John Martin, a contractor and retired heavy equipment operator from Portland, moved to Svensen in retirement to get closer to the waterways he enjoys tooling around in.
In that same vein, Martin started a kayak guide business, Oregon Kayak Man, providing the crafts and taking customers on a tour of local waterways.
“I take people out on any river I feel safe going on,” said Martin, who won’t take customers out on open water, such as the Columbia River.
The minimum age for customers is 10 years old, with the accompaniment of an adult, but Martin said people can go kayaking as long as they’re physically able. His tours usually last between 2.5 and four hours, for $65 an hour. He has three 10-foot kayaks and one 12-footer.
Customers can choose their tour location, from the Necanicum River north to the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, with at least five navigable rivers in between.
“You can go out on all these islands and camp out,” said Martin, standing Friday by the Knappa docks near the wildlife refuge, where he takes people birdwatching and island hopping.
For overnight camping, people must pack their own materials. But Martin said he’ll get them to the camp and pick them up at a prescribed time. They pay a minimum $125 for transport to and from the camping site.
Martin describes himself as a water dog, living along the Willamette River for more than 35 years and plying the waters in every possible type of boat. For the past six years, he’s focused on kayaking
“I’ve been up and down the sloughs,” he said. “I know where the eagles are, and the other birds.”
Customers on his guided kayak tours sign a liability waiver and must be able to swim. Martin teaches beginning kayakers how to sit in a boat, not tip over and how to paddle. When a boat rolls over, he said, they slip right out and let him handle the situation.
“I’ll come to you, get you to the shore and then get the boats,” said Martin.
A heavy equipment operator and driver for most of his career, Martin bills himself as an all-around handy man, running a word-of-mouth business called “I Can Do It Construction” doing boat repairs, remodels – anything, he said, to make an extra buck.
Martin also builds custom kayaks to order, recently crafting one entirely from recycled fence parts and another from an old sauna. The custom kayaks, he said, aren’t part of an official business and can cost $3,000 to more than $6,000 to build.
Oregon Kayak Man can be reached at www.oregonkayakman.com. Martin jokes that Googling the name of his business doesn’t work too well, as it initially references an Oregon kayaker killed on the Colorado River.
He can also be reached for reservations at 503-869-4148.
‘I take people out on any river I feel safe going on.’
— John Martin
Oregon Kayak Man