Thursday, 20 November 2014

Getting rich through sponsorship.

   I read recently this excellent piece by freeskier David Lesh from Virtika - in truth it echoes many similar articles that have been written by professional outdoor sportspeople and by frustrated industry types, the latter as they trawl through a hundred misspelled and poorly thought out requests for financial support. It also mirrors my experience, both as an athlete and during the many years that I was CEO of Nookie. Want to get rich through sponsorship? You won't!
Fact is, being sponsored is more of a status thing in most adventure sports. Sure, it saves you a bit of expenditure, but it also ties your hands and you give a lot of hours, days and months for a return which, if quantified, might not feel like such good value! But you'd rather work at your sport than in McD's. I get that...
A few top athletes do get serious money. Think Kelly Slater. I've been considering what it takes to do that, and I think it's this; you have to be up at the level where people you don't even know chase around after you taking your photo, writing shit about you, bigging you up or badmouthing you and trying to sue you. You are so awesome everybody wants a piece of you, or to hear about you, and you can't have a drink in a bar because you'll get too much attention. If you are still the guy who's paying people to shoot you (or worse still getting your friend or your mum to do it) and doing all the talking about you yourself, you are not there yet.
Take a look at this list. Surfers, kayakers, skiers and boarders are not on it. Or in the top 100, for that matter. Super rich dudes like racing car drivers are not even hitting the top ten, despite being the most sponsored people on earth, most of them.
Still... there is no harm in trying to change the world for the better, so:
Doug Cooper
Don't underestimate the power of personal recommendation. Kayaker Doug Cooper was recommended to Red Bull by Shaun Baker, who told them he wasn't just another wannabe, but had the communication skills as well as the drive, talent and dedication to endorse their brand. I am lucky to have made a name for myself in kayaking, so whenever I am working on a book, mag article or other project, kayaking industry peeps are falling over each other to give me stuff, pay for stuff, and basically leverage my ability to get exposure. But when I was working on the Haynes Skiing Manual, I thought I might get some help from the ski businesses because hey, I know how to sell myself - I got nowhere. Most ski companies didn't even reply. Because they'd never heard of me. Then I was at an outdoor show, meeting with one of my other strategic partners, and when I told him this story of woe he said "I'll call my friend who represents Atomic..." Ten minutes later Tord Nilson from Iconic Agency is standing in front of me - I tell him about the book and he says "You can have anything you want" - because it was a personal recommendation from someone he trusted (Rory Atton from Dewerstone).

So, it's not what you know, and it's not who you know. It's who knows you.

Beyond that though, never forget that it is what you can offer the brand that matters. No one wants to give you things just so that you can look cool or have more fun. It's often better to approach companies about specific projects and quantify what it will be worth to them. A marketing executive is more likely to give you £100 for a day's work that gets him the photo/video/result he needs, than he is to sponsor you year round. And that's great, because you aren't then tied to any one brand. The downside is that the brand won't be interested in marketing you by name, and as I said at the beginning, status is often what truly motivates an athlete.
As Tez Plavenieks said to me on Facebook the other day:

"Sponsorship is overrated. There are other ways to turn the sports you love into a job you love - as you'll no doubt agree."

I do agree...


Bill Mattos endorses:

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Fun Forever

This is an early 80s squirtboat classic that I thought was lost to us for ever. Welcome back to the realm of less gnar, more fun. Some familiar faces in there... and a Hammond organ, by the sound of it ;)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Mega Kayak Test

Me in the first Mega surf boat, circa 1991
I've long had an association with Mega Surf Kayaks. Malcolm gave up the day job and started Mega not long after Helen and I launched Nookie, and we all shared a favourite surf beach, so it was a fait accompli. We'd meet up and go surfing, test boats and gear, he'd make me striking-looking boats and we'd make him eyecatching paddling kit.

Twenty-odd years down the road (and they've been very odd years, believe me), Malcolm has decided to retire, and I find myself coming back to kayaking after a few years in the wilderness/city/studio/Alps - *delete as appropriate. Peter and Arron have taken over the Mega brand and I'm back on board/in boat as a team rider/brand ambassador - this X/Y sh*t has to stop, right?
Doug Cooper in the latest experiment
Long story short - paddling Mega surf kayaks. Fun times.

First up is this little prototype - slightly embarassed about the quality of the pics, since I sometimes moonlight as a photographer, but hey... it was raining and I was testing a new water housing. ISO cranked up to crazy and the action a spec in the distance doesn't lead to good results, but since we don't really need anyone to know exactly what the boat looks like just yet, it's a blessing in disguise ;) Also, we were pretty hung over, like the top professionals that we are...

Thanks to Nookie and Dewerstone for making good things possible, and Red Bull for (maybe) making the hangover better than it might have been.

Watch this space for more!
Happy Doug

Monday, 10 February 2014


I've been wanting to rant about all the stuff people know, or think they know, about paddling, that I think is deserving of a bit more scrutiny.

Oh... sorry - that's my job, isn't it? As I've said somewhere else, my brief is to tell people they're wrong about everything and then make them feel good about it!

Well, I may do that every month, but this time it's not about anything in particular ("And it usually is?" I hear you ask...) but a compilation of all the little scraps and tit-bits that didn't add up to a whole article. It's frickin awesome though. Even if I do say so myself!

Six pages of random. Way to make a living...

I've cut the main photo off the top, by the way. Just to keep you in suspense.

This is Canoe & Kayak UK magazine's Issue #156 - in newsagents, or order online. There's a digital version too!

