Independent Retailer Spotlight: Next Adventure

6-minute read

Next Adventure is a Portland, Oregon-based full-service outdoor retailer with a 20-year history and a national presence. Their robust paddlesports department serves customers from beginner to elite paddlers of all kinds.

Mitch Sheridan in his whitewater kayak with Aqua Bound's Aerial paddle

Mitch Sheridan is Next Adventure’s Paddle Sports Division Manager

They serve outdoor lovers in a wide variety of niches including hiking, camping, snow sports, climbing and mountaineering. Paddling is also one of their specialties—whitewater kayaking, kayak fishing, rec kayaking, river canoeing, SUP, rafting and packrafting.

From boats to paddles to PFDs to apparel, Next Adventure has paddlers covered for all their human-powered water excursions.

Mitch Sheridan is the buyer and manages Next Adventure’s paddlesports division. He explains a couple of unique characteristics they focus on that have helped them solidify their reputation in the paddling world.

How Next Adventure Specializes in Paddlesports

“We serve paddlesports enthusiasts,” said Mitch. “These days if you just want to buy something that floats you can go to Costco or Amazon. But we’re really committed to being a specialty retailer. If there’s something new and exciting that’s innovative for paddle sports, we’re getting it. We stock premium pack rafts from Alpacka, specialty canoes from Esquif, and were quick to jump on Aqua Bound's new Aerial this year. We're also committed to having staff members that are enthusiasts themselves. When people walk in our front door, they get their questions answered by folks who are actually doing it.”

He goes on. “Another thing that sets us apart is that we’re also really committed to ‘try before you buy,’ which is not something you can do on Amazon. We have a very robust rental and demo fleet—everything from whitewater kayaks and canoes to rafts and rec kayaks. We’ll send folks out for a weekend with one or two different boats to try. They can often get that rental credit off a purchase.

“We’re committed to finding the right paddling gear for our customers. If we don’t have the right product for you we’re willing to go and get it so you don’t waste time or money on something that’s not going to work.”

A variety of kayaks inside Next Adventure's paddlesports showroom

There are plenty of options for paddlers in Next Adventurer’s paddle shop

Next Adventure’s Main Paddlesports Audience

While there’s flatwater in Oregon, the mountainous terrain of the Cascade Range in their area means many more rivers with plenty of gradient. They are also close to the Oregon coast which has excellent paddling opportunities. So the Next Adventure team caters to river enthusiasts, sea kayakers and the general recreationist who wants a calming day on the water.

A couple of major rivers near them are the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, which have slow-moving, relatively calm stretches. And their area is well-known for its abundant and pristine whitewater, from Class I and 2 up to Class 5.

“Because we have that moving environment, people seem to be more excited about progressing in their paddlesports skills,” said Mitch. “That’s not always the case if there are only lakes around you. People see there’s a continuum of rivers, rapids and currents. I think that inspires folks to want to work on their skill. It’s a cool opportunity we have.”

Mitch and his team are seeing packrafting grow in their area too. “There are a lot of runs off the beaten path that take a good hike to get to. As crowds increase in outdoor recreation sports, some people want to get a bit farther away. We don’t have the same roadless areas as Alaska does, but there are places to combine hiking and paddling.”

An example is Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, not far from Portland. “People are doing cool packrafting missions in the OP, and then more obscure runs in Oregon.”

They’ve also seen some growth in river canoeing, which is exciting to them.

Community Involvement

Next Adventure isn’t able to host as many events as they did pre-covid (for a couple of different reasons, including changes in the insurance market), but the team likes to do what they can in the local paddling community.

One event they’re part of every year is the Clackamas Whitewater Festival, held on the Clackamas River not far from the shop. They provide free demos for the entire weekend including rafts, kayaks, inflatable kayaks (IK) and more.

They sponsor their own demo days throughout the season to help get more people on the water, host Fishing Fridays where kayak anglers can come in and get good information.

A group of whitewater kayakers on shore next to a river

Next Adventure is a lead sponsor at the Upper Wind Festival each year

The shop and staff are known for their local paddling know-how too. Mitch said, “People will call our paddlesports department and say, ‘Hey, I’m a new Class 3 boater. The Clackamas River’s at 3500 CFS and rising. Do you think this is a good level for me?’ Or ‘Say, have any of your staff been on the Wilson River lately? Any strainers on the river?’ We’ve become a hub for local knowledge and are happy to give that out.”

Next Adventure is also a leading sponsor of the Upper Wind Festival each year, a series of races down a continuous Class 4/5 stretch of whitewater for kayaks, rafts and IKs. “It’s an event that really brings our community together,” said Mitch, “and we’re stoked to be a part of it.”

Partnership with Aqua Bound

“Our business model aligns well with Aqua Bound,” Mitch said. “You guys have been quick to answer the demands of the market and update products where it makes sense. The Aerial line is a good example of that—pushing the needle to come out with something innovative.

Aqua Bound is also making efforts to keep specialty retail alive. This is super important in the current market as online sales increase, which can make things hard for brick-and-mortar shops. We have a sales rep who knows our staff, is constantly checking in, and is quick to support us. We’re committed to that same kind of specialty knowledge and support to our customers to ensure they walk out with the right product.”

Mitch has helped us out by field testing our new Aerial Carbon whitewater paddle over several months. You can read his review here.

Mitch Sheridan kayaking whitewater on Oregon's Bull Run River

Mitch field tests Aqua Bound’s new Aerial whitewater paddle on the Bull Run River, east of Portland

Check out the Next Adventure website and their paddle department’s Facebook page.

Photos courtesy of Michael, Foushee, Mitch Sheridan and Next Adventure.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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