When you are on our boats, you're family.

The photo above was taken in 2010 at San Miguel Island. Co-Founder Garrett Kababik is in the distance holding up a sea star while Co-Founder Joel Mulder searches the kelp below on an adventure cruise hosted for REI Adventures aboard the Truth.
We have evolved from a small kayak company on Lower State Street in Santa Barbara to a full service kayak, snorkel, dive, and expedition company operating a fleet of custom boats in one of the most amazing place on earth. Over the past 3 decades we've pioneered trips to remote places, expanded safety standards, cooked and served healthy and delicious food, and provided world class service to tens of thousands of guests.
Traveling and exploring is a family activity, welcome to the CIEx family.

The CIEx Mission

Our mission is to immerse you in the beautiful Channel Islands through adventure and education. Spending time at the Channel Islands fosters a life-long appreciation for the ocean. We hope that your experiences with us at the Channel Islands will make you a lifelong steward of our oceans.

We are Ocean and Recreation Enthusiasts

We are divers, sea and river kayakers, sailors, cavers, surfers, hunters, farmers, scientists, backpackers, rafters, carpenters, parents, and overall explorers. Our philosophy is to take advantage of every moment we are given on this planet and to take care of our home so we can pass it to future generations better than we found it.

Leadership Story (short version)

CIEx was established in 2020 as an new partnership with two long time friends and kayak guides, Joel Mulder and Garrett Kababik. Garrett began guiding when he was 13 and Joel Mulder spent 15 years working as a fisheries biologist. Garrett and his wife Kaia own Paddle Sports Center (formerly Channel Islands Outfitters) which was the first company to begin guiding kayaking tours at the Channel Islands in the early 90s. Channel Islands Outfitters operated out of Scorpion Ranch through 2016. In 2017, the park service changed the management plan at the islands and CIO lost their concession to operate out of Scorpion Ranch.

After a few years of healthy soul searching in the middle of the Pacific on the big island of Hawaii, Garrett and Kaia returned to hit the seas again with a whole new way to explore the sea caves – one way, vessel supported, tours.

From the decades of experience running kayaking trips from the beach at Scorpion Ranch, we recognized the benefits of kayaking from a boat with the wind at your back.

  1. Safety – it’s safer to kayak from a boat than a beach and you have the boat to help you if there is an emergency.
  2. Downwind is more fun and you can cover more distance with less effort.
  3. Snorkeling is much better from a boat than from the beach.
  4. We control the schedule and we go where the ocean tells us to go… you don’t have to wait in lines on our adventure, we meet and go!

Garrett and Joel continue to guide kayaking trips on a regular basis.

We don’t consider ourselves owners, we consider ourselves caretakers of the Channel Islands.

Executive Team

Chief Expedition Officer

Garrett Kababik

In retrospect, every decision has lead me here…

I stopped in Santa Barbara on a cross-country road trip in 2001 and found a summer job guiding at the Channel Islands. When I returned to the University of New Hampshire that Fall to finish my last 2 years of undergrad, I enrolled in a semester long class in SCUBA diving where I received my Open Water and a thirst for more underwater experiences.

Diving in the frigid waters of Maine and New Hampshire didn’t deter me, so I signed up the next year for Advanced Research diving, where we had the opportunity to boat dive 3-5 times a week off-shore at the isle of shoals, doing various species counts and setting up lobster treadmills!

After graduating, I returned to SB and the Channel Islands to continue guiding kayaking trips and personally exploring all of the sea caves on the North side of Santa Cruz.

As the recession set in during Winter of 2009, I decided to head thru-hike the Appalachian Trail with my dog Lexi. 2,153 miles in the mountains and forests on the Eastern seaboard left me with only one desire… return to the Channel Islands.

Now almost 20 years after I first visited the volcanic shores of Santa Cruz Island, I’m excited to continue the adventure of learning, leading, and exploring off the Southern California Coast at one of the most amazing places on the planet.

Favorite Job as a College Student – Zamboni Driver
Best Advice from AT Experience – “don’t take anyone’s advice”

joel-Mulder
Fleet Operations Officer

Joel Mulder

Water. It makes up 60% of the human body, covers 71% of the earth, and has shaped 100% of my life. From snowy mountains, streams and rivers, to oceans and estuaries, water has been my recreation, my career, and my calling.

