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An Epic Adventure

Tricked out tent or trailer – the Baldings couple jumps on the glamping trend

KRISTI and IAN BALDING have spent much of their leisure time on the water, traveling whenever possible to the Bahamas and the Caribbean to enjoy island life and explore new territory. 

Ian Balding has owned and operated Ian Balding Surf and Paddle for nearly two decades, designing and building surf and paddleboards of all types in his Wilmington workshop. He happily refers to them as functional pieces of art, which have allowed him to turn his passion into a business.

The business has recently grown to include an offshoot, known as EPIC EXCURSIONS. Now Kristi Balding is taking her love of adventure travel and creating personalized, one-of- a-kind excursions for locals and visitors.

Epic Excursions is something the Baldings contemplated for many years, compiling ideas as they traveled. When Kristi Balding was laid off from a sales job of twenty-two years last year, the process of forming the business was expedited.

“We had always talked about doing what we’re doing now, and when I got laid off, it forced us to make a decision about moving forward with the idea,” she says.

Now, Kristi Balding creates fun, memorable events for others. She says she and Ian chose the name Epic Adventures because it includes all kinds of different land- and water-based adventures, from boating and paddleboarding to island dinner parties and glamping.

“I always dreamt of being a travel concierge,” Kristi Balding says. “I love researching adventure travel and finding off-the-beaten-path destinations.”

She spent the better part of the past two years building a website, making connections with other local businesses, and getting resources together to be able to provide fully customizable adventure packages for clients.

The couple purchased a 23-foot catamaran deck boat, which they use for charters, and bell tents for glamping.

They also converted a 21-foot, 1961 vintage Airstream camper that they were using as a mobile surf boutique for Ian’s business into a cozy cottage on wheels. The Airstream, which is available for bookings via Airbnb, includes a queen bed and sofa bed, as well as the possibility of air conditioning when hooked up to a power source, while the bell tents offer a queensize bed with hotel-quality linens, rugs, chairs, lanterns, basic campfire cooking supplies, firewood, and a cooler with ice.

“Camping like this is going on across the country,” Kristi Balding says. “And, we’re very excited to be the first to bring it to this area. We can set people up at campgrounds, on the beach, or in their own backyards. No matter where it is, it’s going to be special.”

As for water-based excursions, the Baldings are eager to show off the beauty of Wrightsville Beach and the surrounding islands.

“There are so many beautiful islands and waterways to explore in our area, and we want to make that more accessible to anyone looking to enjoy a really unique experience on our local waters,” Kristi Balding says. “You really can’t appreciate Wrightsville Beach fully unless you’ve seen all these other surrounding islands like Mason Inlet and Lea Island. The water there almost looks like the Caribbean.”

Part of the joy of the business, she says, is being able to talk to customers on a mini vacation, without them ever having to leave town.

Current excursions include paddleboarding and surfing, as well as half- and full-day charters and sunset cruises. The Baldings are also planning to partner with local restaurants and caterers for “sea-totable” dinner parties on Masonboro.

“We can accommodate all kinds of groups for customized excursions, from families, to girls nights, to wedding parties,” Kristi Balding says. “One of the best things about this job is being able to create new adventures centered around what our clients want to experience.”

This summer, Epic Excursions offered a half-day camp for kids ages nine to thirteen. The camp focused on marine education and provided surf and paddleboard lessons, as well as a trip to Ian Balding’s workshop where they worked on a board as a group, followed by a cookout on Masonboro Island.

Kristi Balding looks forward to planning events throughout the fall, including oyster roasts and island yoga charters.

“The great thing about our business is being able to put events together and see what people respond to,” she says. “We’re here to create unique experiences and showcase the beauty of the Cape Fear region to residents and visitors alike.

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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