Featuring Danny Tebbenkamp, the owner of Paddleboard Adventure Company. Learn about the fun and unique events Danny and his team host – paddleboard yoga or a community float, anyone?, find out what airboarding is, and hear why Palisade is where Danny wants to be. Strap on your life jacket and remember the warmth of summer on this early spring day. Let’s float down the river with Paddleboard Adventure Company…
Hello and welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that’s all about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m your host, Lisa McNamara.
Today I’m talking to Danny Tebbenkamp, the owner of Paddleboard Adventure Company. Keep listening to learn about the fun and unique events Danny and his team host – paddleboard yoga or a community float, anyone?, find out what airboarding is, and hear why Palisade is where Danny wants to be. Strap on your life jacket and remember the warmth of summer on this early spring day. Let’s float down the river with Paddleboard Adventure Company…
Thanks so much for spending some time with me today.
Danny Tebbenkamp: Name’s Danny Tebbenkamp. Our business is Paddleboard Adventure Company. We do paddleboard rentals as well as ducky rentals and tube rentals for the river and lake. We also do lessons for those who want to learn how to paddleboard – whether flat water or if they want to get on the river and do river paddleboarding, we do that. And then we do tours as well – basically we just have – we call it the SUPSquatch, so we do tours on that, where people get onto one big board together and we just take them down the river. We do ebikes as well – ebike rentals and ebike wine tours, which have become quite popular.
Lisa McNamara: And where are you located?
DT: Well, we have a couple locations, but we started in Steamboat Springs – we have a shop there. Then we have a kiosk at Pearl Lake State Park, up near Steamboat, and then we have our Palisade location.
LM: How long have you been here in Palisade?
DT: This will be our third season, so 2021? Yes. I had to think about that. Is that right? Yes, that is right.
LM: And why did you decide to expand over to Palisade?
DT: Well, it’s kind of – not a long story, but the short of it is, we’d been in Steamboat for awhile, just kind of getting over the cold and the snow, and we had a buddy who honestly wanted to move from the front range for a number of reasons and we were looking to be around him more as well, and we had some friends here who were also in Palisade, and we were like, well, if he’s moving to Palisade and we want to get out of the snow, and we have other friends out here, and we have great access to rivers out here, we decided to just start looking into it and searching, we came across a house here.
So we bought a house here, because we wanted to be local – we eventually want to be local and live here, but, six months after we bought, our buddy reached out to us and said hey, we have a space that’s for rent – do you want to rent paddleboards out of it? And so that kind of began the story of, oh, well, if we’re going to live in Palisade, we might as well have a little business here too, and we’ll just expand our paddleboard company.
LM: What made you originally decide to open your own business, and specifically this business – gear rental, and tours, and things like that?
DT: Well, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I have another company back in Steamboat – the company’s a great company but it’s not an exciting company. It didn’t really feed my adventurous spirit. So back in ‘09, I decided to branch out and do something that was more down the vein of what I wanted to do – which was, back in the day, back in ‘09, it was – we did wakeboard, wakesurf lessons, we did backcountry what was called airboarding trips, we did snowkiting, a bunch of crazy things. A couple of them took off, a couple of them met just limitations with permits, or insurance, or competition, so.
Back in ‘09, I was kind of toying with paddleboarding, because I had seen a guy doing it on a river and I was like, oh I want to do that. So I started in ‘09, just doing it on my own on the river and lakes and then in 2012, I just changed my company to Steamboat Paddleboard Adventures, because we were in Steamboat and we just did paddleboard adventures back in 2012. And I just started from there, just expanding out and growing my fleet. At that time it was the new and hot thing – well, actually, at that time, it was still kind of – people were like, what are you doing on a river with that thing?
LM: Right, because it was kind of a flat water thing, like lakes. And even that was kind of new.
DT: Yeah. It was a flat water or even an ocean thing.
LM Before we go forward – air – what was it, airboarding? And snowkiting?
LM: What is airboarding? It sounds wild.
DT: It’s really fun. So we’d take people by snowmobile into the backcountry. They’re inflatable sleds that you ride face-first, kind of like a boogie board. And they have molded runners so you can actually carve through the powder and you can get some good speed. That was actually quite popular, I had a couple people come back every year to do it, and then eventually, insurance and permits were just a pain and not worth it. But it was fun for a couple years there doing it. But it’s a great way to enjoy the snow, or alternative way, if you don’t want to snowboard or ski.
LM: And so then I’m imagining that snowkiting is like kiteboarding but with a snowboard? That sounds wild.
DT: Yeah, like what they do in the ocean but doing it on the snow. Yeah.
