1. Tell me a bit about the history of SKILS? What sets SKILS apart from other outfitters?
SKILS was founded in 2003 with the goal of providing courses for intermediate and advanced kayakers as well for professional guides and instructors. Despite skepticism that our model would work, we have had 12 successful years and are still going strong. Our efforts have impacted the paddling community across the country, increasing the level of skill and knowledge of Canada’s sea kayaking industry. What sets us apart is that we try to work with, rather than compete with, all the paddling organizations across Canada. We act as a catch all of sorts for upper level training. There are often too few students at each school to effectively run upper level training, so we pull those individuals together into one group, creating opportunities to advance these upper level students. The hope is that these individuals then take that knowledge and skill back with them and raise the level of skill in their community. Eventually this creates more demand for higher training at the individual schools. We also like to travel to our students where possible, rather than have them travel to us. It gives us a chance to meet paddlers across the country, and paddle in a variety of fantastic places.
2. Tell me something about your staff, anything that makes them stand out?
Our team is composed of many of the premier guide and instructor trainers in Canada. Each of them has exceptional skill, knowledge and talent, as well as a strong desire to keep learning and growing their skills. We put a lot of time and energy into creating unique and interesting opportunities for professional development for each staff member; our goal is to help each of them grow thereby developing the skill set of our team as a whole. It has taken time to grow our team, as we don’t hire through the traditional means of gathering resumes and applications, but rather through approaching exceptional people whenever and wherever they are identified.
3. What do students have to look forward to in 2014?
We have numerous new sea kayaking courses being developed for the 2014 paddling season. Programs such as an Instructional Tour where you learn while underway on an expedition, and Advanced Expeditions which offers training for the seasoned kayaker who wants to undertake more challenging trips. We are also in the process of developing advanced kayak surfing courses along with an introductory course in Skookumchuck tidal rapids. More information can be found soon on our website.
Our kayak fishing department is getting bigger and bigger and is currently the fastest growing part of our business. In 2014, we will offer more guided kayak fishing day trips and a deluxe 5-day kayak fishing expedition. The 5-day expedition is being run in partnership with our friends at West Coast Expedition on Spring Island in Kyuquot Sound, which is an exceptional location for salmon fishing, especially large Chinook. (An insider tip, the best time for guided kayak fishing day trips is from September 10 to October 20.)
Last but not least, in 2014 we will run a 3-day SUP camp in Clayoquot Sound. The group will travel by water taxi to a remote beach and set up a base camp. Once on site, participants will develop their flatwater SUP skills and SUP surfing skills. When not playing on the water, there will be opportunities to hike and take in the wonders of Clayoquot Sound. Once again, check out or website for more details.
One of the most exciting elements of our business model is that most of our courses are private and custom developed for the groups we are working with. (If the dates of our open enrollment courses are not suitable for you, we encourage you to contact us.) This means that we never really know at the beginning of a season where our programs will take us and who we will end up paddling with.
Most of our courses target intermediate to advanced paddlers as well as professional guides and instructors, but we do have courses for all skills levels. Be sure to check out the prerequisites of any program that you are interested in joining us on, as most programs do require you to have a little bit of pre training. If you have a gap in your skill set, get in touch with us; there are always options for gaining missing skills. If you have never paddled before don’t fret, we do run programs for absolute beginners as well.
5. How is SKILS involved in their local community?
One of the fundamental goals of SKILS is to support the community we are so passionate about. To this end, we pursue various avenues including: volunteering at paddling community events, conducting presentations and clinics for paddling clubs, taking part in beach clean ups, playing key roles in provincial and national paddling bodies and through equipment and instructional donations to our local high school outdoor education programs. In addition, since our inception over a decade ago, we have supported the development of Paddle Canada instructors nationally and SKGABC guide trainers provincially. This is a responsibility we have always taken very seriously. As in years past, in 2013 we have had the pleasure of coordinating 10 apprenticeship positions, 5 of which have been filled by non SKILS staff. We invite candidates that would like to explore possible future apprenticeship opportunities to contact us by email.