Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorite Virginia Beach Outfitters

For the past several years my wife and I have been vacationing the week after Christmas in Virginia Beach. Every annual VB vacation has included a stop at Wild River Outfitters, one of my favorite multi-sport outdoor provisioners. With a wide selection of paddling gear as well as clothing, footwear, camping and climbing gear, as well as a regular clearance rack and table, it is difficult to walk out of WRO without buying something. In past years I have purchased hiking boots, trail shoes and clothing, all on sale. I have also purchased maps and guide books related to the local area. This time I bought a pair of shorts on clearance sale and a new pair of yak grips for my kayak paddle.
WRO opened for business in 1976 and moved to its current location in 1990. Employing about twenty mostly part-time staff, only three were working the day I dropped by, all camera shy and unwilling to comment for this post. Unfortunately owner Lillie Gilbert was not on site and I regret I did not have the opportunity to meet her in person after corresponding with her via e-mail.

Lillie is an avid and experienced paddler, author and active environmentalist in addition to owning WRO. She has authored at least three guide books about local water, co-authored a book of local tales, and was instrumental in establishing a 28 mile Scenic Waterway that enables paddling from Lynnhaven Inlet to the North Carolina-Virginia line, a paddle that takes one through the heart of Virginia Beach.

WRO offers plenty of parking (photo top right) and a great selection of kayaks (just some of which appear in the photo bottom right). Its staff is knowledgeable, but so is its clientele. Last year while looking at some kayak fishing gear I struck up a conversation with another customer about kayak fishing. He taught me more in five minutes, with hands on explanations, than I could have picked up reading several pages in a book.

I place WRO in the same league as a couple other independent outfitters specializing in or focusing on kayaking while also supporting other sports like camping, backpacking and climbing. The next time you are in Virginia Beach, drop in and tell them you learned about them from Summit to Shore.

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