In this whirlwind of a weekend, we camped and kayaked in Friesland, crossed the Wadden Sea to Ameland, camped and biked, paddled back again, and made it back to Rotterdam in time for dinner. We encountered a bit of wind and waves, some friendly currents, big ferries, and a (real!) message in a bottle.
While I was making my way down the length of New Zealand in January, dipping a paddle in the water whenever possible, I recieved a friendly email through the contact form of The Naked Kayaker. Leigh and Nico, the founders of pagaja, were wondering if I'd be interested in spreading the word about pagaja, an (awesome) new website/service to providers of paddlesports activities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg (and eventually elsewhere). What is pagaja, you ask?
First off, how do you pronounce it?! For English speakers, you pronounce it as <puh-gaah-yuh>. It comes from the word for "paddle" in French and Italian. Elegant, right? Once you know how to pronounce it...
What is pagaja? It's the first online booking platform for any human-powered watersports. Kayaking (all types), canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and rafting are all included. Companies who provide rentals, tours, trips, and lessons can post their activities on the site for booking. To the customer, the website looks a lot like other booking sites (e.g. Airbnb, Booking.com, etc.). You choose a location, dates, type of activity, and immediately see a list of fun paddling activities that can be booked. The site works on commission fees, so providers don't pay anything unless one of their activities is booked.
I was genuinely excited when I saw the site for the first time. If you've followed this blog for a while, you might be familiar with the where can I rent a kayak in Belgium/Netherlands map. I made this map in 2016 out of frustration - I wanted to go paddling in the winter and was having trouble finding kayak rentals in Belgium, let alone rentals in the off-season. So, as I often do, I took a systematic approach. I created a database and map of kayak rentals in Belgium and the Netherlands, which I have often referred to in the years since. I was also contacted by kanokaart.nl, who put the information on their nice kayaking map.
In my experience, most paddling company websites are low-tech at best, and (instant) booking systems are rare. I've also navigated many non-English websites to find, understand, and book kayak rentals. So I'm super stoked that there is now a centralized website to find paddling activities all over the world, and even more so that I get to be involved!
So, to continue my story, I said yes, and planned a weekend to visit the pagaja headquarters in Germany! I stepped off the plane in Munich on a Saturday night, and Nico picked me up in his van at the airport. Yes... I got into a van driven by a stranger from the internet, in the middle of the night... Luckily, I'm here from the future to tell you I survived! We drove one hour southeast of the airport towards their headquarters - at the border with Austria, in the foothills of the Alps! It was dark, so I couldn't see anything, but I could tell it was hilly.
The next thing I knew, I had dropped my belongings in a beautiful B&B and found myself with Nico in the local restaurant, having a beer! It was exactly how you might imagine a German bar: all wood with cute decorations and even waitresses in Bavarian dresses! I thought that only happened during Oktoberfest...
The next morning, I woke up and looked out my window:
Not a bad view! I had an hour before I would meet Nico and Leigh for breakfast at the restaurant, so I decided to go for a walk. It was pretty, to say the least. I had somehow imagined it would be just like the Netherlands, not realizing you could have an awesome job running a kayaking website and live in a place like this:
Over breakfast I met Leigh, and the three of us discussed pagaja and how I could help get the word out to the BENELUX market. Later, we stopped by their snazzy office (it looks like a Bay Area start-up inside), and they showed me some of the nuts-and-bolts of the backend system. I was prepared with a list of questions, which they patiently answered. After another delicious meal at the town restaurant, I took the train back to Munich and flew back to Amsterdam - it was a whirlwind 24 hours!
Fast forward a few months: Our collaboration is now official, I've registered myself as a one-woman company in the Netherlands, and I'm starting up with marketing efforts in BENELUX! We're looking for pioneering paddling providers who are interested in getting their activities up on the pagaja website. Contact me for a brochure with plenty more information!
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
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