WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
When Nicole Wilson and Grant Cook took a trip to the West Coast in August of 2021, they had no idea how dramatically their lives would be changing. As the two friends were coming back from a trip to Side Bay and travelling through Port Alice, Cook said, “Hey, this would be a great spot for a kayak rental business!” After opening the business this spring, Wilson says, “It was all really synchronistic and just felt like what was supposed to be happening!”
Wilson is from Saskatchewan and grew up on a farm “living a pretty simple life.” She was a server for most of her youth. She has also worked in pipeline construction, oilfield maintenance, dispatch, home building, oil spill marine response and in the oil and gas industry. She also ran a gym and clothing store. Presently, she is working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off at a mine in Dease Lake, which is helping with their business startup costs. She says she hasn’t really had a home for some years, saying that she, “gypsied from place to place.” Before coming to Port Alice, her “nest” was her truck camper.
Wilson kayaked for the first time at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand four years ago! She has not kayaked very much since because of a hectic work schedule, but she is glad to have the opportunity to immerse herself in it with the business.
Grant Cook grew up living by Tie Lake just outside Jaffray, BC. He says he “grew up in the water,” and has taken kayaking and canoeing courses as a kid. Since coming to Port Alice he has been in the water “most of the days…swimming, paddling, doing whatever.”
Cook has worked in the forest industry for 22 years as a logger. He says, “It changed my life and gave me experiences that I’ll never forget.” He adds, “You get so see some pretty beautiful places!”
Wilson has her class 1 kayaking certificate and only needs to write a test for her class 2. Once that happens, they will be able to do guided day trips. Cook will be studying for his class 1 this summer.
Their hours of operation are “pretty much anytime.” They live across the street from the marina, and someone will always be around 7 days a week. If there is no one at the marina, people can take a picture of a QR code on their trailer there and it will go directly to their phone.
Frigon Paddling rents out sit-on-top kayaks, single composite kayaks, double kayaks and paddle boards. The sit-on-tops, propelled by the feet, leave people’s hands free for holding a fishing rod. Rentals start at $40 for 2 hours. They also offer half-day, full day, evening, overnight and weekly rentals. Prices go down each day after first day. All safety gear, including paddle floats, wet suits and life jackets (for all different sizes of people) are included with the rental. They won’t be sending anybody out after 4 pm, but people can come back as late as 9 pm. They have a 12 ft. aluminum boat with gas motor that they use for checking up on paddlers.
Wilson and Cook will only rent kayaks to people who have taken sea kayak self-rescue courses, but they are not required for the sit-on top kayaks and paddle boards. Cooks says, “Hopefully by next year Nicole will have her qualifications to teach it.”
From the marina, people can kayak to The Frigon Islands, Drake Island or the south end of Neurotsos Inlet where there is a bird sanctuary and an estuary. Frigon Paddling can also deliver kayaks anywhere in the area, such as Victoria Lake or Telegraph Cove.
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