Vision

Overview

Sea Kayak Baja Mexico fosters vibrant human communities in healthy natural ecosystems through outdoor recreation.

Our mission is to develop a lasting community of paddlesports professionals who are active in the care of the environment and each other so that their work creates opportunities for people to connect with the natural world, build relationships, recharge the spirit, and further personal growth.

To this end, we provide our clients top quality programs in world-class locations, supported by a passionate and prepared team and excellent equipment. 

Vision

To construct a Training and Expedition Center which supports the healthy workflow of programs, and whose programs provide the sufficient depth to train and mentor the sea kayak guides and coaches of tomorrow.

Importance

When SKBM owner Ginni Callahan first arrived in Loreto in 1998, almost all the kayak guides were foreigners and the Loreto National Marine Park was just forming. Since then, tourism in Loreto has experienced boom and bust cycles, but increased dramatically on the whole. Loreto used to receive one flight a week, and now there are several a day in the peak season. Two giant resort complexes have blossomed south of town, and La Mision Hotel which stood abandoned on the waterfront for years is now a booming luxury hotel with 67 rooms. 

In the early 2000s the federal government mandated the hiring of Mexican guides. The company Ginni worked for contracted several teenage sons of fishermen and conscripted me into teaching them to kayak. She has since run training programs for other companies in La Paz, Cabo and Loreto, as well as had a hand in training many of the individual guides who now work throughout Baja.

Training has been essential not only for safety on the water, but for appropriate interaction with the environment. On his first trip, one of the new guides found a rattlesnake on the beach and reacted by killing it. We have come a long way! But there is still a need.

The government is responding to the increase in ecotourism by requiring guides to hold certifications, which is appropriate. However, they do not recognize international certifications. The ones they do recognize are their own, SECTUR NOM 08 (general cultural guide) and NOM 09 (specialty guide). There is a sea kayaking specialty, in theory. Nobody in the country has it because there is nobody qualified to deliver it. Kayak guides have been certified with rafting or cultural or hiking specialties, which are all very different environments from the sea, where we actually work.

During the Guides’ Gatherings where we’ve been inviting all kayak guides from Loreto to come play on the water, we’ve been noticing a low level of paddling skills among many guides in the community. They haven’t had access or encouragement to train. Through free outings, such as playdays in the surf when the wind is up, we’ve continued to raise the skill set of Loreto guides, as well as formed friendships which support cooperation in the field instead of the conflict for beaches which was increasingly happening.

To meet the need

SKBM owner Ginni Callahan is qualified under British Canoeing (the international gold standard of paddlesports coaching) to train and certify Sea Leaders, and to co-train coaches. She is also qualified by the American Canoe Association to teach kayaking in “advanced open coast” conditions and to train leaders. She has been teaching sea kayaking in Mexico and abroad for 17 years, and is a highly respected international sea kayaking coach. All of this exceeds the requirements for certain aspects of SECTUR’s requirements to deliver training courses. 

What remains are some thousands of hours of Mexican training courses to become part of this system. These she plans on taking together with other core members of SKBM staff so that we form a broad base of instructors which will serve the training needs of Mexican sea kayaking guides into the future, and through them, serve paddlers, eco-tourists, and ultimately the environment itself by supporting safe, responsible, and heart-touching experiences.

What also remains is a facility appropriate to house the operations, which have sprawled onto 4 separate properties as we’ve grown, and created a challenging work-flow.

Successes so far

Team

  • Ramon, from university intern to lead guide and master kayak repairer (9 years)
  • Idalia from intern to key office staff including computer skills, and kayak repair skills (8)
  • Isabel, from washing gear to financial manager/logistics coordinator, including learning computer, communication, and organizational skills, and developing confidence (7)
  • Carlos from occasional faucet repair to trainer of interns in support roles (4)
  • Jorge, from intro to paddling to store manager, club organizer and guide (2)
  • Jano, from basic sea kayak experience to lead guide and coach, and high involvement in community (3)

Company

  • SKBM grew from a 2-person company in 2007 to 20 employees and guides in 2020 by hiring and training Mexican nationals, as local as possible
  • To date, we have had zero turnover of guiding staff
  • Nearly 50% return client rate on multi-day expeditions and courses
  • Moved store to waterfront location 2018
  • Purchased property for the Center in 2018 with inherited personal funds
  • Expanded to manage Sea Trek’s Mexican operations starting in 2019, nearly doubling the multi-day trips we run
  • Annual gross increased from around $30,000 in 2008-2010 to over $350,000 In 2018-2019. All net revenue has been reinvested in equipment and staff development.

Community

  • SKBM represents kayak tourism on the Loreto National Marine Park advisory committee, since about 2014
  • Guides are members of the Asociacion de Guias de Loreto, which promotes professionalism and stands as a force for sustainability in tourism
  • There is enthusiastic local support of the Loreto National Park Guidebook which we are writing 

Building the Facility

Dimensions

A nearly-waterfront piece of property in Loreto is planned to house the Sea Kayak Baja Mexico Training and Expedition Center.

Owned land: 1479sq meters (51×29) bare land, filled, leveled, and partially walled; no utilities.

Lot across the street: 1040sq meters (26×39) with a bodega 9x12m and unfinished foundation in abandoned condition.

Location

75km from Loreto’s center, .6km from our Malecon storefront, adjacent to a small wetland, 100m walk to the sea at a municipal beach.

Stage One: the minimum to eliminate one rental property

  • Overall plan, utilities and drainage
  • Raise and complete wall; secure gate
  • Bodegas for storing some kayaks and equipment
  • One simple on-site dwelling or camper for security 

Stage 2: all operations onsite 

  • Bodega space for all kayaks and equipment
  • Client entry/greeting area
  • Client meeting/classroom spaces 
  • Office space 
  • Packing and staging space 
  • Washing and drying areas 

Stage 3: full capacity for training programs with ideal workflow

  • Training pool 
  • Client gear selection room
  • Outdoor kayak fitting area (can overlap uses)
  • Dedicated bodega for club/instructional kayaks and gear for “anytime” use
  • Personal/club gear washing & drying area
  • Dedicated repair area and tool/material storage
  • Trip food store-room
  • Guide/coach housing
  • Student/client hostel (possible)

Current activities

Multi-day expeditions provide the bulk of our revenue and provide a context for small mobile communities of people in nature.

Our Loreto Paddle Club offers free training and access to the water for local residents, as well as opportunity for our coaches to develop their coaching skills using their native language.

Instructional courses give further mentorship opportunities for our coaches as they progress from observing, to coaching sessions within a course, to running the course and receiving professional feedback, to working together and receiving feedback from their peers.

Day trips and rentals connect tourists intimately to the sea and islands.

Upcoming Highlights 

  • Run a pilot program with local university staff and students connecting kayaking with environmental study and care
  • Publish a guidebook to the Loreto National Marine Park
  • Through the Asociacion de Guias de Loreto, raise our voice in support of truly sustainable ecotourism for the future of Loreto 
  • Construct the Sea Kayak Baja Training and Expedition Center!

Please show your support by coming to paddle with us! Thank you!


 

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