Of Sponsors and CT paddlers

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7 years 7 months ago #22408 by Davidw
We have recently again become involved in sponsoring surfski racing. We sponsored a leg of the Cape Town Surfski Series which, as I understand it, has risen from the ashes of what was the Cape Town series that Billy Harker initiated and ran. We would sometimes get 150+ paddlers on the water in Langebaan for those series events. When Billy moved on to other things our leg of the series fell by the wayside, as the new organisers seemed less than keen to be involved in an event in Langebaan. I think the Cape Town Series also seemed to lose momentum and flounder for a while.

Richard Sutton, organiser of the Hout Bay Tuesday series, has apparently stepped into the void and taken on the Cape Town Surfski Series and was instrumental in getting our local event back on track.
The Langebaan event was in the past sponsored and organised primarily by Langebaan locals and businesses and this was also the case with the revived event. We have a very small group of paddlers in Langebaan (in fact I think we currently sport only one registered paddler), so the locals all chip in to make the event happen.

However we were somewhat disappointed by the turnout of less than 30 paddlers from outside Langebaan. Even though we are primarily recreational paddlers we like to get involved in local events like this but in order to make our sponsorship viable we need to see many more paddlers in attendance. I understand that paddling is somewhat of a niche sport and have also seen, browsing through the results of other series events that, in general, participation has dropped off a fair amount (in Cape Town at least). But if paddlers want events they need sponsors and the sponsors need some exposure so they need to see support at events.

I don’t have a solution for this, but I do have some questions:
Is surfski paddling a dying sport in Cape Town? If so, why? Has everyone gone kiting and SUP-ing? Or is there simply no-one (apart from Richard!) with the energy and inclination to drive it? Are the paddlers themselves to blame for not getting off their asses and pitching up (and pitching in) at the races that they want to see happen? And why are there so few new names in the results lists compared with 5-10 years ago?

See you on the water.... I hope!
Dave
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7 years 7 months ago #22411 by robin.mousley
Howzit Dave,

This is a question that has been rattling around for the last couple of years when it became evident that Billy's series had flatlined in terms of numbers.

I don't know what the problem is, but I think that there are a number of factors including:
  • Competition from other sports like SUP, MTB, Trail Running.
  • The shark factor, which definitely seemed to have an effect a few years ago
  • Staleness - guys just weren't so excited to go to the same old places

On the positive side, the seadog series continues to do well. Is that because you know what you're getting? It's always at the same place, same time every week. It's simple, you know you're going to paddle on a Friday, you know where and you're programmed to drive there.

And this, in spite of some hectic weather this year. They've had strong southeasters blowing almost every Friday this season.

The Cape Point Challenge also continues to do well in terms of attracting paddlers.

I don't know how well the Downwind Dash is doing in Milnerton, I do know that they often have more SUPs than skis. The Tuesday Series in Hout Bay is attracting about 50 skis on Tuesday evenings, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Anyone from Australia want to comment on race participation over there? Numbers up? Numbers down? What's happening.

In Europe, things are booming. Numbers in Hawaii are way up. Numbers are up in other parts of South America, etc. Globally it seems to me that the sport is expanding.

I'm not sure what's happening in Durban - I know the Marine Series is doing well (same factors as the seadog series, same place, same time every week?), but I'm not sure about the old winter series races.

You're right though - I fear for the summer series in Cape Town, if they can't get a decent crowd, there won't be a sponsored series.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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7 years 7 months ago #22414 by zamalek
Replied by zamalek on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
As a sponsor and paddler of the surfski series since Billy started the Winter Surfski Series in Durban,getting the numbers in has always been the big question.I have sponsored the Winter series every year and more recently Barry's Marine series and have seen a steady decline - over 500 paddlers at the Winter grading race to between 100 and 200 at the Marine race.The worst was at one of the original Winter Series races down the south coast where there were I think around 28 entrants.Reasons why?My 5 cents worth:

Too many races - Winter series (new format),Marine,Da Real Downwind, etc with Mouth 2 Mouth,Scottburgh 2 Brighton,R/Bay 2 Durban thrown in.Wall & Back series on right now.
Too much time involved - pitch at 7.30am Sunday,race at 9.00 with prizegiving at 1.00pm,Sunday gone,wife not too impressed by 5th occasion.
Too much travelling/expense - self explanatory.
Why drive to town,pay,wait,paddle,wait,etc when you and buddies can paddle locally.
Downwinders do not want flat paddles in Durban Bay.Newbies do want this.Who do you cater for?
Many paddlers get their "fix" with an informal paddle from eg.
Durban Underwater Club on a Wednesday late afternoon or Geriatski's on Saturday morning.No need to pay and enter.

