Santa Barbara Adventure Co. receives national recognition for kayaking tours
When Michael Cohen was in his early 20s, he decided to devote his life to a company to connect people with the environment around them.
And 23 years later, the Santa Barbara Adventure Co. has lived up to that dream.
Mr. Cohen started the company, which provides locals with the opportunity to explore the beautiful terrain across Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands National Park.
In fact, enough people loved the experience provided by the Santa Barbara Adventure Co. that the business recently received national recognition.
In late August, the Santa Barbara Adventure Co. was awarded the Best Kayaking Tour in USA Today’’s 2020 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Contest.
According to Mr. Cohen, this is the first time the company has received recognition from a national media outlet.
“I put my whole life into my business,” he told the News-Press. “I started my little baby with two credit cards, a pickup truck and, like, four kayaks, so to see it grow the way it has all these years later and be included in such an esteemed group makes me proud,”
The best part of receiving the recognition is the fact that it was such a surprise.
“It was a sweet surprise. Here we are struggling through the COVID challenges, we got partially back open, but we’re still struggling because of capacities, so to have this real accolade in the middle of trying to figure it all out was really a pleasant surprise,” Mr. Cohen said.
For Mr. Cohen, kayaking is such a blissful experience. He said he still tries to go out every single day, adding that he still feels connected to the water.
“People feel at peace when they are on the water, on a boat or even when people are just sitting on the beach,” he said. “You feel a sense of peace and calm, and, I think, universally humans love being around water. I’ve met very few people that are like, ‘Oh, I hate the ocean.’ ”
One of the company’s core values is providing people the opportunity to connect with the nature around them through these tours.
According to Mr. Cohen, kayaking is one of the best ways to do that, particularly with the ocean.
“It’s just a great way to communicate with nature because you are around it,” he said. “You’re hearing the rhythms of the ocean and the wind and the swell, and you’re hearing birds and seeing marine life, and you’re feeling the spray of the water on you.
“That really connects you to nature, and I think people want that in their life. I know I do. It makes me happy, and I think that’s why we’ve had success because people want to go out on the water and be able to experience something with the environment around them.”
Mr. Cohen also said he is very lucky that the area the kayakers explore is so beautiful.
“The Channel Islands are so amazing to them, and I think their expectations are far blown away in a lot of cases, because the kayaking at the Channel Islands is world-class and breathtaking,” he said.
“I know it sounds like I am selling it, but I have paddled a lot of other places, and I’ve met many other people who have paddled from other places. And we are on par with the beauty of New Zealand and all these other incredible spots. I mean it really is just world-class.”
In his 23 years of owning the business, Mr. Cohen said he has learned a lot, but one of the most important lessons is keeping a great staff around, one that is actively engaged in showing people the best time possible.
For him, this recognition is possible because of their efforts.
“I mean our guides are just really personable, and we’ve cultivated a culture of education. We really want them to really try to get the people to love the area of the Channel Islands National Park or our coastal tours,” he said.
“I think my team really loves what they do and they are able to have a strong community. My wife and I run this place and we have really invested in marketing, and making it bigger, but it’s able to grow because of the amazing team members that are helping it grow.”
The pandemic did force the company to close for a bit, but they have since reopened at limited capacity.
Since reopening, Mr. Cohen said he has seen the demand and desire for people to leave their house and want to do something more fun and interactive while also staying safe.
“I am again friends with outfitters across the nation, and the demand is there,” he said. “People being trapped inside during shutdown made people appreciate the outdoors even more so than they already have.”
Unfortunately because the business is at lower capacity, Mr. Cohen did say it could not hire as many people as it usually does during busy summer months because less people are required.
Despite this, he is optimistic that because the demand is so high, one day things can get a little more back to normal.
“I am really optimistic about next year. We are densely populated here in Southern California so reopening might be a little slower, but once we get a vaccine and positive things start happening, we will see trends in an upward direction.
“I hope that within one year we will be back to normal and that in two years we will exceed the normal in my adventure sector.”