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The Kayak Shack: Paddling Toward Success

Category: General Article

Back to Youth Activities: Kayaking

There aren’t many students who can parlay a favorite sport into a winning business, but for some enthusiastic kayakers at Waldport High School that’s exactly what happened.

If you’re ever in the small coastal town of Waldport, you’ll have the chance to kayak in one of the most beautiful sloughs on the Oregon Coast thanks to the students who operate The Kayak Shack.

Melissa Steinman is a teacher at Waldport High School and helps oversee the business’s all-student staff.

Steinman told the Network that The Kayak Shack started in 2003 as an extracurricular activity with grants from local foundations. But the students wanted to transform their recreational passion into a profitable business. With the help of the Port of Alsea, they rented a small space on the waterfront, invested in new kayaks and trained other students to act as interpretive guides. Their business model means tour groups are kept small, no more than a 4:1 client-to-guide ratio, in order to ensure everyone has a very intimate outdoor experience. A tour is usually no more than two miles in length, depending on the participants’ interest and abilities. All the gear, including a life jacket, is included.

To help the Network fully appreciate the experience, Kayak Shack guides Phil and Amy took us on a tour of the Alsea Bay and adjacent Lint Slough. After fitting everyone with life jackets and providing them with basic instruction on using kayaks, the group took to the water and headed out toward the historic Alsea Bay Bridge.

Even though the bay is surrounded by the town of Waldport, Phil and Amy said that the highlight of the outing is always spotting wildlife. Harbor Seals and birds are particularly plentiful, with the former often poking their heads out of the water just feet away from kayakers. But there are plenty of wildlife surprises, too.

“I had a customer who came back from her tour and she was kind of spooked,” Amy said. “She came around the corner to go into the slough and she saw a huge Black Bear. It obviously wasn’t any threat because the bear was on land and she was on the water, and I really wished I had been there. That would’ve been so neat!”

The end of the tour included a leisurely paddle through the Lint Slough where Osprey and Bald Eagles were some of the most interesting wildlife spotted.

Despite the appeal of being outdoors on the beautiful coast, both Amy and Phil agreed that their favorite thing about working at The Kayak Shack is meeting new people.

“I’m a very social person so this is great for me,” Amy said. “It’s definitely cool to meet all these people from around the world.”

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Paddling Toward Success

Amy and Phil, teen tour guides with The Kayak Shack, explain their business model while touring the beautiful Alsea Bay by kayak.