Words by Katelyn Jackson.
Images courtesy of Josh Coplon.
“LAVA isn’t going anywhere, but this is definitely here to stay,” Josh tells me. Josh Coplon is best known locally as the face behind LAVA Presents, running live music events and promoting bands all over Hampton Roads. Unfortunately, a recent global pandemic we’re all too familiar with has put all of LAVA’s concerts on hold, which inspired Josh to start something friendlier to social distancing: Norfolk Kayak Rentals.
Josh started kayaking as a kid, with his dad, and now he’s actively working to pass on his passion to others. “I had the idea for Norfolk Kayak Rentals after looking online to try and rent kayaks for some friends to join me kayaking on my personal kayak. I was shocked to see that there aren’t any kayak rentals available in Norfolk and proceeded to do some research on the industry and, after a week or so, committed to the idea. A month and a half later and plenty of hiccups, here we are!”
Josh hopes that Norfolk Kayak Rental can fill a hole in the community.
While there are a few places that you may be able to snag a kayak along the bay or at the oceanfront, there’s nothing in the heart of Norfolk, along the Elizabeth or Lafayette Rivers. Nauticus partnered with a local kayak dealer to offer rentals in 2016, but that only lasted one summer, and while the Norfolk Botanical Garden has offered their usual tandem kayak tours this summer, they tend to sell out quicker than previous years due to increased demand.
With all of the recent business closings due to Covid, I had to ask if Josh felt intimidated to open something new right now. On the contrary, the recent quarantine is what made Josh so confident. Since indoor activities are out, most live events are out, and bars are closing early, people are spending much more time in nature.
“Outdoor recreational activities, across the board, are at an all-time high. Kayaks, paddleboards, etc.— demand is at an unprecedented level. Kayak manufacturers are backed up.” But a large barrier to entry, he notes, is not having a vehicle that can transport a kayak or a place to store it. For living the apartment life in or around Ghent (like yours truly), this is a great option, and close enough to ride a Lime Scooter to (or even walk to if you’re not feeling lazy) on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Norfolk Kayak Rentals had its grand opening the last weekend of August. I ask Josh how it went. “Saturday was really windy,” he says, “but Sunday was fantastic—definitely a lot more than I anticipated.” He also told me of success on Labor Day weekend—despite a small craft advisory on Saturday, “Sunday and Monday were great, and the response we’ve gotten so far has been awesome!”
Josh already has plans for the company’s future, too. He wants to introduce sunset tours, which will go later than a standard rental, returning during dusk rather than pre-sunset. He also wants to introduce a membership program—“a better deal so people don’t even have to think about it” when they want to take a kayak out on the water. “$20 per hour is money well spent but can be cost prohibitive. I want it to be accessible.”
He adds, “Norfolk Kayak Rentals is definitely here to stay. I’m hoping to expand my rental options next year to include SUP’s (stand up paddle boards) and also canoes. I also am hoping to be able to offer additional launch areas for rentals, like Ocean View and other parts of the Lafayette.”
He hopes to continue rentals at least through mid-October, maybe later. “As long as I safely can, and as long as people want to continue,” he says.
Renting a kayak is easy! Here’s how:
1. Head to www.norfolkkayaks.fun
2. In the top right, click “Rent a Kayak” – this will take you to FareHarbor.
3. Select a 1, 2 and 4 hour rentals of both single or tandem kayaks. (Kayaks launch from an ADA accessible EZ-Dock EZ launch.)
For any questions about the process, what your rental includes, or what waters you can explore during your rental, check out the FAQ page.