AN ARRAY OF ADVENTURES
Tucked away in Santa Barbara’s Eastside at the corner of Carpinteria Street and Nopalitos Way, Cal Coast Adventures is serving up all kinds of services for clients’ adventurous cravings.
At Cal Coast Adventures, folks can learn how to catch a wave on a surfboard and go on guided tours while kayaking, paddle boarding and biking.
Mitch Hawkins founded Cal Coast Adventures in 2011, using the money he’s saved up for an MBA. Like the industry he was heading into, the decision was adventurous and risky. After all, he had a nice, stable office job at tech company Curvature, and even his parents did not think he should do it.
“They said, ‘Oh, you’re crazy!'” Mr. Hawkins recalled with a smile.
Despite the risks, Mr. Hawkins took the chance. After a year of the MBA classes at California Lutheran University, he changed direction and started Cal Coast Adventures, which in 2011 had only him as an employee.
“I did everything because you got to start small,” said Mr. Hawkins.
The business employs more than 20 employees in the summers. The business has also grown by absorbing the Santa Barbara Surf School.
Mr. Hawkins bought the school from its founder’s wife in 2015. The wife, according to Mr. Hawkins, was looking to sell the business her husband founded in order to grow their daughter’s college fund. By buying the Surf School, Mr. Hawkins was also thinking about his own kids, the first of whom would arrive in 2017.
“My son is 2 and my daughter’s 3 months,” Mr. Hawkins said. “In a few years, I want to teach my son how to surf and have him help us here.”
Mr. Hawkins, a Porterville native, moved to the Santa Barbara area 18 years ago to attend Westmont College. He has not left since graduating, and now he’s thinking about growing the business across generations.
“I’m hoping it’ll be a family business someday,” said Mr. Hawkins. “We’ll see when they’re old enough.”
Until the day comes when both his children are ripping the waves, Mr. Hawkins is riding the waves of the tourism industry. The industry’s seasonal nature keeps the owner on his toes.
The challenges vary throughout the year, never remaining the same.
One challenge that persists though is the price of commercial space.
“We’re not in an area that gets a lot of walk-up traffic,” said Mr. Hawkins.
He has looked for a venue closer to downtown, but in the past year or two, has not searched because the business is in the third year of a five-year lease.
“We’d like to be in an area closer to downtown or the beach but rent is too high,” Mr. Hawkins said.
The current location does enjoy close proximity to inns and hotels. The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, for one, is a 10-minute walk away.
Nowadays, Mr. Hawkins finds himself in the office more often than out of it. He handles the administrative side of the business while the employees go to the beach or guide bike tours.
“They have the fun job,” he joked.
One of the employees performing the fun job is Connor King, a manager who guides tours. While Mr. Hawkins spoke in a soft and deliberate voice, Mr. King burst with energy through every word he uttered. Those on his tour will have no problem hearing the enthusiastic tour guide.
Those interested in a tour with Mr. King and other Cal Coast Adventures team members can call 628-2444.