LM: Oh! So this is like, a little bit tamer now!
DT: Yes, well, some of the whitewater I wouldn’t call tame, but yeah, around here, it’s – there’s not, unless you’re going out to Westwater and running those big class three rapids, it’s mostly tame around here, which is what most people want, and that’s what we want to offer.
LM: So, the other thing that I think is really interesting about what you do here is that you have a bar and shop. What made you decide to add on a bar?
DT: Well, it’s kind of been a dream of mine to have a bar, but I didn’t just want a bar. So I think it’s a great marriage of – we’re just an apres bar, meaning that we’re just a place you land after the day’s activity. Apres means after an event or after an activity. And so we think it’s just really cool to have a space that people come back from whatever adventure, whether they’ve rented from us or done an activity with us or they’re just biking by or hiking by, and they can sit down, belly up to the bar, and tell a story. And I feel like having a drink in hand is probably the best way to do it. It’s just a cool marriage of the two. I want to hear what they experienced if I didn’t take them out, I want to know, well, how was it out there, and have a beer while you’re telling me it.
Sorry, is that the – I can unplug that thing.
LM: Uhh…it is pretty loud.
DT: Want me to unplug it? I think it’s my cooler.
DT: That’s just my kegerator. It should be fine. OK – do we need to go back and say all that again?
Anyway, it’s just a cool marriage of having a place for people to land after they’re paddleboarding or biking, whether they rent from us or do an activity with us, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just kind of cool to have a place after the day’s activity to land.
You know, it’s really big in the ski industry and so we just brought it to the paddleboard industry, where you come here and have a drink and tell us your story from the day, because I’ve always hated it when people would rent something and they would just come and drop their gear and leave, and I’m like, oh, I don’t even know – I’d try to talk with them but they wanted to get on and have a drink somewhere. And like well, shoot, now I can provide that.
LM: I think it’s the best-kept little secret bar in town too – it’s such a welcoming space and you’ve got board games laid out on the tables and really good pricing. What about the name, The Sneak Line? It’s probably just some term that I just don’t know.
DT: Well, it’s intentional to have it kind of unknown. It’s river slang – as you’re scouting a rapid to run it either via raft or paddleboard, you just have to see what’s the best way through, and sometimes it’s going through the meat of it – we call that punching the meat. And sometimes it’s called sneaking by – it’s the sneak line. There’s some times in big rapids might have a consequence if you hit that wave, you’re like oh, I need to get around that, you just take the sneak line around it to keep yourself safe or maybe to keep people on the raft that don’t want to get super wet, or get flipped. So yeah, it’s a cool little melding of the word. Uh…melding…that does not sound right. Anyway.
And then also someone had said, well it’s actually kind of cool – who knew nothing about it being a river thing – you’re kind of off the beaten path, so to get here you kind of have to take the sneak line to get – because people don’t know where we’re at.
LM: That’s good!
DT: Yeah, I like that too. I didn’t think about that when we made the name.
LM: What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
DT: Well currently, it’s just staffing. I think most people probably would agree with that. There’s a lot of places I could expand and do this model elsewhere, but I just don’t have the personnel. Palisade I do have a great manager and I have a couple returning staff year to year, so that’s helpful. But there’s still a couple holes to plug but, in Steamboat, once the summer hits, then I can barely get down here because I’m so busy in Steamboat, because up there, it’s hard to find people to work. More so than Palisade.
So that’s one of the biggest challenges. The other thing is being spread between three locations and trying to give my equal time to all of them and making sure the locals and my employees know that I care – that I’m not a distant owner who just doesn’t care. That could be a lot of time travel and a lot of extra longer days if I’m traveling from one place to the other. And then the books – just making sure you’re in the black most end of seasons and not in the red. I feel like, with Palisade, we’re still in our third year so this year should get us over the top and Steamboat and Pearl Lake have a little more history and momentum, so they do a little better, but it is what it is, part of the growing pains.
LM: Well what’s the best part about it?
DT: Oh man, I think just meeting people and getting those people out on the water to do something they’ve never done before, or just have an experience with family and friends. To know that we’re proving a service that people are getting to do things that they haven’t done.
This is kind of a cool industry. It’s about the people. And it’s really cool when you get good employees – I have a few in Steamboat and a couple here that come back year after year and those are fun connections.
LM: What I think is really cool about what y’all do is that it’s not just about gear rental – you have a lot of really fun events and even the rentals that you do are wild – like the SUPSquatch! I’m kind of obsessed with that. So can you describe what it is a little bit?