There are many more but the likes of the Marine and Wall & Back
seem to have it right.Paddle at 5.00 on Friday,home by 7.30pm.
Interested to hear some other opinions.
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7 years 7 months ago #22417 by robin.mousley
Barry Lewin just announced that FNB have entered into a sponsorship agreement for the Marine Series...

So it's not all doom and gloom I guess.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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7 years 7 months ago #22424 by Barry Lewin
Hi All

Surfski paddling certainly in not head or dying in CT. The races just are not getting the support they used to. There are a number things that add up to this. Just make us realise how good Billy was to build a series out of nothing and have a good enough product to attract those numbers.

My personal view is that CT is to geographically spread out and the series in it's current form has to much travelling. Having races in spots all over the cape but you can't expect people to drive to all of them. From the research I have done, most paddlers will just do their home town race and maybe another race close to them while training for a bigger race worth the effort like Cape Point which can be seen in the numbers.

The second thing I think is a major factor is a lack of innovation. The same venues and the same course become boring. Running the series like Billy did 15 years ago is not going to cut it today. Paddlers have been there and done that. The Langebaan race being run again this year with the support of the local guys is great, but in the marketing of the event not once did I hear how it was different, more exciting or greater value for money than the event people have already done. Some out of the box thinking is needed.

As for the Sea Dog. I can not tell you how hard Craig has worked to take that series to the next level and with the right backing from sponsors it will continue to grow. Well done Craig. Yes the Friday in summer concept works. allows more time with the family on the weekend, low cost, great value and FUN racing. He is thinking out the box, getting the universities involved, good marketing, prizes and vibe.

Durban is completely different paddling vibe as everyone paddles int he same place so we dont have the geographical challenges of CT. The summer has always been consistent growth for me over the last 5 years with 400 people at the opening race this year and an average of 245 over the 10 races affecting 800 paddlers doing at least 1 race.

Durban has seen the same drop in number of series numbers in the winter as CT has after Billy dropping out. A race in KZN got 11 paddlers, this is even worse that CT but we have started to turn this around slowly. We got the race organisers into a room and are pushing change, new formats and courses, with some innovation the numbers are coming back.

The Bay Union Surfski Series in the winter (a portion of the old winter series) is back up to 300 plus paddlers and there is a new series combining the rest of the races coming in 2015. The new series will have a lot of new idea's and I have no doubt the numbers will follow the Bay Union races with the effort going in.

With effort the numbers can be turned around. If Durban can do it so can CT. Good luck!

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7 years 7 months ago - 7 years 7 months ago #22426 by Ric
Replied by Ric on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
A few thoughts from my mind, and what I've heard rattling around from other paddlers:

The cost is a major issue for many - considering its free to paddle my own boat in public waters off Fish Hoek, or I can pay over a hundred rand to paddle it elsewhere. Doesn't bother me that much, but I've heard that argument from others.

(Now I know we need to pay NSRI etc. So I can't offer a solution, just highlighting one of the problems.)

And I think the lack of grades this year is a negative thing. It was always nice to be able to paddle against your own grade.

Then the first race there was a little hiccup with the race organiser not informing the paddlers that the race was cancelled. That was unfortunate, considering the organiser had our cell numbers & email addresses. For me, that added to the risk of driving to the venue only to be told the race was called off - rather tell us up front.

Last year, a lot of excitement was drummed up at the beginning of the series with getting the goodie bags, the series paddling tops etc. This year, nothing like that, sadly. The series started very quietly, with a very low-key registration evening.

The Langebaan race is a big mission for a lot of people. From Fish Hoek, its about 2 hours to get there. So its a whole day affair, and the conditions can get very gnarly out there. So again, the cost/risk/benefit equation didn't favour going out there for almost everyone I normally paddle with.

