InflatableBoarder.com interviews airSUP founder Brett Bennett in this edition of SUP Company Spotlight. Founded in 2010, airSUP is an International company that was the first to create inflatable SUP boards with fully adjustable and removable real fins.
How were you initially introduced to the sport of stand up paddleboarding?
I was at a trade show in Taiwan — it was about 2008. I was taking a break for lunch but the restaurants were all packed. So, instead of waiting in long lines for food, I decided instead to find out what these big boards and oars were…
What ignited the spark in you to get involved in the industry?
Although I grew up in Australia – where everyone lives for the weekend at beach, while living in Japan I’d spent too much time in the concrete jungle. In 2009 we moved our office from Tokyo to a beach-side city and I wanted to get back in the water more. This seemed like the best way forward.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Initially we had to explain what a SUP was to almost every customer (especially in Japan), so we know that employees who are patient, understanding, and are also passionate about our products is very important.
If you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently?
We started the company in Tokyo 2004 with both online and retail shops in Akihabara (we were selling electronics back then), although it took a few years it became obvious online was the brighter future, mainly because we could work from anywhere and not have to live in Tokyo. Tokyo was fun for a few years, but living at the beach, and getting in the water everyday is much better!
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
With any new product design there are things you can’t anticipate, but I’ve learned that getting valuable feedback from family and friends testing new ideas is the key. After initial product release, the feedback from customers and quickly resolving any issue and continually looking to improve products are equally essential.
How many hours a day do you work on average, and what does your typical day look like?
From March – December I try to get out on the water for a few hours, then in the office 5 – 8 hrs. The rest of the year if possible I’ll take off for a few months to a warmer climate down under to recharge, test new design ideas, and prepare for the next northern hemisphere summer.
What motivates you, and who has been your greatest inspiration?
I would have to say my parents. They built a business from scratch and eventually became #1 in their field, however they never lost sight of the joys of life such as recreation, nature, and family. I like to think I’ve followed this example and try to enjoy a sports and recreation motivated lifestyle.
How do you define success?
Getting the feedback from happy customers who are using products that I’ve designed.
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the SUP industry?
Because of this industry, I’m spending time on the water testing and developing ideas, traveling to new places, and interacting with positive sports and recreation minded people from all walks of life!
Where do you see the paddleboarding industry in 10 years? 20 years?
Going on current trends, I think we can expect steady growth in SUP for at least 5 – 10 years, especially on inland lakes and rivers. 20 years from now I hope more people will have time for family, friends, sports, and a healthier lifestyle (which i guess means more SUP!).