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“How three guides chose to forge a new business model”

Santa Barbara locals may remember us as Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara, selling kayaks and gear, renting kayaks, and guiding trips on the islands. In 2010 the current owner Mark Hyatt relinquished ownership to three of his employees, Garrett Kababik, Fraser Kersey, and Johnny Dresser (all island guides at the time), who collectively established Channel Islands Outfitters. Upon realizing that a revised and modern plan needed to be realized to carry Paddle Sports into the new economy, the three island guides got to work brainstorming.

Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara on 100 State Street in 1999

Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara on 100 State Street in 1999

We started a Google doc and began working on the details. The whiteboard was soon cluttered with our visions and goals.

Co-Founder and CFO Fraser Kersey

Co-Founder and CFO Fraser Kersey

An environmentally centered mission was critical to all three. Working on the ocean lends a first-hand and intimate glimpse into the critical issues that are facing the largest ecosystem on planet earth. We were careful not to become hypocrites who preached for better ways but supported the habits that we saw as destructive.

One of the revenue models that had supported Paddle Sports for over 17 years was selling plastic kayaks to Southern California. In those 17 years we had sold thousands and thousands of kayaks. We had watched people come in excited, and leave with a kayak but a huge challenge to use it.

Co-Founder and Head Guide Johnny Dresser

Co-Founder and Head Guide Johnny Dresser

Plus contributing to the consumer model of selling thousands of plastic kayaks that are difficult to use didn’t make sense to us. And so we felt that a co-op where people shared paddle sports equipment would solve both the consumption and difficulty of use issues. We also really wanted to create more of a community of people who really enjoyed playing on the ocean. After trying several different names on, we landed with the “Adventure Co-OP” and we’re absolutely stoked.

We try really hard to be a company that limits it’s impact and positively supports the community.

These are our promises.

  1. 1.) We Promise to offset all of our carbon emissions: We cannot avoid traveling on diesel run ferries to get to the Channel Islands. But we can support efforts to sequester carbon and find ways to accelerate these efforts. We calculate our metric ton emissions on an annual basis.

  2. 2.) We Promise to consider all of our stakeholders in all of our decisions: Balance. That’s what we’re striving for here. Customers, employees, community, environment, suppliers… considering each in every decision. Inflation is inevitable, which is why we offer lower-price adventures to counter our higher price offerings. We offer our Adventure Co-Op at such an affordable price because we want to engage the community… the entire community, not just those who can afford expensive things.

  3. 3.) We Promise to donate 1% of our gross sales to organizations that support ocean research, preservation, and education. We cannot engage in every fight to save the ocean, but we promise to support those who do.

  4. 4.) We Promise to provide the most comfortable and clean gear possible. We give you gear that we would want to use… and we’re pretty picky so our gear is really nice. In 2014 we have a brand new life of PFDs, wetsuits, snorkel gear, and cook kits. We try not to compare ourselves to others, so we let the gear do the talking.

  5. 5.) We Promise to provide you with highly trained professional guides and staff. Our people are our product. We are always training our staff. We anticipate as much as we can, and learn from mistakes. Each year our lead guides practice “worse-case-scenario” drills at the islands and along the coast. This gives us an idea of how to prepare and how to prevent… and in the worse case… how to respond. CIO has also pioneered the way for our own Ocean Risk Management Program (ORMP), which is being used by outdoor leaders throughout California.

As a B Corp, we are ranked on these promises against companies like Patagonia to see how we’re doing. This is our 2013 report:
CIO's B Corp Score Card

CIO’s B Corp Score Card

CEO and Co-Founder Garrett Kababik

CEO and Co-Founder Garrett Kababik

In our 4th year since the new business model we’re really happy with the support we’ve received from our customers and employees in furthering our mission and values. We hope to see you on the water soon. Thanks for reading!

The Channel Islands Outfitters Family

It is our mission to save the oceans and natural places by fostering an understanding of them through education, adventures and outdoor experiences.