Bowen Island Sea Kayaking celebrates 25 years

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At the mouth of a beautiful fjord and as one of the Lower Mainland’s two kayak shops, BISK welcomes visitors from Bowen and around the world

It started with a few boats at the Mount Gardner wharf in 1996. Today it’s a bustling seasonal business that overlooks Snug Cove from the dock end of Bowen Island Marina (“Norma”).

Bowen Island Sea Kayaking celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and welcomed visitors and locals to chase their pandemic blues.

Brent O’Malley bought the company from Martin Clarke in 2014 after moving to Bowen from California. (Clarke had started as an employee of BISK but bought the company from founder Greg Phillips in 2000.)

“I bought a well established business that was well run and I think well respected in the community,” O’Malley said.

“I was able to just go in and pick things up where they were and have a very normal first season. And then, I’ve only tweaked it since.

From around 10 employees when it took over to around 15 in the height of summer these days, O’Malley’s has grown the business. “I have pretty much reached the limits of my abilities [at the shop]. I don’t have more room for more boats, ”he said.

BISK rents sea kayaks and paddleboards and O’Malley plans to purchase sit-on-top kayaks in the future. “Sit-on-tops are a lot safer, a lot easier to master if you turn around.”

There are group paddling options, certified Paddle Canada courses, and tours ranging from three hours to multiple days, sometimes with a twist (for example, last weekend there was a kayak and yoga retreat from three days).

Multi-day trips are an addition from the O’Malley era to BISK.

“There are really only two kayak shops in the Lower Mainland right now,” O’Malley said. “We are the only ones who offer multi-day trips to an incredibly beautiful area, right in the backyard of the people.”

They take advantage of the Sea to Sky maritime trail established as part of the Trans Canada Trail and the BC Marine Trails Network in 2015.

“So people don’t have to go to northern British Columbia on a multi-day trip,” said O’Malley.

Kids ‘camps have always been a part of the business, but for the first time this summer, O’Malley hosted six weeks of kids’ camps and two weeks of junior skills camps.

The Round Bowen Challenge – the annual self-propelled boat race around the island – was something O’Malley couldn’t fight with enthusiasm for. “I am not a runner. It was always a little hard for me to fall behind. It was a ton of organization. It was just before my very busy season, ”he said. “I did my best for the first five years, then [stepped] a way.”

O’Malley hosted the 18th Annual Challenge in 2018, then left the race to other paddlers to organize it – and a few Round Bowen Challenge races took place in the years that followed.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, BISK has run a number of promotions during the summer months as well as group paddles on Sunday evenings (“It’s such a great time to be on the water that I just try to do just trying to encourage people to go out at this time of day. ”) BISK also donated a portion of the proceeds from each tour to My Sea to Sky – an organization formed in 2014 to“ advocate, protect and restore Átl’ḵa7tsem / Howe Sound ”.

When asked if he had found a favorite part of the sound, O’Malley points to the McNabb Creek area and the channel around the northern part of Gambier Island. “It’s just spectacular to paddle up there.”

In all?

“I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to run a small business in such a large community,” O’Malley said. “Every day I feel lucky enough to be here.

“My office is pretty amazing.

BISK is now in fall hours – open Wednesday through Sunday.

Editor’s Note: The Undercurrent spoke to O’Malley in July.

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