20 Under 40: Peter Hall | SteamboatToday.com

20 Under 40: Peter Hall

Peter Hall (Photo by John F. Russell)

Where else would water-lover Peter Hall suggest sitting for a conversation but beside the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs, a place where he has spent countless hours at play and teaches others to enjoy and protect.

Relaxed in a surfer T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops on a warm afternoon, Hall sits across Yampa Street from the public-facing part of his growing company Hala Gear. As a local business owner, Hall ensures his 10 staff members earn fair wages, and he provides health insurance benefits for full-time workers.

As a measure of how much Hall cares for his employees, last year prior to announcements of Paycheck Protection Program assistance, Hall chose the welfare of his employees above business gain. He didn’t lay off employees and instead cut back on product manufacturing to make ends meet during a wild year that saw dealers canceling orders early during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the boat was going to sink, I’m going to need some help bailing,” Hall said with his usual big grin.

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With a mellow personality but an energetic and optimistic spirit, Hall developed his river gear business using his designs and three issued patents. Hala Gear grew from a start-up enterprise run out of Hall’s rental home garage in Steamboat to a company that grows 75% a year on average. He purchased Colorado Kayak Supply, or CKS Online, in 2019 to diversify sales.

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Hala Gear employee Colleen King nominated Hall for 20 Under 40.

“Peter is gritty, determined and takes risks that others may shy away from,” she said. “He always finds a way to be successful and thinks about things from a unique angle that puts him ahead of the curve. Though it’s Peter’s heart and character that makes Hala what it is.”

King said Hall leads by example and never hesitates to take out the trash or scrub paddleboards.

“Seeing him work tirelessly day in and day out with a smile on his face and pep in his step encourages us all to do the same,” King said.

A promoter of healthy work-life balance, Hall tries to save one hour a day seven days a week for himself to be on the river or a body of water in the wilderness.

Last year the company donated some 50 $500 gift certificates to silent auctions for good causes around the country, and Hala Gear provides product discounts to first responders. Hall is a former board member of nonprofit Friends of the Yampa and has helped for a decade with the Yampa River Festival. He volunteers his time and equipment to youth programs and puts on paddleboard clinics.

“I give to organizations when we can, and we support as many causes as we can, using the voice of the brand,” Hall said.

Hala Gear supports the nonprofit American Whitewater conservation organization and other river habitat protection programs. A Colorado pioneer in whitewater SUP, Hall currently is determining his company’s carbon footprint so that Hala Gear can offset those fossil fuel emissions by supporting a meaningful effort such as tree planting or coastal waterway protection.

A former Spanish and history school teacher, Hall, 38, said modestly that he does not think he commits enough volunteer time for public recognition. He and his wife, Anna, stay busy with their two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, who spend time on paddleboards with dad.

“I help people fall in love with the river. This creates advocates for helping make the world a better place,” Hall said. “I’m not that special. I just try to do the right thing.”

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