Imagine standing on the beach on a beautiful day of calm water and a mild breeze — a beautiful day to kayak, except that you forgot your boat. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call someone to bring one?
Whidbey Island Boats and Boards owner Steve Adams is your guy. He operates a mobile kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental business where the customer picks the when and where, and Allen comes prepared with the paddles.
He didn’t see anyone else in the kayak delivery business on the island. Though there are kayak rentals and tour operators available, he decided to start his own outfit two months ago.
“If I wanted to do something in the paddle industry, it was going to be now or never,” Adams said. “Any small business is a gamble, so I took the safe path and stayed with what I knew.”
Adams has been paddling for 30 years and has gone all over the world on the water. The now-retired Army veteran had never been to Whidbey Island, despite living in Washington state for 32 years. Adams recently retired, and he was last stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord just outside of Tacoma.
“Kind of by accident I stumbled onto Whidbey Island,” he said.
Adams traveled the U.S. during his Army career, but he always thought Port Townsend would be a great place to raise his kids. When he went house hunting, though, he decided to look elsewhere.
“I moved to Whidbey because the housing market was better,” he said. After house hunting for two days in Port Townsend, “I got on the ferry and found housing online while I was on the ferry.”
He found a house with a garage that opens up to Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor, which is also where he parks his rental business with the backdrop of the harbor behind him. Most of his clients find his business by driving down the road. He said he’s put about 85 people on the water in his first two months in business.
One hour for a single kayak will put you back $50, and a tandem costs $60. A one-hour rental of a paddleboard costs $40. The company does not charge extra for delivery. Each hour beyond the first one costs an extra $10 with all-day rentals in the range of $130-$170, depending if it’s for a paddleboard or a tandem kayak.
“Everybody’s looking to something outside, and as a result, the outdoor equipment industry has pretty much exploded,” Adams said.
But “the toys are big, the toys are bulky, they don’t travel well,” so Adams’s delivery business is in a unique position. Some of the most popular spots customers want to go include the bay in Oak Harbor, Cranberry Lake, Double Bluff , Penn Cove and almost all of Deception Pass State Park. He will travel from Possession Point in the south to Deception Pass, although he did take some boats to Lake Campbell on Fidalgo Island.
“They’re all world class sites. I’ve paddled for 30 years, around the world, and literally stumbling on Whidbey Island — it’s just all so world class,” he said, highlighting the abundance of free, public access to the water.
“A lot of people don’t realize what they have here.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of years Adams served in the Army and where he spent his career. It has since been corrected. We regret the errors.