DT: Yeah so the SUPSquatch it’s just a big paddleboard. It’s about 15 feet in length and about 8 feet wide, I think. Don’t quote me on that, but we usually put six people on there with a guide. It could be less than six. If we’re not floating down the river, if we’re just sitting on a lake, I’ll cram as many people on there as they want to go and they can just have fun on it. We rent one on Pearl Lake and it’s a great little barge for a party barge for wedding parties or kids. It’s a great babysitter for parents. Like hey, I want to put all ten of my kids on this board and push them out on the lake and I can sit on the shore and not be annoyed.
You know, because if you’re all on your own paddleboard or your own ducky, you might be socializing a little bit as you’re floating down the river, but people can just kind of go off and do their own thing then in that situation. But on a SUPSquatch, you’re all stuck together.
This year I’m excited, we have two new…unfortunately the one we had last year is getting retired, it’s just so beat up. But we’re bringing in two new ones that – I don’t know if they’ll hold as many people, I think there will be four people with a guide, but you can get both of them and we can dock them together. But the SUPSquatch is just a unique – it gets everyone by surprise – what is that?
LM: And do you include a guide just because it’s so big to manage on the river?
DT: Yeah, just for protection of people on the SUPSquatch and also just for protection of the SUPSquatch. They’re not cheap, so we just like to have them managed by a guide.
LM: Makes sense. It makes it a cooler experience too because then people just get to float and it’s totally unique.
LM: So that’s cool. And then something like SUP yoga just completely blows my mind. Like I’m not – I can’t do yoga on ground, and there’s a picture of someone on your website standing on their head on a paddleboard! How does that even work?
DT: Well the headstands, you know, that’s not for everyone, that’s really only the yogis. We never tell – we never have people do those things. Because that’s not where we’re trying to land. Yeah, I think it’s interesting, we get that question all the time, you can’t do it on land. Well, the worst case, on water, you’re going to fall in the water. But our instructors aren’t going to – it’s very basic yoga on the paddleboard, and it’s amazing, even just being on a paddleboard and doing some of the minor yoga moves, you get off the board and you just feel energized, your core is worked out, you’ll feel it the next day, and it’s just a fun way to get out of a sweaty studio, crowded studio, and get open air, fresh air. Like I said, worst case is you’re going to get wet, is what I tell people.
LM: And so are you going to be offering those classes again this year?
DT: We have three on the calendar right now – we call it Float and Flow. We’ll do yoga on flat water and then we’ll get on the river and just kind of float down.
LM: Very cool. Can you talk a little bit more about the guided wine tours on the ebikes? Do you have a set route with set wineries or do you just go where people want to go?
DT: We do have a – we’ll, we’re working on a set route and I think I can say, I can almost say that it’s official. We’ll know this weekend. So we have three – it’s four hours but we have three stops. Forgive me, I’m going to need your help on this, the first place we go is Miaison? (Varaison)…
LM: Oh, Maison (Varaison). You don’t want to ask me to pronounce things but I know what you mean. Maison (Varaison)!
Correction! Apparently, we’re beyond hopeless on pronunciation, because the winery that we’re talking about here is Varaison Vineyards. Thanks to sharp-eared listener Karen for pointing out the error. Now, back to the previously recorded podcast. Just remember…Varaison!
DT: Yes, OK. Yes, so, I’m sorry, if you’re listening to this, I can never say your name. But they’re really great people and why we stop there first is because they do the whole wine tasting experience. Maison (Varaison) is really cool with that, they give you the whole, how do you taste wine, how do you know if its – you know, just all those things. So that’s a really cool experience.
So then we go from there to Talbott’s, and Charles is really great, so they get their tasting, but then he gives the whole tour of the agricultural side, and how they do their ciders. So drink in hand, you get to see the whole behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t get to see.
And then, this one’s not official, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen. Clark’s – they’ve got the distillery right on the river, so it’s a cool place to land where people can get food, because by this point they could be hungry or want a snack. Which, I heard Talbott’s is actually doing food too, so there might be a couple options, but Clark’s is nice because now we have mixed drinks involved, so if people want to try a cocktail, they can have a cocktail there.
Clark’s also has a dock on shore off the river now, so then people can see the river and – hey, tomorrow, if you want to get on a paddleboard with us, we can float on by here, or you can float on by here and stop for a cocktail or you can just be with us and we can float this river that you can now see from Clark’s. That’s kind of our one-two-three punch. And then they’ll land back here at the Sneak Line and we always offer a drink here, if they want any more drinks, as part of the wine tour.
LM: That’s a really nice variety of things, and it’s a good distance too. What would you say it’s about, mileage-wise? Probably six to eight, maybe?
