Riding the swells of leadership

Juneau Kayak Club activities, members ebb and flow with times

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2001

Last summer more than 200 people came to the Juneau Kayak Club play day on Twin Lakes. This summer the biggest kayaking events are group paddles organized through an e-mail list, all that is left of the kayaking club.

"It's kind of in a very latent or dormant state I'd say, with very minimal supervision," said Garland Walker, one of the more active participants.

That's the way of the Juneau Kayak Club, coming and going like the tide. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Skip Gray and Scott Foster revived the club. They organized outings and slide shows, held regular meetings and for three years put on a weekend symposium each June which drew about 125 people.

"It was really exciting during that time," Gray said. "It was a really good group of people and lots of people helped pitch in."

Eventually Gray and Foster passed the reins on to someone else, who ran out of steam.

"As usual with these kind of volunteer things, I think burnout was a factor and people kind of moved on to other parts in their lives," Gray said.

Teri Camery was the latest to revive, and then relinquish, the kayak club. The kayak club had been defunct for several years when Camery came to Juneau. With the list of names and addresses from Sue Schrader, the previous president, Camery quickly got the group going once more.

"I started the club again because I wanted to find more people to paddle with," Camery said. "Me and a couple friends of mine were going gangbusters."

There was no lack of interest in the kayak repair workshops, pool practice sessions and group paddles Camery organized.

The more organized kayak club gave kayakers a way to practice and expand their skills. Kayakers who were new to the area learned the best routes from kayakers who'd been around a while.

In the spring the club held a play day on Twin Lake, with about 30 kayaks for people to try. The first year 75 people showed up and last year more than 200 attended.

"It was great. I never had so much fun in my life," Camery said.

It was also a lot of work. Camery wore out and resigned in April, but nobody stepped in to fill the void. All that remains of the kayak club is the e-mail list and a bank account, Camery said.

The e-mail list has continued to grow and currently 142 people receive announcements of slide shows, kayaks for sale, or someone trying to organize a group paddle.

"It continued to grow even after I said, 'Screw it, I'm not doing it anymore,'" said Camery, who continues to maintain the list.

Walker and Joseph Reeves use the list to organize group paddles, usually starting near the ferry terminal and heading toward Shelter, Admiralty or Benjamin islands. Sometimes a dozen people show up.

"We like to paddle and we like people," Reeves said. "It's not very structured. We make a group decision about where we're going to paddle, but we always look at peoples skill level and the wind."

Walker hopes the group paddles will keep interest in an actual kayak club alive.

"Hopefully people will step forward and take an active role," Walker said. "There's plenty of interest out there, it's just trying to channel it into some kind of organized format that's always difficult. Organizations tend to go through these little ups and downs."

The e-mail list seems to be serving people well in the meantime. Gray recently used it to arrange a temporary kayak trade so he could take his visiting nephew on kayak trip.

"It's pretty neat. You just sort of send a message out to everybody all at once," Gray said.

Other kayakers use the e-mail list to sell used gear, try out boats they are considering buying or contact other paddlers for an extended trip, Reeves said.

"Kayakers are sort of an independent lot," Reeves said. "Having that connection through the list serve is all that a lot of people want."

Just in case someone wants more, and is willing to put the time in, Camery still has 80 rubber ducks under her bed from a rubber duck kayak race she organized on Twin Lakes. Otherwise, she'll just keep adding names of kayakers to the e-mail list. Call her at 586-1281 to be added.

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.

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