About Gabriola Sea Kayaking

Gabriola Sea Kayaking is owned and operated by  Gabriola Island/Nanaimo based sea kayak guides Matt Bowes & Jen Smith. We spend our time between our Yurt on Gabriola Island and our home in Nanaimo. We emerged from Gabriola Cycle & Kayak, a pioneering adventure outfitter founded in 1987 by Peter Marcus and Ana Lopez. We guided for Peter and Ana for many years in BC and Baja until buying the Vancouver Island portion of the business in 2009.

Gabriola Sea Kayaking carries on a legacy of unforgettable west coast sea kayaking adventures in the tradition of Gabriola Cycle and Kayak.  We specialize in custom multi-day kayak tours in select locations on Vancouver Island, guide training programs and outfitting. Our destinations are chosen for their natural beauty, abundance of flora and fauna and variety of paddling opportunities. We are Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia Level III guides, Guide Trainers and Paddle Canada Instructors. 

On our trips, we wish to attract healthy, independent, fun-loving, adventurers. Participants take part in all aspects of the adventure, including meal preparation and daily trip planning. Our primary role is to outfit your trip, reduce risk and look after navigation. No experience is necessary, just a positive attitude and desire for fun. 

~ Matt Bowes and Jen Smith

Jen Smith and Matt Bowes

Jen Smith and Matt Bowes

Our Vision

Our goals for sustainability enhance what we have been doing as leaders within the kayaking Industry, our professional organizations, and the North American nature-based tourism sector for many years.

We live, work, and play in a number of different communities and environments on Vancouver Island and we strive to be stewards of these special places through:

  • Education for staff, guests, suppliers regarding our goals and initiatives
  • Encouraging  personal action,
  • Support  for research and education programs
  • Support for the economic, environmental and social well-being of our local communities
  • Financial viability for sustainable growth

Our Team

Matt Bowes

Matt Bowes


A familiar face out on the water and friendly voice in the office, Matt Bowes has been a Gabriola guide for over twenty years.

Matt is a Level III SKGABC Guide and Guide Trainer,  he has guided  extensively in BC, Baja California, Mexico and Ontario.

With a MES in Nature Based Recreation and Tourism and PhD in Geography, Matt is also involved with park conservation work.

Matt is a professor of Geography and Global Studies at Vancouver Island University when not guiding, teaching courses, running GSK, and being a dad.

Fiona Hough

Fiona Hough

SKGABC Level III Guide, Paddle Canada Level II Sea Kayak Instructor, Paddle Canada Senior Examiner Canoe/Moving Water

Fiona is truly, a really, really, really, awesome sea kayak guide and instructor and always a favourite with her students, guests, colleagues and co-workers.

A dedicated outdoor professional, her knowledge and skill combined with a friendly, laid back demeanour and subtle humour make for a really amazing and memorable companion and outstanding trips.

When it comes to experience in the world of paddling, outdoor adventure programming and risk management, there are few who can come even close to Fiona Hough.

With over 30 years ‘in the biz,’ Fiona has paddled across Canada in a voyageur canoe in a reenactment of the MacKenzie Expedition, won open canoe whitewater slalom championships, paddled on dozens of expeditions in Canada’s north and has introduced thousnads to the joys of whitewater. Backcountry skier, surfer and long time Outward Bound instructor and  program director, Fiona’s passion is outdoor experiential education; currently Fiona is the Curriculum Manager for the Outward Bound Training Academy . As always, we are totally stoked to have Fiona on our team. Keep on keepin’ on, Fiona.

Jen Smith

Jen Smith


Jen’s warmth and energy  and experience make Jen a real favourite on trips and a true pleasure to be around.

Co-owner of Gabriola Sea Kayaking, Level III Guide, Guide Trainer and Paddle Canada Instructor, Jen has a Master in Environmental Studies, a Diploma in Resource Management and is a Registered Professional Biologist (RPBio).

When she is not guiding, teaching courses and running GSK, Jen works as a biologist and social scientist for the province and is ‘mom’ to Finn.

A skilled naturalist and interpreter, Jen will teach you how to surf, roll, and perfect your forward stroke, then delight in telling you about tide pools, tail dropping slugs, salamanders and seaweed, inspiring a true sense of wonder about the marine environment and coastal ecosystem!

Carter Arlette

Carter Arlette

Guide (...when we can get him)

One big, happy, exuberant, sea kayaker. The smile says it all and Carter’s trademark ear to ear grin, an infectious enthusiasm for all things ocean combined with  passion for teaching is Carter’s MO.

A graduate of Mount Royal University’s Eco-Tourism and Outdoor Leadership program, Carter lives and breathes all things adventure.

A SKGABC Level III Guide, Guide Trainer and Level II Examiner we get Carter on board when we can. 

Carter is also a talented musician and its rare to find him without his ukulele, while on trip or any other time, for that matter.


Gabriel Woolidge

Gabriel Woolidge

SKGABC Assistant Overnight Guide

Gabriel grew up on Gabriola Island, so you could say that the ocean and the coastline of Vancouver Island is Gabe’s natural habitat.

A great guide who is fabulous in the kitchen with a certain foodie panache, Gabe has a zest for the culinary arts. When combined with a passion for fishing, results can be spectacular.

A talented musician, Gabe’s travel guitar is always on hand. Knowledgeable, laid back, helpful, friendly and easy-going , everybody loves Gabe.

Our Green Initiatives

Leave No Trace Camping

Essentially…take only photos, leave only footprints.

Wildlife Viewing Guidelines

Codes of conduct regarding keeping a safe distance from and limiting viewing times with marine mammals, bird and wildlife,on and of the water.


All of our guides are outdoor educators, interpreters and naturalists in their own right with varying degrees of experience/expertise in a wide variety of areas. We love to share our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for the marine environment, through interpretation and teachable moments as they unfold in a casual and laid back manner.


Gabriola has always encouraged ridesharing among guests to travel to paddling destinations and we commonly coordinate and organize carpooling from the office.


Our office program is pretty straightforward. All paper/plastic/metal/tin products are separated & recycled.

On the water – In 2008 we began to do a better job out in the feild by separating the recyclables from garbage and compost. We strongly encourage guides & guests to reduce, reuse and recycle.


In 2012 we added a new composting facility now exists at our Gabriola office.

Local and Organic Foods

Where and whenever possible, we strive to buy local and/or organic foods and support the producers and suppliers of local and organic products. However, we do realize the difficulty for us and our guests, to consistently find what we need to supply our respective kayaking pantry’s.

We typically bring fair trade gourmet coffee and carry more locally produced Gabriola Island specialty items.


Water Conservation

Gabriola Island is groundwater sensitive and in the height of summer, our dry mediterranean climate can cause drought like conditions. We make a big effort to use our water supply gently and wisely.

Gear and Equipment

We purchase ethically sourced products and buy as locally as possible.


Gabriola has always thrived on good old word of mouth.



We proudly belong to the following organizations.

Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia (SKGABC)

Promotes and maintains high standards of sea kayaking safety, conduct, and representation with dedication to develop a sustainable, competitive commercial sea kayak industry

Paddle Canada

Promotes all forms of recreational paddling to Canadians of diverse abilities, culture or age, to advocate for a healthy natural environment, and to develop an appreciation for the canoe and the kayak in our Canadian heritage.