Growing up in the Sierra Nevada’s as a mountain kid, I remember visiting Catalina Island when I was 10 years old and snorkeling in the ocean for the first time, an experience that changed my life. I was hooked.

From building a wooden sea kayak in my college living room for a Baja expedition, to a career as a fisheries biologist, to SCUBA diving around the world, to managing a kayak shop and becoming an American Canoe Association certified kayak instructor, to spending almost a year sailing my sailboat in Mexico, its been all about the water.

As part of the Santa Barbara and Ventura ocean community for almost 20 years, I look forward to sharing my passion for and scientific understanding of our natural world with each and every visitor to these incredible islands.

Favorite song lyric –

“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given if all you do is stand in one place”

General Manager

Bryson Smith

Certifications
PKA (Professional Kook Association)

Maritime Experience
If it floats its a boat

Stomping Grounds
Pacific Ocean

Favorite Island and Why
Santa Cruz! Most diverse landscape of all the islands

Favorite Ocean Activity
SCUBA, Freediving.

Take the mic…
It's my privilege to share the Channel Islands and all its amazing biodiversity, history, and wildlife with our guests from all over the world. The bad puns and dad jokes I get a captive audience for are just icing on the cake.

Kaia-Kababik
Education Director

Kaia Kababik

As Executive Director of Save the Mermaids, a CA based non-profit that teaches children and adults about ways to improve ocean heath, Kaia is always sharing her deep base of ocean knowledge with guests and students. Kaia is also a world class equestrian, but you’d never guess that 🙂

Favorite Ocean Animal- Pinipeds
Favorite Land Animal- her Horses

Captains

Vision Captain

Ian Higgins

Ian was born and raised in San Diego, CA. Spending his youth on or near the water. Surfing, bodysurfing, SCUBA and freediving, no one could keep him out of the water. Throughout his youth he sailed with various aquatic centers and local yacht clubs.

He went to San Diego State University and studied Hospitality and Tourism Management and Spanish. While attending SDSU he taught sailing at Mission Bay Aquatic Center. Teaching various boats from lasers to J24 coastal cruising. After graduating from SDSU he began employment with San DiegoCity Lifeguard service as an EMT lifeguard. He worked summers on the beaches of San Diego usually between WindanSea to Blacks Beach. During the winters he worked Ski Patrol in Lake Tahoe, Ca. at NorthStar Ski resort.

After 5 years of seasonal work, one day sitting in a DunLevy at La Jolla Shores, he was watching a
merchant ship on the horizon and realized that was where he wanted to be. He began studying for his Captain's License and contacting old employers for Sea Time records.

After getting his license. His first employment was driving tow boats out of Avalon, Catalina for Cat Tow, as well as operating the SCUBA Cat for Catalina Dive Adventures. He did that for one season, and moved back to San Diego. Upon returning, he began driving the 5th Ave Ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado, and Flagship Cruises' various water Taxis. The route was dizzying, so he wanted something different. He moved to Alaska and began working for Un-Cruise Adv. doing 7-14 day charters around the San Juan Islands and Inside Passage South Eastern, Alaska.

He was married at the time, and his wife wanted him back, so he returned to San Diego again and began looking for work. He found various delivery jobs, taking boats up and down the coast from San Francisco, to Puerto Vallarta. Around this time he began diving more frequently and saw an advertisement for Truth Aquatics, Santa Barbara. He was a certified rescue diver, and had responded to many dive emergencies while employed at La Jolla Shores as a Lifeguard and thought Live Aboard dive charters would be a perfect fit. He began working as Second Captain in 2016 aboard the Vision, and fell in love with the job and company. In 2017 he became Captain of the Vision. After the Conception tragedy of 2019 Ian took some time to reevaluate life, and then COVID hit.

In November of 2020 Ian started working with Nautilus Liveaboards out of Los Cabos. He started as chief mate aboard the Belle Amie doing 7-10 day trips to the Revillegigedos Islands 400 miles off Manzanillo, Mexico. He quickly became captain of the Undersea Hunter and worked with Nautilus Liveaboards until May 2021. Around that time Ian's partner Kory started to really show and in July Metzli Mae Higgins was born. Ian left Nautilus to spend time with his new daughter. In September 2021 Ian and family moved to Trinidad, California to work at Humboldt State University aboard the Research Vessel Coral Sea. Ian captained the Coral Sea until March 2022.

