Up a creek without a paddle or pedal? New business has both for rent

TRAVERSE CITY – Eric Clone has never been caught up the river without a paddle.

In fact, the 39-year-old outdoorsman is getting ready to cater to the kayak, boating, boarding and biking enthusiasts in the area when he opens Boardman Paddle & Pedal, LyfMotiv Adventures in downtown Traverse City this month.

"I've been an outdoors person my entire life," said Clone. "I guess it was the influence of two natural science teachers as parents. We traveled across the nation each summer to see all the National Parks. I have always been curious and an explorer. I grew up in this area, so my affinity for the woods and water just comes naturally."

Clone's store is located at 502 Garland St., in Traverse City's Warehouse District. To start with, it will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The tentative opening is set for Saturday, June 14, although he will be open weekends before that.

What can people expect when they walk into Boardman Paddle & Pedal?

"I think it will be a little retro, yet new and hip," he said. "We are fun and professional. It's about fun in the sun, but not Key West style or ocean front style. We are creating a Traverse City style with boats, bikes, boards, clothing and more."

Customers can buy Clone's line of products, rent some or check out other unique services the company will offer.

"LyfMotiv is the name for the adventure part of our company," he said. "We'll offer things like sea kayaking tours as well as lessons for beginners. For now, we'll be focused on beginners to encourage anyone curious to get involved in paddling. We'll stress safety and good technique."

Clone, a 1987 Elk Rapids graduate, has vast experience as a paddler. He describes his girlfriend and "personal barometer," Melissa, as "priceless to the development of this business and my personal artist."

"I have been canoeing for most of my life," he said. "I tagged along on canoe trips with my dad for several years. In my 20s, I guided canoe trips with kids in the Pigeon River State Forest. It got me thinking about paddling on the Great Lakes.

"This led me to sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking out West on the Arkansas, Eagle, Green and Colorado rivers. I moved back to Traverse City in 2004 and obtained my American Canoeing Association (ACA) certification in 2006. I've worked as a contracted guide and instructor ever since."

He decided to open his own business this winter.

"I thought I'd follow my dreams and try my hand at becoming my own boss, guiding and instructing paddle sports in general," he said. "We'll be offering recreational kayaks, sea kayak tours, stand up paddle surfboarding and some beach cruiser bikes. The last part just seemed to be a good fit for our location in the Warehouse District."

Clone says he sees a good market for his business in Traverse City.

"It's a growing population here and paddling is part of our Michigan heritage that has been a little forgotten," he said.

Clone is excited about the future of paddle sports, especially in his store's location.

"First of all, anybody can do it," he said. "Among outdoor enthusiasts, the paddle sports are the No. 1 fastest-growing activity. I have given lessons to people from 10 to those in their 70s.

"For our business, recreational kayaks will be rented for use on the urban section of the Boardman River and West Bay or we can drop you off above the Union Street Dam for a paddle into Boardman Lake. We'll give lessons on the backwaters just below Hagerty Insurance and 310."

Besides catering to individuals, Clone is also interested in working with area businesses.

"I will be working with many businesses in our area and I would be open to hearing from them," he said. "I especially would like to hear from any restaurants along the river. I'm trying to create a focus on the river as a resource for commerce, tourism and also for us locals to appreciate." BN