Combining work and fun

Just Liquid Sports in Cranbrook is getting more and more people out on the water

People in a canoe

Kayakers enjoy a peaceful paddle with Just Liquid Sports at Premier Lake. The Cranbrook company offers lessons at various lakes in the area throughout the summer, and in the local pool in the wintertime. — Gerry Warner photo

What's cool about Just Liquid Sports is that the Cranbrook company, now entering its fifth year in business, isn't content to just sell stuff. Oh, Just Liquid does that too; you can find all sorts of water sports equipment along with footwear, swimwear and eyewear at the shop at 106 Van Horne Street South.

But the folks at Just Liquid are very involved in the community and they love to offer instruction too, making good use of the lovely lakes and rivers in the Cranbrook area in the summer and the local pool in the winter.  Instruction is available in kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and scuba diving.

And if you're not quite ready to buy, they'll also rent equipment (canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and scuba gear).

Plus, Just Liquid is sponsoring a second annual East Kootenay SUP (Stand-up Paddleboarding) Fest July 26th and 27th, 2014, at Jim Smith Lake with camping, live music, a barbecue, and assorted lake and river racing events.

Kootenay Business caught up with owner/opertor Rob Porter, who talked about the company that, really, is in the business of selling fun.

What made you decide to get into this type of work?

I got into the business because, being a paddler and moving from Ontario, I moved out to the East Kootenay and found that there was absolutely no paddling scene here at all. I was kind of disappointed in that and I was shocked at that because we have 20-plus lakes within a half-hour of Cranbrook and endless rivers to paddle down.

So after about four years of only meeting about five people to paddle with, I (changed course) from my previous work.

First I went on tour and travelled (across Canada), competing professionally for a bit in paddling. As I was doing that, I came up with a business plan for Just Liquid Sports.

In the last four years, we've put over 600 boaters on the water. And just driving around town now you see vehicles with kayaks every day.

What kinds of lessons do you offer?

We offer lessons in every (water sport) except for kiteboarding right now. None of us are certified in kiteboarding at the moment, but I'd think by the end of the winter we'll go down south to get certified.

We do lessons, we do rentals, and we do retail. We're a PADI dive shop as well. (PADI is considered the world's leading scuba diver training organization.)

What was your previous line of work?

I used to be a motorcycle mechanic, actually . . . at Peak Performance Motorsports (in Cranbrook). Before that, I worked for Ford for over eight years in Ontario. I just kinda got tired of being a grease monkey. I've always had the business side in me; I went to school for business a long time ago and just never used it, then decided, well, it's time to do something on my own.

What's the most satisfying part of your current job?

Getting people on the water. We had almost 50 boaters on the water (the other night) at Rock Lake. Seeing that many people enjoying the sport that I love is the most gratifying. It's getting people on the water, changing their lives and opening their eyes to what we have around us with all the bodies of water. We do whitewater courses as well on the rivers. Getting them into that kind of stuff is definitely rewarding.

It sounds like something that combines work and fun.

Definitely! It's a fun place to work. We get to deal with people that love to do what we love to do. I'm on the water seven days a week. It's definitely a fun career. A portion of my day  is  spent in the office and a portion guiding or instructing or just paddling for fun.

On Monday nights we have a youth paddle night at Jim Smith Lake. Tuesday nights we have a community whitewater paddle. Wednesdays is community flat water night. Thursdays we do a whitewater night as well. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are usually booked up for courses or we'll get out and paddle some extreme whitewater. Mornings we'll go out scuba diving one or two days a week before work.

What about the wintertime?

We get into winter-type boarding out at Elizabeth Lake. We get into backcountry touring . . . and we do avalanche courses. And we do kayak lessons in the pool. It slows down a little bit in the winter but it's still busy.

What's up with the SUP Fest coming up the last weeked in July?

We put it together just to get a whole bunch of paddlers from the East  and West Kootenay together for a fun two-day event. This is our second annual. The first annual was just one day but this year we've added a river portion.

What are some of the lakes you paddle in the area?

Our most common ones would be lakes like Moyie, Jim Smith, Monroe, Premier, Tie, Rosen, Surveyors, Baynes, Lazy Lake, Ha Ha Lake, St. Mary's, White Boar Lake . . . just to name a few!

Do you have a favourite lake?

White Boar is definitely the most majestic lake to go and visit. It's a glacier lake up by St.  Mary's. It's a little more difficult to get into but it's one of the prettier lakes around.

Anything else you want to add?

(I'd like people to know) that we're not just a paddle sports shop. (Just Liquid Sports also caters to water skiers, kiteboarders, scuba divers, and canoe and kayak enthusiasts). We have an 1,800-square-foot clothing department as well. We've kind of diversified a bit so we can stay in business for the rest of our lives.


Sandra Albers

Since 2007, Sandra has enjoyed hearing about new businesses, expanding businesses and unique businesses, as well as learning more about the long-time successes in the business community of the Kootenays. She writes, as well as copy edits and proofreads, for both magazine and website, and welcomes input from our readers. View all of Sandra Albers’s articles

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