It’s been quite a ride for the entire SUP industry since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. SUP brands had to start rethinking and adapting their business models and explore new, creative and innovative solutions to navigate these challenging times. Seems like some things have remained unchanged – brands’ commitment to quality and sustainability that drives remarkable user experiences. TotalSUP caught up with Blackfish Paddlesdealer, the South Island SUPteam, to talk about some of the most stunning spots for stand-up paddleboarding and the future of SUP industry.
Photo: Jessica Boquist
Hi! Could you tell us more about your SUP brand?
South Island SUP is owned and operated by Brian Raymer and has been operating since 2014. Lead instructors and guides are Simon Whitfield and Brian Raymer. We are a mostly SUP (some kayaks too) business operating on Southern Vancouver Island. We offer tours, lessons, rentals and sales. Our business is mobile and has an outpost on the ocean at the Oak Bay Marina. Our paddling areas include sheltered lakes, bays, islands, beaches and dynamic ocean environments on southern Vancouver Island. Our brand is all about providing a unique and memorable experiences for locals and visitors to Vancouver Island. We operate year round and have a core group of paddling club members.
As businesses across the globe are getting to grips with financial and operational challenges and uncharted waters as they continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SUP industry has seen an unprecedented growth post-lockdown. Could you weigh in with your experience on how COVID-19 affected your business and your local SUP community?
It was a very busy Spring and Summer for us. South Island SUP has always offered experiences to small groups with lots of space to spread out. We are fortunate to have an expansive shoreline with lots of public launch sites accessing a large paddle friendly ocean playground. It is never crowded on the ocean! Our client base is largely local and we are well known which made it easy to adapt under COVID-19 restrictions. South Island SUP has been promoting physical distancing and staycations since 2014.
Photo: Laura Dunens
Any lessons in agility learnt you’d like to share?
Always good to be agile as a business owner. More important than ever with COVID-19 to be agile and find new opportunities that work within government and local directives. Lots of plans were updated, some events and bookings cancelled and other opportunities opened up for us. Being nimble and quick to respond to an ever changing landscape was very important this year.
What is the SUP scene like on Southern Vancouver Island? Have you noticed a spike in interest in the sport of stand-up paddleboarding?
Southern Vancouver Island has some of the best paddling to be found anywhere and with the right gear all year paddling is possible. We have seen a big spike in SUP in our area since COVID-19. And lots of interest in more challenging tours further from shore into more dynamic conditions (waves and current and wind).
Photo: Jessica Boquist
How do you decide on the brands you work with and distribute? Do you place a big emphasis on environmental impact when working with certain companies?
We choose high quality brands that are environmentally sustainable with high performance, good designs, good value and durability. Blackfish Paddles meet all of those characteristics.
Could you tell us about your partnership with Blackfish Paddles?
We have been working with Blackfish Paddles for three years now. Our company model allows clients to try out high quality paddles from Blackfish while participating in a tour, lesson or rental. Often clients purchase a paddle immediately after their session with us! It has been great working with David and Peter at Blackfish. We appreciate all their support and responsiveness to our needs.
Blackfish Paddles is a great example of a local brand going global with a strong emphasis on sustainability, quality and performance. What are the product characteristics that resonate with your SUP community and consumer base?
All of the above! We use Blackfish carbon paddles for all our business needs including rentals. We are very happy with the durability and long life cycle of Blackfish paddles! Our clients love Blackfish Paddles too!
As SUP athletes and watermen, what are your Blackfish Paddles of choice?
Brian Raymer: I have been using the Blackfish Andaman paddledaily for instructing, touring and SUP surfing for three years now. Not one to replace something until it breaks it could be a while before I replace it. I have been eyeing the Viento and have tried our demo Viento. Love that paddle too. Tempting! There could be a new paddle in my future.
Simon Whitfield: I am always impressed by Blackfish paddles as they check the important boxes, durability and efficiency, they are innovative, support the sport and work hard to bare responsibility for their impacts. The Viento is a terrific paddle, in fact it has become my “go to” on long hauls.
What are your predictions for the SUP industry in the next 6 months?
Brian:I am expecting another year of growth ahead. Our niche of high-quality experiences with high quality gear will help sustain and grow our business for the next six months and beyond. I expect growth industry wide as people look for activities that can be done close to home. SUP is perfect for avoiding travel and having fun in a world of unknowns.
Simon: Regardless of what happens next, we focus on the experience, we pay attention to the details and we are preoccupied with delivering accessibility and skill acquisition opportunities through our paddling programs.
Thank you for your time and good luck with the rest of the SUP season!
To find out more about Blackfish Paddles and their progressive, refined, handcrafted designs, visit www.blackfishpaddles.com
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