The Boat People began primarily as a raft rental service in the early 80's, expanding into retail raft, inflatable kayak, cataraft and accessory sales by mid-1982. We published four rounds of a printed catalog called "Inflatable Kayak Specialties" between 1988, before the days of the internet, and 1996. There were already several large river gear mail order companies then, and we wanted to focus on what we knew best, which was small one and two person river craft. We've always sold rafts though along with the inflatable kayaks, and once we had a website it became much easier to display our entire line, and vastly simpler to do updates. The catalog went by the wayside since it was always out of date two weeks after being published.
We've built a reputation in the Bay Area as one of the most honest inflatable boat businesses out there, so you needn't worry about us disappearing into the netherworld of evaporating webpages with your money or credit card number. Our online shopping cart uses the fully secure Authorize.net system.
We began in San Jose, CA, and stayed there the first 26 years. The first half of that period we were running The Boat people from our house, then we purchased a commercial building on South First Street where we stayed for the remaining twelve years. In October of 2006 we sold that building, and after renting it back for another six months moved northward in March of 2007 to the much prettier small town of Danville, CA. The 1925 vintage San Jose building, which had the store downstairs and apartments upstairs, had become highly problematic due to serious plumbing issues with it's assortment of rusting galvanized & cast iron pipes. Pipes that had bad habits of leaking through the store ceiling. We had valid concerns that another large earthquake like the Loma Prieta event (in 1989) would simultaneously rupture every antique pipe in between the two floors of the building, and that would have damaged a lot of inventory. So northward we went.
If you are traveling the highway 680 corridor you are welcome to stop by. All our inventory is here, and yes you can look at any boat or accessory you wish - we are not just a "virtual' business. We are generally here weekdays from 9:30am to 6:00 or 6:30pm, and most Saturdays from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Often we are also here Sunday morning. You can give us a ring at 925-820-BOAT when you want to stop by, just to be sure.
Many whitewater websites talk of their employees using what they sell -- which may be true enough -- but since we rented rafts and i.k's for over two decades, we've seen the worst case scenario for a lot of our inventory. Sharing our rental experiences and retail customer feedback clearly helps you compare similar products to make an informed decision, and we don't gloss over any negative feedback we get. People who have spent any time chatting with us know this to be true. If we end up with a lot of bad feedback on a product we have not personally used, chances are very high that product will be eliminated from our website.
Catalogs and webpages that only speak in a positive light for every item within seem useless to us. If each little widget is perfect, which little widget should you buy? Ditto for all the websites that contain nothing more than copy & paste info from various manufacturer's websites. Parroting manufacturer's catalogs, as 99% of them do (the vast majority of AIRE's dealers are the best example), is not conducive to helping you make a decision. You may be shocked at the way we seem to find negatives in much of what we sell, but that does not mean they are bad products. We just want you to know about any warts or shortcomings before you plonk down your money. It keeps our customers satisfied, and it dramatically decreases our returns. We also try not to be excessively negative about items we don't carry, but if something really is inferior we want you to know the reasons why.
You can use our fully secure shopping cart 24/7, though our prefered way of doing business is still over the phone. You are always welcome to phone us at 925-820-2628 with orders or questions. For larger ticket items, it's almost always a good idea. If you know what you need and have no questions - or maybe you work at times that make phoning us difficult - then by all means use the cart. Please understand that it is set up for U.S. shipments only, and it only calculates for UPS. Any orders for outside the U.S., or those that require postal delivery, must still be phoned in.
We're going on our 33nd year now. We know that many of you live in areas lacking in normal precipitation, so we'll keep our pinkies crossed that this winter will have a better snowpack (or rainfall?) for all of you. Happy paddling!