USA Canoe/Kayak has formed a new partnership with the American Canoe Association, the oldest and largest paddlesport organization in the United States, in a deal that will make ACA Executive Director Wade Blackwood the new CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak as well.

“I feel like I’m the first grandchild of two great and influential families—and there are high expectations,” said Blackwood. “We want to create a fun and enjoyable path for anyone with an interest in paddling. Having the recreational and elite competition disciplines under a single leadership creates opportunities to build a pipeline of generations of great paddlers. Paddling is a healthy outdoor activity and many of the great elite paddlers started by enjoying a family canoe trip or having a great summer camp experience learning to kayak.”

Blackwood replaces Joe Jacobi at USACK. Jacobi, a gold medalist at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games, stepped down from the Oklahoma City-based position in 2014 after five years in the lead role.

ACA was the national governing body for Olympic paddlesports from 1924 until the early 1990s, when the organization split and USA Canoe/Kayak was formed for the elite level of the sport. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, prior to the organizational split, the United States won four medals. Since then, the United States has won two medals at the Olympic Summer Games.

“There is an old saying that if you continue doing the same thing over and over again, do not expect different results,” said Bob Lally, USA Canoe/Kayak board chair. “When the ACA and USA Canoe/Kayak separated, a lot of our canoe/kayak disciplines stopped competing at the highest international levels. In order to change our results and outcomes, we have to dynamically and strategically change the culture and direction of our nation’s paddling enterprise. Creating a partnership, once again, between the ACA and USACK is that dynamic and strategic change required for USA to compete at the highest levels in all canoe/kayak disciplines.”

ACA leaders said they were not concerned with Blackwood taking over executive control of both organizations. “Over the last four years, the ACA has grown significantly by focusing on education and stewardship programs under Blackwood’s leadership,” said Anne Maleady, ACA’s board chair. “The shared CEO role has the opportunity to give the millions of Americans who engage in recreational and elite paddlesports the ability to find programs of interest under a common organization. Whether it’s stewardship activities or healthy competition, our organizations will offer something for paddlers of all abilities.”