The Paddling Life–February Update!


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&K&KThe Paddling Life

It’s been a while since my last installment, so here goes some errant rambling.

Tops on the list is a recent thread comparing all the different paddling mags out there (see bottom). Everyone’s certainly entitled to their own opinion, and I respect all of them—but it’s also nice to be taking a break from the print side of things for a while. As Dangerfield says, we don’t get no respect.

Here’s the bottom line from my perspective. I left Paddler for a couple of reasons. One, talks to buy it fell through, which would have kept me in the game much longer. Two, after 15 years I felt I had accomplished all I could with it and it was time to move on.
Much of the staff followed suit—including editors Jeff Moag and Joe Carberry, and sales reps Nick Hinds and Kevin Thompson—largely because of potential downsizing with the owner’s decision to cease publishing Kayak magazine; a potential office move back East; and the direction the owners were taking it.

I had intentions of trying to start a new print title in the industry, but have since put those on hold due to lackluster ad support. Instead, we’re focusing on a lower-overhead E-zine on the web, which you see before you now. I hate to say it, but all sports go through up-and-down cycles, and the market just seems too tight right now to support another print title. With budgets the same or dropping, advertisers wish there were less print options to choose from, not more.

Coincidentally, at the same time I left, Primedia decided to try and breathe some new life—and return–into Canoe & Kayak magazine by canning the editorial and design staff, moving its offices from Seattle to Southern California, and hiring former Paddler magazine managing editor Frederick Reimers as its new editor (you can read more about this in Dr. Agua). Paddler’s owner, meanwhile, the American Canoe Association, wasted no time in hiring former C&K Publisher Glen Bernard, let go by Primedia a year and a half earlier, to head up Paddlerin Seattle; and Glen wasted no time in hiring former C&K associate editor Mike Kord and their designer to take the reins at Paddler. Now there are six ex-Paddler employees working for Powder and C&K, and three ex-C&K employees working for Paddler. It’s been the big switcheroo, and time will tell if it succeeds.

So where does that leave us here at Paddling Life? If you check the “About Us” button on the home page, it’s being run by myself, Carberry, Hinds, and webmaster Dave Harlan. We’re super-psyched about it, are having a great time updating it, and advertising partners seem to be welcoming the concept of marketing on the Web. And I’m not totally out of the print game. Primedia’s giving me a column, aptly named “Paddling Life”, in C&K, so I’m looking forward to working with some of my old adjective-hacking cronies. In the shameless self-plug department, as well as picking up various catalog and PR work (rolled into my shell company, Recreation Publishing Inc), I’m also on the book circuit, with Brothers on the Bashkaus coming out by Fulcrum Press in April, and another title in the works.

Will all this leave time to paddle? You can bet your water-logged ass on it.

Back to the below thread. While at Paddler I tried my best to make it appeal to a diverse array of paddlers and keep it lighthearted and fun, which, to me, is what paddling is all about. To the chagrin of the ACA Board, it always had more of a core, whitewater edge to it, largely because that’s my background and largely because, in my opinion, there’s just more exciting stuff going on in whitewater than there is in other disciplines (look to whitewater-themed car ads as proof). That’s not to say there aren’t exciting canoe and sea kayak stories. There are, but you have to dig for them. That’s why a lot of our coverage involved expeditions, retracings, and other themes. But no one queried us with ideas like ‘World’s Top Sea Kayak Expeditions.” Those were always house-generated. More often, it was always Me-and-Joe-went-paddling-type stories. And if I read one more touring story with a loon call lead, I’m going to puke (note to aspiring writers: don’t lead with a loon).

Okay, that’s enough. I’ll leave “Ramble On” to the likes of Led Zepplin. Read the below threads and make your own decision about the current print side of things, but keep coming to for uncensored, core coverage of what’s happening.

