Welcome to Kayak connection!
Over the past 30 years, we have developed a strong culture of teamwork, positivity and family togetherness. We love our job and our community, and want to share our little slice of paradise with you during your visit.
We have a passion for the exploration and conservation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. As kayak guides, we come from very diverse backgrounds, educations and specialties.
Most of us have bachelors and/or advanced degrees in the natural sciences including ecology, biology, marine conservation, geology and engineering. We’re also environmental educators, naturalists and classroom teachers with experience working with all kinds of visitors, from school groups to large corporate teams.
Kayak Connection guides are specialists in marine mammals, invertebrates, birds, fish and more. When you are with us on a tour be sure to ask your guide what they’re excited about right now either from laboratory research or discovery on the water.
Meet the Leadership Team
Jess Grigsby, Co-owner
Raised in California with a deep appreciation for nature, Jess Grigsby graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and a minor in Conflict Resolution. She further pursued her interest in environmental advocacy at the UC Davis School of Law, specializing in Environmental Law.
During her legal career, Jess worked in various roles, including a stint as a trial lawyer. In 2012, she and her husband Dave made a significant career shift by purchasing Kayak Connection, a kayak rental and tour company based in Santa Cruz and the Elkhorn Slough. This move allowed Jess to focus on her passion for preserving California’s natural resources and promoting outdoor education.
As the owner of Kayak Connection, Jess organizes outreach programs, schedules and trains staff, and assists customers at the dock. She also works closely with her two daughters, who are integral to the business.
Despite her busy schedule, Jess has an active lifestyle outside of work. She’s an accomplished ultra runner and competitive beach volleyball player. She also coaches volleyball in her community and engages in a variety of hobbies, including crochet, chicken keeping, and golf.
You can usually find Jess at the Santa Cruz shop, ensuring smooth operations and helping paddlers get on the water.
Dave Grigsby, Co-owner
With a boundless passion for the outdoors, Dave has spent his entire life in the pursuit of having fun in nature and sharing that joy with others. Raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the southeast, Dave discovered a love of paddlesports on canoe camping trips as a young boy. After moving to California in his 20’s he jumped into the local whitewater kayaking scene with both feet. Over the years he has paddled many challenging Class IV and V rivers on the west coast and abroad, making friends and collecting stories along the way.
When the opportunity arose to take an entrepreneurial leap and escape the corporate world with his family, Dave and Jess took over the reins at Kayak Connection in 2012. Now his favorite part of paddlesports is getting to lead and work with such a fun group of fellow nature enthusiasts while sharing that passion with visitors from all over the world.
Safety & Training
Safety on the water is our number one priority. All of our guides receive rigorous training and testing in incident management and rescue practice. We are all CPR certified, with many of us holding advanced Wilderness First Responder Certifications.
Kayak Connection encourages guide development and education, holding frequent kayaking workshops in open water paddling as well sponsoring our guides to achieve certifications with the American Canoeing Association.