Retailer Spotlight: Get Outdoors Pedal & Paddle

8-minute read

Get Outdoors Pedal & Paddle is a Greensboro, North Carolina paddlesports shop dedicated to education and conservation efforts, serving their customers and offering a variety of kayak trip opportunities. They’ve become one of the largest outdoor retailers in the Southeast.

row of kayaks on shore next to a river, ready to a day of touring

Kayaks from Get Outdoors ready for a day trip

[A Trek bike shop merged with them during the pandemic, but that’s a different side to the business we won’t cover here.]

Will Seeley owns Get Outdoors and is a long-time paddling enthusiast. We were able to get on the phone with him recently for a nice chat about his shop and all they do for the paddling world in their area.

Here’s our interview with Will…

AQUA BOUND: How does offering classes and trips help you connect with and grow your customer base?

WILL: My background is in programming—I’ve got a degree in Adventure Education from Unity College in Maine. Out of college, I ran kayak programs for a paddle company in the Outer Banks. That’s where I got my foot in the door with retail, running their paddlesports department.

When the cost of living drove my family and me to the center of the state, to Greensboro, I became the manager of Get Outdoors. We offered a few classes at the time, then I developed that into a much more robust offering. I have a passion for backcountry exploration so we did a lot of coastal trips, river trips and day trips. We started to offer full moon paddles, sunset and sunrise paddle experiences.

We’ve developed a good reputation for having quality programs in the central Carolina area. We branched out and went to Western Carolina to do river paddling, and Coastal Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to do coastal paddling. We’ve even been down in the Everglades a few times.

Aqua Bound paddles on the wall inside Get Outdoors

We have Demo Days to help get people on the water. Folks will come to us who are interested in getting into kayaking and see what it’s about. Not everyone wants instruction or guided experiences, which is great—but if they need us, we’re here. And we do get a lot of folks who want instruction, especially before they commit to purchasing their own boats.

We’ve taken people on trips who want to learn to paddle and have experiences. Then they are usually inspired to buy boats so they can paddle on their own. I have a whole group of ladies (from mid-40s to early-70s) who now teach for me. They all started as customers taking classes.

We see it go both ways. Some people want some experience before they put a bunch of money into buying boats. And then other folks start the other way and buy first.

AQUA BOUND: How are paddlesports doing in your area generally?

WILL: Carolina abounds with water from the coast to the mountains. You can get out and paddle a different body of water or a different stretch of river every weekend all season long and never paddle the same water twice.

Paddling grew by leaps and bounds during the pandemic. But then once things opened back up and life went back to some semblance of normal there’s been a big attrition of used boats in the marketplace. We’ve seen overall growth of actual enthusiasts, though, who will continue to paddle.

I would say right now we’re in a maintaining place. We’re going into an election year, and election years always tend to be a little down—people are just unsure of what’s going to happen economically. But it goes in cycles. We see it boom then drop off, then pick back up, then drop off. I think we’re in one of those waning cycles or maintaining cycles. We’ll see it rebound again, I have no doubt.

Paddleboards and kayaks on a rack inside Get Outdoors

For us, the programs are a huge bonus. People still want to get out, whether they want to spend money on new boats. They can come have an experience like a sunrise paddle or a full moon paddle. They can take a class or do a day trip around the area. They can meet other like-minded individuals, learn and hone their skills and take their kids on the water.

AQUA BOUND: What have you found to be the best ways to introduce new people into paddlesports and keep them in it?

WILL: We love getting new paddlers on the water. Some of them are just keeping up with the Joneses and getting the newest boat that comes out. Others see somebody out on the water kayaking or have a friend or family member who’s raving about it and want to see what it’s all about. We’re also doing some programming that’s geared towards that newer paddler.

We started offering a camping progression series. In the past, we’ve taken people on trips under the assumption that they have a boat—or at least kayak experience—and they have camping gear and experience. But then we stepped back and thought about those who are new paddlers and new outdoors people.

We decided to develop a program to cater to that market, potentially the slightly younger crowd who’s into the outdoors but doesn’t have gear. We’re teaching the stuff that’s second nature to me, growing up in Scouts and camping from a young age with my folks. How to set up and sleep in a tent. How to cook over a fire or on a camp stove. Starting from scratch with paddling and camping and teaching them how they can do it on their own.

I love being able to take people “out in the field” and share my enthusiasm and expertise—and get them excited about it too.

Then over the winter, we’ll do free clinics in the store to keep people engaged. Things like fire building and trip planning, how to pack a kayak—stuff we don’t need water for. We’ve had good turnout for these clinics. For many, that turns into on-water instruction and then a variety of trips.

Once people know the basics, we have more advanced classes and bigger expeditions, like a flatwater multi-day or a saltwater coastal expedition. We have some people who did the basic trip last year coming back for a more advanced aspect this year, with new people coming in for the basic beginner stuff.

people carry a kayak to the water, others already on the water paddling

Heading out on a Get Outdoors coastal kayak camping trip

AQUA BOUND: What kinds of environmental conservation efforts does Get Outdoors support?

WILL: Most of the environmental organizations we support are local. There’s a group called the Haw River Assembly and a couple of local riverkeeper watersheds that are in our county, Guilford County. We like to work with these folks, lead trips or instruction for them, donate products for fundraising drives and things like that.

We sponsor a “trash trout” through the Haw River Assembly. This is a mechanism that floats in a body of water almost like a chain link fence. It allows the water to flow through but collects all the trash. We also participate in a lot of local river and lake cleanups.

There’s a Facebook group called Triad Water Stewards—we manage that group. It’s our arm that organizes and manages those cleanups. There’s a local woman who works with us to organize these events who’s super passionate about cleaning up trash in our waterways.

We spend a fair amount of time throughout each season cleaning up the areas we paddle on regularly, trying to keep them clean. It benefits the whole community.

Will Seeley and his team at a kayak indoor pool class

Will, team and customers at a pool class

AQUA BOUND: Tell our readers how wonderful it is to work with Aqua Bound (haha!)

WILL: You’re definitely in my top five best companies to work with as a paddlesports brand! We’ve been carrying Aqua Bound (and Bending Branches) paddles for a long time. And then in the pandemic, I couldn’t get any other paddles. The other brands I carried were shut down while you were stepping up and filling those shoes. We went to strictly Aqua Bound/Bending Branches during the pandemic.

Your robust drop-ship program is super convenient for me. I can pretty much put your whole inventory on my website. Then if somebody wants a paddle, I can contact our rep or the in-house customer service person with the customer’s name and address. I don’t even have to touch the inventory—it goes from the warehouse to the customer. It’s perfect.

Aqua Bound has some of the best customer service folks in the industry. You’re very communicative and open with what’s going on, not only in your factory but about new products that are coming out or if you’re having trouble with a particular product.

As big as you are and with your reach into the full gambit of the market (especially now with the new whitewater releases), you’re still more like a little company to work with. The customer service, quality of the product and ability to service whatever the shop is—from a little guy like me or an REI. The relationship you have with us has a small company vibe. It’s cool.

A big thanks to Will for his time! Learn more about Get Outdoors Pedal & Paddle on their website.

All photos courtesy of Will Seeley and Get Outdoors.

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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