Member Spotlight: Kayak Adventures Worldwide

Q&A With Trent Gould of Kayak Adventures Worldwide

It’s often said that people make the place, and we couldn’t agree more. Our new spotlight series introduces you to Seward Chamber of Commerce members who make our community an incredible place to live, work and play.

Kayak Adventures Worldwide runs small group, private and family-friendly sea kayak tours in Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. They emphasize stewardship of the natural areas they guide in and inspire guests to join in taking an active role in preserving Alaska’s natural beauty.

We recently sat down with Trent to learn more about the journey he has taken as a small business owner in Seward.

Owner Trent Gould enjoys Alaska’s wilderness and sharing it with visitors from around the world. Photo Courtesy of KAW

How long have you lived in Seward? What first brought you here?

I moved here 7 years ago to guide for Kayak Adventures after guiding all over the world from Africa to Taiwan. The incredible access to wildlife and wild places, and the opportunities we have to connect guests to them is so unique. When I arrived in Seward, I knew immediately that this place was special.


What makes your business special or unique? In other words, what are you known for?

Our emphasis on family-friendly tours is something we really believe in and that sets us apart. We take kids as young as 6 years old on all of our tours and we run Private Family Tours for any group with kids younger than 14 at no extra charge. That way families can move at their own pace, focus on what they are excited about, and not worry about keeping up with the rest of the group. We recognize that it’s already challenging to travel with children and we want to make it as easy and enjoyable as we can. Plus we love inspiring the curiosity and wonder that we have for this place in adventurers of all ages, but especially in kids. Because we take so many families out on Private Family Tours, our guides are more experienced in working with kids. They are really wonderful at engaging with and inspiring them.

 

Kayak Adventures prides itself on being family-friendly. Photo Courtesy of KAW

Tell us about a product or service that you’re particularly proud of.

Our Aialik Glacier Day Trip is a great example of how we’re able to show people unique places, teach them about the natural world, and hopefully motivate them to look at their environmental impact a little differently. After finishing the day with us, many of our guests remark about how transformative an experience it was. It was more than just a paddling tour, but a really powerful wilderness experience. There are a lot of reasons we are able to do this. The intimate nature of taking a small water taxi, rather than a large tour boat, really changes the feel of wildlife viewing. We frequently detour to check out wildlife and stop to observe humpbacks or orcas. Our guides are with their guests every minute of the day so our visitors start learning before they even leave the Seward harbor. After some pretty unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities, from Steller Sea Lions on No Name Island to tufted puffins near the Cape of Aialik, we tuck up into Aialik Bay where the water is often glassy & calm. The next part of the day is a 3-4 hour paddling excursion to Aialik Glacier. Our guides are knowledgeable about glaciation, wildlife, history, and geology, so our tours have an educational theme. Eating a Zudy’s sandwich while watching (and listening to) the largest and most actively calving glacier in the park is also a major highlight! When guests return, just in time for happy hour and dinner in Seward, they learn about our Kayak. Pick. Give. partners. They leave with an understanding of what we at Kayak Adventures, and other great organizations, are doing to preserve the magic of the Kenai Fjords.

 

Knowledgeable guides share natural history, historical anectdotes and more. Photo Courtesy of KAW

What would people be surprised to learn about your business or your journey as a business owner?

We are the only kayak company in Alaska that is a member of 1% For The Planet. This means we’ve committed to donating 1% of our annual sales to environmental non-profits. Beyond that, we’ve chosen for those recipients to be Alaskan organizations that are working towards important conservation initiatives in our state. Rather than just giving these non-profit groups our donations each year, we ask our guests to participate in this process through our program Kayak. Pick. Give. For each guest we take paddling, we donate $2 on their behalf to the Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP), or the North Gulf Oceanic Society (NGOS). Over the past 5 years, we’ve donated over $40,000! Our guides teach guests a bit about each organization and it makes a huge impact. They walk away from their tour with a greater understanding of how they can take action to help protect Alaska’s natural resources. When I first bought Kayak Adventures, we had a strong environmental ethos, but I wanted to take it further. Becoming a member of 1% For The Planet and taking a stance on conservation issues, both in Alaska and globally, has been a big part of my journey with the company. I am excited about all the work we’ve been able to contribute to so far. The future is bright as we continue to be active stewards of this fragile environment.

 

Glacier viewing from a kayak is a humbling experience. Photo Courtesy of KAW

What is the best compliment your business has ever received?