Speaking of what’s happening, anyone notice the two SuperBowl ads featuring sea kayaking? One was for Izod and another for Flowmax (something that helps men take a leak—not that most beer-drinkers watching the game needed help with that). It’s a good boost to the sport, and illustrates its lifestyle imagery and mass appeal. Another example comes from Jackson Kayak’s recent foray into the rec kayak market. Says EJ: “Our goal is to bring the same kind of family-oriented, user-friendly, high-quality product to people wanting to paddle inland flatwater as we do in whitewater boats.” Can you use a few more hyphenated modifiers, EJ? Anyway, I see it as a good move. He’s making the boats to be lightweight, comfortable, durable, and versatile, with a massive cockpit for gear and removable seat for the beach (for a photo of none other than Hillary Clinton holding Jackson’s shaft, check the Daily Current section of our homepage).

Props also to Martin Litton (profiled in the March ’07 issue of C&K) for rowing the Grand this year at age 90 in his dory, Sequoia; as well as NRS President Bill Parks, who rowed it last year at age 72 and is planning to do again this year at age 73. We should all be so lucky. And hopefully, none of us will be so lucky as Robert Kennedy Jr., shown in the same issue on page 48. While I fully respect you as a paddler, Bobby, as well as everything you’ve done for the environment, do you realize you’re holding the paddle upside-down?
–eugene buchanan

Paddling Magazine Thread

What Happened to Canoe & Kayak magazine?
I recently got the March issue of Canoe and Kayak and noticed a number of format changes, with no mention at all in the magazine. A closer read of the masthead shows a lot of new senior staff (all changed from the 2007 Buyer’s Guide): Also, even less canoeing articles than they used to have. Typically a new Editor would introduce himself to the readers, but I didn’t see anything like this. Anybody know what’s up?

Found This About the Situation
According to SNEWS, it seems that the publishers of Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Primedia, walked into the offices and announced that it was moving the offices from Kirkland, WA to California to join the Action Sports group, which includes Bike, Powder, Skateboarder, Slam, Snowboarder, Surfer and Surfing. At the same time, editor Ross Prather, managing editor Robin Stanton and art director Jason Mohr were told they would not be offered continued employment. Mike Kord, senior editor, has been offered a position if he chooses to move. At this time, there isn’t a whole lot of details on the move. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Changing of the Guard
The previous month’s issue had a column from the new editor. In his column, he addressed most all of your comments. He mentioned changes in the staff and a re-design of the magazine. Sorry that you missed the article.

Oh Yeah?
They go from December (vol. 34, issue 7) to March (vol. 35, issue 1) with no mention of a change.

A Strange Click of the Kalidoscope
(Note from PL: This one’s straight from an ACA board member, and they spelled my name wrong)
The ACA was considering selling Paddler to it’s publisher Eugene Buchannon. Negotiations failed, and Eugene and most of his staff resigned to form Paddling Life.
About the same time, Primedia laid off the Seattle Canoe & Kayak staff and moved the magazines operations to Southern California with Frederick Reimers, who used to write for Paddler as Editor. The ACA then hired Glenn Brenard, former C&K Mag publisher to publish Paddler, and he hired the shards of the C&K staff still in Seattle.
We can expect Paddler to become like C&K used to be – less edgy and more even. We can expect C&K to become edgier and more whitewater oriented. It is already printed on lower q paper. Paddling Life has become an E-zine. Strange justiposition…

All I Know is That…
This magazine sucks. Seriously sucks. worst magazine I ever subscribed to. I know a good magazine when I see one. And I know what the most surperier magazine is… TFH. Tropical Fish Hobiest. Before I was a paddler, I loved fish (as pets). I had cichlids, eels, catfish, and much more. I still have 5 rainbow cichlids, 1 bichir eel in a 30 gal, and in the 29 gal I have 3 australian rainbowfish, 2 chinease algea eaters, and 2 S. amerian bumblebee cats. Anyways, I had subscribed to TFH, And I can say it is the best magazine I have EVER seen. Google it, you’ll agree.
Ah Dun’t know…
All dis is startin’ ta sound a’mighty fishy ta me…
I Don’t think ‘Seriusly Sucks” is Fair…
I agree C&K isn’t what it used to be, but it hasn’t arrived at “worst” yet, IMHO, but then I don’t get out much so maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture.
No Wonder Paddler has Changed
I only have two things to say. 1. I enjoy a few articles here and there, and either at least makes for good bathroom reading material. 2. Nevertheless, I find I rarely have time to read the damn things anyway. 3. Some of the best paddling articles, canoe or kayak, I have ever read have been written right here by p-netters. OK, I lied. Three things.

