“Business & Politics Discuss the Push for Paddlesports”

Improv advice in translation - Talk Business & Politics

On Jan. 27, over 40 senior leaders in the paddlesports industry gathered in Bentonville, Arkansas for a first-of-its-kind leadership summit. The purpose of the hastily convened meeting was to discuss important and urgent issues in the industry, and to explore the possibility of forming a trade coalition to coordinate efforts to address those issues. After a full day of meetings, the group decided to pursue the formation of a formal trade organization.

The venue was chosen for its central location for those flying in from all over North America. Scott Holley, president of Eddyline Kayaks, offered up Bentonville as an option. Holley had made his first trip to Northwest Arkansas for pleasure in 2018 and returned for business with his company in 2022. Eddyline Kayaks opened up a dealer at Ozark Kayak and found a mission-aligned investment partner in RZC Investments, the investment fund of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton.

The summit was made possible by Visit Bentonville and Runway Group, who provided food, venues, and activities seamlessly. After the summit, a reception brought together folks from across the outdoor recreation ecosystem, including Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation Director Katherine Andrews and Arkansas Game and Fish Director Austin Booth.

The week of the summit, Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders signed an executive order promoting outdoor recreation and appointing the first gentleman, Bryan Sanders, to head the council overseeing that initiative. A group of industry professionals were invited to meet with Bryan and members of the council and provide their thoughts on how to grow paddlesports in Arkansas.

Scott Holley expressed his gratitude to the gracious reception their group was given and the ongoing commitment to outdoor recreation and paddlesports from everyone they met. Holley also noted the alignment and coordination of such a talented and diverse group of people in the region and said Arkansas is setting the standard for other areas to follow in growing opportunities for families to find joy in paddlesport recreation.