Club Origins by Robert Stark 2000- 2002
Founding the Club
In 2000 David Trail and I meet at the Black-eyed Pea restaurant on West Gray and discussed starting a sea kayaking club in Houston. David had his own business, Trail Expeditions, selling sea kayaks and gear. He felt strongly that Houston should have a vendor-independent club in Houston dedicated to sea kayaking. Canoesport had a club for their customers and sea kayaking played only a minor role with the Houston Canoe Club. In 1994, I bought my first kayak from David and immediately fell in love with the sport. At the meeting in 2000, we put our ideas together and documented them on a napkin (How else do you start a great endeavor? ). First, we needed to determine the level of interest in the Houston/Galveston area for having a sea kayaking club. I composed an email and David sent it out to his customer list. There was interest. I created a sample Pre-HASK Trip Plan for Dickinson Bay to discuss with David. We had a couple of meetings with those interested to discuss the possibility of a club, one of which included a paddle on Armand Bayou. I felt there was sufficient interest and support for the club. So, I proceeded with the legal formation of the club. I chose to incorporate the club as a social non-profit primarily for the liability protection it would provide the club’s officers. I developed the Corporate Charter and Bylaws with legal assistance. I received the corporate charter on July 26th. The initial officers were Robert Stark, Bill Van Tassell, and Nancy Howse.
The first HASK meeting was held on July 27th. Sixteen people joined HASK, bylaws were approved, and officers were elected:
- Robert E. Stark, Commodore
- William G. Van Tassell, Treasurer
- Rudy Rivers, Safety Director
The founding members were:
John Heath presented a video on Greenland style rolling techniques. John was an eminent sea kayak historian, and expert on the evolution and construction of Greenland kayaks. He promoted Maligiaq Padilla, world champion Greenland kayaker, in the US. Minutes for Club Meeting on 7/27/2000
Gerald E. Fountain
Nancy D. Howse
James N. Strickland
Janeth W. Strickland
Van (Skip) Rathgeber
William G. Van Tassell
In August HASK became an American Canoe Association (ACA) Paddle America Club. This provided the club with insurance for all of our on-water activities and safety guidelines for those activities. This allowed us to have a formal club with trip leaders and ACA sanctioned trips. Letter Sent to the ACA.
We had our second club meeting on August 24th. Natalie Wiest did a presentation. Here is the meeting agenda. No one volunteered for the open Board positions.
I developed trip procedures, trip leader requirements, trip levels/ratings, gear requirements, etc. for HASK based on those provided by the North Shore Paddlers Network. Their President graciously allowed us to use the materials posted on their website. It was a great starting point. I modified theirs to fit our club and the likely conditions we would be paddling in.
I led the first club trip on September 24th on Armand Bayou. We had another Armand Bayou trip in October and a paddle trip on Lake Charlotte in December.
2001-2002 Realizing the Vision
We had a good start but we did not yet have a viable club. It would take another two years to solidify the club. It would take time to find good paddling locations. Those that suggested paddling locations include: David Trail, Marilyn Kircus, and Natalie Wiest, locally, and Ken Johnson and Mark Arnold from Corpus Christi.
Chris Kuhlman joined the HASK board as Vice Commodore in July. Chris brought his experience with other non-profits to the Board and was an excellent paddler. He hosted 8 TGIF Sunset Paddles at the Seabrook Sailing Club that summer. Chris would lead a short paddle in the bay and then fire up the grill. People brought meat to grill, side dishes, etc. It was very popular and did much to solidify the club.
We ran five other trips in 2001, including our first out of town camping trip to Lake Buchanan over Labor Day weekend. We also had trips to North Lake Houston, Christmas Bay, and Double Bayou.
We had 5 club meetings in 2001. Karen Knight presented “Cold Weather Paddling” at the February meeting and Bob Foote showed us how to “Outfit our Kayaks Inside and Out” at the March meeting. Bob and Karen are Certified ACA Instructor Trainer Educators in sea kayaking, river kayaking, and canoeing.
