I've been meaning to write this for quite some time: If we ever build a Hall of Fame for Sea Kayaking in the USA, I think the name over the door should read Chuck Sutherland. The little that I say here can't begin to take the measure of the man, but I'll do my best with the part I know. Chuck is a real marvel. They broke the mold when he was made. I love the guy.
He's the true Founding Father of the ACA Sea Kayaking Program, and he's been a tireless promoter and educator on Cold Water Safety for decades. Hard as it may be for people who've recently fallen in love with our sport to believe, twenty-five years ago, there was no sea kayaking program in the United States. There was just this one guy, this one, amazing, fearless, determined man - Chuck Sutherland.
When virtually nobody at the American Canoe Association had even heard of sea kayaking, Chuck showed up at the annual meeting and basically put one on the podium, told them all about it, and wouldn't shut up until they let him form the National Coastal Kayak Committee. He became it's heart, soul, and driving force.
My kayak partner Brian Price and I were fortunate enough to be elected to serve on that committee. It wasn't a big deal with a lot of bells and whistles, just a small group of people who loved sea kayaking; most, but by no means all of whom, believed in Chuck's dream of starting an instruction program specific to our sport.
It took a lot of hard work, but it was one hell of a lot of fun and also very rewarding - designing the curriculum, writing the instruction manual, teaching trial courses, deciding what the instructor certifications were going to be, running the IDWs and so on.
We had to fight tooth and nail to get that program off the ground because there was a lot of very vocal opposition to it. A lot of influential people in the sea kayaking community treated it as if it was some kind of conspiracy to hijack the sport, and did their best to kill the little bird before it even got out of the nest.
There were times during those early years when I thought it just wasn't going to work out, but Chuck never wavered. He was like a hardened steel battering ram; he kept us on course, and pounded away at the opposition until he finally got the program off the ground.
He's one of the most remarkable people that I've ever met, and the sea kayaking community owes him a debt of gratitude that in my opinion can never be fully paid.
Edited by ShiverMeTimbers (04/20/11 10:20 PM)