A Thanks and Acknowledgement to Brandon Willms

10 years goes by awfully fast when looking back in time.  It was 11 years ago that Nikki and I took the leap and purchased Aquabatics Calgary.  We now have three kids, a second location and it sure feels like a lot more stress and responsibility in our lives.
But consistencies (for me anyways) make change and the 'acceleration' of life seem more manageable.  I am fortunate enough to have that in spades with my families, both here and in Australia and, as it has turned out with our staff over the years.
In an industry that has notoriously high turnover, we have been so very fortunate to have many staff over the years who have stuck by us and helped build the business that many of you have grown to know and value.  This contribution does not go unnoticed, not only by Nikki and myself, but I believe the paddling community at large.
We would not be anywhere close to where we are as a store, instructional program, community contributor or overall business without these characters and individuals.
Many of you who have paddled for a decade or more will remember them, Blair Trotman, Matt Burton, Peter Morrow, Mitch Suliak, Dean Woodgate, Aislen Lees, Tim Shaw, Anne Shaw and others too numerous to mention. Their individual and team contributions have all left a small (or sometimes large) fingerprint on our organization.  These staff stayed with us for 4 - 6 years, and helped us continue to move forwards as an organization.
Then there is Brandon, this post is really a public thank you from us to him.  Most of you will know Brandon, his calm demeanour, analytical style, one that has made him a favourite on the water with kayak school students for many years now.
This was Brandon's 10th year working with Aquabatics/AQ Outdoors, and, sadly it will be his last in a full time capacity.  He is moving on to complete his degree and to start pursuing a career in finance that will hopefully lead him towards his goal of working towards meaningful progress in climate change policy here in Canada.
It is undoubtedly a long road ahead, with challenges, twists and turns, but one that I believe he has the dedication and 'see it through' spirit to make it happen.  We will however, certainly be seeing if he can come back and do some 'cameo' instructing at AQ in the coming years.
The Brandon that first started with us in 2011 was a far cry from the industry professional you have all gotten to know.  Brandon was super quiet, really struggled even talking on front of a group of students and his paddling attire included a pair of sweatpants (yep, not kidding, he even keenly selected them based on having a lower % of cotton than other sweat pants, COTTON IS ROTTEN and all that!).
He had been through the Thompson Rivers University program and came armed with a lot of enthusiasm for paddling, but not a lot of experience.  We weren't really sure what to make of him in the beginning
Also, for a young, quiet and very shy guy, he came into the business in it's peak of A-Type characters, the Kiwi boyz!  Blair, Dean, Matt and the crew were certainly a fun bunch, but I can only imagine how overwhelming those personalities were for Brandon.
He must have dealt with it well, as he wound up living with them (for a few years I think), one year in particular I remember going around to a BBQ at their house and I was shown Brandon's room, it was little bigger than a closet, with just enough room to fit a bed (literally, my recollection was a small bed was wall to wall to wall).
Those were fun years as a team, lots of paddling, piles of work and a really strong 'go boating' culture.  In the 10 years at AQ however it hasn't always been easy, slow years with less work than hoped, years with more work than anyone could or should handle, Brandon has been through it all with us and held himself in professional regard through it all.
One particularly low point I think for Brandon was when we had the White Trailer (and 30 boats) stolen, I was helping on a ski trip with clients at Campbell River Ski Lodge, got back to cell reception after a week away only to get a message from Nikki "Call me as soon as you get this!"
Not really Nikki's style as she is used to me being away, I called, obviously concerned.  She gave me the news and at some point it came out that Brandon had not put the hitch lock on the session before it was taken.
I can only imagine how garbage he felt, and having to wait a few days for me to get back must have been torturous for him.  Brandon is a perfectionist and even small errors can trouble him, so I can only imagine how this felt.. the waiting.
We chatted, there may have been some frustrated words shared, however, at the end of it, we both agreed that all of us, at some point had made that same error, we just got unlucky on that particular occasion.
After that year, Brandon took on more and more responsibility in the business and kayak school.  Culminating with this year where he (with Gregs support) managed to pull off a successful and safe kayak school season amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic.  Nikki and I couldn't have been more grateful.
In some ways it is a fitting final full season, Brandons contribution this year was pivotal to the kayak school running (and to my sanity.. ha ha).  Him taking the reigns and doing such a great job is a fitting legacy to go out on.
OK, I doubt many of you have made it this far, but if you have, I hope this gives you some insight into Brandon's time with AQ and also all the others who have helped build this business before him.
Thanks Brandon, the AQ family wish you and Maya all the best in your upcoming life journey.  We can't wait to see where it takes you!
Simon & Nikki!