry desires healthy growth in paddlesports, and we are committed to that goal,” says Rosenhan.