DT: Yeah, it’s actually a nice little route because you go toward…
LM: That’s not that bad!
DT: Because you go toward town and then you go up on the East Orchard Mesa, and then you get that nice loop around the river, so it’s actually a really cool, scenic one too, maybe six, eight miles.
LM: Yeah, and you’re on an ebike too, so if you want a little assist, you got it. Especially going up that hill!
DT: Yeah, going up 38, it can be a little – but yeah, we’ve tested, tried and true, our bikes make it up there, even with the steepness of the hill.
LM: What other events are you planning in Palisade here this season?
DT: We’ve got quite a variety of things. We’re going to go back to some of the standards from last year, which was the open mic – well, it’s not an open mic, I should say, it’s story night. So the mic is open and we have a theme and people come and tell a story based on the theme. We did that about three or four times last year, so we’ll do that again throughout the season.
We have our community floats, once a month, those are always popular. One of those will be the Pride float, which last year I think we had over 50 people, so this year we’re bracing for – I think we’ve already had people calling on that. That’s become quite popular, the Pride float, that’s in June.
LM: OK, and so can people rent – if they don’t have their own ducky or kayak, or something, can they rent here too for the community floats?
DT: Yeah. We’re typically rented out, so it’s like, get the gear early so you can have it, because if you don’t have it, we can rent it to you, as long as we have it in the inventory. So, the floats, the story time, we’ve got a couple historical nights. We did that last year – bring in the historical society and just open our bar and they can tell us the stories of Palisade or whatever theme we suggest or they suggest.
We have the yoga we’ve talked about already. We will do – we work with Harmony, the animal shelter. I think it’s Harmony, yep. And we do like a dog adoption, dog wash day. Which was fun. I think we saw like four dogs adopted last year, so that was a cool little event.
And we have a couple other fundraisers we’re still planning. We’ll do our Bike Palisade, which will be every third Thursday – not in April, but starting in May we’ll be doing that through the summer.
And let’s see – what am I missing? The best – I tell people to stay up to date you’ve just gotta follow us on Facebook or Instagram. That’s usually the best. Our website doesn’t keep up with that because there’s so much of it. That’s where you’re going to find what we’re doing.
And then this last year, and we’ll continue forward with this, we did a fall festival in October. We had some axe throwing, food trucks, it was really a cool time. And then we did an Artisan Market in December and then we did a ski and snowboard wax party in February. So even though we’re closed in the off season we try to do an event a month just to keep our name out there, so people know that we’re still here! We’re all in it together.
LM: Well it’s also really fun, unique things that you’re offering for the community that other people aren’t really doing. You seem to be finding the interesting little niches that other people aren’t working on right now.
DT: I think it just kind of goes back to – you know, we’re going to live here, we’re local. We live in Steamboat but we’re not trying to be those guys that aren’t connected to their community. We want to be connected and the best way to do it is through these events, and so that’s been cool.
LM: What are you most excited about for this upcoming season?
DT: Oh man, I think – I think we’re just hitting our stride, Palisade specifically, just because we, we’re in our third year, we’ve got good traction with everything we’re doing, we’re bringing on some new boards, some new events. We’ve got like, just, there’s a new buzz. Seems like people have been talking, sooner than in years past, OK, we’re ready, we’re excited.
The ebikes, I think we’re going to see some new traction with that too, because we’ve been doing that for our wine tours, we’ve heard from people that they like to do it that way, what we’ve been doing, just like a hand-held, guided, we got ya, here’s where we’re going to take you, you’re going to see some really cool things.
And then Pearl Lake, we just started a bar there last year, we have a lakeside bar. And I could work there every day. Just sitting on the shore, renting boards. I think there’s a lot of buzz going on right now for what we’re doing and I’m excited just to do what I need to do to help out where I need to help out – so I’m expecting a busy summer for myself.
LM: Yeah, I’m excited to get started! I want the summer to get here…
DT: Yeah, right? The river’s going to be amazing too, with all the snowpack that we’ve got building up. So we should have hopefully a nice, maintained river season. (squeak) Sorry – a nice, maintained river season! The sounds of the shop.
LM: You got it, you’re a professional. Alright, the last couple questions are more about Palisade. So – what’s your favorite thing about the community here in Palisade?
DT: Oh man…I think…well, it’s fun to like, go to certain place and see people you know from certain walks of life, around town and be able to just strike up a conversation. They say, as you’re shopping or out and about, don’t plan to – what you think might be a 20 minute stop to the grocery store is probably going to be like, 45 to an hour. Because you’re going to talk to people. So, that’s just a mindset that – back in Steamboat years ago, that’s kind of what it was, and I miss that. Steamboat’s just such a hustle bustle and busy – you see people, but everyone’s in such a rush now.
