“Work, food and leisure are all important parts to making a whole person,” said Garrett Kababik, owner of Channel Islands Outfitters, who believes outdoor activity and leisure time are integral to wellness and community.
“I was floored that someone could make a living as a guide,” Kababik said. “I always assumed he did it for free!”
Kababik approached the travel company, which then brought him on board every summer until he left for college. As a senior guide, Kababik led outdoor adventure trips throughout the Northeast.
With a fair amount of work experience under his belt, Kababik knew his academic direction somehow had to include outdoor adventure. He discovered the perfect fit at University of New Hampshire, which offered a degree in recreation management. His coursework included a mix of offerings such as experiential education, business, employee management and philosophy.
“Classmates of mine run ski resorts or manage large parks and recreation facilities,” Kababik said. “It’s a unique degree in that you have to understand the psychology of people on vacation and build a business around it.”
During college, Kababik took a trip out West to visit a friend. He noticed that Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara at the harbor was advertising kayak trips and he applied for a job. Kababik became a guide for adventures to the Channel Islands and admits the hook was set. Upon graduation in 2004, he moved to Santa Barbara and came on board as a full-time employee. For the next six years, Kababik helped grow the reputation and learned the ropes of running a business.
After unsuccessfully approaching management for more equity in the company, Kababik left to pursue a lifelong dream to hike the Appalachian Trail. With his Labrador/shepherd mix canine, he spent six months camping and hiking the famous trail, ending up in Maine. Upon his return to Santa Barbara, Kababik was approached to buy the struggling Paddle Sports shop. He and two partners jumped at the opportunity and took over in October 2010 — at the start of the slow winter season.
Kababik and his partners have made several changes since their takeover. First, the shop was renamed Channel Island Outfitters. Second, they have shifted their business to focus on what they do best: adventure trips.
“We realized that consumerism doesn’t align with our core mission, so we’ve shifted to rentals and collaborative use of the gear,” Kababik said.
As part of that effort, they have developed a membership model, whereby participants pay a modest fee to have ongoing access to the gear. They are coordinating with other stores around the country to eventually offer reciprocal rentals for members.
As for the internal management, Kababik says responsibilities are split between the partners based on their strengths. One handles finances and the Web site while the other manages the sizable rental equipment inventory. At any one time, they are able to fully equip 150 people with paddles, boards and life jackets. They were recently tapped to do destination management trips for executives from Patagonia, Deckers Outdoor Corp., Horny Toad and Johnson & Johnson.
Their company is one of only three outfits permitted to keep a boat in the Channel Islands, where they run numerous trips out of the Santa Barbara Harbor.
“It’s sometimes hard leading leaders,” Kababik said of his staff of 20. “We have very capable, resourceful, strong-willed people here, and it can be a challenge to manage that personality at times.”
Channel Island Outfitters offers a full array of outdoor necessities, including backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, wetsuits, kayaks, canoes, surfboards and stand-up paddle boards.
“Our gear is top-notch,” Kababik said. “We want our customers to have a great experience, and that starts with the quality of the gear and the experience of the staffer or guide.”
Additionally, the store offers surf and stand-up paddle-boarding lessons as well as repair and installation services for car racks, fishing rod holders, handles and hatches.
Click here for a full list of island tours and available rentals.