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Celebrating 35 Years of Award Winning Sea Kayaking Adventures

Grant Thompson-Founder

Adventure and Fun Since 1988

Tofino Expeditions founder Grant Thompson was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is the fourth generation of a West Coast Canadian marine family. He first went to sea on a Norwegian freighter for a year at the age of 17. Returning from this adventure, he attended university, where he studied photography. As a climber photographer, he spent his 20s and early 30s technical mountaineering until a chance meeting in 1981 with John Dowd, author of "Sea Kayaking: A Manual for Long-Distance Touring," turned his attention back to the sea. The expedition potential for sea kayaks on the wild coast of British Columbia and beyond captivated his imagination. Through the mid-eighties, he worked in the outdoor sports industry promoting the then "new" sport of sea kayaking and sat on the board of directors of the Trade Association of Sea Kayaking (TASK), which later became the Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS). In 1988, driven by a strong desire to be on the water rather than behind a desk, he founded Tofino Expeditions Limited in the small town of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island; in 1989, Outside Magazine ranked Tofino as one the "Great Sports Towns of North America because of the outstanding kayaking in the surrounding area. That same year, he started operating kayaking in expeditions in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, the first of what was to be many international paddling venues. An association with travel writer Tim Cahill led to articles in Outside Magazine, Mens Journal, and other publications that were later republished in Cahill's books "Jaguars Ripped My Flesh" and "Pass the Butterworms."

As sea kayak outfitting became more popular, Grant became involved with guide education. He was a charter member of The Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia and the Association of Canadian Sea Kayak Guides. As a head guide instructor/ examiner for both organizations, he ran guide training courses on the British Columbia coast and in Baja. He sat on a committee of three senior guides that drafted the first sea kayak guide training curriculum to be officially recognized by Parks Canada. In the spring of 2017, he was hired by the Norwegian Centres of Expertise for Tourism and Fjord Norway to consult on sea kayaking trip design, methodology, and risk management.  This was the first of several exploratories to Fjord Norway that led to the current trip,  "Norway - Paddling the Viking Route from Fjords to Outer Coast."

All of Tofino’s trips in Canada are still operated by Tofino Expeditions Limited, the original Canadian company. In 1998 Grant founded Tofino Expeditions USA Inc. when he relocated to the United States while his wife attended a medical residency program at the University of Washington. He now divides his time between Bend, Oregon, Courtenay, British Columbia and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Grant has guided kayaking trips in North and South America as well as Europe and Asia. His photographic work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Outside, National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, Sea Kayaker, and Outpost, as well as a large number of newspapers. As well as being a kayaker, he is an avid skier, surfer, and standup paddleboarder.

National Geographic Award

Best Outfitters on Earth - National Geographic

Tofino Expeditions was the highest rated sea kayaking adventure travel company in a National Geographic Adventure survey of international outfitters based on:

  • Quality of Service
  • Education
  • Sustainability
  • Spirit of Adventure