Regarding SeaDog, its easy, predictable and the vibe is very social - paddling or not. And the cost, 20 SA ront.
Last edit: 7 years 7 months ago by Ric.
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7 years 7 months ago #22427 by ianblack
Ok so it doesn't directly involve sponsors or anyone in particular, but my thoughts:

an already shortened season this year doesn't allow for much play in terms of cancellations etc. if I remember correctly, a few years ago Billy used to bank on at least one race being cancelled between October and December.

So let's look at this season so far:
Race 1, Peter Creese memorial. a classic, forgiving race ideally suited as a grading race (although not usually used as grading race). This year the wind was PUMPING. not sure if anyone else received official notification before arriving at FH to say that the race was cancelled, but I didn't...

Race 2, Hout Bay. again, wind everywhere apart from Hout Bay was pumping. Again, no communication prior to the start. I live in Fish Hoek and prefer the wind, so I was happy to drive. If I lived in Strand for example and wasn't keen on pumping wind (I hear the boys in Strand aren't keen on wind ;) )I wouldn't have bothered with the trek. a simple sms telling us that in fact it was a pearler of a day at Hout Bay could have helped there.

I haven't raced for the past few seasons so I can't comment on those, but having done most sunday races between 2003 and 2008, there seem to be loads of the old die-hards missing. No Strand guys, no Stellenbosch guys, fewer Milnerton/Big Bay locals...

I could be wrong there, but that's what I see.

Langebaan is always a lower-attendance race, simply because of the drive. but there used be a CPC qualifier arranged for the Sunday. accommodation deals organised. maybe these things contributed?

I wouldn't go so far to say that Surfski is dying in Cape Town, but I do think that there needs to be a shake up. Sea Dog is a great example. one from the first six races has been mild, the rest have been hectic, yet they still get the numbers, at 6pm on a Friday night in Fish Hoek. That's not easy. I live in FH and its still a squeeze to get there in time, so guys are putting in big effort to make it there.
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7 years 7 months ago #22430 by CoastPop
My tuppence worth - About a week ago on our social WhatsApp group here in CT, I sent out a post lamenting the fact that numbers at events were dismal. Having said that the SUPs were outnumbering Surfskis at the Wed DWD event, I retract that statement, as last week there were over 30 Surfkis taking part, about the same number as the SUPs. At the V&A waterfront event last week there were just over 20 Surfskis and the following day, 120 SUPs. The SUP publicity and announcements prior to and after their event was flippin amazing. Most Surfski folk weren't even aware of the event. Not blaming anyone but ourselves as a whole. Richard, with the Hout Bay series and the Cape Town Surfski series is trying his best but not getting much support - I am guilty as I have not attended any of these events yet this year. My reason is that I really prefer Downwinders and social paddling with some friends, I am not training for anything so do not take part in the CPC training sessions and I periodically attend the Mocke Surfski School, just for a bit of fitness and meeting up with friends that attend. Our WhatsApp social group during the off-season was well attended which leads me to believe that I am not the only one not that interested in racing and prefer social paddling. I initiated what I called the Millers Run leaderboard that was a ladder system based on handicap for both Surfskis and SUPs - seemed like a good idea, but to date 2 Surfskis have registered and submitted times and only 1 SUP has done so - initiative squashed! I also a while back approached SUPS, Surfski and Sea Kayak groups with an idea to establishing an "Ocean Paddlers" group covering all ocean paddling disciplines and having a common calendar of events that all could be aware of - almost no interest, so idea scrapped. So, I have no idea what the answer is. I have noted numerous initiatives - Seadog - Fri, Hout Bay - Tue, , DWD - Wed, Oceana - Thu and Surfski School - Sat, Cape Town Series most Sundays but no coordinated overall controlling body - maybe this will help? We need ideas and some enthusiasm. What are the SUPs doing right?
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7 years 7 months ago #22431 by Ric
Replied by Ric on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
John, good point about the social paddling scene.

I remember at least one Saturday in the middle of winter when John had more paddlers at 9am in the water at one of his (our?) social paddles than attended last week's Langebaan race.

Ian, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks better communication would have led to a better turnout in Hout Bay. We didn't want wind, so slept in (ironic considering the conditions).

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7 years 7 months ago #22432 by epic5253
Stating the facts for the Series Opening Race participation the past 3 years
Single Long Course
2012 132
2013 91
2014 58
Drastic decline in numbers. We need to access the why and the how-to-fix it...

