Company History


California Canoe & Kayak was founded by 1972 by Ann Dwyer as Canoe Trips West on the bank of Corta Madera Creek in Greenbrae, California.  Shortly thereafter Canoe Trips West was bought by Don Thoman, a retired USAF Captain and sailor. From 1975 to 1982 Don operated a low key retail operation supplying canoe, kayak, and small dinghy sailing livery. Meanwhile, Keith Miller was the founder, owner, and lead guide of his paddle sports company based out of a garage in Novato, CA.   In 1980 Keith Miller, a Red Cross Canoe Instructor, began teaching canoe classes at Don’s site. They became good friends and soon to be business partners. In the fall of 1982 Keith merged his grassroot whitewater canoe, kayak, and raft business with Don’s creekside store, thereby creating 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. While he expected to use the cash to purchase more inventory, Don had other ideas. Much to Keith’s dismay, within days Don purchased an Apple Computer. Little did Keith realize that this was the first computerized point of sale and inventory control system used in a paddle sports shop, which at the time put their store on the cutting edge of retail technology.

A Pivotal Year

1985 was a momentous year for the company. First, the shop moved location from Greenbrae to Pt Richmond; and Don decided once again to retire, this time from the paddle-sports business. Though he was out of the business, he frequently returned to work in the shop part-time, fix boat trailers and share great adventure stories. Secondly, with a new location, Keith felt it was time for a new name, and California Canoe & Kayak, Inc. (CCK) was born.  

Growth in the Point

For eight years the company grew in “The Point” focusing on its paddling instructional programs. CCK was the first outfitter to invite the ACA to the West Coast, and assisted the development of a national sea kayak certification program. In fact, many Northern California Whitewater instructors can trace their roots to California Canoe & Kayak early ACA courses. To this day, CCK continues to be a program driven paddle sports company.

Growing the business

To be closer to high quality whitewater locations, California Canoe & Kayak purchased Adventure Canoes & Kayaks in 1991 and opened a retail shop in Rancho Cordova.  To this day, the Rancho Cordova location remains an important fixture in the local whitewater community. Besides supplying the newest models of gear, the Rancho Cordova store also offers instructional programs and rentals.

In 1993, The Point Richmond store location was moved to Jack London Square in Oakland. The Oakland location is the flagship store of California Canoe & Kayak, and supplies paddlers with gear, boats, boards, and anything in between. Located right on the Oakland Estuary, it offers kayak and stand up paddle board rentals along with classes for beginners and veterans paddlers alike. The ease of access to public transportation makes this location ideal for city dwellers to get on the water.

In 1995, California Canoe and Kayak opened its location in Pillar Point Harbor at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. In 2015 this location moved next to the boat ramp, and continues to operate as an instructional and kayak storage facility.

Our Willow Creek rental concession has been operating for about 10 years and continues to put people on the water during the summers. California Canoe & Kayak has always had a presence on the South Fork of the American River, and in the spring of 2011, opened our own Outpost retail and whitewater instructional program opened in Lotus, CA. Though Willow Creek is strictly rentals, the Outpost is a combination of retail, rental, and a staging area for classes and trips on the American River.

We are happy to announce that in the Fall of 2017 we are opening another retail, rental, and instructional facility in Redwood City, CA. Please sign up for our California, Canoe, & Kayak newsletter to receive updates on its opening.

Thank you for supporting California, Canoe, & Kayak for all these years, and we hope to see you on the water!