What motivated you to start a kayaking company?
I grew up in Vancouver. My husband was in the military, air force, so we ended up going back and forth across Canada. In 2006 we had the opportunity to come to Victoria, so we came here and settled. By then the kids were old enough to have friends at school so we decided not to leave. In 2011 my husband quit the military and joined Air Canada and in 2012 I purchased Victoria Kayak.
Our daughter and the previous owner’s granddaughter were friends in elementary school and so we became family friends, and then I found out that Cliff who had started this company in ’96 was looking to retire. So I said, yes! I will take this.
What has been your biggest inspiration?
My crew is inspiring. They are family. Some really are my family members and the others have become our kayak family.
Their hard work and dedication to perfection as well as to fun has made Victoria Kayak the thriving business it is today.
What is the most rewarding part of working in this industry?
Always learning more about Victoria and the natural surroundings and sharing that with both tourists and locals.
What are the main challenges you have faced?
Weather. When it gets really windy it is difficult to paddle so we have to shut down our operation on days we can’t paddle to the shelter of the Gorge Waterway.
Do you operate throughout the year?
In the past we have. It’s interesting, we get people at Christmas. If people have friends and family in town that they don’t know what to do with! It all depends on what our family is doing. Our staff is very seasonal, they work here in the summer and then a lot of them go to the ski hill in the winter, but if our family is in town we’ll open up on a sunny day. It seems to be more reasonable to open May to September for the general population. It’s very weather dependent, we had a really bad year last year with the smoke and the high winds. We have to close down, our policy is 15 knots which is when you see white caps. It’s not unsafe, it’s just tough to paddle. That’s why we send all the rentals up the Gorge in the first place, it’s more sheltered up there, and then our tourists either go up the Gorge or to the mouth of the harbour. It’s just crazy to navigate through here without a guide.
Do you find that there’s a lot of foot traffic coming from this area?
We have two main sources of customers. Definitely foot traffic. We call this the fishbowl because everyone comes to eat at Red Fish Blue Fish and then they come down here. And the David Foster pathway kind of still goes this way. For our online presence, my husband did our website and we’re really lucky. We bought the name when we bought the business. Everybody googles ‘Victoria’ and ‘kayak’ when they want to go kayaking and they get us right away.
As a business owner, do you find the business community helpful?
It’s very tourism-oriented. The businesses that we interact with are mostly here down on the water. We have great dock friends and get great bonuses from that, we share back and forth. It’s a fairly interactive community down here, we’re all saying hi to each other and looking out for each other. We’re always helping lost tourists and giving directions. You have to know a little bit about downtown to work down here and know all the restaurants.
What’s the most popular time to come?
Sunny days on the weekend. That’s when we’re the busiest. The best time to come is a weekday in the morning because its calm and quiet.
What are your favourite places to eat/shop/play downtown?
Of course Red Fish, Blue Fish! We also like Green Cuisine, Bubby Rose’s and Rebar. We love going on Ghostly Walks, Pickle Pub Crawl and Horror Escape as a Crew.