Pacific Warriors: What I Expect From Mainstream Growth
I went to a Saturday night get together with old friends – some of whom I still consider friends, some of whom this event made me remember the reason I don’t consider them friends anymore, and some of whom I still can’t seem to remember sitting next to in Chemistry class almost ten years ago. In a typical high school reunion fashion, I ended up sitting at a table with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Among the faces at the table were two recognizable and quasi-memorable high school acquaintances, Jack and Jill.
That’s when Jack tossed our painfully dull small-talk-sesh a curveball.
“So, are you going to be on the new Discovery kayak show?” he asked as I looked up from my distant stare at the door and dismissed the “How to Make a Polite Exit 101” lecture forming in my head.
Although I rarely speak about my job, my reputation as the ‘guy doing the kayak thing’ seemed to have leaked (thanks, Facebook and Instagram) even to this seemingly outdated social circle.
Not only did Jack know about the debut of Pacific Warriors – a new island lifestyle reality show heavily featuring offshore kayak fishing – but he also watched it. He watched it earlier in the week, decided to buy a kayak, and was now persuading Jill to start watching while I stared, jaw dropped, with the gears in my head turning – how is this show going to affect our industry?
The Little Brother Effect – “If it’s not my way, it’s wrong.”
Duck Dynasty – a comparable reality TV show heavy in extreme outdoor sporting, niche culture, and unique family values – aired focusing on the waterfowl industry in spring 2012 with fifteen episodes averaging 1.5 to two million views each. We all know this story.
After two full seasons on A&E, the show hit 8.6 million views and surpassed American Idol as the number one reality show in America. The season four premiere brought over 11 million views, and 2015 brought the seventh season of Duck Dynasty. However, the Duck Commanders’ journey to mainstream acceptance and the warm, fuzzy center of Americans’ hearts was not initially well-received by industry members.
Complaints of safety breeches, over-dramatization, and poor product quality ran wild through pre-existing industry member forums and conversations upon the show’s release. Whether it was quality complaints of the duck calls being promoted, the group of hunters chosen, the business sponsorships behind the hunters, or the played out tendencies supported in the show, people felt cheated because their hobby was being portrayed to mainstream culture in a slightly different way than they would have done themselves.
The same goes for Pacific Warriors. While the majority of people I’ve talked to and interacted with online seem to be very excited about the show, I have also seen the drawn out forum comments, heard the heavy-breathed reactions, and taken note of the jealousy and disappointment in some of the shows seemingly minor flaws. Look, I get it. There is a dance between appreciation and envy that people sometimes struggle to master. We learn the steps we should be taking only to panic and stumble on our own feet.
Whether it is jealousy that individual professionals were chosen for the series instead of others, broken pride that some logo got featured over another, genuine-ish concern for safety matters being passively skipped over, or disappointment that the niche industry is going to be viewed differently than expected on a larger stage, there WILL BE plenty of negative, nitpicking little brothers in the audience.
The Cool Kids Effect – Resistance to the Inclusion of Outsiders
Deadliest Catch – also a comparable reality TV show heavy on extreme commercial sporting, niche culture, and unique family values – aired focusing on the Alaskan commercial crab fishing industry in 2005 with ten episodes receiving multiple Primetime Emmy Awards. The show is currently in its 11th season airing in more than 200 countries worldwide, popularizing the real-life high-sea adventures of the Alaskan crab fishermen – a dangerous job that does not need mainstream promotion to prove its riskiness.
I’m not a researcher but simple internet searches led me to some possibly-credible-but-seemingly-consistent-with-my-guess numbers to back the dangerous nature of commercial fishing. With on the job fatality rates of 121/100,000, non-applicable minimum wage laws, and the expectation of self-financed equipment and clothing, commercial fishing doesn’t seem like a job people would be lined up for; however, Deadliest Catch has created the opposite effect.
Since the show’s release, interest in employment has continually increased to the point of Discovery Channel housing an Employment FAQ page on their website. With growing interest in participation comes the resistance to the inclusion of outsiders – the Cool Kids Effect.
It isn’t all social exclusion. There is an economic side to it as well. In short, a higher supply of workers drives the worker’s value down – lowering pay. Between this high supply of newbie workers and a subsidization of the commercial boats by the TV network, the millennial rush of outside interest has done a number to the once level playing field.
Only one episode into the first season means that it is too early to tell the social impact Pacific Warriors will have on the kayak fishing industry but the general trend leans toward social inclusion. Don’t be fooled though, there WILL BE plenty of ‘Jacks’ coming in to our circles and there WILL BE some blatant exhibitions of exclusion from the minority.
The Grandma Effect – Promoted Public Perception
The amount of reality in reality TV is questionable; however, it is not in question here. My reality is pretty boring. Follow me around with a camera for an hour and see how entertaining it is. Besides the occasional two-knuckle-deep nose pick or my seemingly inevitable desk-drenching-coffee-spill, I’m boring. People are boring most of the time. TV shows eliminate the humdrum and replace it with meaningful action – battling emotional struggles, tearing through personal problems, solving deep down intrapersonal dilemmas, etc. I’m not here to question the integrity of the reality, nor am I here to pick a side on its entertainment value. I’m here to communicate that the meaningful action works wonders on the public’s perception of the sport – what I call the Grandma Effect.
The Big Break – another comparable reality TV show heavy in recreational sporting, niche culture, and unique group values – aired focusing on the recreational golf industry in fall 2003 now with over 225 episodes on the Golf Channel.
The Grandma Effect is simple. Instead of portraying golf as an excuse to get away from the house, drink excessive amounts of beer outdoors, and make unwanted advances at the cart girls, the show dressed the game up with different forms of meaningful action – an internal battle with character, patience, and emotion. Golf became a personal struggle to persevere against all of the odds society stacks against us.
While my 18 holes usually lean more toward a night at the bar than a Dr. Phil episode, the show changed the way grandmas, moms, girlfriends, and wives perceived their golfer’s time spent on the course. Through staged transparency, the show gave a once poorly recognized hobby a makeover, one that was easier for people to become comfortable with.
Likewise, Duck Dynasty’s makeover cast hunting in a positive light to fight negative stereotypes, pending second amendment legislation, and increasingly popular “anti-hunter” messages. It allowed duck hunting to reach a younger demographic because it showed moms that the hobby was safe, moral, and would probably lead to discovering highly conservative spirituality.
Deadliest Catch was spruced up to tell parents that their kids interest in running away to Alaska to kick a troubled past would probably result in character improvements, lifelong friendships, and financial gains. There’s no way the world’s deadliest job could end up in death, drug addiction, or severe depression, right?
Regardless of the legitimacy of the meaningful action conveyed, the improved public perception of kayak fishing from the soon-to-come messages of Pacific Warriors WILL increase participation by decreasing Grandma’s resistance – the Grandma Effect.
My conversation with Jack flirted with entertaining for a while thanks to the new show before returning to its comfortable place in Small-talks-ville. Population: two. It was no surprise, though; the ebbs and flows of stranger small talk tend to ebb more than they flow for me. Thankfully, this ebb helped me step back and add some outside perspective to the upcoming boom in kayak fishing that I want Pacific Warriors to bring to our industry.
Although the majority of kayak anglers will be excited about this mainstream attention and will welcome newcomers – along with their accompanying learning curves; some people are going to be upset about not having a say in how the sport is getting its attention and some of these individuals will want to exclude kayak fishing newbies. Once we are past these negative minority reactions, we can appreciate that the feel-good nature of this type of reality show will give the public a positive perception of our once questioned hobby. For this likelihood and Jack’s maiden voyage in his new kayak, I am grateful.