XOTV VIDEO: Adventure Sports Industry Talk Diversity in the Sport

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The Color Purple 2023

In this XOTV episode, adventure sports industry experts and leaders from Immersion Research, Liquidlogic, and Kokatat speak out on subjects from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the underrepresentation of people of color in adventure sports, and what this means for the industry’s survival.

And how the community is removing the obstacles to entering the sport, participating recreationally, and competing in whitewater paddlesports for broader inclusion.

Culturs Magazine DEI in whitewater paddlesports Panel Photo
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Photo of Adventure sports industry leader Max Blackburn—Sales Manager for Immersion Research, Inc.
Max Blackburn — Sales Manager — Immersion Research, Inc.

“I think it’s also very understandable for people in our positions in the outdoor industry — those folks who work for other brands do feel a little bit stuck and they will acknowledge the problem — the lack of diversity but not be too sure how to go about making progress to solve that issue to increase diversity. But the important thing is that we’re having this discussion. To my knowledge, it’s the first time that we’re having this discussion on an industry-wide basis.

Max Blackburn

Adventure sports industry leaders speak out

“It’s going to be really important for us to find [BIPOC] leaders within segments of the community so other people can see that and see ‘that’s something that could include me.’ And we’re going to be very focused on programs that will help build that.”

Jeff Turner
Photo of Adventure sports industry leader Jeff Turner Director of Sales Kokatat Inc
Jeff Turner — Director of Sales—Kokatat, Inc.

The discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) includes a panel of industry and cultural leaders and advertising and diversity experts represented by:

Liquidlogic Kayaks, LLC — Shane Benedict — Co-founder of Liquidlogic Kayaks LLC, a manufacturer of performance kayaks and apparel with worldwide distribution and headquartered in North Carolina, USA. 

Disclosure: The article’s author received sponsorship on behalf of a non-profit organization — Diversify Whitewater, co-founded by the author.

Kokatat, Inc. — Jeff Turner — Director of Sales for Kokatat, Inc., A paddlesports gear and apparel manufacturer in Calif., USA.

Disclosure: The article’s author is a brand ambassador for Kokatat.

Immersion Research, Inc. — Max Blackburn — Sales Manager for Immersion Research, Inc., a designer, and manufacturer of paddling gear Penn., USA.

Adventure sports experts speak out on DEI in outdoor recreation

James Edward Mills — A freelance journalist and contributing writer for outdoor-focused print and online publications such as “National Geographic Adventure,” “Rock and Ice magazine,” “Alpinist magazine,” “Standup Paddle Magazine,” “Elevation Outdoors magazine,” and others.

Author James Edward Mills. Adventure sports expert.
Author James Edward Mills. Credit: Nick Berbard

Mills is a 2016 recipient of the “Paul K. Petzoldt Award For Environmental Education.” Mills is the author of the new book “The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors” and the co-writer/co-producer of the documentary film “An American Ascent.” In 2020 The Adventure Gap was named by Outside Magazine as one of the 10 “Outdoor Books that Shaped the Last Decade.”

DEI advice from the advertising perspective

Rukmini Halliwell — Sr. Advertising Project Manager at one of Canada’s largest advertising agencies. Halliwell’s experience draws from several advertising, marketing, and communications agencies with a long list of high-profile national and international clients in the dining, entertainment, corporate, and non-profit sectors.

Photo of Rukmini Halliwell — Sr. Advertising Project Manager
Rukmini Halliwell

Disclosure: Rukmini Halliwell appeared in a panel discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion with the article’s author.

Beginning your DEI strategy

eROOT Consulting, LLC — Patrice M. Palmer, MASJ, FRSA — Director, Social and Cultural Inclusion for the College of Business at Colorado State University. This position is jointly held with New Belgium Brewing Company as their DEI Specialist. Patrice was recognized in 2020 by Hop Culture Magazine as one of the Most Important Voices in Craft Beer for their contribution to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the craft beer industry. Palmer is also the CEO and Principal Consultant at eROOT Consulting, LLC. This internationally recognized consulting firm works with small and midsize businesses to craft, implement, and maintain inclusive DEI strategies.

DEI consultant Patrice M. Palmer offered guidance on how organizations can go from desire to action.

Photo of DEI expert Patrice M Palmer-CEO and Principal Consultant eRoot Consulting
Patrice M. Palmer
Credit: Patrice Palmer

“Getting to have that opportunity to get to know the folks that you are serving. And that service is an accessibility point to the outdoors. The outdoors is about freedom, and marginalized groups have been denied freedom in so many different ways. This is an accessing point to bring us [BIPOC] back to our center, which is the outdoors.”

