KITCHENER -- With many thinking about safe outdoor activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local canoe and kayak rental shops are already booming with business.

Some shops in the Waterloo Region said they’ve been allowed to reopen under the latest loosened restrictions, but others are taking their time to ensure the proper safety protocols are in place.

Canoeing the Grand in Kitchener is planning a soft opening in the coming days, with a full opening expected in mid-June. The owner, Shelly Jo Holmes, said the demand is already there.

“We probably get 75 to 100 calls a day,” she said.

A Breslau resident said she is hoping to hit the water in a kayak soon like she does every year.

“Get rid of all the stress of your week and just enjoy the river,” Alison Cascagnette said.

Meanwhile, Quinn Roberston has already booked a tentative fishing trip for June 9.

“It’s been hard just sitting in your room all day long and wanting to be on the water so I’m super pumped,” Roberston said.

Staff at Canoeing the Grand admit business since COVID-19 has been anything but smooth sailing.

“This is been the hardest time of my life,” said Holmes.

Canoeing the Grand is building an outdoor office like they did last year and is enforcing masks and sanitization protocols.

Staff will also be using buses to shuttle customers to the starting point in an effort to space people further apart during transportation.

“To protect our drivers, instead of putting a glass shield everybody has their own (face) shield,” said Holmes.

Grand River Rafting Company plants to transport people five at a time, with plans to expand that capacity once restrictions ease further.

“Everybody is spaced apart. The launches go up every 20 minutes,” Garth Pottruff, owner of Grand River Rafting Company, said.

Grand River Rafting has locations in Guelph, Cambridge, Long Point and Paris. Between those four locations, around $75,000 worth of trips has already been booked for the summer.

Pottruff says last year they booked 40,000 trips, with bookings higher during the pandemic year than in a typical season. They're hoping for the same this year.

“Let’s put it this way, we couldn’t tell a Saturday from Wednesday because of how busy we were,” said Pottruff.

Both businesses are asking customers to book early to ensure customers get the rental they’re looking for this summer.