Mark Denny departs AWA

More changes expected at PWC organizations
Changes are taking place at the American Watercraft Association, the foremost of which is the departure of Mark Denny, managing director of the organization for the past two years. (From 1996 to 1998, Denny also had served with the watercraft organization, heading the Government Affairs Department.)
Rumors began to circulate during the Miami Boat Show that Denny would shortly give notice of his departure. Those rumors held true when Denny announced he would be accepting a new position as chief of staff for the Orange County Board of Supervisors shortly after the show’s conclusion.
IJSBA Executive Director Kirk Holland now will serve as acting managing director of the organization.
Denny’s departure leaves a noticeable absence atop the AWA as it heads into yet another boating season, although organization management indicates that things remain very much business as usual. The future for the AWA, however, appears anything but that, as numerous industry insiders have recently commented to Powersports Business off the record about potential changes within the organization.
At the heart of the issue seems to be the manufacturer’s support of both the AWA and its competition-oriented sibling, the International Jet Sports Boating Association (IJSBA).
According to industry insiders, many options are being considered in the coming weeks, options that might include separating the two organizations completely.
Manufacturer representatives also seem to be taking their most serious stance in years on deciding just how the organization’s money should be spent and on what programs.
Powersports Business recently was able to catch up with the departed director, and took advantage of the opportunity to get Denny’s thoughts on his reasons for leaving, his take on the current condition and future of both the AWA and IJSBA, and even his candid comments on the clout of the five PWC manufacturers.
Opportunity Knocks
Denny emphasizes that his departure wasn’t so much a problem with his past position, but rather an incredible opportunity with his new one. In fact, many reasons factored into his decision, reasons that include everything from the unique opportunity to be chief of staff of a Board of Supervisors governing a population which is larger in number than many states, to the desire to be able to spend more time at home with his children.
“This was a very unique opportunity, and it was something I just couldn’t pass up,” explained Denny. “It was a tough decision. I’m very fortunate to have had this opportunity presented to me, and I felt like I just had to take it.”
As to the industry — and organizations — he leaves behind, Denny feels the future holds a great deal of promise. “The industry is moving in a positive direction, and I think both organizations are moving in a positive direction,” he stated. “I think the future is very bright for both.
“In terms of the AWA, the sport is maturing. We’re seeing a dramatic reduction in the number of proposals to limit or restrict personal watercraft. We’re getting beyond issues like the national park service, resolving them successfully, I think, because of the efforts of the AWA and its members along with the industry.
“Now we’re in this new phase where you see all these great recreational events, and you see people getting involved in the sport again, getting enthusiastic, and taking advantage of all the new opportunities that are presented with all the diversities of the craft.
“You’re seeing these great touring events, adventure rides, the poker runs, and the Rally series. People are finally exploring all these great new places. They can do so much more with the boats now, with longer range and more capacity. It’s like a new era for personal watercraft and it’s really exciting.
“That’s why I think it’s exciting for the AWA. The AWA will always have a role in promoting and protecting our rights to ride, but there’s a new horizon in terms of providing a venue for activity, involvement, and enthusiasm for the sport through events, communication on the Internet, magazines. It’s a club, and through that I think that’s going to help the industry grow. It will keep people involved and enthusiastic about the sport. I’m very positive about that.”
Future Of The IJSBA
While things on the AWA side of the coin certainly appear bright from Denny’s perspective, manufacturer’s behind-the-scenes comments have cast a shadow on the future shape and direction of the organization, along with its competition-oriented sibling, the IJSBA. But while manufacturer involvement certainly may dictate the future of an American racing program, Denny emphasizes the IJSBA has a much greater reach worldwide.
“I’ll say this,” said Denny. “The IJSBA will never go away. Manufacturers come and go, and they’ve come and gone in the past. But ultimately, the IJSBA will always be there.
“Remember, the IJSBA is an international organization, with over 40 international affiliates. And support from those affiliates, the distributors in their countries, and the parent companies, all support the IJSBA.
“What the American companies do has an impact, sure, but won’t affect the final outcome relative to the IJSBA continuing to exist.”
In defense of the IJSBA, Denny points out that recent changes prove the organization is attempting to change to better reflect and promote the sport. “In terms of the IJSBA, you’re finally seeing some changes in racing that reflect the changing of the industry,” he said. “Some things that are occurring that, frankly, have to occur in order for racing to remain viable.
“By that I mean a reduction in the minimum age to race. I think you’ll start to see younger kids get involved earlier, particularly in stand-up racing. That can be an alternative to motocross, X Games sports, and that sort of thing.
“I think you’re also seeing kind of a realignment of regional racing, going back to the roots. I think that’s positive for the sport, where every event you go to means something, and means greater opportunity for promoters, with things like super course and endurance racing.
“I just see that there’s a ton of opportunity out there. The future is much more positive than it has been in the past, and I think it reflects just an overall turnaround in the sport.”
Words Of Wisdom
As to any final words of advice for the organizations, as well as his potential replacement, Denny emphasizes that a job requirement is to be out there amongst the enthusiasts in the sport, participating in rally series rides, poker runs, endurance events, and races.
Says Denny: “The organization needs to continue to send the message to dealers and promoters and individual owners that the organization is solidly behind the growth of enthusiasm in the sport.”

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