We have consistently been listed as the #1 Thing to Do in Seward on Trip Advisor for several years. This is an incredible honor because there are so many wonderful, hard-working tour operators here in Seward and we’re proud to be so highly regarded among them. We are grateful to our guests for spreading the word about their experiences with us and for providing feedback that helps us improve as a company. Customer input is something we take seriously and is definitely an important part of growing a business. Trip Advisor has been a great platform for this, and we’ve benefited when it attracts more fantastic guests whose values align with ours.

 

Dall’s porpoises play in the bow wake of the water taxi. It’s a scenic ride for kayakers out to remote locations. Photo Courtesy of KAW

Describe a risk that you’ve taken in your business that paid off.

It can be easy to try to appeal to a broad audience, thinking you’ll reach more potential customers as a business. However, I believe it’s more important to take a stand with company values and that we can only be impactful when we truly stick to our principles. Kayak Adventures’ commitment to environmentally conscious tourism and sustainability is more important to us than making a profit. We have found that our environmental ethic resonates with guests who are coming to Alaska for more than just a vacation. They want to make connections with wild places and feel moved by the reverence the fjords and glaciers inspire in them. We market tours with our environmental initiatives at the forefront, which guests recognize and connect with. When our core values align with our guests’ values we are able to purposefully deliver on their adventure goals. By taking a stand on environmental issues and stewardship as a company, we run the risk of turning off customers who do not value our conservation ethic. For example, as members of WhaleSense, we abide by best practices for viewing marine mammals that are more conservative than other whale watching operators. We feel that it has paid off to take a hard left when it comes to environmental issues. Many of our guests are excited about taking that journey with us and learning more about what they can do to help protect the wildlife and wild places we visit.


What advice would you give to a new business owner who is working to build a business like yours?

Figure out your WHY. Why are you in business? Why should people care & get behind you? Once you’ve defined your WHY, do not waiver from it. Come back to it anytime you have to make a tough decision.

 

The guides at Kayak Adventures are like family. Photo Courtesy of KAW

What do you like most about living and working in Seward?

The community of Seward is one of my favorite things about this town. I love knowing that our business supports others in town, whether it’s through purchasing food, contracting with other operators, repairing equipment, trading services, or just making recommendations to our guests. We put provide opportunities for our staff to engage with the greater Seward community as well. Seward residents define this place as much as the water or the mountains do. It’s important to us to be a part of that fabric.


Tell us about a community member in Seward who you admire.

I look up to and admire Ron Niebrugge. I call him the Mayor of Positive-town because he’s relentlessly upbeat and positive. His attitude is contagious and he’s such an uplifting person to spend time with. I admire his courage to take a chance on starting to offer photography tours with his company Alaska Photo Tours. He’s been wildly successful with it. I respect the energy and enthusiasm that he and his wife, Janine, have put into growing their business.


How do you spend your free time?

I love getting outside in the mountains, whether that’s trail running, packrafting, or splitboarding. Whenever I’m not working, I’m hanging with with my 10-year-old pup, Miss Jones.


Where’s your favorite spot in Seward to unwind?

The trail run up to Lost Lake and back is probably my all-time favorite way of unwinding. It offers some of my favorite views of Seward.


There are so many great wilderness areas to explore around Seward and Kenai Fjords. If you had a free weekend, where would you go?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Aialik Bay & Northwestern Fjord. If I was able to go anywhere in Kenai Fjords, I’d love to explore the Nuka Bay Area via sea kayak.


Is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’d like to share?

We recognize that everything we do has an impact on the planet, particularly when we travel. Although we do our best to minimize this on our tours, we are rolling out a new carbon offset program this year. We hope to mitigate some of the consequences that are difficult to avoid in this industry. Carbon offsets are a method for balancing out carbon emissions globally by reducing an equal amount to the carbon footprint you are offsetting. We are offering optional carbon offsets for $3 per person on all of our trips to Aialik Bay. Before we started this project, I had no idea that one roundtrip journey to Aialik Bay on an 18-passenger boat produces as much carbon emissions as 2,700 pounds of burned coal (or 6,039 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle). Those are big numbers. We want to start a dialogue with our guests about what that means, how carbon offsets work, and how the carbon market is able to benefit landowners, native corporations, and visitors to Alaska. We’re really excited to be providing this new opportunity for our guests as active stewards of our planet.
 
Feature Image: Hear the clang of ice hitting your kayak as you weave your way towards a calving glacier on KAW’s Aialik Day Tour. Photo Courtesy of KAW

***For more information about Kayak Adventures Worldwide call 907.224.3960 or email: fun@kayakak.com.

Want more information about Seward or our Chamber of Commerce? Call 907.224.8051.