Bringing you the most up-to-date Blue Ridge outdoor news from around the region and beyond each week…

Outdoor Nation, Paddlesports Industry, Outdoor Retailer and NPS Rally to Support Paddle Nation Grant Program

This summer for the first time, people across the country will have the opportunity to get outside and explore America’s waterways, thanks to the Paddle Nation Grant Program, an initiative connecting young people to rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. The Outdoor Foundation’s signature program, Outdoor Nation, joins with top paddlesport manufacturers, retailers and stakeholders, Outdoor Retailer and the National Park Service to award $40,000 to the best, most effective, projects that introduce paddling to a new generation.

Unique in the outdoor industry, the Paddle Nation Grant Program was launched in 2012 with financial support and leadership from Outdoor Retailer and companies in the paddlesport industry including Confluence Outdoor, Johnson Outdoors, Rutabaga Paddlesports, OARS, BIC Sports, Glenbrook, Advanced Elements, River Sport Outfitters and ACK. Leveraging this industry support, the National Park Service joined as a major funder in 2013, significantly expanding the grant program.

Since its inception, the partners have awarded more than $125,000 in support of 55 innovative projects. The results speak for themselves. By year’s end, the program will engage more than 8,000 people in paddlesport activities — resulting in more than 25,000 hours spent on the water.

“This program is a testament to the leadership and support of the paddle-sport industry,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation, the organization that started Outdoor Nation. “Thanks to the generosity of Outdoor Retailer and the National Park Service, thousands of young people across the country will explore rivers, lakes and streams through a variety of activities – resulting in a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards.”

The latest round of grants were awarded to 17 projects from a pool of 159 applications. 

The charitable arm of Outdoor Industry Association, The Outdoor Foundation is taking the lead nationally to inspire and empower a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts through its signature program Outdoor Nation. Launched in 2010, Outdoor Nation is the only national initiative that is engaging, empowering and investing in next-gen outdoor champions and outdoor projects – ensuring the future of outdoor participation. For more information visit outdoornation.org.

Bellyak Announces “Buy a Boat, Give a Boat” Program

From May 15-June 15, for every boat purchased through a retailer or www.bellyak.com, a portion of the proceeds will be used to provide Bellyaks for Team River Runner, a volunteer non-profit organization serving veterans through adaptive sports.

“Seeing the positive changes the Bellyak has provided people with disabilities has been a highlight of  our business. Due to the lay-on-top, intuitive design of the Bellyak, people with disabilities have been able to enjoy watersports with minimal adaptation required, giving them mobility and exercise in an easy to use format,” said Adam Masters of Bellyak. “With our customers and retailers support, we will supply 14 chapters with two bellyaks each over the next month.”

Longer than a riverboard, more stout than a surfboard and shapelier than a standard SUP, a Bellyak is a boat designed to be ridden lying down, without straps or a spray skirt. Bellyak’s innovative design lets people of many different skill levels and physical abilities enjoy the water.

In addition to providing a therapy outlet for recovering amputees, Team River Runner facilitates paddling therapy sessions for active-duty and veteran service members who are coping with Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Spinal Cord Injury, or Emotional Impairment. Team River Runner’s motto is “Health and Healing Through Paddlesports.”

Bellyaks are designed to be used on any type of water. This is especially great for programs like Team River Runner because their paddling sessions always begin in a swimming pool and later progress to outdoor venues such as a lake, coastal inlet or river.

Team River Runner was founded in 2004 at Walter Reed Medical Center. They now offer weekly paddling sessions in 45 locations nationally and locally. Programs include biathlons in Washington, D.C. and Colorado, a Kayak Football Tournament at Walter Reed, and many other activities and events. They’ve placed an increasing emphasis on the development of leadership skills for our participants and host leadership clinics around the nation. Veterans learn the skills to become leaders of their TRR chapter. It’s an opportunity to enjoy nature and realize its social, physical, and emotional benefits, whether it’s tackling whitewater rapids or paddling on peaceful flat-water. It’s an environment that facilitates connection, allowing veterans to reunite with their families and forge relationships with those who have endured similar pain. More than anything, Team River Runner is a program that provides purpose for those who need it most – the wounded and disabled war veterans of the United States of America. Our veterans are on the river to recovery.

Bellyak was founded in 2011 by Adam and Anna Masters. Adam, a lifelong kayaker from a kayak manufacturing family invented and patented the Bellyak concept. From his experience he knew that being trapped in a kayak was the biggest deterrent to paddlesports, and wanted to create a watercraft that was intuitive and accessible for all types of waterlovers. With a size to fit everyone, Bellyak offers maximum fun with a minimum learning curve, 100-percent designed and made in the USA.

Interbike to Open Doors to Consumers

Following the model from Eurobike, the annual Interbike bicycle industry tradeshow in Las Vegas announced it will open its doors to consumers on the final day of the show this year. So if you’ve ever dreamed of attending Interbike as an industry insider and getting the scoop on all the products and innovations a year ahead of your buddies, now is your chance. For just $20 (not including travel and party money of course), consumers can show up at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center at 9 a.m. on Friday, September 12, 2014, and experience the largest bike show in the country. Purchase tickets online here.

-Submit your Daily Dirt to aaron@blueridgeoutdoors.com.