When a trend grabs a hold of a marketplace, every business in the space scrambles to grab its share. But the key in business is to be able to anticipate the trends. That’s what multiple-time paddling champ Luke Hopkins foresaw with Inflatable Standup Paddleboards (ISUPs). Indeed, inflatables have overtaken hard SUPs as the go-to standup paddling option, with more and more consumers taking up the popular sport.
Hopkins, a former kayak and standup paddleboard champion at events such as the GoPro Games, was always fascinated with the convenience of inflatable boards, going as far back as the mid-2000s. He has designed, tested, tinkered with and now perfected ISUP manufacturing and on-the-water performance. In his Body Glove role as Watersports Division President, Hopkins believes that we are now seeing the real growth in standup paddling with new customers having access to affordable paddleboards.
“The reason that standup paddling has taken off is three-fold. First, ISUP manufacturing and technology has come a long way. Consumers have more confidence in the technology. Our retailers are getting the high-quality paddleboards at attainable prices to continue to grow the standup community,” asserts Hopkins, who’s also co-host of Facing Waves, a syndicated travel adventure show that is seen in more than 40 countries.
He says the second reason is convenience and improved user experience. Inflatable SUPs are easier to store and transport. So whether it’s someone living in a one-bedroom apartment or a weekend boat warrior, an ISUP storage backpack is essentially an exciting, fully-contained outdoor watersport that just happens to be very portable.
“It’s also incredible how far we have pushed the envelope with ISUPs. For example, we can literally run over our Body Glove ISUPs with a truck, and they will come out in good shape. Combine that with features we’ve added such as the world’s only patented multi-purpose handle that’s also a water bottle holder, and convenience really is the operative word.”
Finally, Hopkins says that overall ISUP pricing is now at a point where standup paddling isn’t just a niche sport. Families and wanna-be paddlers don’t have to invest a fortune to get into the sport.
“In the early days of inflatable SUPs you either had to spend an arm and a leg to get something of quality, or you went cheap and had a miserable paddling experience,” says Hopkins. “Today, if you do your research right, like so many of our customers do, you can pick up an ISUP that includes everything you need without breaking the bank.”
Hopkins says it comes down to innovative design, the manufacturing process and materials.
“Retailers have to be careful when it comes to the ISUPs that they carry. For example, 90% of SUP customer service issues are related to the fins, be it losing the hardware to attach them, faulty fins that break off because they’re too long in shallow water, etc. It’s why we made the Body Glove ISUP fins permanent and virtually indestructible.”
So how does business success compare to winning paddling races in the water?
“Surprisingly, it’s quite similar,” says Hopkins. “Designing and manufacturing is a lot like your paddling stroke; you have to be technically more superior than the competition. Plus, securing the customer satisfaction in a new product is just as thrilling as any race I’ve ever won. I don’t just design paddleboards; I design experiences for customers while thinking outside the board and innovating.”
Follow Luke Hopkins on Instagram @localpaddler or email firstname.lastname@example.org.