Glide Spotlight: Interview with Founder Ken Driscoll

Glide Paddleboards' Ken Driscoll
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In this edition of SUP Company Spotlight, had an opportunity to catch up with Glide SUP founder, Ken Driscoll. Based out of Salt Lake City, UT, Glide has a versatile line of durable paddle boards that are eco-friendly and made in the U.S.A.

How were you initially introduced to the sport of stand up paddleboarding?

I was surfing at San O and I saw a guy on a SUP and I knew I had to try it. At that time I could find no information about boards, paddles, or really anything. As soon I as got back home to Utah I was on a mission to build a board and hit the rivers.

What ignited the spark in you to get involved in the industry?

I have been in the outdoor industry almost my entire adult life. Before Glide I had been working in the white water kayaking industry for over 15 years, I started as an athlete and then after some injuries I was sidelined and worked more on the design side. Being able to stand on a board allowed me to get back on the water and from that point on I knew the SUP world was the place for me.

How important have good employees been to your success?

I will let you know if I find any… Honestly, employees are vital to success of any company. We all have strengths and weakness so finding employees who can compensate for areas that I am not strong in has lead to the successful company we are today. The employees also have the most interaction with the customers so ultimately they are a reflection of the brand and what your company stands for — its extremely important to have great employees. We at Glide are lucky to have the best staff in the industry.

Glide SUP O2 Inflatable Quest
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If you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently?

That’s a tough question as we have had some epic mistakes that I wish never happened, but we grew and learned from all of them. Without those mistakes I am not sure we would be in the position we are today, so I am not sure I would change anything.

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Grab a snack and get comfy, we’re going to be here for awhile. Here are a few of the ones that still make me cringe. We have a patent pending for a finish on our hard boards that make them ultra durable. In the early days we used to finish the board completely in the GSS (Glide Surface Shield) finish. The good part was the board was extremely durable, the bad news was the pads did not stick on in humid environments. That summer was a nightmare! Luckily we have fantastic customers, and a great rep team, and with some very patient customers we found the root of the issue and were able to change our process.

We also learned the hard way not to trust everything that people say. We had an opening for a rep position in Southern California, and a woman applied with an amazing resume with a ton of industry connections. We sent her an entire fleet of boards and she promptly disappeared. We did see her on Judge Judy a few months later.

How many hours a day do you work on average, and what does your typical day look like?

There really is no typical day around here. In the busy season it could be that I am sanding boards in the morning and then working the phones in the afternoon. The best days for me are when I am doing design work, talking with customers, spending time with the production workers, and then checking in on the sales staff.

I try to keep normal 9-5 hours at the factory, and then when I wake up I do a few emails, and then at night is when I seem to be most productive. I like to put on music with head phones and then put a few hours in every night working on new products, getting ready for trade shows, or doing the more boring but necessary looking over the books.

What motivates you, and who has been your greatest inspiration?

I think I have the typical motivation of most entrepreneurs — money, flexibility, and teamwork. What really drives me though is we have the opportunity to shape a new industry from the ground up. SUP is still so new that everyone who is involved is building a new sport from the ground up. We at Glide have found a niche to fill in building durable boards. Its really cool to have created a way to build boards that has never been done before and to see how this will become a legacy in the industry that will outlast myself — that is my greatest motivation.

Also the continuing opportunities that present themselves are so exciting that I am not sure how I could lose motivation! Yoga is our largest segment in retail boards, and when the weather was getting cold our Yogi’s were bringing boards into swimming pools. And from that we developed an inflatable platform we call the FIT. It quickly evolved from just yoga into our own very unique new segment in the fitness world of aquatic based stability training.

So for me is the innovation and then working with a team to see these ideas come to live that is my biggest motivation.

“Don’t be afraid to change the model” -Reed Hastings Co-Founder of Netflix. I have been inspired by the underdogs who get in and shake things up.

Glide SUP O2 Inflatable Fit
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How do you define success?

Success for me is being able to lay in bed at night with a feeling of peace knowing that what I am doing will create positive impact on the people closest to me, and my employees which will allow them to lead a better and happier life.

What do you enjoy most about being involved in the SUP industry?

The people I get to meet and work with. The industry is full of some of the most unique and fascinating people I have ever had the opportunity to meet and work with.

Where do you see the paddleboarding industry in 10 years? 20 years?

I think the next 10 years paddle boarding will look at lot like other specialty sports industries. My go to example is the bike industry. You will have people who are just getting into the sport who will be looking to buy an entry level board from a big box chain, to the specialty retailer who will have all the latest gear, soft goods, and accessories. I feel in 20 years we will be a very well established and mature industry — I think the future for the industry is very bright.

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