Patrice M. Palmer

Vulnerability from the extreme sports industry

Familiarity is not why our panelists are participating in this article. However, they are the courageous few willing to discuss one of the most important topics of 2020-21 — Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI).

Adventure sports industry leader Photo of Shane Benedict — Co-founder of Liquidlogic Kayaks LLC
Shane Benedict — Co-founder of Liquidlogic Kayaks LLC

“I do feel like a rookie, and I’m just trying to take it all in, just trying to learn. We do need to grow into other communities. And diversifying is just the right thing to do. I’m excited; it’s invigorated me to start doing the reach out and doing the learning. I’ve been able to reach out and meet new people.”

Shane Benedict

Watching an industry leader like Shane Benedict making connections with BIPOC boaters and leaders promoting diversity in paddlesports has been an exciting demonstration of how welcoming and supportive the whitewater community is to formerly marginalized groups like the LGBTQA+ community, women, and BIPOC, for example.

Advice from the experts on diversifying adventure sports

An American Ascent Movie Poster
An American Ascent Film. Credit: Ascent Media

Author James Edward Mills explains the importance of using mirror marketing versus window marketing — a phrase taken from a practice in children’s book writing that was developed by this writer.

” One of the things that we were aspiring to in our film “An American Ascent” is to be able to have an authentic reflection of black people climbing. So when someone says I’m going climbing, a person can’t say that’s not what black people do because we’re showing black people doing it.

Author — James Edward Mills

Authentic advertising in the age of social justice

“Over the past few years diversity and inclusion have become a huge priority for a lot of brands. The need for that is that representation matters. Canada relies so heavily on immigration, and a lot of our newcomers come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom are quite wealthy and have a lot of purchasing power. [Overlooking] that advertising opportunity with the BIPOC community is not only tone-deaf, it’s also fiscally a bit foolish.”

Rukmini Halliwell

Exclusively on the XOTV platform, this diversity, equity, and inclusion panel discussion with our group of industry leaders and experts is a deep-dive and a 360-degree look at the challenge of diversifying any market, organization, or agency. And it offers practical steps to get you started on promoting greater inclusion today.

You can join the monthly DEI discussion on the last Thursday of each month. Stay connected here.

The Paddlesports’ DEI panel in context

You can read more about the challenge of diversifying adventure sports in our five-part series in Culturs Magazine.

The Reformation of Whitewater Paddlesports Series: Part I of V.

Uganda’s Role in the Reformation of Whitewater Paddlesports: Part II of V.

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  1. I am happy to see that one of the participants is the director graduated from Colorado State University which where I am currently enrolled at. I definitely agree that it’s an race is an increasingly significant in terms of the rights and the opportunities within active industry career. I hope that this problem alleviates as the time goes on.

    1. Yes, the more we can talk about these issues, the easier it is for the entire community to solve the challenge of diversity, equity, and inclusion in adventure sports and other areas of our lives.

  2. It was great to see Patrice M. Palmer representing Fort Collins, CO! Their expertise in DEI and skill in empowering marginalized groups is incredible and much needed in Colorado. Having been raised in the state, adventure sports are happening year-round, 24/7. Many of these adventure sport groups boast about the community formed through participation, which so often is a community of very similar individuals, in sports that require hefty funds. The need for representation of marginalized groups within these communities is a relevant tale as old as time. Palmer’s activism in the field will have an everlasting impact. I loved this quote “The outdoors is about freedom, and marginalized groups have been denied freedom in so many different ways. This is an accessing point to bring us [BIPOC] back to our center, which is the outdoors.”.

  3. I am very happy to see that people can stick to their favorite sports and work hard to gain more recognition. Many people still misunderstand this kind of sports, so people who love this kind of sports will also be hindered. According to the description in this article, many people who are interested in extreme sports gather to form a community, and they unite in various ways to let people know more about what they love. Their courage and persistence also inspired me. I hope that through their efforts, more people will learn about extreme sports in the future.

  4. I had no idea there was a lack of DEI in the realm of adventure sports. Possibly because I live in Texas, I’m fairly naive to this industry and DEI in sports in general. It’s great to see so many industry leaders interested in diversifying their sport and taking action. I will definitely be researching this topic more and watching the American Ascent!

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