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7 years 7 months ago #22433 by ianblack
Another thing that has come to mind is the possibility that maybe there is actually too much going on.

I think perhaps the quality of local events (Sea Dog, DWD, HB Tuesday Series and Oceana) is now at a point where it over-shadows the Sunday races rendering them trivial.

Maybe what we should look at is having fewer Sunday races?

We could look at a longer period (say September to December) with 5 or 6 races, assigned to as many venues. My suggestion would be a 2/3 week gap between these, with both the Saturday and Sunday available as window days.

From an admin point of view, it should be straight forward. Race fee, make sure there is sufficient sponsorship to warrant a t-shirt/cap/paddling top for everyone and as little logistical impedence as possible?

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7 years 7 months ago #22434 by robin.mousley
Just had a chat with Pete Cole who says that in his opinion and experience it's not that there's a lack of paddlers - participation in social paddling and sales from the Orka shop show that the sport is very much alive and kicking.

As Barry Lewin pointed out, we do have a geographical challenge - we can't just have races in one spot because there are paddlers all over the peninsula from Melkbos to Gordons Bay to Simonstown to Hout Bay to Oceana... The trick is to make it exciting and interesting enough to get people to come to the races. Some ideas:
  • Find something unique about each race and communicate like crazy - e.g. perhaps if folks had been told ahead of time that if conditions permitted, we'd go around Vulcan Rock. Something different and interesting.
  • Find something different to do at prize-giving...

Not sure what - but it appears that the challenge is around making the events attractive/interesting, the challenge isn't that there aren't the paddlers.

Keep the ideas/comments coming!

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...
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7 years 7 months ago #22435 by Christopher
Has there been a decrease in competitive lifesaving numbers? Maybe there is a correlation here because I can imagine a lot of surfskiers started out with lifesaving.

As an under 25 year old I know only 1 paddler around my age compared to 20-30 who are over 40

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7 years 7 months ago #22437 by CoastPop
Spot on Rob Mousley

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7 years 7 months ago #22439 by Rookie
Replied by Rookie on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
Ok - fiorst thing I am sorry that I did not make the Langebaan race; it is a stunning venue and my poor admin of not getting there is a poor reflection on a great race - sorry.

I think about this issue a lot so here are some of my thoughts:
1) The cost of Club membership + WCCU = R1000 +. And that only gives you the right to enter a race!! My cycling fees this year are R150 for the same thing. Now i am lucky I belong to an awesome club. The first club I joined - i never put my foot in the door for that year after the introductory experience!!If that was my only experience of paddling i would not be writing this now.
so for my partner who did this for CPC - she is in for +/-R2000 for the race = 1/2 entry to Sani2C a 3 day 200km cycle race
2) Petrol is expensive - in 2007 we did every race because travel was cheap
3) Boats are expensive in 2007 we paddled Mark 1's and if you had a friend Mark 2's. Nowadays you hardly want to risk bumping skis.
4) Batching is GOOD it was Big in Durban why not have it here in Cape Town.
5) I believe we like to be social - that is why Sea dog works. You paddle your heart out against a mate and then you have a cheap beer with him - nice. Go home to a GREAT start to the weekend. Venues where there is no cheap food/ beer will battle.
6) We are lazy and forgetful - we love sms and email reminders to enter and race. It is very cheap to organise
7) Apparently WCCU has seen a drop in numbers of people registering therefore we will see a drop in people racing.
8) SKILL sorry to be writing this but I think a lot of people buy skis that are on the edge of their ability so social paddling is fine but if the conditions turn they are out! A friend has just bought a blu-fin and i think it is a brilliant idea.

Got to get back to work but i could go on...

Focus, Apex 2, Zeplin

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7 years 7 months ago #22440 by topswimmer
Very interesting to read this thread to hear that it seems that numbers are declining!
A couple of us over here in the UK are trying to organise a race for 2015,as there are very few surfski races in the North of the country.There is an established series down on the south coast.It seems here that surfski is on the up(ie very new)
We have a great watersports venue to use 7 a reasonably long summer(hopefully)We were hoping to make it simple,cheap & keep the area relatively small to keep the safety hassle to a minimum.Keep the entry fee reasonable a prizes mostly booze based to keep it socialable!!
Any comments suggestions greatly appreciated.

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7 years 7 months ago #22446 by Davidw
Replied by Davidw on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
I agree with a lot of what has been said.

