Float the San Gabriel River or Lake Georgetown with new kayak rental business

Jonny Reach launched San Gabriel Paddlesports in July. (Courtesy San Gabriel Paddlesports)
Jonny Reach launched San Gabriel Paddlesports in July. (Courtesy San Gabriel Paddlesports)

Jonny Reach launched San Gabriel Paddlesports in July. (Courtesy San Gabriel Paddlesports)

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Jonny Reach launched San Gabriel Paddlesports in July. (Courtesy San Gabriel Paddlesports)
Jonny Reach had been planning his Georgetown kayaking business concept for years, but when he launched the dream and some boats the week of July 6, he was amazed that it finally happened.

Once Reach decided it was time to open San Gabriel Paddlesports, he got everything together in a week. He said he pulled it off because he had rehearsed the business model and thought it all through so many times.

“Two months ago, if you told me we were going to be starting next month, I would have said you were out of your mind,” Reach said. “But then, everything fell into place.”

Reach lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic and turned his attention to being a full-time, stay-at-home dad. Then, the family sold an old home and decided to capitalize on it.

“We knew if we didn’t start the business now, it might not ever happen,” he said.


Opening a business in the midst of the pandemic did factor into the decision, Reach said.

“I wanted to make sure I could be safe about it for my customers, my family and myself,” he said. “But on the other hand, as a longtime kayaker, I know there’s not a much more socially distant activity out there.”

Other than the initial exchange at the ramp for drop-off and pickup, people are spread out the entire time and are likely kayaking with people with whom they are already in daily contact, he said.

“At the same time, I figured, if I can do this and survive in a pandemic, it’s only going to get better,” he said.

Right now, the business is remote-based—customers book their boat rentals in advance. San Gabriel Paddlesports then meets them at the boat ramp at Lake Georgetown, or, if water levels allow, renters can do a four-to-five-hour float down the river into the lake. Along with the boat, clients get life jackets, dry bags and coolers with their rental.

The kayaks themselves are from the company Diablo Paddle Sports, which was started by two Texas State graduates who designed the boats specifically for thin, shallow Texas rivers, Reach said, adding they can float in only a few inches of water.

“They’re one of the most stable kayaks on the market,” he said. “You can stand and get things out of the bag, and they’ve got a fantastic elevated chair so you’re not sitting on hard plastic.”

The future goal is to open a store in Georgetown and sell various models and brands of kayaks, along with fishing gear, outdoor camping and cooking equipment and more, Reach said.

“We feel like there are parts of this town people who have lived here their entire lives have never seen,” he said of the draw of kayaking, adding that there are beautiful places residents may have driven over hundreds of times. “We just hope to take people out and show them what’s around them and let them explore in the most comfortable and stable fashion possible.”
By Sally Grace Holtgrieve
Sally Grace Holtgrieve solidified her passion for news during her time as Editor-in-Chief of Christopher Newport University's student newspaper, The Captain's Log. She started her professional career at The Virginia Gazette and moved to Texas in 2015 to cover government and politics at The Temple Daily Telegram. She started working at Community Impact Newspaper in February 2018 as the Lake Travis-Westlake reporter and moved into the role of Georgetown editor in June 2019.


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