I was reading a paddling forum the other day and saw a typical post about how someone met some 'famous' paddler and was surprised at how nice and approachable they were. The assumption being that anyone who promotes themselves as a professional paddler is probably an arrogant ass who lives to feed their ego. I've seen enough posts and had enough discussions to know that this is a common (though not universal) assumption. But in my experience it is completely the opposite - those who promote themselves tend to be some of the friendliest, most helpful and down to earth paddlers you can find. And here's some thoughts as to what that's all about.
The people who promote themselves are doing it for one main reason - to paddle more. They are generally trying to make a living through paddling - and isn't that the American dream? to make a career out of something you love? But the simple truth is that if you just paddle, never talk about it, never share your adventures, then no one will ever pay you for it. If you can afford to do that then great, but most of us need to work for a living. Eric Jackson sells himself and in the process created a company that provides jobs for hundreds of folks and great equipment for us to use. Thank you EJ. Darin McQuoid takes great pictures and writes up his trips, sharing experiences that are beyond most of us. Thanks Darin. The Hurricane Riders share videos of wild and beautiful locations that inspire us to get out there as well. Good going boys. And there are many more. It's not about ego, it's about using their skills and experience to generate revenue and opportunities to allow them to paddle more. I feel confident in saying that most of those folks would be happy to just paddle, but they are selling themselves and their experiences in order to finance their dream. That kind of dedication to the sport is exemplary and that is why when you meet them you should not be surprised that they are some of the best ambassadors for paddling you could hope to find.
I promote myself: I have a blog (you're reading it right now); a website (www.bryantburkhardtkayaking.com); I post videos of my paddling (http://www.youtube.com/user/aquaaevum); post pictures (https://picasaweb.google.com/bryant.burkhardt); write articles (California Kayaker); and generally throw my name out there whenever I can. As a professional instructor my reputation affects my bank account - I get more invitations to teach, attract more students, get paid for writing, get sponsorship for trips, all from getting better known as an individual. I could keep all this information to myself and just enjoy my paddling as it happens. But I would have missed out on many great experiences, skipped many great trips and never met so many great people. So if a little self aggrandizement is the price for such adventures then I'm willing to pay it.
And perhaps naively, I do believe some folks out there enjoy sharing in my adventures - even if I'm not the best, wildest, most super-awesome paddler on the planet...