The winners of the ninth Outdoor Retailer Inspiration Awards will be announced at a big ceremony on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the first night of Summer Market in Denver. The awards, which include the categories Individual, Manufacturer, Retailer, Nonprofit and Youth, honor champions of the outdoor community who inspire and encourage others to enjoy, participate in and support outdoor recreation. Past winners have included Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, blind climber and kayaker Erik Weihenmayer, climber Timmy O’Neill, NOLS: Expedition Denali, Patagonia, and United by Blue. The program is sponsored by adidas Outdoor and we spoke with Greg Thomsen, the brand’s managing director and co-founder of the awards, about how they have become an essential part of the outdoor industry.
OR: What are the inspiration awards?
Greg Thomsen: In 2010, Larry Harrison and I were sitting in our office trying to decide how we could do something that would shine a light on people who were big inspirations but didn’t normally get recognized for the work they do. We decided that creating an award program for people who inspire others to get outside or to do good or be more environmentally conscious would be an important program. We pitched that idea to Outdoor Retailer. We told them we wanted to give some recognition to people who inspire all of us but may not normally be household names. At the same time, it turned out that many of them have become really serious household names.
How have the awards grown since then?
Greg Thomsen: The awards just keep growing each year and people have started to pay more attention. More people are being nominated. We added a category of the Lifetime Achievement Award, which brings in people that everybody knows and wants to honor—people like Reinhold Messner or Skip Yowell or Fred Beckey, people you’d really like to hear speak. And a lot of them had not received formal awards from the outdoor industry before. That created a lot more interest in the awards. And as the organization has gotten stronger with Outdoor Retailer, management of the event has gotten more professional.
We have a much bigger field this year. More people are being nominated and more people are voting. The nominations come in from your peers. Larry Harrison [who now works for Outdoor Retailer] has assembled a who’s who list of judges. And that judging group, which is made up of experienced people in the industry and people who have won the awards in the past, vote on the winners.
Who are some award winners who have inspired you?
I would say someone like Rue Mapp from Outdoor Afro who won the award in 2013 and has really taken off since. It was fun to give the awards to big companies like Patagonia and The North Face, too. And the Youth category is very exciting. There was Matt Moniz, who won in 2015 and has turned out to be this incredible adventurer. And the Lifetime Achievement award means a lot. Honoring people like John Roskelly and Jeff Lowe and being able to have a tribute to Doug Tompkins when he was killed and Kris Tompkins won the award means a lot. I think the industry really gets something out of knowing a bit about its history. A lot of people at show, the next generation, the newer generation, may not have known who founded The North Face and what an amazing character Doug Tompkins was.
What do you most want people to get out of the awards?
One, that this is an amazingly great community of people. It’s made up of so many different individuals and stories and lives. Everybody should be extremely proud to be part of the outdoor industry. And I think it’s good to see that you can attend and cheer for people who are trying to make the outdoor environment better and inspire others to make it better. I hope people come away thinking this is a great industry to both work and live in—this is a lifetime program. So let’s really champion all those who are helping make it better.
Nominations for the 2019 Outdoor Retailer Inspiration Awards are still open. Click here to put your heroes in the running…and we will see you at the ceremony in Denver!