Falls Creek Falls, Lake Buchanan 2001
In 2002 Bob Scaldino (Treasurer), Susie Bryan (Membership Director), and Skip Rathgeber (Safety Director) joined the HASK Board. The Board planned out the first 6 months of the year and published a calendar of events through our website and email. We followed the plan with some of the usual rescheduling. The club was really coming together. We ran about 17 trips including several TGIF paddles at the Seabrook Sailing Club. New trips included John Wiggins Bayou, Tiki Island to Moody Gardens, Cotton Lake, Galveston West Bay, and Old River. We had our first moonlight paddle on North Lake Houston.
We had 6 club meetings in 2002, 4 with presentations and 2 planning sessions:
- Winter Paddling & Hypothermia - Robert Stark
- Wind, Waves, Land Masses, and their Effects on Paddlers - Robert Stark
- Packing Your Kayak for Expeditions – Chris Kuhlman
- First Solo Crossing of the Gulf of Mexico - Arthur Hebert
Chris and I conducted the first HASK Rescue Training session on 5/18/2002. We were both certified ACA Coastal Kayak Instructors. Wanting to improve our skills and seeing the need to run safe trips and provide training to HASK members, Chris and I invested a lot of time and money in training with the ACA and BCU. We both achieved ACA Level 4 Coastal Kayak Instructor certifications in 2002 and BCU 4 Star Sea Kayak Paddler awards. This training enabled us to run safe trips, provide quality training to club members, and implement good safety practices.
The vision of having a sea kayaking club in the greater Houston area had been realized. The club was viable. Now we just needed to keep it going and growing.
HASK History Summary
Timeline of Key Accomplishments
- Club formation
- First kayak trip (Armand Bayou)
- First weekend camping trip (Lake Buchanan)
- TGIF sunset paddles from Seabrook sailing club
- Online posting of HASK events
- First moonlight paddle (N. Lake Houston)
- First rescue training Session
- HASK Yahoo Group created for member email list
- Booth at SW Canoe Rendezvous
- First Rolling Session
- First Trip Leader Training & Assessment
- Informational Website Implemented
- Created logo, business cards, brochure and banner
- First annual Picnic and Paddle
- Implemented HASK website on Club Express
- Added kayak demo to annual picnic
- First 2 Day ACA Coastal Kayak Day Trip Leading
- First near shore gulf trip off Galveston Island
- First triathlon support (Galveston's Ironman 70.3)
- T-Shirts and Hats with HASK Logo
- First “Pimp Your Kayak Event”
- First surf training
- First HASK Holiday party
- Annual training plan implemented
- Meeting & Training Coordinator position created
- Implemented totally revised Website
- Implemented Online Waivers
- First annual club budget adopted
- New HASK Logo
- Implemented online store for HASK merchandise
- New HASK Bylaws created and approved
- First knots class was taught at Karbach Brewery
- Club focused on trips, meetings, socials, training, etc. Members just had a whole lot of fun.
HASK is all about creating great experiences for members and other participants. So, the key metric for HASK is participant hours. We also call it “Fun Hours”. We assuming everyone is having fun . The graph below shows HASK has provided almost 40,000 participant hours.
HASK started with 16 members in 2000. Between 2000 and 2005 the membership count was a slow ramp up to 68. Detailed stats are not available. HASK converted to Club Express at the end of 2005 which provides the membership stats in the graph below.
HASK History 2003 - 2017
“As you read through this history you will see the many people who have made HASK what it is today.
I am always amazed by the talented people who have joined HASK and made very significant contributions.
I personally want to thank all of you.” Robert Stark, HASK Commodore 2000-2014.
The club is managed by elected officers who serve on the HASK Board of Directors (Board). The Board positions are: Commodore, Vice Commodore, Membership Director, Fleet Captain, Safety Director, Treasurer. In 2014, the club added positions for Training Coordinator and Meeting Coordinator. A board member may also fill one of these positions. The club has had a Webmaster since 2002.
