Company History


California Canoe & Kayak was founded in 1972 by Ann Dwyer as Canoe Trips West. Shortly thereafter Canoe Trips West was sold to Don Thoman, a retired USAF Captain and sailor. From 1975 to 1982 Don ran a low key retail operation, canoe , kayak and small dinghy sailing livery on the bank of Corta Madera Creek in Greenbrae, Marin County, California.

In 1980 Keith Miller, a Red Cross Canoe Instructor, began teaching canoe classes at Don’s site. They became good friends and in the fall of 1982 the merger of Keith’s backyard/garage whitewater canoe, kayak and raft business in Novato and Don’s creekside store gave birth to Canoe Trips West/Marin Whitewater.  Together they ran the business for three years.

Early on in their partnership Keith sold a beautiful wood canoe for $2,000 expecting to use the cash to purchase more inventory. Don had other ideas. Within days Don had purchased a Used Apple Computer much to Keith’s dismay. Little did Keith realize that this was the first computerized point of sale and inventory control system used in a paddlesports shop and at the time put their store on the cutting edge of technology.

A Pivotal Year

1985 was a momentous year for the company. First, the shop moved from Greenbrae to Pt Richmond and Don decided to retire a second time from the paddlesports business. He continued to come by and work in the shop part-time, fix boat trailers and share great adventure stories. Secondly, the move prompted a name change and California Canoe & Kayak, Inc. (CCK) was initiated.  For eight years the company grew in “the Point” focusing on it’s paddling instructional programs. CCK was the first to invite the ACA to the West Coast and assisted in the development of a national sea kayak certification program. Many Northern California Whitewater instructors can trace their roots to California Canoe & Kayak ACA courses. To this day, CCK continues to be a program drivenpaddlesports company.

Growing The Business

In 1991, California Canoe & Kayak purchased Adventure Canoes & Kayaks and opened a retail shop in Rancho Cordova.

In 1993, The Point Richmond store location was moved to Jack London Square in Oakland.

In 1995, Our shop and program site opened it’s location in Pillar Point Harbor at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club.

In the spring of 2011, our outpost retail and whitewater instructional program opened in Lotus.

In 2014, California Canoe & Kayak took over the retail space formerly occupied by Aquan sports in San Carlos and rental boathouse in San Mateo. We closed the San Carlos location the end of Jan 2017 and are in the process of looking for a more suitable south bay site. Since 1989 California Canoe & Kayak has had a presence in San Mateo County. We will keep you posted on our progress.