Abby and Christian Gilbert - Co-Owners & Guide Staff
The Gilberts both grew up on the shores of Lake Waconia and have made seeking out adventure a way of life. Both Abby and Christian have "regular day jobs" and consider Spokes Paddle a new adventure to fulfill a dream of owning a business in the outdoor industry in order help others gain skills to better enjoy the outdoors. Abby spends most of her "non paddle" time in the business world as an HR Consultant at Deloitte. Christian has spent the past 15 years as a social studies teacher and varsity running coach within the Waconia Schools.
Justin Ratzlaff - Co-Owner
Justin is the founder of the "SPOKES" brand and spends most of his time biking, thinking about bikes, and working on bikes in our SPOKES Bike shop. He is a graduate of Luther College, where he studied Chemistry and Secondary Education. He is a world traveler and adventurer, who is constantly seeking out new experiences to share with others. When not obsessing about bikes and his bike shop (his first love), Justin can be found working with students in the Waconia Schools as a robotics and distance running coach. He is also a "local" and loves the open waters of Minnesota summer.
Audra Lehrke - Guide Staff/Women's Paddle Adventures Coordinator
Audra Lehrke is a muli-sport varsity coach and physical education/health teacher within the Waconia Public schools. Audra's passion is helping people lead and love active lifestyles and has been both a climbing and paddle guide throughout the past 6 years. She grew up in the Lake Waconia area and loves all the water sport opportunities of the west metro, but does split her time during the summer "up north" paddling the waters of the north country.
Note about our Guide Staff: We pride ourselves on having a guide staff full of professional MN public school educators who instill their professional teaching methods within our programs. We feel our clients will gain a deeper understanding of safe and enjoyable outdoor adventure because they will be guided by teachers. All of our guides have a long history of educating themselves about the world of paddle sports and outdoor safety throughout a variety of programs throughout MN and the United States.
Short List of our Favorite places to learn...
ACA (American Canoe Association)
NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School)
University of Minnesota Duluth - RSOP (Recreational Sports Outdoor Program)
American Heart Association
“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which
one should listen to…The feeling for the things themselves, for reality,
is more important than the feeling for pictures.”
– Vincent van Gogh