A Boost for Diversity and Conservation: NRS Launches 2021 “Just Add Water” Project


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Talk about putting money where your river mouth is.

Northwest River Supplies (NRS) recently launched the third year and phase of its Just Add Water Project with a goal of building an inclusive paddlesports community for the future, creating new advocates for conservation, and protecting the health of — and access to — public lands and waters.

“There’s been a lot of talk in the outdoor industry about how we can build a more welcoming and accessible outdoor community, and get more people from different backgrounds outside and engaged in conservation,” says NRS director of marketing Mark Deming. “At some point you have to stop talking and put your paddle in the water. We’re putting our values into action and working to create the paddlesports community we want to see in the world.”

In its first two years, the project evolved from a social sharing campaign to an industry-wide conversation in 2020 with Faith Briggs and Adam Edwards about how brands, individuals and nonprofits can build a more welcoming and inclusive sport. Now, the Just Add Water Project will become an ongoing effort to support and amplify the work of those who are developing new paddlers from a variety of backgrounds and promoting conservation.

Photos courtesy NRS/Jameson Redding

“From this point forward, it will be about building an infrastructure to hold up the big, welcoming tent we all want to see our sport and our industry become,” says Deming.

The Just Add Water Project aims to create pathways for new entrants to paddlesports, help train instructors and guides from diverse backgrounds, and sustain the work of organizations serving underrepresented communities and advancing conservation causes. It’s about holding ourselves accountable and integrating these stories into the fabric of our company and community, says Deming.

NRS isn’t alone in its quest. Partners such as OARS are also on board. “We have a lot of work to do, but OARS is committed to taking decisive steps toward diversity, equity, and inclusion and to breaking down barriers to the outdoors,” says OARS marketing director Steve Markle.

The project will be a long-term, sustained effort aimed at building strong, durable relationships with people and organizations that are putting in the work to make lasting and positive change. The annual project will continue to grow with people and organizations, hold the company accountable and keep integrating stories into the fabric of NRS and its community.

So far it seems to be working, even at the grassroots instructional level. “I know we are having a positive impact as students who finish high school are still paddling and coming back as student instructors to help the next generation,”  says Devon Barker Hicks of partner Dare to Kayak.

Comments from those on the front line

“I’m almost always the only person of color on my river trips, and it’s been like that since I started boating 15 years ago. Last June, it occurred to me that I could do something to change that. I wanted to make paddling more accessible for members of my community to help bring together BIPOC & allies on the water.” – Lily Durkee, Diversify Whitewater


“Paddling can be an intimidating thing to get into. Fostering club-style groups where new paddlers can try out equipment, learn where to go and meet other people to paddle with seems essential to growing our community.” – Karrie Thomas, Northern Forest Canoe Trail

For more information, visit https://www.nrs.com/just-add-water/.

About NRS

100% employee-owned NRS is the world’s leading supplier of equipment and apparel for water recreation, safety and rescue. Founded in 1972 with a vision to create a better kind of company, NRS is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of its customers, employees and community. For more information on NRS, visit www.nrs.com


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