Rob Porter’s paradise found

He morphed from isolated newcomer to sought-out recreation guide and community builder

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It took just one visit to the East Kootenay, seven years ago, to inspire Rob Porter of Hamilton, Ontario, to move here. After injuries effectively ended his activities as a competitive motocross rider, Porter had taken up paddle sports, quickly developing a strong love for them, and a particular passion for whitewater kayaking.

Within a month of his visit to the East Kootenay, Porter had quit his motorcycle mechanic position and relocated to what he considers one of the most beautiful and outdoor-activity-inspiring locales in the world. So many lakes situated within a 30-minute drive make Cranbrook an obvious mecca for water sports enthusiasts, and when he moved here, Porter expected to find many kindred spirits out paddling. Not so. After five years in Cranbrook, in addition to the circle of folks he had met through his work for Peak Performance Motorsports, Porter had only a couple of paddle-addled friends with whom to share his passion.

Determined to develop a community of like-minded friends—and bemused by the lack of utilization of the natural beauty and challenge of the East Kootenay—and seeing the potential for a successful business, Porter opened Just Liquid Sports.

After just two years of hard work, he has created a year-round enterprise that—in addition to his outfitter store—includes community paddle evenings three times per week in the summer, and kayaking and scuba classes at the Cranbrook RecPlex pool in the winter. Porter said that approximately 200 folks have at some point attended his flat-water paddle evenings, and there are about 35 who participate in the whitewater river paddles. All paddlers, from novice to expert, are invited to join in exploring a variety of lakes and rivers in the Cranbrook area.

Bringing water lovers together

It’s no coincidence that the word “community” features repeatedly in the advertising for Just Liquid Sports. Belonging to a community is very important to Porter—it’s what drives him. Because of his first-hand experience of being a stranger in a strange town, he ardently wishes to help provide a sense of community for others. His business mission
statement says, in part, that he and his staff wish “. . . to be ambassadors in . . . active lifestyles through all types of water sports in the East Kootenay . . . to provide industry-leading customer service, and create friendships that last a lifetime.”

The Just Liquid premises at 106 Van Horne Street South are in the process of being expanded to make space for scuba diving equipment, a new line of merchandise for the store. Porter’s little sister, Krystal Porter, recently arrived from Ontario to join him in the business, and she shares his enthusiasm for the East Kootenay and for water sports.

Porter pointed out that in paddle sports, once the initial investment in equipment is made, any further cash outlay is optional; the only unavoidable ongoing cost is for fuel to get you to the lake or river of your choice. This, combined with Cranbrook’s proximity to many bodies of water and the available instruction in paddling, adds up to a very user-
friendly package.

For information and inspiration, check out the Just Liquid website; and then plan to join Porter’s paddling friends on the beautiful lakes and rivers.

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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