What motivated you to start an outdoor equipment company?

I was an outdoor enthusiast and loved kayaking, before it was very well known, back in the very early 80’s.  While I was kayaking with 7 friends in Haida Gwaii (something no one ever did back then), I decided I would open a small store to spread the word, teach kayaking, and try my hand at being my own boss.

What has been your biggest inspiration?

Inspiration comes from the faces of those I’ve taught and from helping people access the ‘inaccessible.’ A lot of what we do is to provide the initial introduction to kayaking and exploring the outdoors.

When people light up with the positive experience of learning something new to explore, it is inspiring.

What is the most rewarding part of working in this industry? 

The people.  Not just the clients but the industry.  Early in the industry I was one of the founding members of our first industry association TASK (Trade Association of Sea Kayaking) and from there a huge community developed. My staff is the other part of what is rewarding. I feel we treat everyone well and it shows in our very low turnover and happy crowd of staff.  I think everyone feels important as part of our machine which makes folks want to come to us and also come back.

What are the main challenges you have faced? 

Reinventing myself so many times.  If we do not change, we will not be relevant to our customers and so through the years, we have changed many times in how we do business.  It is the constant watch to make sure we stay current and viable in a constantly changing world and market.

Why did you choose this location? What do you like about it?

Downtown Victoria is my “hood.”  Being Born in Victoria, I always enjoyed Victoria’s downtown. I started my store in 1981 in a 250 square foot location on Pandora Street / Market Square. Eventually, I moved to a bigger store in Market Square for quite some time.

Always wanting to connect my store to the water, I moved down to 1437 Store St, and built new docks in the Victoria Marina behind Capital Iron. This worked quite well for 15 years but I felt the area was suffering from lack of traffic, and some other were retailers closing.   I wanted to be more in the action, and to be able to capture tourists, so I chose to move just 1 1/2 blocks to the base of China Town.  At the same time, I wanted more exposure for our docks that are the hub of a lot of activity.  I negotiated to get 200 lineal feet of docks below Canoe Brew Pub to give me access and better visibility to the water than our prior location.

What are your favourite places to eat/shop/play downtown?

I am a basic guy in my tastes. I love to eat Chinese food in various locations in China Town. Bean Around the World and Grindstone are two of my favourite Cafe spots. I shop for dress clothes at Outlooks for Men and try to shop local for anything I need.


Ocean River Sports was established in 1981. Find them online and on Facebook.