Gave Up On C&K 3-4 years Ago
C+K became more glossy with uncontrollable amounts of really overbearing advertising and too much senseless B.S. The magazine started going downhill ‘for me’ when they added the ‘K’ to the ‘C’. As far as Paddler goes, I noticed with the issue I got about a week ago that Eugene was no longer editor. hummmm I thought, not even a ‘goodbye’ letter. Musta been a ‘mutual disagreement’ I thought, aka- getting release from your job. Paddler has also been slipping into the ‘get the advertising $$ money first, quality of articles later’ frame of mind. I can side by side compare older issues, with the last years’ issues and see a noticeable increase in the amount of 1/8 and 1/4 page advertising. Paddler is also owned by the A.C.A., not everyone’s favorite organization either. But, as has been brought up on this subject before on this board. They, (C+K, Paddler) are in a constant battle to keep afloat. With salaries, paper and ink cost (glossy), printing press time, bulk mailing, and I’m sure tons of other expenses. I do understand the need to sell as much advertising space as possible. (and make me nauseous)
Will there ever be a magazine as genteel as ‘CanoeSport Journal’ was ? Now THAT was a canoe magazine. The buyers guide that just came out was my last issue of Paddler, having just expired a 3 year sub. I’m having a hard time writing that check for another 3 years. (I like getting the free straps). If I renew, it’ll only be because I like the traveling Gnome’s articles and reviews.

What Don’t You Like About Paddler?
Just got the latest issue, complete with 4 page survey. One question on the survey is what don’t you like about Paddler Magazine and I’d have to say the ACA stuff in the middle, I never read it. Their Buyer’s Guide is in tiny print, too. I never read it either. Anybody else?

I Don’t Read It…
but the tatoo magazine down the shelf looks interesting.
I could care less about celebrity paddlers, Whats Hot/Not, and other stuff aimed at the 18-30 demographic. And they treated mike McCrea’s decked canoe story badly – it should have been 4x as long with multiple pics of every boat.

I Think Paddler Magazine Sucks…
All things to all types of paddlers and god at none of them.

In fairness to Paddler Magazine, I don’t think they ever claimed to be “God” of anything. Just a decent paddling magazine….and with decent spelling…

…Not Much
Not Much…I mean just about everything. The best I can hope for is one article that attracts my interest long enough to read it. Otherwise, it is worth only a quick skim through or a couple emission missions to the john (hey, quote me on that please, but don’t interpret it in the Playboy-Penthouse/teenager kind of way, but in the morning coffee kind of way). And then it is in the recycle bag. Kind of a waste of resources. But good for the morning dump.

Now Here’s Some Good News, Maybe…
The former editor and former publisher of Canoe and Kayak magazine have just joined Paddler Magazine. Since C&K is my favorite paddling magazine I’m hoping they bring a breath of fresh air to Paddler.
Paddler wasn’t always such a wimpy magazine. Back in the 90’s it was full of stories about canoeing and kayaking here in North America, and featured real people doing real things instead of extreme destinations and extreme paddling, and in a type font I could read. There were a lot more pages in those days, too. Hopefully it will become that again.
Right now, Paddler Magazine is a reflection of the ACA website, and they both suck. If you’ve ever tried to find useful information on the ACA website you know what I mean. It’s like reading an IRS bulletin. You know less at the end than you did at the beginning. Sigh.

