Tim Thomsen
Tim Thomsen

Tim has been a resident and avid kayaker in the San Juan Islands for thirty-eight years. He has owned and operated San Juan Kayak Expeditions for thirty-five years and has logged over 15,000 miles paddling in the San Juans. He has personally guided over 450 three and four day sea kayaking expeditions! His experience with orca whales in local waters is unmatched. In addition to paddling in the San Juans, he led his own 6 day expeditions in Baja’s Sea of Cortez for thirteen winter seasons. Tim is also a sea kayak sail inventor and patent owner.

A Washington State native with a Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture from Washington State University, Tim speaks semi-fluent Spanish and plays classical guitar and alto recorder. In the off-season Tim builds driftwood birdhouses, plays some serious table tennis and swims three days a week. He has completed one marathon (one is enough!) and several triathlons. Tim is also a world traveler. He has spent past winters traveling and kayaking through diverse and exotic regions of the globe including Fiji, Mexico, New Zealand, and Costa Rica). His latest expedition was a three week exploration of Nicaragua with wife Sally.

San Juan Kayak Expeditions
San Juan Kayak Expeditions

How do the experiences you offer at San Juan Kayak Expeditions give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?

Our kayaking tours are classrooms for vacationers. Guides throw out tidbits of info about marine mammals, birds, native American lore, history and local stories on all of our tours. This allows our guests to gain that unique perspective in a wonderful classroom.

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?

The evolution of our sea kayaking continues every hour, day and season for the past 35 years. I personally fine-tuned every trip I led , and I encourage guides to improve and add their own flavor while following my guidelines.

What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

Our trips are expeditions, and all participants contribute by carrying equal load, setting up camp, preparing meals, unloading and packing kayaks, etc. Compared to outfitters where guides do most of the work and guests sit around camp, our tours turn a group of strangers into a working well-oiled machine. Clients may not know the difference, but they are fulfilled by contributing to a common goal.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?

That they will not be pampered.

What is one travel trend that really excites you?

Sea kayaking continues to grow in popularity for people not afraid of a physical challenge. That trend carries over to hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, biking, SUP, etc.

What sets San Juan Kayak Expeditions apart from other, similar, organizations?

Many things. Owner operated for 35 years, sea kayak sailing, expedition style tours, owner led trips for 33 years, small company that still offers great customer service and can maintain quality equipment, highly organized, local company.

Sail Away
Sea kayak sail invented by TimThomsen

What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

Choose a small, local company that has been in business for more than 25 years.

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

Stay small, hand-pick and train my own guides, invest in quality gear every season.

What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?

Be punctual.

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

My tours have changed many people’s lives. Paddling with orca whales, experiencing a sunset paddle or hike and overcoming a mental and physical challenge give folks an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and spiritual enlightenment. Some cry with orcas around them, others when the trip ends. Some have come back years later with adult children since sired to give their offspring the chance to experience sea kayaking. Many leave only to buy their own kayak and become sea kayakers. All depart with a sense of awe and a fresh perspective on their role as protectors of our planet.


Tim’s email:  sanjuankayak@rockisland.com
Tim’s phone number:  360-378-4436
San Juan Kayak Expeditions on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/SanJuanKayakExpeditions

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