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20 Years of Adventure

Editors’ Note: When we bought our first home on Oak Island we had great neighbors. One of them was Emma Thomas, founder and owner of The Adventure Kayak Company. When we met Emma, she worked at the Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Department. She started her business just months before we welcomed our son into the world. Seeing her business thrive and grow has been wonderful and we are thrilled t help her celebrate 20 years of adventure!

How long have you been in business? Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to start the company?

We celebrated our 20th anniversary in April — The Adventure Kayak Company was founded on April 28, 2000.

I was a paddler for over 30 years with a deep passion to provide opportunities for folks to experience nature and get out on the water. Prior to starting The Adventure Kayak Company, I worked with Parks and Recreation departments and YMCAs across North Carolina. I fell in love with coastal kayaking, took a leap of faith, and started the first kayak business in Brunswick County in 2000. A dream come true! I’m truly blessed to do what I love and love what I do.

You offer several different kayak tours in local waters. Can you describe a little about each one and how they differ? Also which are the most popular?

We offer daily guided kayak tours in the local salt marsh creeks, exploring the vibrant eco system with an amazing variety of coastal water fowl, paddling to barrier islands and the peaceful gentle black water rivers with huge old Bald Cypress trees. Sunset guided kayak tours and monthly full moon paddles are also a part of our paddling schedule.

As far as which are the most popular - that’s hard to say. We have so many repeat costumers that appreciate the variety we offer and keep coming back each year to try a different tour.

Who are your kayak tour guides and how are they trained to run the tours?

I have been blessed to have an incredible group of kayak tour guides that truly love what they do. They are professional and personable and provide not only basic kayak instruction before getting on the water to our customers, they include information about the local history and the environment during the tours. Each guide is certified in First Aid and CPR, and trained in kayak water rescue.

You also offer a full line of kayak products for rent and for sale. What brands/products are most popular?

We stock Hurricane Aqua Sports kayaks made in Warsaw, NC, Perception Kayaks from Greenville, SC and Stand UP Paddle (SUP) boards also made in Greenville, SC. We also carry Yakima and Malone roof racks and kayak carts, Bending Branches and Aqua Bound kayak and SUP paddles, MTI life jackets and many other accessory items and gear for kayaks and SUPs.

Recreational kayaks sit in and sit on top are our top sellers. The lightweight kayaks made by Hurricane Aqua Sports have also become more popular — easy to paddle and easy to load.

We’ve also added pedal drive kayaks to our retail shop and a full line of kayak fishing gear.

We strive to help our customers find the right boat and gear that will meet their paddling desires by offering kayak demos. It’s really important to try before you buy.

Can you describe a bit about the bike tours of downtown Southport. Who conducts those for you?

Our Historical Southport Bicycle tours are lead by an enthusiastic guide ready to share knowledge of local history.

We offer monthly Historical Southport Bicycle tours with a portion of the participant tour fee donated to the NC Maritime Museum at Southport. Tours are two hours in length, and the pace is slow and easy, traveling approximately a five-mile loop around Southport. We offer single speed pedal brake adult bicycles and helmets, or participants can bring their own bicycle and helmet. Tours can be to our schedule by request. The minimum age requirement is 13 and minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Do you have partnerships or ongoing relationships with the environmental organizations in our region, like Cape Fear River Watch or the NC Coastal Federation?

We’re members of the Cape Fear River Watch and support efforts for clean and healthy waterways. We also donate gift certificates, T-shirts and other items for the CFRW annual fundraiser.

We have worked closely with Coastal Land Trust to offer guide kayak tours, with participants fees donated to the CLT.

We have also offered a community outreach programs to provide opportunities for folks to try kayaking at the CLT family fun days who might not otherwise be able to experience kayaking

As a business owner relying on the beauty of our area for your own success, do you have any suggestions as to how we as local residents could support and protect our resources more effectively?

Any time you see trash, please pick it up. If it’s in the water, in the parking area, on the beach, on the sidewalk, take time to pick it up and dispose of it properly. If you are kayaking, canoeing or any type of boating, make sure your water bottles and snacks are are securely stowed away so there’s no chance they might fall in the water. Avoid using single-use plastics. Use reusable water bottles and containers for your lunch and snacks. Join volunteer groups that do beach sweeps and river clean ups. Anything and everything we all do will make a difference to keep our water ways health and clean!

Any other comments you’d like to share with our community?

I would like to thank everyone for their continued support, for shopping locally and joining us for kayak and bicycle tours, for taking a kayak lesson or buying a gift certificate to give as a gift.

Now more than ever it’s really important to support our local businesses. I know how easy it is to go online and have something directly shipped to your house. But before you order online, check around with our local businesses to see if they carry the product you are looking for. You might be surprised at what you can find locally. By shopping locally, you help local businesses thrive!

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