Now That You Mention It, C&K Sucks, Too
I guess I’m yearning for the days of real magazines and now that you mention it, I’ve been turned off more and more by Canoe & Kayak’s articles about runs so scary you vomit before getting in your boat, or paddling in Vietnam. How many of us are actually going to ever go there? How many of us even read that article?.
I want to belong to a more gentler canoeing world, like we had back in the Canoe Magazine days, when a trip on the Allagash was high adventure and it still can be. How about a close up of America’s rivers like the Buffalo and Yellowstone and nevermind full length feature articles about an occasional tourist who paddles in Sweden, or Portugal, or Norway or Timbuctoo.
I just glaze over when I see yet another foreign spot I have no interest in paddling. On the other hand, if they did a nice article on paddling in Costa Rica or Belize I’d probably read it, especially if it came out in the winter issue. At least Costa Rica and Belize are closer than Vietnam. Come to think of it, Larry Rice did a nice article in C&K about paddling in Costa Rica, and another article about canoeing with Bob Foote in Honduras…

Ah Likes… Kanawa. It be a Canadian paddlin’ magazine – has a little more canooin’ stuff than C or Paddler. CanoeRoots magazine is more ta me likin’ since ah’ be a canooist. Ah’ still git Paddler wit me’ ACA membership an’ C&K but ah’ also feel dat it doesn’t offer us canooists much anymore. Besides, thaar ain’t no more bikini babes in de ads like thaar waar years ago.

More on Paddling Magazines…
…a very interesting thread. i’m no expert on what it takes to make a good magazine, but it seems that good quality is hard to create and takes good writers, photographers and maybe more than i understand about the roles of publisher and cheif editor. the mags under fire in this thread i agree with you all, generally deserve their darts. there seems to be a real lack of vision or editorial thread in them. in a word, they seem weak somehow. Sea Kayaker mag is a much stronger product and i think that much of the credit belongs to Scott Cunningham who’s stamp is all over the mag. this is a good thing, because his overall wholistic and comprehensive vision seems to drive the content and quality, though it lacks some freshness.

i’m surprised another magazine wasn’t singled out more earlier on for their high quality. the Rapid Media family of mags, Rapid, Adventure Kayak, and Canoe Roots are of, i think, excellent grassroots quality: in writing, editorial, stories, photos, etc. the main reason is because it has vitality and vision, brought to bear on the mag market by the founder/publisher/chief editor, Scott MacGregor. this guy gets it. he gets serious ww playboating, but also gets traditional canoeists, i’m serious. he’s from the center of it and has a lot of respect for it.

anyhow, not sure what my point is, but it is unfortunate that there isn’t a monthly out there that really goes to the smaller towns, back roads and wilderness areas, meets the builders and paddlers of all kinds of traditional gear, skills, etc, and still writes about it with verve, and wit. i’m not an old fart, but i am a young fart and while i mostly paddle sporty kayaks, i am fully in touch with my inner canoeist. i am also a big fan of great writing. one of the things that i love about PNet is that there’s a sizable group of folks out there, American and Canadian, who so love paddling, and so love the lakes and forests of NA, that it puts aside regional and national differences in this passion. could Canoeroots make it like this? hard to say, i’m guessing that Scott M would not bet this collective businesses on it, or it would be happening…

I Told Them…
…the last time they did a survey a few years ago, to focus on STUFF THAT NORMAL PEOPLE PADDLE OR CARE ABOUT. For a while there it was choked full of trips to far away places that normal people could never afford or articles like the top ten women in paddling in the 90’s. YAWN. While they have been better of late (printing Mike’s article is a sign of this) they still do not get it like Canoe and Kayak. C’s writers are out there paddling with local groups around the country. They produce articles that you look forward to reading. A C&K writer recently went along on a trip to the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande with some of my DDRC friends. I can’t wait to read about it to see if his account matched their’s. I stopped getting Paddler about a year ago when my ACA membership expired (the DDRC quit ACA as a club), and until it was mentioned in this post, I had not even missed it. Can’t say the same about C&K.

Etc., blah, blah, blah, ad nauseum…

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