REI Expands Paddling Business
This year, REI Co-op will offer customers more ways to enjoy their favorite watersports by adding Hobie products to its line of specialty water brands, adding boathouse activity centers and paddling experiences across the country, and increasing its demo and rental options.
For years, REI has been a premier one-stop shop for paddling, and home to the top water brands for kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddling and other water accessories and apparel.
Adding new specialty water brand
In addition to offering customers hundreds of options for kayaking, paddling, canoeing and paddling accessories, REI now also offers a curated collection of Hobie specialty brand kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, pedalboards and accessories.
“REI looks for brand partners who align with our values, and who deliver consistently innovative gear to the market. We’re excited to offer Hobie brand products to our members,” says Ben Johns, REI’s general merchandising manager for action sports. “Hobie is one of the most innovative brands in watersports. From surf to sailing to kayaks, Hobie has created category-defining technologies for decades and they care about connecting more people to the outdoors.”
Hobie Mirage® Compass kayaks and Mirage Eclipse® ACX 12.0 pedalboards are examples of styles the co-op is carrying, with additional styles arriving in the coming months. Hobie products will be available in 10 REI stores, as demos at REI boathouses, and on REI.com for free shipping to any REI store location.
Expanding boathouses and paddling experiences
As the country’s largest provider of outdoor education and experiences, REI offers something for everyone, from experienced adventurers to those new to the outdoors. This year, REI is increasing its paddling field programs and tours, including classes (e.g. Learn to Kayak, with 150+ classes) and exploration-focused tours (e.g. Sunset Kayak Tour) with options across the nation.
In addition to the current boathouses in Chicago; Atlanta; and Lincoln, Rhode Island; REI is opening two boathouses in Bellevue, Washington and one in Denver. REI boathouses offer guided water-based outings and classes, plus gear rentals, including stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. Select locations will also include bike rentals, allowing guests multisport opportunities. All boathouses will be open by May.
“Now, from the East Coast to the Midwest to the West Coast, REI’s boathouses allow both locals and visitors a way to explore and enjoy various cities by water,” said Jason Lane, manager of REI activity centers. “Guided tours, classes and equipment rentals at these activity centers create unique opportunities to connect with the local outdoor community, no matter your experience level.”
The co-op has also added experience-first retail locations where the co-op offers guided outings right outside the store’s doors. As an example, REI re-located its Lincoln Park store to be next to the Chicago river, so customers can conveniently pick up product demos or rentals from the REI store and be walking-distance from the water.
Giving back to the community
Since 1970, REI has donated nearly $13 million to over 1,200 nonprofit partners that help create access to waterways and clean and protect American lakes and rivers. Most recently, the co-op partnered with “5,000 Miles of Wild,” an effort to designate and help protect 5,000 additional miles of rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System by 2020.
Anyone interested in expanding their paddling knowledge or starting a new skill can visit REI’s online Expert Advice paddling articles, that include checklists, buyers guides, skill training and videos.
About the REI Co-op
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 18 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 154 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI Outlet or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs more than 170 custom-designed itineraries worldwide. The REI Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner-to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.