Paul is our Lead Kayak Guide / Indentured Servant, and the heart and soul of Black River Outdoors. He combines a degree in History, a passion for the outdoors, a love of wildlife, and a twisted sense of humor. You never know where the conversation will go on a kayak tour with Paul. Paul is best known for his ability to telepathically communicate with snakes. He regularly points out seemingly invisible snakes while we paddle down the rivers and creeks. His specialty is slipping into the water and catching the snake, so the guests can get a closer look at the gentle creatures who inhabit the Low Country. Paul is also a L3 coastal kayak instructor with the American Canoe Association (which does a lot more than just canoes).
Richard bought Black River Outdoors in South Carolina because he wanted to find a retirement gig that let him spend time out in the wilderness, but moving to Panama would have cost him a perfectly good wife. After “working” in the technology sector for 30 years, he finally “retired” and moved down here to try to prevent Mandy from strangling Paul. He paddles pretty well for an “old” guy. In 2012, Richard and Paul paddled the entire South Carolina stretch of the Waccamaw River (about 90 miles) in three days.
Amanda is Paul’s wife, which automatically tells you that she might be a little bit crazy. Don’t be surprised if you see her standing up in her kayak to gently catch a snake in a tree or wading in the swamp looking for critters. You can also follow Amanda’s exploits on Instagram under WildOutdoorsWoman.
Frankie (Richard’s wife) agreed to the purchase of Black River Outdoors to humor Richard, and to make sure he didn’t try to move the family to Panama. She’s the organizational brain behind Black River Outdoors and she makes the company actually function. Frankie quit her day job back in North Carolina and came down to straighten out the mess Paul had made, managing the office, scheduling kayak tours, and making sure little things like bills and taxes are taken care of (it turns out that’s important if you run your own business – who knew?). You will also see her on the water whenever the opportunity arises.
Mandy is our “senior” kayak guide. We think the fact that her kayaking rescue knife has a corkscrew and a bottle opener (but no knife) on it sums up Mandy quite well. She was a guest on one of our tours with Paul several years ago, and afterwards, said she wanted to be a kayak guide. She figured if Paul could do it, it couldn’t be too hard. After a brief interview, during which she flung kayaks around like they were styrofoam, we hired her, and have never regretted it. Mandy has been paddling, hiking, and otherwise wandering the Low Country for many, many years. She is a wonderful, if outspoken, person with a great knowledge of the area. Mandy has an amazing passion for animals, and is a sucker for an injured critter of any type. Mandy is a small person, and is much older than she looks, yet she can out work people twice her size and half her age. Mandy’s most famous (or infamous) tour experience was when she climbed a tree to catch a snake, the branch she was on broke, and she tumbled to the ground, down a hill, and into the water. The amazing part was that she was still holding the snake – unharmed!
Spaz is, well, Spaz. You really need to meet him to even attempt to understand him. He has been struck by lightning multiple times. Words cannot truly capture Spaz and we feel it would be foolhardy to try. A kayak tour with Spaz is never a boring experience. His knowledge of plants and other nature topics is plentiful.
Crocodile Chris and his wife moved from the Washington, DC area a year ago and still can’t explain why they didn’t come here sooner. He has been a soldier, mechanical engineer, Washington bureaucrat (we try not to hold that against him), and science teacher. During the winter months, you can find him substitute teaching in one of our local schools. A certified scuba diver, Chris is at home under water or on top of the water that he loves so much. His students think that he could lecture for an hour about the chemical properties of water, though no one ever stayed awake long enough to know for sure. Chris looked at us a bit strangely during our training session when we explained that he needed to jump out of a perfectly good kayak into the cold water of the Waccamaw River, but he survived it with a smile on his face. This is part of what it takes to be a Kayak Guide!
Johnny Wigfall grew up on the Grand Strand, and was taught how to hunt, crab, and fish by his dad. Johnny has a passion for fishing and being out the water. Johnny claims that he can out fish Mike, but Mike disagrees. We didn’t have a choice when it came to hiring Johnny. Our favorite local waitress was his neighbor, and she liked him so much, she said we had to hire him, or she wouldn’t bring us our food anymore.
Mike is our Lead Professional Kayak Fishing Guide. He has lived his whole life here in the Low Country, and spent much of it out fishing. While we all like to fish, Mike actually knows what he is doing. Mike has won several redfish tournaments and has been a member of several Kayak Pro Fishing teams. He has an almost magical ability to know where the fish are and how to catch them!