Flying Fish’s John Meskauskas: From Fly Fishing Guide to Board Manufacturer

Fun fact: John Meskauskas, the mastermind behind Florida’s renowned SUP race brand, Flying Fish Board Co was a fly fishing guide before he fell in love with Stand Up Paddleboarding and SUP Racing. As Flying Fish gears up for a monumental year, culminating in November with the ICF SUP World Championship in Sarasota, Florida, Meskauskas unveils strategic changes, including the brand’s shift from custom to series boards and international expansion. With top riders like 2023 World Championship silver medallist Kim Barnes and Brazilian superstar Eri Tenorio leading the charge, Flying Fish promises to make waves globally under John Meskauskas’s visionary leadership in 2024!

Hi there John! Welcome to TotalSUP! How are you doing today? How is life and business going?

Hey Maddi! 2024 is off to a great start we are very excited for this season! We have kicked off the year with a new look and most excitingly for us… we finally have some stock boards available! Our business has been built on custom boards, which will obviously continue, but as the demand for Flying Fish has grown we knew we needed boards available for immediate shipment. Also with the ICF world championships being hosted in Florida later this year, we know there will be a demand for international riders needing equipment to rent. So we are diligently working on building our inventory supply while still fulfilling custom orders.

That’s fantastic! We are excited to see Flying Fish in Sarasota later this year! Let’s go back to the beginning… How did stand up paddle boarding begin for you? When did you eventually find SUP racing?

In 2009, I was introduced to standup paddle boarding by a friend of mine who managed a local surf shop, and he knew my love for the water. I was instantly hooked spending most of my time surfing, and paddling the intercoastal waterways around my home. Then in 2011, I heard about a race down in Miami, so I loaded my 11’6 stock SUP and signed up for the 3-mile race. I ended up finishing third. After the race, my competitive nature kicked in and I was forever hooked! I ended up purchasing my first 12’6 race board just a few months later. Oh, how boards have changed! Haha!

Oh wow! Boards have changed a lot since then! Speaking of boards… how did Flying Fish begin? What was the inspiration behind creating the Stuart-based company?

So prior to Flying Fish I was a fly fishing guide here in Stuart, Florida for fifteen years. I was looking for a change and paddling was my new obsession. In 2012 I decided to open a small paddle shop to help grow the sport in our area, as I was trying to think of names for the shop I thought of how beautiful flying fish are every time I would see them gliding on the surface. It just came to me… I would name my new shop, Flying Fish Paddle Sports! After operating the retail store for four years I found so many limitations with the boards that were available. The boards were heavy and I felt with most of them the quality was subpar. Simply put… I just thought I could do it better. So I designed the “Glider” a recreational-style board and built them locally in Florida. But then things really changed when I designed the “Freeglide” our first race board. The demand grew rapidly and I was building each Freeglide one by one in my garage. Eventually, I couldn’t keep up with the demand so in 2017 I sold the retail shop and decided to just focus on manufacturing boards hence the beginning of Flying Fish Board Co.

Incredible! It must be so rewarding building boards you have put a lot of thought into! What is your go-to Flying Fish board that you ride?

1000% the Freedom Pro. We have worked incredibly hard with our team to develop what we feel is the ultimate all-around race board. Progression is rapid at Flying Fish because we do not limit ourselves to annual model years. The boards are constantly being tweaked to perform better. The Freedom has been a progression project since 2018. The release of the new Freedom Pro in 2023 spoke volumes to us, our team pros had their best seasons ever. Personally, I think the highlight for me was watching Kim Barnes take home the silver medal in the distance race at the ICF world championships in Thailand. Those conditions were challenging, and we knew she had the right equipment under her feet.

A brand new Flying Fish Freedom Pro board drying from a recent paint job

The Freedom Pro, got it! You have stock boards that are new for this year, but most Flying Fish boards are customized! WOW! Where did that idea come from to make only custom boards in the beginning?

Well, this question kind of makes me laugh because that is a mold that we are actually trying to break out of. We are not just a custom board builder anymore. I knew from experience that most companies that are mass-manufactured overseas were limited to just a handful of sizes and typically built for men in the 160-185 pound range. I figured since we had the ability to manufacture any size we wanted at any time, I would offer custom boards to all my customers. Allowing them to dictate not just length and width, but also volume, deck depth, and of course different colors.

