Reflections from the Cockpit March 2007
“The Quiet Heroes”
Today the paddling world (the southern California portion) is saying goodbye to Len Goodman. Most of you will ask, who is Len Goodman? Len is what I call a “Quiet Hero.” Four days ago on March 11th, Len died while kayaking, a sport that brought him tremendous pleasure. The details are unknown and not the point of this reflection.
Len was the president of CKF (California Kayak Friends) a paddling club covering the Southern California area. He accepted the presidency of CKF in April 1995 from the founder of the club Joanne Turner. It was an active club with hundreds of members but it was difficult to find someone who was willing to take the role of president (the thankless job). Len accepted the position and introduced himself to the club in the newsletter in the following brief note, “Harking to the call of a gentle southerly wind...I have accepted the challenge... and will shortly assume the title of ‘Grand Coordinator’.”
I just returned from presenting at Canoecopia 2007. There were twelve to fifteen thousand in attendance. I probably had close to 800 collectively in my presentations. I have to say; it is flattering when paddlers come up to me and thank me for my videos and what I have done for the sport. However, when I think about Len and the others like him, who lead all of the paddling clubs around the world, I feel humbled by what they do. These are the people who truly keep the sport going. There are a lot of famous kayakers out there who may give us the initial inspiration, but then they are gone. The ones that do the work are the “Quiet Heroes.”
The letters that flooded the CKF e-mail list were full of how Len touched so many of the club members. He always made any paddler feel welcome to an event. Novices were never made to feel less than because they were new. One young paddler wrote, “Len was always nice to me. He treated me like a paddler, not some dumb teenager.” Len was warm and always inclusive. A collection of Len stories can be found on USK’s “Len Goodman Page.”
Len was far from the strongest paddler in the group. I heard that on a paddling trip down the Yukon, he was in the back of a double and the front paddler turned around and found him sleeping. He was 65 when he did that trip 11 years ago. It takes a lot to run a kayaking club. In your own club you know who is the cement of the club. Like Len, these folks are the strong ones. They do their job for the good of the group and the love of the sport. They do it day after day, month after month and year after year. They are the ones that keep the sport going and growing. These quiet heroes are the foundation of paddling today. Without them, most of us would be paddling by ourselves.
There was more than the social side to Len. In his concern for paddler safety, he organized the instructor’s in the area and asked them to run classes for the members and the club trip leaders. He convinced us to give discount rates to club members. In addition, he also provided club incentives to members who took the classes. I know a great deal of instruction occurs in club settings. It is the Len’s that do the planning and organizing to make it happen so we are better prepared when we are on the water.
I can go on about the Len’s of our paddling world, but I know Len would tell me he was bored now and let’s go paddling. So I will close with thanking Len and the others like him for their unmatched contributions to the paddle sport industry. They are not famous. They are not getting rich from sales. They don’t get pro deals. They are not featured in magazines. They do a great job in keeping us together and on the water. They are the “Quiet Heroes.” Len, it is amazing what you have done being a kid from Brooklyn, New York. You will be missed.
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