About Your Guides
*San Juan Kayak Expeditions offers something no other sea kayak outfitter can: an owner/guide who has been leading multi-day sea kayak adventures in the San Juans for 32 years! Using his extensive experience and knowledge, Tim puts each of his carefully chosen guides through five weeks of rigorous training and then an assistant-guide apprenticeship program. When they are ready to lead your trip, you can rest assured that they have a solid foundation of experience and knowledge to make your trip safe, educational and adventurous. Our guides average 31 years of age!
Tim(63 yrs.)has been a resident and avid kayaker in the San Juan Islands for thirty-four years. He has owned and operated San Juan Kayak Expeditions for thirty-two 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 and plays some serious table tennis and swims three days a week. He has completed one marathon and several triathlons. He is a weekly volunteer at the Friday Harbor Food Bank, San Juan Island Parks and Rec and the San Juan Island Library! Tim is also a world traveler. He has spent past winters traveling and kayaking through diverse and exotic regions of the globe(Fiji, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica). His latest expedition was a three week exploration of Nicaragua with wife Sally.
“The first morning we were a group of beginners who didn’t know each other. Under your patient guidance, we were soon a well oiled team with excellent safety, paddling, and camping skills. Thanks, Tim, for a great trip. Your knowledge and experience made this a safe and educational three days for us!”
Bob Nowlan/Debbie Stout
“I had a wonderful time on your trip! It was absolutely amazing! Your incredible knowledge and expertise, combined with a warm heart and a great sense of humor made this an experience I will never forget! Thank you!”
Audrey “Scotti” McGowan
“We had a great time kayaking with you! Thank you for sharing your expertise and sense of fun with us. I hope I can keep a little of your joy of life now that I’m back at my daily grind. You have a true gift for creating a sense of trust and community among perfect strangers. Good luck and light winds.”
Red Lodge, MT
Tara(29 yrs.) has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies from Goshen College, Indiana. She has had a fascination with orca whales and other marine mammals since a wee child, which has led her to study marine biology at Au Sable Institute on Whidbey Island, WA and to assist research of our local orca pods here on San Juan Island. Tara’s goal is to pursue marine biology as a career and hobby. She brings strong communication and leadership skills along with extensive experience paddling in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and the coastal waters of Florida.
Tara has not just participated in sports, but has excelled in them! She still has scoring records in soccer at her college, high school and in the state of Indiana!
Tara has also guided eco-tours in the Dominican Republic! She enjoys educating our clients on the natural history of the San Juan Islands, while leading our Orca Quest Two-Day Overnighter, Three-Day Coastal Explorer and Four-Day Islands Adventurer or leading our all-women, multi-day trips. Her sunny smile and pleasant demeanor make her a pleasure to spend a few hours or a few days with!
“We had two amazing guides that showed us a great time. The equipment was in terrific shape. We saw lots of wildlife and learned a lot about the area. Enjoyed a short hike to a fab lunch location at the lighthouse high above a cliff. Ocean for as far as one can see. Even though this was only my 2nd time in a kayak, I felt like a learned a lot and was confident in our adventure. Thanks Tara and Ian!”
“We want to thank you for a splendid trip! We especially enjoyed getting to know you, and we were very pleased with the mix of fellow patrons! Your skill, experience and your pleasant and appropriately firm guidance made for a very successful and enjoyable weekend!”
Carleton and Laurel DeTar
Salt Lake City, UT
He was a recreational kayaker from a young age where it became clear to him that he wanted to make sea kayaking a serious part of his life. He has recently completed a semester in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School, during which he spent an intense month paddling in the South Island’s Marlborough Sound. Here he mastered his single sea kayak Eskimo roll techniques, bracing and self-rescue skills as well as “cultivating an appetite for cruising from bay to bay and learning the vicissitudes of the sea.”
Ian plays guitar and does a bit of hand drumming(djembes and udus). He tends to “travel with a hacky sack in one pocket and a harmonica in the other!”
Ian has one of the biggest smiles we have ever seen and his humor, can-do attitude, sea kayak expertise, thirst for adventure and strong leadership skills make him an excellent guide! Around the campfire, his many adventure stories from travels in Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon, New Zealand’s South Island and Canada’s Vancouver Island will keep you on the edge of your driftwood log!
“Ian, I can’t imagine a better boatmate – thank you for your grace, joy and patient instruction! Our friends are delighted by the tales of our fabulous kayaking expedition! Thank you!”
“I can’t tell you enough how wonderful the trip was for Amanda and me! It is a wonderful place to visit, and your leadership made it into a truly unforgettable experience for us! It was a real privilege to have you share your knowledge, experience and passion with us! Our only regret was that the trip wasn’t longer!”
