Back of Beyond celebrates 10 years of staying afloat

Get out the birthday candles. Bainbridge Island’s Back of Beyond is celebrating its 10th birthday.

In June 2002, Udo Wald opened Back of Beyond on Winslow Way, a kayak and canoe rental shop that also offers tours.

“’Back of Beyond’ itself is a descriptive term for a far away place,” Wald said. “I would say it is not just a destination — it is a state of mind.”

This June, the store is celebrating its first decade in business by doing what it does best: getting out on the water. Wald is offering free canoe and kayak tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday, June 9, and also two-for-one rentals, to commemorate the milestone.

After all, it wasn’t easy to build the business.

“Nobody thought that we would make it the first year,” Wald said. “We started off at a little place, just 500 square feet in the basement of our building.”

But Wald, along with his wife Janet Nichols, made the best of it and were determined to make the shop a success.

“We just kept on working,” Wald said.

Their devotion paid off. In 2007, they moved into a larger space above their former basement location.

“With windows,” Wald enthusiastically noted.

In addition to kayak and canoe rentals, they offer tours through Eagle Harbor, complete with local folklore and tales of Bainbridge Island history.

They even organize social events every Thursday so islanders can grab a paddle and chit-chat around the harbor.

The shop also offers clothing. And if customers happen to have something tailored, well, they are in luck.

“My wife, she does seamstress work,” Wald said. “It’s the one place you can go rent a kayak and get your pants hemmed.”

Wald has been a life-long canoeist, but it was his wife who was keen on kayaks.

“My wife started kayaking,” Wald said. “Therefore, I had to get into kayaking.”

The couple became very active in the kayaking community around San Diego, Calif. before moving to Bainbridge Island and starting up Back of Beyond.

Wald aims to keep the store going, and with community help, they can make it another decade.

“With the local support and giving back into the community, a business can succeed,” Wald said.

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