The leadership team is charged with ensuring the club has lots of fun events: paddle trips, interesting presentations at meetings, training events, and social events. They also take care of the business side of the club: Setting policy, ensuring member safety, paying bills, statutory reporting, ensuring the bylaws are followed, etc.
To date, we have had 33 members serve in leadership positions. Here is a complete list of Members Serving in a Leadership Role and Club Leadership by Year. They deserve much appreciation for without them there would be no club. Here is our current leadership team.
Robert Stark 2000 - 2014
Carl Kuhnen 2015 - Present
Kayaking trips are the heart of the club and trip leaders make them happen. In the beginning Robert Stark and Chris Kuhlman led all of the trips. By 2003 it was time for a change. The first trip leader training/assessment was held in November 2003. Robert developed the training syllabus. Chris and Robert conducted the training. It was a 1 day class. Doug Hurst, Bryan Mason, Steve Meyer, Hai Nguyen, Van (Skip) Rathgeber were approved as trip leaders.
Since then HASK has had 7 more Trip Leader Training/Assessments sessions. We started using outside instructors to 2008 to bring new perspective and independence for training and approving trip leaders. We went from 1 day classes to a full 2-day official ACA course in 2010.
So far 41 students have been trained. There are 24 trip leaders as of 12/31/17. Here are lists of Trip Leader Classes & Students and Current Trip Leaders and Trainers
HASK has grown from running about 16 trips a year to about 45 per year. From club inception through 2017 we have run over 430 trips with over 4000 participations. This has provided an estimated 20,000 fun hours (participant hours). Yes, members always have fun on our trips .
Here is a quick look at some of our paddle trips HASK Trips.
The key to this success has been the willingness of trip leaders to take the training, lead trips, and find new paddling destinations. HASK paddling destinations and routes have increased from 12 in 2002 to over 130 in 2017. All of our 130+ current trip/venues can be found in a the HASK Trip Spreadsheet developed by Carl Kuhnen and as Trip Launch Points on a Google Earth Map compliments of Wendel Bordelon.
HASK paddle trips are much than just paddling. Often participants gather at a restaurant after the paddle. Overnight trips provide an opportunity for socializing, sharing a meal, and really get to know each other. Click here to read member stories.
Falls Creek Falls, Lake Buchanan 2003
HASK started providing training to its members in 2002 and has provided 89 training sessions since, with over 1000 member participations. In 2014 Rob Plenderleith created the first HASK Annual Training Plan, with Board approval. Bruce Asher, in his role as training coordinator, has continued to provide this annual plan.
Type of Training
Number of Sessions
Surf Zone Paddling Skills
Trip Leader Training and Assessment
* Includes Instructors
Flat Water Rescue Clinics
So how to get back in your kayak when it's upside down and you are swimming? Could be important . Several rescue methods are covered in the training, but the primary goal is that all students have at least one self-rescue and one assisted rescue that they can perform in both roles.
HASK started having 1 day flat water rescue clinics in 2002. Robert Stark and Chris Kuhlman led the sessions. Trip leaders started providing instruction as they gained training and experience. Paul Penning led this training 2006-2008. Then others took up the mantle including Steven Ulrich, Tim Russell, Karl Brauer, Rob Plenderleith, and Bruce Asher.
Lumpy water practice and rescue training (bay conditions)
This training takes it up a notch from the flat water sessions by adding in the challenges of boat control in windy, choppy conditions. The first session was held in 2011 led by Steve Ulrich. In 2014 this became an annual event initially lead by Karl Brauer. Rob Plenderleith and Bruce Asher have more recently led this event.
