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The InflatableBoarder.com crew recently had an opportunity to catch up with Bluefin SUP founder, William Vaughan. A relatively new name on the paddleboarding scene, Bluefin SUP is quickly gaining a reputation for producing quality iSUPs at affordable price points and their 5-year warranty leads the industry…
How were you initially introduced to the sport of stand up paddleboarding?
I have always been around water and watersports. I spent my summers with my family as a child on a beach in Scotland. My Dad has always had boats and I spent most of my time out in or on the water. Boats turned into kayaks and I set up Bluefin Kayaks with my partner Charlotte in 2013. Being involved in the kayaking community in the UK meant that we were always in touch with water-lovers. We first saw SUPs about 10 years ago and I knew I had to give it a go. One paddle and that was it. I was hooked.
What ignited the spark in you to get involved in the industry?
When I was looking for a paddleboard of my own I noticed that there were two types of paddleboards. Cheap, low-quality boards and high-quality expensive boards. For someone that was just starting as a paddler, I noticed that there was a gap for an inflatable SUP that was an affordable price but that was good quality and long-lasting. The need for an accessible inclusive paddleboard range was there and I knew that Bluefin could provide it.
How important have good employees been to your success?
I like the quote “None of us is as smart as all of us.” This sums up the culture and team attitude at Bluefin. We are a young, diverse team with completely different backgrounds, experiences, skills and opinions. We always work collaboratively on projects and having everyone’s input has massively impacted Bluefin’s success. The boards, brand and community would not be where it was without the Bluefin Team.
If you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently?
We are currently working towards a few projects that, if I could start Bluefin over again, I would have started from the beginning. Firstly, reducing the amount of plastic packaging we use on the boards. This is something we are currently working to reduce, to find something more environmentally friendly. Although we have a recycling program in place, it is not something we can assume all of our customers do. Secondly, is plastic clean-ups. We are currently underway with organising our first Bluefin canal clean up. We have already supported several paddlers in their “Paddlers against Plastic” mission. But again, this is something we wished we had done earlier.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
When we first started Bluefin, there were four of us, in my kitchen. As the business grew, we still stayed as four and ramped up our working hours, skillsets and responsibility as we wanted to be involved in every aspect of Bluefin SUPs. However, now, with a varied team of 20 with experts in every dimension of paddleboards and business, I wish I had hired them all sooner so I could have had more sleep!
How many hours a day do you work on average, and what does your typical day look like?
I work around 9 hours a day. I try to spend as much time outside as possible and encourage all members of the Bluefin Team to do so too. I usually get up at 6 am, walk our dogs (Blue and Fin – inventive names – I know!), then take some time to meditate. I start work at around 6.30am and work until 11.30am. Then I take a break and go to the gym or bike – if the weather permits. I go back into work at 12.30 until 4.30 and then I either; SUP, kayak, walk or bike in the evenings. I try to have limited screen time after work as I have sat in front of a screen for the majority of the day. On a Friday we go for a Team trip to the pub, for a pint or two!
What motivates you, and who has been your greatest inspiration?
My main motivation behind the brand, as discussed is accessibility and inclusion into the wonderful sport of stand up paddleboarding. I want everyone to be able to afford a SUP if they want one and for everyone to be able to paddle our boards. I want us to be a world-known and respected paddleboard brand.
My motivation for my work style is to have a great team environment and for Bluefin to be somewhere that people want to go to work. We have an open, inclusive and fun vibe in the office and that is something that is a priority to me. We go on monthly team paddles and all staff members have their own Bluefin SUPs.
My greatest inspiration: my Dad. He has always been what us Yorkshire folk call: a grafter. Being first hand to his work ethic and how he supported us growing up has inspired me to push forward into my own business. I want to be able to support not only my family but also provide jobs that enable other people to support their own families.
How do you define success?
Success for me, in this industry, is the community you build. We have an active group of Bluefin Paddlers who love our boards, our values and our ethos. We are getting positive feedback from paddlers of all experiences, people are loving the boards and wanting to be part of our community. That is a success to me, creating a brand that people want to relate to and be a part of.
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the SUP industry?
The thing I enjoy the most is the people. Everyone in the industry seems willing to help, share ideas and participate. SUP events are always full of like-minded people that all get along and it’s a really fun and friendly industry to be a part of.
I also really like the relationship that members of the SUP industry seem to have with environmental awareness. I think this is because, as paddlers, we are so close to the water that we can’t help but notice the pollution. Being part of the industry has opened my eyes to the problems we face and how we can do our part to help.
Where do you see the paddleboarding industry in 10 years? 20 years?
The future of the paddleboarding industry… I think paddleboarding will be made an Olympic Sport, soon. It will be good to see the sport getting the recognition it deserves and it will help to pull the sport out of the semi-niche it is currently in.
Tied in with that, I think paddleboarding is only going to get more popular. I mean, why wouldn’t it?! I think we could see people using it as more of a form of transport, to do tours and to view cities and sights.
With the advancement in technology, iSUPs will become lighter and stiffer and even more compact. iSUPs will rival hardboards in their stability soon. Bluefin is ready for the challenge!