A Trifecta of Minnesota Outdoor Fun
by KARA LARSON Featured in Make It Minnesota's Spring 2015 issue.
A connection to nature is a beautiful thing. Jim Bergquist, owner of Wind, Water, & Wheels, aims to provide an exciting way to experience this beauty right in Crosslake, Minnesota. Jim grew up in south Minneapolis, but he found himself akin to the outdoorsman lifestyle. And today, he lives it.
Wind, Water, & Wheels is the home of locally made Crow Wing Kayaks—a company that Jim also owns. Beyond kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and a wide variety of bikes are also available. Through these options, Wind, Water, & Wheels provides a one-stop shop for those looking to experience the outdoors in a fresh and enlivening way. And it has been proven successful. Jim shares, “Our first year in 2013 at our Crosslake location was huge. Last summer we did even better increasing our sales over 30%. We are expecting this summer to be even busier.”
Devoted to promoting the sport of kayaking in particular, Jim has teamed up with many members of the community to draw in new people. He adds, “We are promoting this popular sport in many ways! “I teach kayak courses at two local Community Education Districts, we offer a course through the cities Park and Recreation Department and a free paddle through the US Corp of Engineers Campground in Crosslake. We take it one step further and offer a shuttle service to the Pine River and other local lakes.”
Through these opportunities to get out within the Crosslake community, Wind, Water, & Wheels inspires connections alongside a brilliant escape into nature. And for Jim, this is one of his favorite aspects of being involved. “I love being part of the community and offering a product that’s made locally. People really like our kayaks. You can go anywhere and buy kayaks, but when people find out that they’re made right here, it takes it one step further. They are the sit on top, very accessible, stable type of kayaks. We find a lot people that have always wanted to kayak, but worry about tipping or getting stuck. And ours are a perfect choice for people like that all the way to experienced kayakers.”
Another beautiful thing: anyone can get involved. Jim started the Crow Wing Paddlers Club, which is open to all. “We were trying to figure out how to promote the sport, so we started a paddling club. We go out every week or two. We have over forty people signed up and we’ve had groups as big as twenty people participate. It’s a great time to get to know each other and try different kinds of kayaks. Sometimes people have their own that they want to paddle on, but we provide them as well.”
Jim continues, “There’s no other place to rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and bikes in town and Crosslake is a huge vacation area. It easily draws in tens of thousands of people and being so close to not only the Whitefish Chain, but also Pine River (an excellent paddling river), makes it an ideal area.”
With all of these avenues of involvement, a locally and well-made product, and ties to the community, Jim has seen a great deal of success from great sources. “We get so many referrals and people who come specifically for our kayaks. They’ll say, “friends of ours bought some Crow Wing kayaks last year and we tried them and fell in love,” which is great to hear. It’s becoming a community within a community.” He adds, “Stop in to see why people say that our kayaks are a step above the others. They are durable, stable, portable and affordable!”
And in the end, Wind, Water, & Wheels deserves a circle back to nature. Jim shares, “Certainly it allows people to get out and enjoy nature. And it’s something most people can do by themselves. Kayaks are very portable—you can throw them in a car or on top, and once you’re out, you can get into any body of water. So it really opens up a whole new venue for people. It’s a far different feeling than being in a boat or a canoe—you’re just that much closer to the water.”