Robert and Amanda Sharpe
Castro Valley, CA
“What an incredible experience and once is a lifetime adventure! Thank you so very much Ian for sharing your amazing self with our group. Not only did you have the skills necessary to guide the trip, but you shared your own unique gifts to make everyone feel involved, cared for and necessary! And then there were the delicious conversations music, jokes and camaraderie – please keep making music and making the world a much better place with your intelligence, humor and leadership!”
A.J.(26 yrs.) lives in Seattle, Washington when he is not guiding our summer trips in the islands! He is a graduate of Indiana University where he attained a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with minors in Business and Marketing. He worked for two years for Evergreen Parks and Recreation District in Evergreen, Colorado. He was acting director of their Youth All-Star Sports Camp as well as running all of their adult and youth outdoor programs. He has also been a back-country guide for two years at Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colorado! It is his love of paddling and marine biology, though, that has brought him to the San Juan Islands!
A.J. has recently added to his list of accomplishments by completing a Level 2 Kayaking Instructor Certification Course at Deception Pass State Park!
A.J. has been a volunteer English teacher in Prapradaeng, Thailand and at Charles University in Praque, Czech Replublic for one year stints. He has also been a volunteer for hurricane relief in Texas!
A.J. brings intelligence, exuberance and maturity to his job as a sea kayak guide. He is knowledgeable about the natural history of the Pacific Northwest and one of the most engaging young adults you will ever meet!
“I apologize that I did not get to write this sooner but I just got back to Atlanta yesterday. I had an amazing time on Sunday with A.J. and Gina. They were phenomenal. Thank you for letting them take me out. I can’t ask for more than a personal guided Whales Ho! tour. They were nice, educated, friendly, and wanted to make sure I had a great time. A.J. was patient with my paddling techniques.
I found you on trip advisor so I will leave good feedback. I want to come back sometime when it’s summer. If I can come back, I will make sure to use you guys again. You guys were great. Thank you again!”
“We just wanted to give you extra thanks for working so hard paddling so my wife could feel more secure and enjoy the beautiful scenery during the 3-day trip we took with you last week. Although neither of us was very experienced at kayaking or seamanship we felt safe paddling in the ocean under your experienced and observant leadership, and were very pleased with the individual attention you gave us. We’re glad we took this trip with you instead of the other tour operators. Best Regards and Happy Paddling!”
Jeff & Alicia Bastl
Gina Marie Contolini
Gina(23 1/2 yrs.) comes to us from Oregon via Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. She graduated summa cum laude(with highest honor)! She has recently completed a quarter at the University of Washington Marine Labs here in Friday Harbor, and studied our pelagic ecology, while learning marine birds, marine mammals and invertebrates. She is a recipient of the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Award and has studied fiddler crab behavior in Panama.
Gina has kayaked and camped in Magdalena Bay on the Baja Peninsula west coast , where she studied blue crab, Pacific octopus and gray whale ecology. She spent a summer at the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Sandy Hook, NJ studying summer flounder. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Marine Biology!
Gina has taught ecology, environmental science and Spanish, enjoys long-distance running,(and paddling) and had fun as a tour pedicab driver in Portland, Oregon. She also enjoys hiking, swimming and playing team sports like ultimate Frisbee and soccer.
Gina has a “deep yearning to understand what is around her”, and that curiosity, her can-do attitude, strong leadership skills and a natural affinity for people make her a well-rounded young woman and an excellent sea kayak guide.
“I just wanted to say thanks again for a great trip. Learning to kayak, experiencing the moodiness and beauty of the islands from the best place imaginable (the kayak), seeing the sights/wildlife, all the laughs, the great camping food, the beautiful wake-up calls…all made for a fantastic, memorable time. You rock. Thanks!”
St. Paul, MN
Will(21 yrs.) is a Pacific Northwest native and a junior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. His love of sea kayaking has taken him on week-long trips in Canada and Vancouver Island’s rugged west side Broken Group! He is the only person I know who has paddled through and survived the infamous “Room of Doom” in Washington State’s violent Deception Pass on the northern tip of Whidbey Island! Will has mastered five different Eskimo rolls in his single kayak and is always happy to demonstrate these techniques in camp. He has also completed sea kayaking courses with a local branch of The Mountaineers! He teaches sea kayaking courses locally!
He has worked for two years as a veterinary assistant in Bellingham and has volunteered to work with youth and homeless folks in Chicago, Montana, New Orleans and the Czech Republic!
Will’s technical expertise, easy-going and friendly nature and passion for the natural history of the San Juan Islands make him an integral part of our team!
“It was a pleasure paddling with you! I enjoyed the “lessons” about bull kelp and paddling strokes! I am impressed by your life story and inspired to stay on the water myself, as it brings me much comfort. Thank you again for a memorable experience! The trip was everything I imagined and more!”