(Photo/Jameson Redding)

NRS’ ‘Just Add Water’ Inclusivity Push Makes Waves in Paddlesports

NRS launched its #JustAddWater project in 2019. In 2 years, it’s grown to a network with 29 partner organizations and one massive goal for the paddlesport community.

In 2019, NRS launched its #JustAddWater project and campaign. NRS, or Northwest River Systems, is a 100% employee-owned paddlesports brand based in Idaho that’s had a part in bringing the paddlesport community together for decades.

With Just Add Water, NRS hopes to do that for more people, partnering with nonprofit organizations to actively recruit those who are in the paddlesport business, those who are new to the business or the sport, those who work in land and water conservation, and more.

Ultimately, it’s about creating opportunities for a more diverse group of people and making paddlesports more accessible for all.

NRS outdoor afro participant paddling
(Photo/Jameson Redding)

“With the Just Add Water Project we are putting our values into action by supporting activists and organizations in building an inclusive paddlesports community of the future,” NRS Marketing Director Mark Deming wrote.

“It’s about building pathways for new entrants to paddlesports, developing leaders from diverse backgrounds, and sustaining the work of organizations.”

Curious which organizations? NRS kicked off its #JustAddWater efforts with a solid 29 partners:

Sadat Kawawa
'King of the Nile' Kayaker Joins Kokatat Global Paddle Team
Meet 'The King of the Nile' — a role model for budding BIPOC whitewater kayakers and paddlers. Read more…

Future Goals for ‘Just Add Water’

In 2020, NRS focused on cultivating conversation surrounding DEI in the outdoors, land and water rights, conservation, and diversity in paddlesport participation and leadership. Now, NRS is taking insights it gleaned and is putting them to action.

“With each partnership,” Deming explained, “we determine how NRS can best contribute, whether with funding, gear contributions, professional expertise, donated labor, or access to our communications platforms. Oftentimes it is a combination of some or all of these.”

A young Black female participant dressed in yellow practicing a roll in a green kayak with a guide next to her in the water
A participant practicing a roll at an Outdoor Afro and NRS paddle clinic; (photo/Jameson Redding)

Case in point: NRS was able to facilitate an instructional paddlesport clinic with Outdoor Afro participants just last week.

NRS worked with its LEAD Athlete Todd Johnstone-Wright to train 10 leaders from Outdoor Afro as American Canoe Association-certified instructors. These new ACA instructors will now go back to their local communities and introduce new paddlers to the sport. NRS contributed to the program planning and funding, provided gear, and will amplify Outdoor Afro through its communications platform.

Similarly, NRS has provided rafts and gear to Science on the Fly for fieldwork in measuring water quality on rivers; funding and gear to the Free Rivers Fund for its leadership; and funding, planning, and communications support for campaigns for American Rivers.

Looking forward, NRS wants to continue to use its resources to help its partner orgs execute events like these. These events ultimately will get more of us the education, skills, access, and welcome nature to get out on the water.

If you are wondering how to participate through a partner organization near you, check out that individual organization’s website. To NRS and all its partner organizations, happy paddling!

Watch NRS 'Flowstate' Season 2: Paddling Devil's Canyon, From Bush Plane to Boat
Watch NRS 'Flowstate' Season 2: Paddling Devil's Canyon, From Bush Plane to Boat
Vicariously paddle the Susitna River down this Alaskan canyon with NRS in Season 2 of 'Flowstate.' Read more…

Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.