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Outdoor Explore: Meet the man who turned a love of kayaking into Perthshire business

Outdoor Explore founder Piotr Gudan.
Outdoor Explore founder Piotr Gudan.

A paddle sport enthusiast with a love of the great outdoors has turned his passion into a flourishing business based in Blairgowrie.

Piotr Gudan founded Outdoor Explore in 2014 as a one-man operation, but the venture has expanded significantly since then.

The firm, which has managed to weather the Covid-19 storm, now has four core team members and 10 freelance staff.

Creating Outdoor Explore

So how did Outdoor Explore come about?

Piotr explained: “I have been involved in paddle sport coaching and guiding for over 20 years.

“When I came here about a decade ago, I looked for organisations I could join.

“With busy lifestyles, we have often little time to commit to new clubs, hobbies and interests.

“Offering shorter guided kayak tours, where previous paddling experience wasn’t necessary, was one of the first reasons to start Outdoor Explore.

“We catered our offer to visitors and local residents who simply wished to see things from a completely different perspective.

“You will be surprised how many people had never seen dolphins in Dundee area, kingfishers in Perth or explored amazing castles by the water’s edge in rural sites.”

Experiences on offer at Outdoor Explore

Outdoor Explore now has more guides than ever before, delivering trips and coaching sessions.

Classes are on offer at various locations across Scotland, as well as south Wales, where the firm expanded to just over a year ago.

He added: “We offer some superb experiences.

“For example, we deliver a lot of night kayak tours in the autumn and winter – great for star gazing.

“We also offer picnic/cheese and wine boards for kayaks, with local food or coffee on board during sunrise or sunset kayak tours.

Piotr Gudan has turned his hobby into a successful business.

“In addition, we have ‘base camp style’ multi-day sea kayaking experiences on Skye, which is just a magical experience.”

Piotr – who also works as an on-call firefighter at Blairgowrie – said his team is very diversified and this improves the quality of experiences Outdoor Explore can offer.

Outdoor Explore is open all year round, and Piotr said the peaks of the season are during the school holidays.

On average the business gets 100 participants a week, with numbers steadily growing.

Dealing with decline in tourists

Piotr said Covid-19 had meant that Outdoor Explore was forced to close for an extended period, but the firm survived by slimming its overheads.

Before the pandemic the company had depended on a big chunk of its business coming from abroad, so the fall-off in international travel due to Covid was a second blow.

Outdoor Explore founder Piotr Gudan, operations manager Danny Boyd and paddlesports coach and guide James Barrett.

As a result most of Outdoor Explore’s customers in the last couple of years have been UK-based, with more than 70% from Scotland.

But Piotr is optimistic that customer numbers from other parts of the world will pick up again.

He explained: “We are working slowly again with travel agencies from abroad which used to bring about 45% of our business, but this will take probably two years to get regular again.”

Making a difference to local community

Asked about the biggest achievements for Outdoor Explore since it was founded, Piotr is particularly proud of how his business has made a difference in the community.

He added: “My aim was always to leave places we take people out exploring in better shape than we found them.

Piotr hopes Outdoor Explore will benefit from more overseas tourists now Covid restrictions have been lifted.

“In eight years, we have collected over five tonnes of rubbish from various locations across Tayside.

“That’s definitely something to be proud of.”

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