Never forgetting his love for the California Channel Islands, and reminiscing of the days aboard the Vision, Ian jumped at the opportunity to return and work with Channel Islands Expeditions and once again captain the queen of California liveaboards M/V Vision.

Truth Captain

John Russell

John has spent the past 20 years working at various island locations where the diving is world-class. He recently left the Big Island of Hawaii and moved to California to work at the Channel Islands. When he's not sipping his hot Yerba Mate he's hard at work making guests smile and dolphins leap!
Sunfish Captain

Alex Legassi

Captain Alex can usually be found on, in, or under the water. He has had a love of the ocean from a very early age. He developed this love of the water by going on weekly fishing trips in the Santa Barbara Channel with his father and uncles from the age of two. He is a USCG licensed Captain and a certified PADI Rescue Diver. He has captained many scuba diving, kayaking, and whale watching expeditions around the Channel Islands. In addition to recreational tours, he has also captained for Hollywood film crews such as James Cameron and the Travel Channel show Destination Unknown, taking them to film locations on and under the water. He also has experience captaining for NOAA and other research agencies.
Stomping Grounds: Northern Channel Islands and California Coast
Favorite Islands and Why: Anacapa Island. Superb protected marine wildlife viewing above and below the water.
Favorite Ocean Activity: Whale Watching
50 USCG Master, PADI Rescue Diver, STCW Vessel Security, STCW Basic Safety Training

Derek Dotson

Sunfish Captain

Crew

Vessel Operations Assistant - Vision Deckhand

Tim Simes

Certifications
CPR/AED

Maritime Experience
Sailing since I was 10. Did a season as a commercial crab fisherman. For the last 5 years I've working on boats boats in the Santa Barbara channel

Stomping Grounds
Newport beach CA

Favorite Island and Why
San Clemente. Beautiful clear waters and lots of fish for me to catch

Favorite Ocean Activity
Fishing, sailing.

Take the mic…
I choose this career to become a boat captain. Along the journey I fell in love with life on the water.

Head Galley

Tim Welsh (Chefro)

Certifications
Rescue diver ,STCW

Maritime Experience
Palau aggressor,2 years Kona aggressor 1 year tropica dream Hagåtña Guam

Stomping Grounds
Guam Micronesia

Favorite Island and Why
Gilly memo Indonesia 🇮🇩 Prestine white sand clear turquoise waters beautiful culture amazing seafood

Favorite Ocean Activity
Free diving

Take the mic…
I didn’t choose this career, this career chose me working at resorts in Micronesia I realized working on live aboard boats the best of both worlds 👨‍🍳. If you kill it I will grill it 🦞🎣

2nd Captain - Divemaster

Dan Madsen

Certifications
Captain, PADI Divemaster/Instructor

Maritime Experience
1000+ Days

Stomping Grounds
Southern California/Pacific Ocean

Favorite Island and Why
San Miguel because it’s wild

Favorite Ocean Activity
SCUBA

Take the mic…
I love anything involving water and the ocean. I enjoy the thrill and challenges we see everyday and getting to experience the power and beauty of Mother Nature. The California coast and Channel Islands offer one of the most unique and gorgeous environments in the world and I love having a career that allows me to get out there and share it with others!

Captain - Divemaster

Beth Sadler

Certifications
PADI MSDT, 100 Ton Master License

Maritime Experience
Sailing little boats as a child and teen, moving to larger sailboats traveling farther afield as I grew older mixed with the odd dive boat starting at age 24, but largely ocean passages on sailboats.

Stomping Grounds
St. Croix as a child, Bellingham, WA as a teen and every ocean but the Indian since

Favorite Island and Why
I spent some lovely time in Ha’apai, Tonga but I guess you’re probably talking about the Channel Islands so I would say Santa Barbara because it’s the island I’ve had the best dives on with San Clemente as a very close second.

Favorite Ocean Activity
Diving and sailing are tied, but floating lazily off a tropical beach is pretty awesome, too

Take the mic…
I initially started sailing offshore because the extraction laws have kind of a complicated grey area on what to do with fugitives in international waters but now that the statute of limitations have run out I have happily returned to enjoy the beautiful diving California has to offer 🙂

Head Guide

Craig Bailes

Certifications
WFR, OEC, CPR Former Divemaster

Maritime Experience
Fisheries Biologist and Deck Hand for VT Dept. of Fish and Wildlife 1993-94: Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines protecting coral reef systems 1995-97: Naturalist and Deck Hand on research vessel for the Norwalk Maritime Center 1997-99: Divemaster, Marine Educator and Deck Hand at Catalina Island Marine Institute 2000-03 and 2006: Kayak guiding Channel Islands Nat’l Park 2008-13, 2016, and 2021 till present.