Strokes and Kayak Fundamentals
In 2004 Steve Meyer organized a Perfecting Your Strokes class taught by Bob Foote and Karen Knight. Since then HASK has offered a variety of strokes and kayak fundamental classes. Some focus on the fundamentals of sea kayaking including basic strokes and rescues while others focus on strokes refinement. Most are on flat water while others offer more challenging conditions. Professional instructors include Bob Foote, Karen Knight and Steve Walls. HASK instructors include Bruce Asher, Rob Plenderleith, Robert Stark, and Steve Ulrich.
In 2003 Bryan Mason hosted a couple of rolling sessions in his pool. Chris Kuhlman and Robert Stark provided the training. Not sure if anyone learned to roll but it was a lot of fun. In 2007 HASK brought in the pros, Bob Foote and Karen Knight, to teach a session at the Dad’s club and repeated this event in 2008. In 2010, we partnered with Steve Walls from Dallas. Between 2010 and 2014 Steve provided 14 rolling session. Most of his students achieved a roll.
“Hitting my first few rolls were one of the coolest things I have ever done. Unfortunately hitting a roll
or two does not mean you have a roll. That takes a lot of practice and persevering times
when the roll just doesn’t work.” Robert Stark
Karl Brauer brought gulf paddling and kayak surfing to HASK. Here we were a “sea kayak” club, but we only paddled bayous, rivers, lakes and bays (only in mild conditions). There was no “sea” in our sea kayaking. Why? Because there is nothing intuitive about launching and landing in the surf, particularly the dumping surf of the coast from Galveston to Freeport. And there is nothing intuitive about teaching paddlers the skills, even if you are a paddler who has the skills. Karl wanted to paddle in the Gulf, so invested in the time, travel and professional instruction to obtain surf zone skills himself, and to bring surf zone instruction to HASK by mimicking the training technics used by his instructors. Over the years as he took more instruction he modified the approach he used at HASK to what we have today which provides a very safe, structured training environment that allows 95% of the HASK members who participate to succeed at launching and landing in our Galveston/Freeport surf zone conditions with consistent success.
Karl Brauer - Ready to Surf, January 2018
Learning to land in the surf zone with consistent success leads naturally to surfing sea kayaks. Karl was taking long boat surfing lessons concurrently with his launch/landing lessons, and encouraged his successful students to give surfing a try. As a result, HASK now has a significant contingent of paddlers regularly monitoring surf and weather conditions for opportunities to send out a flash message inviting members to hit the surf, both as HASK events and as private outings.
Paddling in a surf zone in dumping waves, which is typical of the Galveston-Freeport coast, is tantamount to paddling in rough sea or storm conditions, but with the safety allowed by an escape to a safe beach landing only 50 to 100 yards away. Practicing paddling in the surf zone has significantly increased the individual skills of HASK paddlers, and those increased skills have proved themselves when club members have ventured to Connecticut, Maine, Washington state, Georgia and Florida for instruction, symposia and meetups where sea conditions are more dramatic than we normally paddle in the Houston area.
Karl lead kayak surf zone training classes from 2010 thru 2014. In 2015, he handed this over to Rob Plenderleith who has continued to improve the training curriculum. By the end of 2017, 18 classes have been conducted with 239 participants (including instructors).
Karl has complete BCU 4 Star Trip Leader training and Rob is a certified ACA Coastal Kayak Instructor.
HASK meetings, from the beginning, were designed to be interesting and enjoyable for the members. They are held bi-monthly at a restaurant. The agenda typically includes a happy hour, dinner, short business meeting, and a very interesting presentation. Well, most are interesting . Occasionally there are planning sessions to get ideas for new paddle trips, meeting topics, training events, etc. Presentation topics include paddling safety, member trips to exotic destinations, environmental, birding, packing your kayak, building your own kayak, etc.
Complete List of HASK Member Meetings.
In 2014, Bruce Asher started doing short safety presentations. This has since become part of the agenda at most HASK Meetings.
The position of Meeting Coordinator was created in 2014 by the Board. Before that, the Commodore or Vice Commodore typically coordinated the meetings with input from the Board.
