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Gold Country Paddlers from Conception to 18 Months
by Paul Redd 2/7/2012

Gold Country Paddlers birth and first year and a half was a magical coming together of just the right people, with just the right support, at just the right time, blended with some hard work and selfless spirit. It was fun, challenging, rewarding, and very successful for so many people. GCP went from nothing to one of the most successful clubs in the Western United States. It grew fast, and eventually helped lead hundreds of paddlers from the classroom to being experienced, responsible, safe paddlers with lots of fun, food, and comraderie along the way.

GCP was formed in late 1992 as simple network for whitewater paddlers. At that time, there were several clubs around the Bay Area serving whitewater paddlers, but none in the Sacramento area. When California Canoe and Kayak opened its Sacramento store in 1991, this gap for recreational whitewater paddlers became glaringly obvious. The effort to start a club was discussed by CCK management with another retail shop in Spring 1991, but was delayed one year to see if an existing racing club could expand to fill the void.

During CCK’s second Sacramento season, the new club effort was begun in earnest. CCK staff began keeping lists of people interested in a paddling club. In Fall 1992, those on the list were called, flyers were sent, and a meeting was planned for December in the large classroom at the CCK store on Folsom Blvd (near Watt).

A very important factor 1991-2 was the quiet support of Keith Miller, the President and owner of CCK. CCK provided resources and staff time to keep lists and organize the initial meetings. The question was raised about what type of club CCK wanted formed. There were other “captive” clubs, tied by Charter to a particular retailers and Keith could have steered the effort on this course. Instead, he insisted any new club be open to participation and support of all retailers and outfitters, and run by the members, for the members. Keith’s behind-the-scenes vision proved to be as wise as it was selfless.

The Initial meeting drew several dozen people. Among others there were staff, teachers and students of CCK, veterans of the UC Davis Outdoor Adventures program, and several from the quite strong Sacramento Canoe and Kayak Racing community. There were lots of ideas tossed around at that first meeting: insurance, politics, issues, training, etc. but no conclusions were reached.

At the second meeting, it all came together. About 30 people agreed upon a loose structure, a network focused just on facilitating boating trips among its members. Emphasis on formal teaching, issues and causes was rejected as initial focuses of the club, as there were other organizations that did these things well. It was to be all about boating. We agreed initial dues would be $15 per year. At this point, Paul Redd placed a twenty on the table and laid claim to being the first member. More money was gathered and a paid list of about a dozen formed that night. Several club names were suggested and a vote was taken. “Gold Country Paddlers,” a name suggested by new paddler Chris Tracy, was chosen. Several people stepped forward before adjournment to assume key jobs. Paul Redd took on the Newsletter and Membership List, Jim Hardwick, a veteran paddler, became the Treasurer, and Matt Lafferty temporarily took on Meetings. Various members helped with early Newsletter copying and mailing including Lisa Ross and Chris Tracy.

Momentum built fast. Within two weeks of formation there were about 30 paid members. Jim Hardwick obtained the bank accounts, handled the cash/checks, and kept financial and tax records. Paul drafted a club waiver and set up a database and membership list including city of residence, skill, craft, and phone numbers. Before widespread use of e-mail and the web, most club trips were planned on the phone, so this list became the lifeline of the club. It grew fast and was updated often. The first monthly newsletters included trip reports, saftety articles, a list of planned trips, and frequently included a membership list update. Shortly, a contest was held for logo art, and the GCP logo was voted on. That first Spring, Al Gresens set up a Trip Phone where late notice trips could be heard on a recording. Monthly meetings were short with little business, some food and some kind of educational presentation. CCK contributed space and snacks for meetings, and some money for the first several newsletters.

GCP was founded in Sacramento, but quickly gained members from all over Northern California. During that first year, there was a constant flow of new members, including some recruited veterans of the Bay Area. There was also a steady stream of recent whitewater students from all the CCKS Instructors Paul Redd, Urs Schuller, Howard Davidson, Jay Armstrong, and J.C. Soto. Some of those ‘newbies’ quickly became club stalwarts, and later became the second generation of GCP leadership.

GCP became a machine for integrating new paddlers, and moving people up the skill ladder. The veterans would plan a class IV or V trip and include some who were pushing their skills, with not-so-subtle pressure for those paddlers to do the same mentoring in Class III, and so on down the line. Experienced paddlers (including some non-members) like Ray DuRay, Joe Neice, Chuck Seidler, Eric Nugteren, John Quigley, Keith Christiansen, Tom Schiller and others were recruited, borrowed, cajoled, bribed or tricked into balancing out club paddling groups. Soon they were the ones doing the cajoling and bribing, and on it went. There were also regular flatwater/Class I trips led by stalwarts Bill Van der Ven or Lisa Ross, and a regular San Juan Rapid night led by Robin Johnson. Pam Mason planned lots of class II tirps. By the end of the first year there had been dozens of ‘official’ club trips/runs from Flatwater to Class V, and the first CCK subsidized GCP Rescue Class. Some of these trips to the Merced, Klamath, Trinity, and Smith were the beginning of annual pilgrimages that quickly grew to astonishing size.

Somewhere along the way, GCP reached ‘critical’ mass where the difficulty ladder became self-sustaining. The ‘paddlers pyramid’ had taken shape so the mentoring load spread more evenly at each level of experience and depended less on instructors and CCK staff. The swimmers became the rescuers, the followers became the leaders, the mentored became the mentors. The meetings and newsletters took on a clear emphasis on safe boating, year-round boating, and teamwork. There was also lots of shared logistical information about runs not in the guidebooks, especially by John Atkinson. There were also helpful tips on new hazards, road information and, in the second year, expert tip column by Jay Armstrong.