Friday, 17 January 2014

It's All About The Pull Quote

 A dance does not take place on the ground. It takes place in the air. And yes - all my words are second-hand, including those ones (but excluding the ones I make up myself).

The point being, as it says in the red pull quote (the "looks a bit like Dymo tape" part) :

"The quality and efficacy of every stroke that we take has largely been dictated before that blade ever enters the water"

I've just submitted my words and pictures for issue 156 of Canoe & Kayak UK, and in doing so realised that I'd forgotten to share with you this offering that's in #155, and already on the streets, coffee tables and in some cases perhaps fires. It doesn't have made up words in it, but I was very pleased with finally finding an opportunity to use "efficacy", and "elegant-ish" seems to have slipped past the editor as well.

I'm not allowed to tell you what's in the forthcoming edition, but it will contain more than its fair share of controversy, by dint of my disagreement with the fundamental tenets of almost everyone's paddling faith. And a disproportionate amount of nail polish, for a sports magazine. The Ed did say it was a "cracking read", though, which following hard on the heels of him labelling me an "aquatic alchemist", seems to me to call for a bottle of something bubbly.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the use of "quote" as a noun. It irks me almost but not quite as much as when people use "invite" to mean "invitation". But I have just Googled it, and apparently it's acceptable to all but the overly formal. And who am I to talk, so dedicated to Oxford commas, and starting sentences with all the things one shouldn't?

Monday, 13 January 2014

The trouble with rolling, and stirring, and cheese...

© Adventure Kayak Magazine 
Now, I don't want to be that irritating self-styled guru who says that everyone else is wrong. But my confidence has been bolstered lately by some good reviews, and so I'm going to push the boat out.
The dangers of conflicting guidance are best observed in mainstream religion and in diet advice. In both of these fields, there's a wealth of complex information that's been dumbed down for "ease of understanding by the hard of thinking", and unfortunately that leaves said boneheads struggling to decide which piece of information they should be adhering to! Low fat or low-carb? Confession or kindness? Is it OK to cherry pick? Are they just trying to sell me something?
Boating, thank heaven (if there is such a thing), is not generally troubled with shock-marketing, but we all have to make a living, and in this increasingly competitive world, I might just be tempted to say "Hey! Duck and cover! You've all been doing it wrong!" Luckily most of you boaters are a bit more open-minded, intelligent and adventurous than the average bear, so I'm sure you're going to deal with it just fine!
The Adventure Kayak article shown above (read the whole thing here) got me a-thinking. Now, there's nothing wrong with the article, and the experts who contributed are all just that. Experts. The real deal. Good on 'em. But I noticed that two of the bits of advice ("Give in" and "Skip the Setup") are actually kind of conflicting. Because the latter suggests using the expediency of the brace position to prepare to roll back up on the same side as the capsize (a great move) and the former recommends using the momentum of the capsize to roll through 360ยบ. Both great ideas.
Now, I'm not criticising the mag. You can't make any body of work completely free of holes. Just look at any one of my books. They're like an homage to Swiss cheese. That doesn't stop 'em being useful and entertaining, and that's what they're for. And if you are ever hopelessly confused, you can email me. The point is, if there ever was any point, that there are a range of tips worth familiarising yourself with, to improve your chances of recovery from an aquatic inversion in a kayak.
One school of thought is that if you practise many different types of rolls, from all sorts of different positions, you will be ready to deal with anything that nature throws at you. This is the Greenland rolling philosophy. At the other end of the spectrum, on so many levels, is the combat roll philosophy that is increasingly prevalent in the US and Europe and especially among whitewater boaters - that there is one roll that is always safest/best, and you should do that. Both of these philosophies are of course correct. If it's good enough for the Pope, it's good enough for me.
However, I thought I might use my new-found and largely self-imposed guru status to disseminate a piece of knowledge that has percolated through my grey matter lately, and that might just be useful to any struggling rollees.
As I mentioned in a previous article that you might like to read here, the important thing about rolling a kayak is to bring your upper body near the surface of the water, and then leave it there while you right the boat using your lower body only, and then recover your upper body finally once the boat has attained a stable position. You could call it a simple 1.2.3, though I didn't think of that the first time around!
The problem most people keep having is what to do with the paddle, and the copious instructions they are usually given lead them to believe that the paddle is important. It isn't, if you do the body language correctly. However, what is important is that the paddle does not detract from the critical motion, or put another way, don't get it stuck under the water and trip over it!
In order to help you not to do this, and without trying to explain all over again how to roll, I'm going to suggest that learning to move and slice the paddle around in and under the water would be a good thing. The most difficult part for many people, having capsized in an awkward position, is to get the paddle into a place that allows them to attempt to roll within a reasonably unpanicky timescale. If one can master this part of the game, then it makes all the tips in the Adventure Kayak article much more doable.
It is much easier with a skinny Greenland paddle than with a big giant Euroblade, but it still takes a bit of practice. With the modern surface area of bladeness, you must slice it edgeways through the water, but the other end of the paddle, which is set at a different angle, may make this difficult. The only answer is to get confident at moving the paddle around under water, and a good way to start is one end at a time while you are upright. I call it "stirring". Put it in the water, move it around. Forwards, backwards, sideways. Feel the force(s). Become one with it/them. If this feels foolish or pointless, keep doing it until it doesn't!
Wiggle it around. See what happens. ©Bill Mattos 
You won't find stirring written about in many books, just as you won't find my method for learning to roll sans boat or paddle or water.  If these ideas resonate with you in some way, as they should, being the great disturbance in the force that any guru's musings represent, then why not consider the exceptional Haynes Kayaking Manual? It's full of clever sh*t like that.