Outdoor Fun for All
By Brad Carlson
Idaho River Sports, under the same leadership since the beginning, has helped people of all skill levels enjoy the paddling sports for more than 30 years.
“We are a business that can help somebody have an experience,” co-owner, Stan Kolby said.
The shop’s offerings and location—on Whitewater Park Boulevard adjacent to the Boise River Greenbelt—afford individuals and families an opportunity to easily drive, walk, or bike to the site and quickly get on the water.
And for the Greenbelt patrons along the Boise River, stopping in to get a raft, kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard is “just another way to enjoy it with a slightly different perspective,” co-owner Jo Cassin said. For example, from a boat, someone can often get a closer look at undisturbed, nesting birds.
Kolby and Cassin founded the business in 1987 with a partner whom they bought out about a year later. The longtime whitewater sports business operators, teachers, and enthusiasts believe one of Idaho’s historically best-known recreational pursuits has room to keep growing. Water paddling sports continue to appeal to a wide range of people.
Idaho River Sports offers equipment sales and rentals, apparel, accessories, and on-water instruction. The clientele is basically “anyone who enjoys the outdoors and wants to recreate on any type of water,” Kolby said.
According to Cassin, “There’s really something for everyone.” Participation in winter introductory courses the business offers at an indoor aquatics center in west Boise was strong again this year, she said.
Idaho River Sports stayed comfortably afloat through several economic downturns – demand held up decently in the last recession as more people vacationed close to home – and plenty of high-water years that kept customers onshore later than desired. But customer enthusiasm stayed strong throughout.
“Growth overall has been steady in the last 30 years,” Kolby said. “Different aspects of the sport have risen at different times in our business lives.”
Kolby, Cassin, employees, and customers alike watched as whitewater kayaking got popular, followed by rafting as a family sport, and then flat-water touring via canoe or kayak. A fairly new segment at Idaho River Sports: fishing kayaks and related on-board accessories.
Stand-up paddleboarding’s decade-long rise continues. Inflatable boards are even more popular now as owners enjoy not only transport and storage advantages, but also recent on-water upgrades; Cassin said they can now be inflated to a near hard-board feel so the paddler doesn’t give up nearly as much in performance.
A 2005 move from a storefront in North Boise’s bustling Hyde Park neighborhood to the current site immediately provided needed growth room while streamlining instruction and try-before-you buy opportunities on nearby Quinn’s Pond.
The current phase of Whitewater Park upgrades include recent bank restoration and, starting this fall, construction of new wave features. Cassin said the existing wave is fairly advanced, and the new wave features will diversify the park to appeal to more skill levels.
Idaho River Sports, which has teamed up with various other whitewater businesses, started 2018 strong with several on-water rentals even in January and February. A solid whitewater-sports year suited to various skill levels should materialize if the area receives normal spring precipitation, says the owners.
Come check out Idaho River Sports!