The Metropolitan Association of Sea Kayakers (MASK) is Formed!
M.A.S.K. is still around and doing well from what I hear. Although I was the founder, I am no longer an active member. But that doesn't mean that you can't join it. Capt. Al, who's now solely running the club, isn't that bad (when he isn't having his paranoid delusions that everyone in the Sea Kayaking world is out to get him!).
At one time MASK was 'THE CLUB' to join! Members were international and ranged from the beginner to the kayaking elite. Trips were literally run every weekend from Rhode Island to Long Island, the Everglades to Manhattan harbor, and best of all, trips were free!
Many clubs, magazines, and organizations (in and out of the sea kayaking industry) have copied the original MASK. Companies doing marginal business catering to a few kayaking enthusiasts have blossomed by the amount of 'newbies' the club spawned.
If you were an original active member, you were privileged individual who was exposed to the best the sport could offer. Enthusiasm was at an all time high. Everyone was new to the sport and we were riding a 3 year roller coaster ride. First a meager handful (less than 30 kayakers on the east coast), to more than 600 members worldwide. Kayakers flew in from all over the world to join us on our weekend camping trips! It WAS without a doubt - A BLAST!
In-house politics, a mutiny to kick out the editor - Robert Huszar (with me being his only supporter as he was both an exceptional sea kayaker and editor), led to the disintegration of the club. I'd hate to see all my work go to waste as well as of those who eventually joined me, although I'm happy to see everything I hoped to accomplish with the club is now being duplicated by others (who says imitation isn't the sincerest form of flattery ?).
ALL IS NOT LOST IF YOU'D LIKE TO JOIN A CLUB !!
In NYC you can join the Downtown Boat Club which has the potential to be the next MASK. Jim Wetteroff had an excellent vision several years ago and has established a boat house on the Hudson in NYC offering free kayak tryouts to the public as well as Kayak storage.
The Hudson River Watertrail Association, although not directly a club, sponsors excellent trips in scenic areas of the River as well as campouts, lectures and produces, bar none, one of the most excellent 'area' paddling guides on the market. Check them out!
For those of you interested in joining MASK (tell him JP sent ya), you can join by sending a check to:
Capt Al Ysaguirre
195 Prince Street (Basement)
New York, NY 10012
(Currently there's no e-mail address).
Brief History of the Club (for those who want to hear the boring, gory details!
M.A.S.K. (Metropolitan Association of Sea Kayakers)was my first effort at promoting Sea kayaking. For two years I was the one and only 'dues-paying member of MASK'.
I pulled in the following people to help with the club! Al Ysaguirre was named president because I didn't have the time to answer phone questions. Ten hours a day doing mailings, the newsletter, updating the info-line, setting up slide presentations to be shown at EMS, REI, etc., contacting the few available kayak instructors and working deals for member discounts, soliciting people to write articles, members to run trips in a time when there weren't vast resources on Sea kayaking available to the public was plenty of work without having to answer the phone from the solicitations.(BTW: I know a lot of people as of late, claim to be co-founders. Surprizingly though, they only showed up a year after all the work was done and the club already had a following!
Al Ysaguirre (who I named president and dubbed 'The Captain') was also a pretty good trip leader at the time and with some excellent PR, we molded Al into sort of a mythical figurehead .. Alas .. the Captain legend in the flesh was BORN! Capt' Al - Circumnavigating treacherous seas, winter storms, catching fish in his teeth.
Anne Saplin, although hardly ever mentioned in the chronicles of sea kayaking history, was the second most important person in the formation of MASK. An avid kayaker, Anne did all the legal documentation, organized and wrote club guidelines and retained the club's non-profit status. Without Anne, MASK would just have been a loose, disorganized group of paddlers
Jane Ahlquist (former president of MCKC) came in and offered her guidance on club matters, etc.
Finally Bob Huszar was literally dragged in as editor!
Trips were run EVERY WEEKEND!
For two solid years it was fun in the sun (the rain, the snow). A trip was run (not just scheduled) EVERY WEEKEND (mostly on the Ct. River). Either a camping or day trip followed by a get together by the MASK-ettes at a local restaurant.
At least once a month we traveled to put on our slide spectacular anywhere people would have us: EMS stores, the Wetlands Bar in Tribeca, Campmor, and REI. Slide presentations highlighted the group's weekend blasts from Wilmington to Maine and over to Lake Superior. The majority of kayaking converts came from these presentations.
Every attempt was made to take out the local media (journalists, local personalities, etc.) as an observer on a trip (Double Kleppers were very convenient for this - we made many converts!)
We wanted to ensure safety in sea kayaking as well as on our trips, so Bill Lozano who was running a small struggling company called Atlantic Kayaking Tours was contacted where every member was referred to to take an introductory course which Bill offered to our members and a very minimal price.
Finally Memberships Rolled IN!
Two years of solid work (and two free newsletters mailed out to anyone who even gave a second glance in the direction of a paddle which I personally backrolled) and a handful of memberships rolled in (remember, there just wasn't that many paddlers around at the time).
By the second year we were in the 250-300 member range, and by the third year we were numbering between 500-600 members. Sea kayaking now had a solid footing, suddenly sea kayaking was the 'in' sport, the darling of the media. Sea Kayaks appeared on the cover of 'Outside Magazine', in the NY Papers, and on TV.
At this time Captain Al started believing the incredulous fluff pieces about his escapades on the ocean that Bob and John had wrote for him. Al began having severe paranoid delusions that everyone with a paddle was out to get him. Al suffered through some traumatic experiences in a brothel ... er ... I mean NAM).
The great Captain started laying down his decree which members could and could not receive his newsletter. Who could and could not go on trips. Finally he wanted Robert Huszar to 'walk the plank' as editor because he wouldn't publish 'the Great Captain's viewpoint,' his treatise so to say on the sport of sea kayaking. This baffled Bob & John because they were under the impression that the great Captain's exploits flowed from their creative delusions stimulated by some fine imported stout from the Pennsylvania mountains.
Bob and John Leave MASK ???
He caught the two at an extremely stressful period in their lives. After the Princeton show, Bob's father passed away. John's ten year relationship with his finacee came to an abrupt end..Just days before, the group (Bob, John, Al, and Jane Ahlquist) had just attended a Princeton Canoe & Kayak show together and manned the MASK club table. Unknown to Bob & John was that Al had secretly been putting together the newsletter on his own for the previous month (with the help of Jane Ahlquist) and refused to disclose the club's financial status or membership list to anyone.
The MASK newsletter was mailed out two weeks after the Princeton show and was a complete surprize to both Bob and John who were both working on the official MASK newsletter. Bob & John confronted Al. Al refused to talk, disclose club funds, give John back personal equipment, trays of slides, paddles, equipment and everything else he was storing for him.
John refused to fight for two several reasons: He'd devoted himself seven days a week to establish the club for three years and it destroyed a very important relationship in his life. It depleted him of funds. He felt it was better to walk away at this time then to destroy the club he worked so hard to build and since he'd already accomplished everything he'd set out to do with kayaking. It was now up to others.
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