During this era boats were 10-14 feet, boating was all point to point, C to G was C to L (no access at Greenwood), and you learned to eddy turn at Ballet Rock and side surf at Lotus Ledge (both long gone). You got your flow information off of the Flow Phone, a long disjointed tape recording. Trips were carefully planned with attention to the balance of skills in the group. Joining a challenging trip included an actual qualifying phone ‘interview’, an art form regrettably lost to email.

By the end of the first year there were about 130 members and it was time to pass the torch to the second generation. New paddler enthusiasm provided some excellent leaders. James Subido stepped into the newsletter job and really professionalized its look and content. Terry Meyer had already taken over meetings and then took over the newsletter copying and mailing parties. Jody Furtney soon took over Treasury, and Elaine Baden, who had recruited a dozen friends to the sport and GCP, began her legendary tenure as Trip Coordinator and Bay Area Meeting Director. After one year plus, there was lots of momentum, and with all this talented, energetic new blood, the stage was set for the amazing growth for several years to come. Later in the second year, Bruce Thomas initiated the GCP e-mail listserve which grew in importance and accelerated the growth curve further. Most importantly, all of these volunteers were very active paddlers, and their club “jobs” were dwarfed by their contributions planning, leading or attending trips, rescuing, swimming, mentoring and being mentored on the water.

During those first 18 months, there was no designated ‘Ruddering Committee.’ GCP’s workload was carried mostly by people you could count on one hand, and call almost as quickly. It was not a democracy. Policies were set using the ‘work rule’: Those who do the work make the rules. This included the official job holders, and other regular trip leaders. They were mostly on the same page and consensus was easy. Club administration was handled quietly in the background. The emphasis was on boating and trips. Members won their stripes by paddling, planning trips, leading/sweeping runs, and rescuing swimmers, and of course contributing to great pot luck meals in packed motel rooms!!

GCP’s initial years were a really fun time when the sport of whitewater kayaking was taking off in California. GCP was a confluence of the right people who all loved paddling and were willing to help each other. It was a spirit of comraderie and focus on fun and challenge that brought people from all over NorCal together in a very worthy and successful endeavor.

This history of the conception, formation, and first 18 months of Gold Country Paddlers was written by Paul Redd, the General Manager of CCK from Spring 1990 to Fall 1991, and Whitewater Instructor for CCKS until May 1995. As described, he was very involved in the initial stages of Gold County Paddlers and remained a member for many years.

Runs we did first year: South Fork American (all), C-Lotus, Board’s Crossing (Sourgrass), Merced , Smith, Klamath, Chamberlain (many), Trinity, South Eel, North Yuba, Kyburz, Tuolumne, and more.

CCK Sacramento Staff who kept lists and organized initial meetings: Jim Micheals, Andrew (Todd) Downey, Naomi Bauer, Jay Armstrong, Lisa Ross. Other CCK staff who were early active members: Bill Van der Ven, John Stofle.

Boats of the Day: Perception: Dancer(s) (on the wane), Corsica S, Reflex, Pirouet & S, Matrix

Prijon T-Canyon, Invader

Dagger: Crossfire, Response, later the Freefall

Laser, Infinity, and custom made fiberglass ‘squirt boats’

Two Little Known GCP “Paddling Grandfathers”:

One person, without ever joining GCP, had an enormous influence on it, and Northern California Whitewater paddling in general. Steve Paulson was an instructor in Santa Cruz, where he started the Santa Cruz Kayak Club and was affectionately known as the “Lead Duck.” He was the initial instructor for Paul Redd, Dan Crandall (Current Adventures), and many more. Steve then was Whitewater Program Director for CCKS, a job later filled by his student Jay Armstrong. Steve became an AWA Instructor Trainer and had a hand in certification of many instructors including Paul, Jay, Dan, Urs Schuller, Howard Davidson, J.C. Soto, and more who in turn taught most of GCP’s early stalwarts. Steve is the unseen paddling ancestor to many generations of GCP’ers.

Another early source of GCPers was the Outdoor Adventures Program under the direction of Dennis Johnson at UC Davis. Todd Downey, Eric Nugteren, Naomi Bauer, and many others were products of this program and provided a Sacramento based pool of experienced paddlers that helped immensely to build GCP’s very early momemtum.

More Articles:
Consumnes River-Latrobe to Rancho Murieta by Provided by Steve Ruhnau
Gold Country Paddlers from Conception to 18 Months by Paul Redd
How to:Listserv by Phil Boudreau, updated by Aaron Jones
GCP Nugget Slalom Clinic July 6, 2008 South Fork of the American by Jessica Subido
Ice House Report by Ricky McDaniel
Fun on the Stan on a bright November Day by Marguerite Young
Mokelumne River Clean Up by Theresa L. Simsiman
The Scenic Yangtze River by Paul Redd
River Otters Galore by Paul Redd
GCPers to Continue Support of Jessica Subido's Olympic Dream! by Jude Lee
My Experience of being pinned under a raft by Keith Christensen
Memorial for Craig Hightower by Kevin Whilden
A Dog Day Afternoon on the South Fork American by Michelle Lemley
Idaho by John Simpkin
Upper (UPPER) Weber Creek by John Simpkin

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