Housed at the bottom of the roaring Willamette Falls, which comprises the confluence of Willamette and Clackamas Rivers, eNRG Kayaking's on-water shop and docks serve as the home base for instructional excursions in kayaking, rapids rafting, and standup paddleboarding. Head instructor Sam Drevo also helps those more experienced in watersports to attain a swift-water rescue certification or an ACA instructor certification, required credentials to shake hands with most river deities. Sam watches over all levels of kayakers with experience earned through years of competing, including a ranking as the world's sixth-best freestyle kayaker in 1998 and a first-place win at the Ford Gorge Games' Outdoor World Championships in 2001.
When Sam is not leading tours around the falls or down segments of either river, he guides extended expeditions to other northwestern and foreign waterways. His 16 international aquatic excursions have taken paddlers to rivers on four continents, through countries such as Canada, Costa Rica, Thailand, Laos, China, India, and Botswana. Sam and his staff aim to protect the rivers through eco-friendly exploration and sell a range of kayak models to help others to similarly respect the ecosystem or sneak up and tickle unsuspecting bass.
The outdoor experts of Northwest River Guides lead whitewater-rafting, kayaking, and standup-paddleboarding trips on local waters that range from the Willamette to Klickitat Rivers. They also prepare adventurers for independent outings through kayaking classes, including advanced training in swift-water rescue. For those seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences or to bolster their strange-and-exotic-water collections, Northwest’s guides organize international expeditions to such destinations as Canada, Costa Rica, and Scandinavia. Members of American Whitewater, the Outdoor Alliance, and Portland-based nonprofit We Love Clean Rivers, guides advocate preservation and stewardship during each trip.
Rose City Rowing Club rents 4,400 square feet of the Portland Boathouse for equipment storage and showers, but that’s not where the heart of its business takes place. On the Willamette River, middle- and high-school rowers soak in the sights and move in synchronicity, timing each catch and drive as their narrow boats glide across the water.
Team manager Lynn Walton emphasizes that the focus is on the team, not just an array of star players. “If you sign up to row with us, you row as many days as you want, and you race in every event you go to. We don’t have cuts.” Throughout the season, athletes’ participation in the low-impact, high-intensity aerobic sport helps to boost strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. Oarsmen and oarswomen broaden their social networks by befriending their teammates, who may be from different schools, districts, or positions on the paper v. plastic debate.
Walton says rowing is a great way to boost admission potential in high school; college teams are growing and continuing to expand their athletic rosters, scouting and offering scholarships that can especially benefit female candidates who show interest and potential. One of the best parts of rowing is it can build healthy habits to last a lifetime. “When we go to regattas, there are people who are 85 years old who are rowing and racing still, and they started rowing in college, back in the 1940s,” she says.
Though Next Adventure arms adventurers with a range of outdoor gear, from standup paddleboards to alpine-ski gear for the winter months, the kayak is its specialty. Beyond the shop's sale and rental inventory of sit-on-top, whitewater, sea, and touring styles, instructors impart the ins and outs of paddling in the Next Adventure Kayak School. Their classes cover topics such as sea and whitewater kayaking, basic strokes, and techniques for rolling the vessel upright when it's overturned at the top of a grassy hill. Guides also lead regular trips across the water to local landmarks such as Sauvie Island and Rooster Rock.
It's hard to believe that Portland ever lacked a dearth of quality paddle outfitters, considering the many evergreen-lined rivers and nearby coastline. But back in 1986, the founders of Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe felt there were too few options serving the area, so they launched their own garage shop. Their passion for the outdoors and paddle sports steadily built the company, and today, a staff of equipment experts advises guests on kayaking, canoeing, standup-paddleboarding, and rafting supplies. Beyond selling gear from vessels to apparel, staffers lead on-the-water classes and organize group trips. The shop also outfits customers for independent exploration with a fleet of rentals.
A family of ducks swims along Devils Lake, river otters play across Lake Merwin, and a kayak tour floats along the water. When Tracie Driver started NorthWest EcoExcursions, she envisioned a recreation company that would combine outdoor thrills with respect for the environment. To this end, NorthWest's guides, who each boast either a postgraduate education or more than 10 years in park-ranger experience, educate their customers on local wildlife and geology during trips that run the gamut from hiking to whale watching to goat-packing tours. The staff also maintains eco-friendly practices, serving strictly organic foods on camping trips and ensuring all of their office's plants are 100% solar powered.