Outdoor Excursion Org. Hikes to Price Center

    Freshmen and adventure guides hike through the mountains during one of Outback Adventures’ Wilderness Orientation. (Courtesy of Tom Hegstad)

    A remote building hidden in the canyon behind Sixth College is home to Outback Adventures, which offers a variety of guided tours, recreational excursions and equipment rentals to UCSD students.

    Next year will mark the company’s 30th anniversary, and in the coming Winter Quarter, Outback Adventures will open a retail shop in the northwest corner on the second level of Price Center in an attempt to increase student business.

    “The current location absolutely inhibits students’ ability to find [the gear shop] and take advantage of it,” Director of UCSD Recreation Dave Koch said. “It is not easily accessible or visible. The Price Center shop will be a more effective and efficient way to serve the students.”

    Before employees can move in, a manager must be hired to oversee both the original and new locations, a staff of about 25 students needs to be recruited and the 1,700-square-foot shop needs stocking.

    “The space in Price Center will be the face of Outback Adventures,” said Tom Rottler, director of outdoor recreation at Outback Adventures. “It will be primarily surf [oriented] with some outdoor products in it … there will be some equipment that you would regularly see at an outdoor shop, but what really drives surf shops or outdoor shops now is apparel.”

    The new shop will provide sales and rentals of outdoor gear, including boards, wetsuits, rash guards, sandals and T-shirts, some of which are expected to increase competition with Muir Surf and Sport, whose management had previously sought a storefront in Price Center.

    “Competition is healthy, and that’s our philosophy here at this store, and people like choices, right?” Muir Surf and Sport Shop Manager Scott Lembach said. “If I only had one skateboard supplier, everyone would be riding Gravitys. That would suck.”

    Nevertheless, competition is not expected to lower prices. Rottler said rates will likely stay the same for at least a few years while the new shop finds its footing.

    If future rates are lowered, Rottler expects that outdoor activities offered by Outback Adventures will be the primary area to see cuts, not apparel or gear.

    Participants consult a map during a team-building exercise. (Courtesy of Tom Hegstad)

    “What I’d love to see happen in the future is for prices to be lowered for the programs,” Rottler said. “Down the road, our goal is to reduce prices as much as possible.”

    Outback Adventures offers nature outings that vary in activity, location, length, space and price. Hiking, surfing, snorkeling, rock climbing and yoga are among the options. Staff members also design custom adventures by arranging destinations, reservations and equipment. For the independent outdoor enthusiast, rentals are available for everything from GPS units to ice axes.

    Participation in programs is open to students, faculty, staff and UCSD recreation cardholders. The general public and community members are invited to join as well, but advertising is aimed solely at the campus community.
    Revelle College junior Kellie Lim, while familiar with Outback Adventures’ excursion options, has never participated in any of their programs.

    “I’d be interested in doing stuff like that,” Lim said. “I just don’t take the initiative. Prices wouldn’t deter me. It all looks reasonable, it’s just making the time.”

    Other students, however, feel that prices are too expensive. Revelle College freshman Sasha Schukin, who has many outdoor interests including hiking, biking and running, prefers an independent approach.

    “If I wanted to do something like that I’d just do it on my own [because] you have to pay a lot of money,” he said.

    Among the more popular trips offered are the Wilderness Orientations, which take place in late summer and include backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, canoeing down the Colorado River or kayaking in Baja California.

    “Wilderness Orientation is all about being in the wilderness and how that transitions to UCSD,” Sixth College senior and Outback Adventures employee Jessica Mulaney said.

    Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Courtney Smith participated in a Bahía de Los Angeles Kayaking Wilderness Orientation and said it continues to affect her UCSD experience.

    “It was amazing,” Smith said. “It really increased my self-confidence, something that has helped me so much in the past three years of my college experience with everything from living in the dorms to studying abroad.”

    Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Erika Kociolek, a friend of Smith’s from the trip, felt that her experience better prepared her for UCSD.

    “[Wilderness Orientation] helped me make the transition to college by giving me a small-scale preview of the emotional rollercoaster of move-in day and Welcome Week,” she said. “The experience of going to a new place not knowing anyone helped me overcome my shyness so that when I did meet my roommates, suitemates and classmates, I already had practice in getting to know a totally new group of people.”

    Beginning Winter Quarter, Outback Adventures will have a new face on campus, but whether interest will increase is uncertain. Rottler remains hopeful.

    “It’s great to know that we’re going to have the exposure that the program needs,” Rottler said. “It’s really exciting to see where the program will go from here.”

    Orientation participants gather round for a group discussion. (Courtesy of Tom Hegstad)
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