I think SUPing had had some effect on numbers, primarily because I believe the barriers to entry are less.
You can rock up and race at most events without club membership or affiliation fees. WCCU fees are ridiculously high. I think it costs less to belong to Cycling SA, Athletics SA, Triathlon SA and SA Sailing combined than it does to join WCCU for a year. SUP SA membership is R200 p.a. no club membership required.
Most people can be paddling a SUP around within 30 min of first try, not often that someone has the skill to do that on a ski.
Also for a newbie falling off a SUP is a lot less threatening than falling off a ski. Remounting a ski in tricky conditions takes some practice but almost anyone can pull themselves back onto a SUP.

Travelling time and cost is an issue, agreed, maybe events only every 2nd weekend?

Poor marketing and communication has been mentioned but it's easy to sit back and bitch about how others do things. Nobody is really making a living organising surfski events in CT, so who do we expect to take resposibility for this?
Most sponsorship money is going toward prizes. Could this cash be better used by reducing prize money and paying someone to do these tasks?
Billy used a bulksms service to keep paddlers informed but of course that also costs money.
Maybe we need a sponsor just for this? Or maybe WCCU should be asked to fund it from the membership fees.

We discussed the CPC qualifier for Langebaan, which in the past has run the day after the race. There were several reasons why it didn't run:
1) the last time this was considered, the organisers of CPC were reluctant to sanction it,
2) there are a lot of logistics required to run an event of that nature i.t.o rescue boats, permissions from Sanparks, Samsa, Port control and cooperation of Nsri and paramedic services.
3) the last qualifier turned into a rescue mission of note as foul weather descended on the paddlers mid way across the bay.
But maybe we need to chat to the role players and try get this running again.

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7 years 7 months ago #22449 by ianblack
"Most sponsorship money is going toward prizes. Could this cash be better used by reducing prize money and paying someone to do these tasks?
Billy used a bulksms service to keep paddlers informed but of course that also costs money."


I can't see this being a solution. I'm not aware of what the prize money is like at the moment and I don't get any anyway, but I think half of what makes the sport unique is starting next to the current and former champs and giving it a go. you then have relative beginners chatting and drinking beer with these guys. IF I were in a position to win prize money and took the sport as seriously as these guys do, reducing prize money would put me off travelling around. they're training together, pushing each other every day and thrashing it out at the other dices as well, so the Sunday race is not always where they're getting race training from.

In my humble opinion, I maintain that to get the numbers up it needs to be a simple, fun day out:

1. decide on whatever race fee is required to cover costs. the pre-race entry currently used seems to work but perhaps a stream-lined registration on the day needs to be employed.

2. pre-race communication is vital. if it's iffy on the Saturday, send the guys an sms with possible options? An sms on the day should be a non-negotiable. we need to be reminded and assured of what the plans are for the morning

On a different note, if we all agree that SUP is taking the limelight and we are looking at them taking over, why is SUP racing not incorporated with the surfski series? from what I have observed online with racing overseas, there are races which include SUP, Outriggers and Surfski? the more of a spectacle the day the better for everyone involved, including sponsors.
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7 years 7 months ago #22450 by AndrewN
Replied by AndrewN on topic Of Sponsors and CT paddlers
Hi Guys

Agree with many of the sentiments here.

Even river paddling in KZN has taken a huge nosedive in terms of numbers.

I think that other sports like MTB, Trail Running, SUP etc have definitely contributed compared to when I started paddling 10 plus years ago.

Also, making CSA membership compulsory for ski probably chased off a good few people.

I hear that there are plans to massively reduce these fees - this will help a lot.

Also, cost of fuel and skis has definitely contributed. Most people don't have the disposable income they used to.
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7 years 7 months ago #22451 by topswimmer
I agree with ianblack!
The pros need prize money thats what makes them proffessionals!
But for the rest of us mere mortals ianblack has hit the nail on the head. keep it simple, keep it fun, keep it inexpensive ,(as much as feasable) In the UK we have very few if any full time ski paddlers & fortunatley for the rest of us these guys( & girls) don't seem to mind mixing it up with the rst of us.
Ski's are not cheap & for most people it's a hobby pure & simple & a chance to test themselves against similar folk is a bonus.
As i said previously we are trying to organise a race next year in Wales(uk) & hope to stick with these principles.
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