Over 25 years later, Graham is now the manager of his parents’ store and said he assists with not only the day-to-day operations on the storefront but also with some of the lessons that SouthWest PaddleSports offers. He also helps to lead different paddling exhibitions, his favorite being when he is able to guide kayak-fishing trips.
Inside the store, the walls are lined with brochures, fishing gear, proper attire and a variety of boats for the different paddle sports. Graham said his family prides itself on selling high-quality and durable equipment to its customers.
“We’re not salesmen,” Graham said. “[We] believe in the quality of the products we sell or that we use ourselves. A lot of our kayaks and other products are American-made, so a lot of [SouthWest PaddleSports] is themed around keeping it in the paddle community and keeping the quality high.”
The majority of sales for the company are based on the kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard sales as well as the equipment that goes along with it. The store features single, double, whitewater, sea, racing and fishing kayaks as well as canoes, all of which are checked for safety hazards and cleaned before they are rented back out.
While the store sells all of the equipment needed to hit the water, Graham said what makes SouthWest PaddleSports unique are the services at the store, which includes a wide range of paddling lessons.
“Anybody can sell kayaks, but what we do really well is the services or lessons that we offer,” Graham said. “All throughout the summers, at least every weekend, we’ve got an event going on, whether it’s trips or lessons.”
Paddle sport lessons offered through the store range from beginner to advanced classes, Graham said. The variety of classes offered, such as surf kayaking and river canoeing, are held throughout most of the year for both groups and personal lessons.
Lessons typically range from $75-$125. Boat rentals—which are sometimes included in the cost of a lesson—can range from $50-$90 depending on the type of boat needed, he said.
Boats can be rented for one day, three days or a week at time, and customers do not need to take a class to rent different equipment, Graham said. The age of those who take lessons can also vary greatly with many children under the age of 10 taking classes with the group.
Many beginner classes take place in local ponds and lakes such as Lake Woodlands and Lake Conroe, to keep traveling to a minimum for customers, but some specialized courses, such as whitewater and coastal kayaking, have students traveling farther away to properly learn, he said.
Graham said his family tries to stay involved within the paddling community in both The Woodlands and the Greater Houston area. Major events they have been a part of include helping with the annual River, Lakes, Bays ‘N Bayous Trash Bash that has thousands of volunteers helping to clean up the waterways all across Texas. Along with helping on smaller races and paddling events, SouthWest PaddleSports provides a number of rentals for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta—the largest canoe and kayak race in the state.
“The bulk of our services are things that are hard to duplicate,” Graham said. “Teaching people, going on guided fishing trips, partnering with people in our community—not everyone does that, but we do.”
26322 I-45, Spring
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.