Carl and Linda Kuhnen have also coordinated the meetings from time to time.
In 2006, it was apparent that HASK needed a social on-water event. Trip participation was down. Something was needed to draw people together to get to know one another. Steve Meyer offered the excellent suggestion of offering free food at an event. This led to our first HASK Picnic on 4/30/2006 at Bay Area Park on Armand Bayou. HASK provided sandwiches, chips, cookies, and soft drinks. Bryan Mason led a short paddle trip on the bayou to see baby alligators. 23 members and guests attended. It was huge success. Average trip participation picked up. It has become HASK’s premier annual event. In 2009, the picnic was moved to 288 Lake and added a kayak demo. Members, at their option, allow others to paddle their kayak. Members have a wide range of kayaks in the club, including most of the top brands. There were no local dealers for most of these kayaks. The demo allows members to select a kayak and then order it or find a used one. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to try out different kayaks. Members are encouraged to invite family members and guests to picnic. Today, about 50 people attend the event. Some folks just hang out and socialize. Wet exit training is provided and there are safety personnel on the beach and on the water. The event was held at Independence Park, Missouri City in 2017 due to construction at 288 Lake. And yes, there are plenty of kayaks to demo and fall in love with. So be forewarned, the picnic could turn out to be quite expensive
HASK Picnic at 288 Lake, 2010
“In 2012 Linda Day showed up with this beautiful carbon fiber kayak, a Sterling Ice Kap. Rolling it was a dream.
I took the plunge and “invested” an Ice Kap of my own in 2013. So yes, the picnic can be expensive.” Robert Stark
Carl and Linda Kuhnen really led the way on social events, including pot luck dinners, barbeque and bluegrass, musical events, etc.
Other events included dewberry picking, winery tours, museum exhibits, St. Arnold's Brewery tour, Knot tying at Karbach Brewery etc. Those organizing socials include: Bob Scaldino, Bruce Asher, Chris Arceneaux, Cynthia Wisener, Jim Rosengren, John Grisaffi, Leslie Taylor, Linda Walden, Robert Stark.
HASK has had 44 social events with 533 participations thru 2017. List of Social Events
In 2014 Kathryn Schuler and Bruce Asher along with many volunteers hosted the first HASK Holiday party at the Seabrook Sailing club. Since then Leslie Taylor has hosted the party in her rather large garage (actually a warehouse). These are pot luck events with lots of socializing and a little dancing.
Pimping Your Kayak
In 2013 George Watanabe organized the first Pimp Your Kayak event. Members shared their skills to replace deck lines and bungees, install foam padding in the cockpit for a custom fit, and buffed/polished fiberglass boats. It’s a great opportunity to pretty up your boat and have it outfitted for safe paddling. George continued to coordinate the event in 2015 and 2016. Robin Hartman led it in 2017. Recently this event has been held at Leslie Taylor's wonderful warehouse in Houston.
HASK started with a simple posting of trips online. This was done by a member in Dallas, Nancy Howse. In 2003, Chris Kuhlman created and maintained an attractive website, listing our trips and other information. In 2006, Robert Stark implemented Club Express for HASK's website hosting. This provided tools to manage the club more efficiently, including member joining/renewing, event posting, event registration, and credit card payments. Robert handed the website maintenance and development over to Kathryn Schuler in 2014. Kathryn completely revised the website. She developed or revised all of the content and took advantage of many of the advanced features of Club Express. The content was brought in line with current HASK practices. The result was an informative, beautiful, and easy to navigate website. In 2016 Bill Ohsie became the HASK webmaster.
Conservation and Community
HASK has helped with the annual Trash Bash to clean-up area water ways, provided on-water safety for triathlons, donated money to The Woods Project and Wounded Warrior (Team River Runner). For details visit Conservation and Community page on the HASK website.
Member Stories - Click on the story title to open or close the story detail.
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