A majority of your market with Flying Fish is in the Florida area! Where would you like to see Flying Fish around the world?

Yes, the majority of our sales are in Florida and the United States, but we have a strong presence in Canada, as well as a handful of other boards that have made it internationally to Australia and South America. There are obviously challenges with limited production. Our typical year is about 200 race boards all of which are manufactured in our facility in Florida. Our goal this year and in years to come is to allocate a percentage of production for Europe and Asia, both of which are currently in the works. We are hoping our stock production which is manufactured with the exact same process as our custom boards can help fill the demand that we currently have in Europe and Asia.

We cannot wait to see more Flying Fish around the world! What are some goals you have for 2024? For yourself? For Flying Fish?

For myself, the answer is quite easy… get healthy. Late in the 2022 season I hurt my lower back and have been battling this injury the entire 2023 season. As I mentioned earlier, I am a very competitive person and would love nothing more than to make an appearance in the 50+ division at the ICF world championships in Sarasota. My goal for Flying Fish in general is to continue to making customers happy and faster all while continuing to grow our footprint in the sport.

Flying Fish Crew at Outside Experiences 2022

What’s your take on the current SUP racing scene and the SUP industry as a whole? Are you noticing any emerging trends?

Well, from my local perspective, I will tell you that the sport is very strong. We have a huge paddle community here in the south of Florida. Our local Tuesday night Race League averages about 50 to 60 paddlers of all levels, every week, and regular training groups throughout the week. I see that same trend in other parts of the United States, but it takes passionate local leadership which is a huge commitment.

On the not-so-positive side of the racing scene in the United States, I feel like a lot of the larger events are fading in attendance, and it seems that the focus has come off of the participants and is more about the events trying to make money. Just like on a local level, it takes somebody with passion to organize and host a large event successfully. I am not criticizing because I understand how difficult it can be to organize such a big event with lots of local restrictions, permits, insurance, etc.

Flying Fish Crew racing in Jupiter, Florida

I feel that local municipalities may need to step up a little bit to support some of these events and take the financial pressure off of the race organizers. In addition, I would like to note that the United States is a very large country and last year as an example it was just too difficult and expensive for Floridians to get the team and the equipment to California for the USA SUP nationals event. Thankfully for us, it will be in South Carolina this year so we will be able to bring the whole team. Europe seems to be doing an amazing job with the Euro Tour along with other local events and obviously, the ICF world championships was extremely impressive with the attendance, especially from the Asian countries. I feel very fortunate that I was able to attend that event in Thailand last year because it was an amazing experience. I look forward to this year in Sarasota, Florida.

Those are great insights John! Thanks for sharing! Is there any news you can provide on the Flying Fish team for 2024 at this time?

I wish I could give you some exciting news… but we are still working on potentially adding a new pro athlete to the team so stay tuned! Fortunately for us, we have had the same core group of pros forever, led by Eri Tenorio and Kim Barnes both of whom had amazing 2023 seasons. It will also be very exciting this year to showcase our other team riders Steve Miller, Jake Portwood, and Stephanie Shideler, who have tons of talent but do not get to travel internationally too often. As a small brand that is up against large corporate brands, it can sometimes be difficult to compete for top-level pros, so we find growing our team through our regional race ambassador program works great for us, so we were very excited to add you to the team Maddi Leblanc! Thanks for the interview!

Thank you John for joining us on TotalSUP! We hope your back injury heals quickly and that you can go out to crush the Men’s 50+ category at the ICF World Championships this year!

To find out more about Flying Fish visit
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About the Author

Maddi Leblanc

Maddi Leblanc is a Niagara born, Canada-based stand up paddling athlete for Team Canada, SUP instructor, and lake surfer. Maddi is also the events and community co-ordinator at Surf the Greats. She has been paddle boarding for over ten years, competing in SUP for seven years, and surfing the Great Lakes for seven years. She is also a masters alumni from Brock University in Recreation & Leisure Studies. Find her on Instagram.

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