Here everyone’s still like in the slow pace, anywhere you go you’re going to run into somebody that you know or kinda know, but they’re so friendly that they’re going to talk to you – like hey, aren’t you that guy…or how do I know you? So I just love the community aspect of just the closeness, kind of we’re all in it together, you know? At these events we’ve done, I get a good handful of people that come every time, and it’s just, it’s a close knit. So that’s one of my favorite things.
DT: And just the opportunity of the many activities that from here you can go into, you can springboard into, whether it be up on the mesa or on the river right here through town, or going out west. So I just think it really affords anyone who lives here to get outside and do an adventure. Those are probably my top two things I like about Palisade.
LM: I hear you – same! If and when you get a day off what’s your favorite thing to do with your time?
DT: Well, I’m kind of one of those guys that roll with the philosophy of work hard, play hard. I’m very good at putting – not to pat myself on the back, but – putting events on the calendar, even during the summer. Like, I’m a big river rat, obviously, but not always paddleboarding. We have our own raft and my family and I have done multiple river trips. So we have a couple already planned this summer. I’m like, well guys, I’m leaving. Don’t burn the ship, or don’t sink the ship, I’m going to be gone for a week on this trip to whatever river. And so, we just love that time with our family and friends to get on the river and just be rowing for a few days, going through whitewater, camping out under the stars.
If I only have an afternoon, well it depends on what the season is, like in springtime you’ll see me surfing the river wave in Steamboat every day, which someday I’m hoping we’ll have here. If I can be in the water, I’ll be in the water. Or near the water.
LM: They were going to do a river park here at one point, and it just seemed like too many challenges with the canal and the dam.
DT: Yeah, and there’s still going to be some challenges, I think there’s just – where they put it is kind of key. And the agricultural industry just needs to be – not convinced, but just be – what am I trying to say? We need to just let them know, we’re not taking your water. We’re just, as it’s going to your land, as it’s going to water your crops, we’re just gonna surf it as it’s passing through. We’re not taking it, it’s still going to get to your land, and where it needs to go.
It’s gotta move from A to B, so as it’s moving, I might as well surf it! You know, we need to just have certain things in place to make it surfable. And there’s so many mountain towns that have proven it to be an effective model and a very profitable model. BV/Salida probably the leaders in that. But you know, it hasn’t hurt anything down there.
I mean, get a surf wave in a canal, that’d be the easiest thing, it’s already constricted. But it’ll never happen, unless you get somebody who’s a big river surfer that owns a lot of land and agricultural and says – that’s what I do! Let’s make it happen in my canal! Anyway, I could talk all day, I’m super passionate about it.
LM: Who would you most like to hear from on a future episode?
DT: Oh, of your show? Your podcast?
DT: Oh man…Rondo. Charles over at Talbott’s – or Bruce, maybe both those guys. Jeff and Jody – they’re doing a lot as far as this town and positive growth. And then I think Kaitey over at the Livery. She’s a really good friend of ours. She’s the bar manager over there and she’s also been super helpful for us. I think those are – a lot of people, but there you go. I’m curious what they would all say.
LM: That’s great! Well, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
DT: Yeah, thank you.
LM: You were actually one of the first people that I told, like the first few people I told about this idea last year. Even the first time I met you, you just have such a warm and welcoming attitude, and I’m sure that’s why people love to come back here, and it’s awesome.
DT: Well, that’s great. I wonder if my kids would agree on that sometimes. No, I think this is a great idea, good on you. I’m always for the entrepreneurial spirit, and I feel like I’ve had a few people help me out along the way – well, not a few, a lot, so I’m just kind of paying it forward as I go forward, looking for those opportunities and helping out where I can.
LM: Well, I really appreciate it, and cheers to the first podcast guest!
DT: Woohoo! I can’t wait to hear it!
DT: Thank you!
LM: If you’re looking for something different to do this summer, Paddleboard Adventure Company is a good place to start your search. You can keep up with the latest by following their socials.
DT: Facebook is just Paddleboard Adventure Company-Western Slope. I think that’s the same for Instagram. And also if you go to our webpage, paddleboardadventurecompany.com, the links to those are there.
LM: Danny and his team are working hard to build their piece of the community here in Palisade. They’re a great reminder that community is what you make it.
The Postcards from Palisade podcast is available on all major podcast distribution platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher. Find us and subscribe now so you never miss an episode. We also have a website, postcardsfrompalisade.com, where latest episodes and links to more information are posted.
If you are interested in being on the show or if you have ideas for a future show, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com.
Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.