No Paddlefest in Ladysmith this year

Vancouver Island Paddlefest Society president Bud Bell announced last week the society will not host the event in 2012.

There will be no Paddlefest in Ladysmith this year.

But that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.

Vancouver Island Paddlefest Society president Bud Bell announced last week that the society will not host the event in 2012. The society will use this hiatus to develop a strategic plan to potentially continue with a new mandate.

Bell and his wife Sheryll, who own Sealegs Kayaking, helped start Paddlefest 14 years ago.

“Sheryll and I were part of a very small group who started it, and we wanted it to envelope the industry through its ages and evolutions, and I think we’ve done that to the point where … it needs a chance to step back from the canvas and see if we need to change it,” he explained. “We don’t know if it’s gone its full cycle or if it has more to give. We need to see if it needs changes.”

“The industry has changed; therefore, Paddlefest in general needs to change and envelop and develop the changes that are made, otherwise it is stagnant and we don’t want that,” he added.

Bell expects to hear a lot of feedback about Paddlefest, and all of those ideas will help determine the event’s future.

“Because we’re fortunate to be at Transfer Beach, we’ll hear lots and ask questions from our staff and other kayak companies and manufacturers and the public, who are always the ones who generate change in any industry and are the backbone,” he said. “To stay in front of change, as a company, Sealegs has to see what’s happening and hopefully use the information we have to look at Paddlefest in Ladysmith and bring in ideas and formulate those ideas and present them to the town and people.

“If it works out it is something we want to continue with, that’s great, and that’s what the society will do.”

When they started Paddlefest, they wanted to give everyone the chance to enjoy paddlesports, and the event has embodied that over the years as it has grown, explained Bell.

“At the same time, the venue we were given by the town allowed us the room and a central location so we could develop it into an industry leader,” he said. “It started with a handful of vendors, four to five vendors, and it’s grown to 45 vendors.”

This year’s cancellation is a response to changes in the paddlesports industry. The industry has evolved a great deal in the last 25 years, as symposiums and paddle fests up and down the coast have come and gone, and there have been more people paddling in the last 15 years, explained Bell.

“I think the industry has made it more accessible for everyone to enjoy paddling,” he said. “The industry is no longer catering to individuals going on five-day tours or extended expeditions; there are more people now who are buying products and buying boats for their own use.”

Bell is thankful for everyone who has been a part of Paddlefest over the years.

“The society would like to recognize the contribution of its industry leaders and volunteers,” he noted. “Special thanks to the people of Ladysmith for welcoming the public each year to their wonderful venue and community.”

The society is now asking for feedback from its volunteers and partners to discuss moving forward. The society welcomes input at info@paddlefest.bc.ca.