SPRING PARK — This summer is the “coming out year” for Uffda Adventures, the company behind the paddle-powered boats on Lake Minnetonka.
Ryan Jaeger, a graduate of Wayzata High School who now lives in Eden Prairie, got the idea for PaddleTap during a guys' weekend at his family’s cabin, and in 2012 he launched his first booze-cruising boat on Lake Minnetonka.
And now, Jaeger and boat captain turned co-owner Wells Brose, 24, of Mound, have formed Uffda Adventures after acquiring two other booze-inspired tour companies last year. The duo purchased Hoppy Trolley, a brewery tour company in Minneapolis, and Amsterdam Pedals, a pedal pub company based in St. Paul, to add to their collection of party vehicles.
“They’re all kind of adventure seeking, kind of social beer drinking, so that was the idea — combine resources and offer multiple tours,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger admits last year they were “busy drinking out of a fire hose” as they figured out the pedal pub and brewery tour businesses, with Brose noting last summer was like a “soft opening” for Hoppy Trolley and Amsterdam Pedals.
“So this is the year where we have a strategic plan,” Jaeger said. “This is the coming out year.”
Jaeger said the three types of vehicles all hold 14-16 people and target similar groups, noting bachelorette, bachelor and birthday parties have been among the most popular groups to rent the vehicles.
Brose said the vehicles allow people “to do different adventures” and “explore Minnesota in a different way than normal,” noting their boats are the “biggest thing that we have” because of Minnesota’s many lakes, and the fact that there’s not really anything else like it in the area.
Unlike the bad rap pedal pubs get from drivers in the Twin Cities, the PaddleTap has been well received on Lake Minnetonka, the Uffda team says. Occasionally boaters will try to swamp them, but overall people seem to like them, Brose said.
Even though PaddleTap has been on the lake for four summers, Jaeger says some people have never seen it before. And because the boat sits up higher than most other boats, everyone boating around the PaddleTap takes notice so you “feel like a celebrity.”
“If anyone wants to feel like a celebrity, come on the PaddleTap,” Jaeger said.
In the four summers PaddleTap has been out on the lake, they’ve received zero formal complaints, Jaeger said.
Uffda Adventures has two different boats on Lake Minnetonka, the paddle-powered PaddleTap (which has the option of a motor, and Jaeger says people usually only paddle for about the first 15 minutes) and the motor-powered, double-decker LazyTap, which holds 16 people and offers 2.5-hour tours around the lake.
Jaeger says they are also waiting on a third, larger PaddleTap boat that’s still being built, but they hope to launch it on the lake this summer.
This will also be the first summer with a PaddleTap on White Bear Lake for the entire summer. In 2015, they had a boat on the lake for about a month.
Uffda Adventures owns two Hoppy Trolley vehicles, which do tours in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the West Metro, including stops at Back Channel Brewing in Spring Park, Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior and Unmapped Brewing in Minnetonka.
The company also has two Amsterdam Pedals vehicles, which do tours in northeast Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“We just know how to party,” Jaeger said, noting the boats especially have been popular because they’re stress free. People show up, don’t have to worry about who is going to drive the boat, and they can get away and have a good time.
Jaeger, who works full-time in banking, had always wanted to own his own business, which is why he got into banking in the first place — so he could see how things worked before starting his own.
But the 32-year-old never “in 1 million years” thought he’d be in the party tour business. Jaeger admits he was “never a big partier,” but the idea for PaddleTap “kind of fell in my lap” and because no one else was doing it, he knew he had to jump on the idea.
For now, Jaeger is going to stick with his full-time job in banking and when he’s 40 his goal is to do Uffda Adventures full time. He says the only reason they’ve been able to grow so quickly is because everything the company makes goes right back into the company.
Jaeger and Bose are working toward getting the proper certification and documentation to launch one of the PaddleTap boats on a river, either in Minnesota or in the south, and ultimately would like to expand PaddleTap to ares outside of Lake Minnetonka.