Stomping Grounds
Sailing as a kid on Long Island Sound off Darien, CT and scuba certified on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia in 1988

Favorite Island and Why
San Miguel for its remoteness, Anacapa and Santa Cruz for their accessibility and familiarity of some of my favorite caves and Catalina for nostalgia and never ending fun!

Favorite Ocean Activity
Kayaking thru seacaves, free diving and of course scuba… lounging and playing guitar on the sundeck after an adventure definitely has its merits as well!

Take the mic…
In my summer off after my sophomore year at UVM, I was a paralegal intern in NYC doing the whole tie thang, commuting to the city by train everyday and working in a cubicle from 9-5. Best thing I learned that summer is that I would never do that again and have been outside for most of my adult life trying to figure out how to get paid doing the things I love to do… outdoor ed, scuba diving, kayaking and skiing. So far it’s been working out and keeping me happy and I’m going to continue as long as I’m able. I get energized when our guests are blown away by the sea caves these islands have to offer and it never gets old for me.

Second Captain - Divemaster

Troy Huff

Certifications
Divemaster, 100tn master

Maritime Experience
16 years of diving experience and over 7 years of time out at the channel islands!

Stomping Grounds
Santa Barbara channel islands, Catalina island was was were I became a DM

Favorite Island and Why
San Miguel because it looks like Jurassic park. Also has the largest fish in the area

Favorite Ocean Activity
SCUBA, Freediving.

Take the mic…
I gave up on my engineering career to pursue the life of a Mariner full time. Been SCUBA diving for 16 years and most of it has been in these waters! When I'm not in the ocean I'm skiing and rock climbing out in the mountains. Part of the award winning drama "As The Prop Turns"

Truth Galley

Jacob Orlick

Certifications
Chef

Maritime Experience
200+ days.

Stomping Grounds
Santa Barbara

Favorite Island and Why
Santa Barbara Island. for lobster 🦞

Favorite Ocean Activity
Cooking and Fishing

Take the mic…
“This is the only
time I ever feel

Free.

Free from stress,

Free from worry,

Free from everything”

Assistant Guide

Savannah "Savvy/Sav" Lee

Certifications
Open Water Diver, CPR/Professional Rescue, BRC Greendot Ranger

Maritime Experience
Amateur small vessel owner

Stomping Grounds
Thanks to a surf addicted father, I've always been around some ocean or another.. as a teen, I spent several years enjoying that warm sweet Gulf Stream water boogeyboarding and other various watersports on a tiny little sand strip called the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Since then I've planted my roots in Ventura & SB, where I really fell in love with the ocean- specifically, the SB Channel & her illustrious islands as a NPS employee on Santa Cruz Island.

Favorite Island and Why
If you have to make me choose...Santa Rosa. Lots of detritus wash up on her beaches and I like to repurpose the old buoys for some eclectic household decor..while also doing my small part to minimize humanity's footprint by cleaning up these beaches.

Favorite Ocean Activity
Depends on the circumstances- but always the goal is to get in the water and pretend I'm a fish.

Take the mic…
This Channel's history (as well as marine unpredictability) is incredibly rich. I chose this career because I want to share my excitement with other people through activities that take us out of the daily 9-5. To me, that includes singing sea shanties, over sea shanties, stressing over climate forecasts, and the inevitable release ushered by a full immersion of a sea cave, a kelp forest, or the sighting of a nudibranch. This season's goal is to take a personal step deeper, where I hope to witness the bioluminescence during a night dive. I'm not much for telling a good joke- leave that up for my crewmates honor

Divemaster

Justin Inouye

Certifications
Divemaster, wreck, deep, night, nitrox, dry suit, search and recovery, EFR

Maritime Experience
I’ve spent my whole life fishing the west coast rod and reel, and have be consumed by the diving world since my first dive in 2009

Stomping Grounds
My first dive was at Broad Beach in Malibu Ca

Favorite Island and Why
Santa Cruz Galápagos, being able to dive with over 200 hammerhead was absolutely incredible

Favorite Ocean Activity
Freediving and spearfishing

Take the mic…
(insert drop)