In this edition of SUP Company Spotlight, we had the privilege of interviewing Starboard SUP founder, Svein Rasmussen. A responsible, eco-conscious company that sponsors a number of environmental projects, Starboard SUP is a pioneer in the industry that continually pushes the envelope when it comes to paddle board design and performance…
How were you initially introduced to the sport of stand up paddleboarding?
First time I saw paddle boarding was my father standing up paddling on one of our windsurfing boards at Lake Taco, Thailand. I asked him what he was doing and he said he really liked the feeling of exploring nature this way standing up. Now this was back in 1999 and it took me another 6 years before I was reintroduced to the idea of paddle boarding by my friend Jeff Henderson on Maui. We were developing long boards for windsurfing and after having fun wavesailing in light winds Jeff asked me to throw the rig away and try to paddle instead. I then got a glimpse of the wave aspect of the sport. When returning to Thailand I recalled my father’s good time paddle boarding and started to see how also flat water paddle boards could be developed further.
What ignited the spark in you to get involved in the industry?
There was no industry when we got involved with paddle boarding and in most of the countries we went to, we actually introduced the sport. We did not even quite know what we could call the sport we participated in. The reason we started to mass produce SUP boards was that we wanted to share this stoke with the world. At that time our distribution partners did not understand what we were trying to introduce them too, yet another crazy idea, as what they were used to in windsurfing. As most of our crazy ideas worked out, they supported us and introduced this new sport in their countries. We also felt that paddle boarding would be a great entrance to windsurfing and the synergy between the 2 sports is phenomenal. It’s so much easier to learn to windsurf after having learned to paddle board and as foil windsurfing is something a windsurfer can learn in an hour, its a good intro to foil SUP.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Good and motivated employees are 100% of our business success and these days we are better at recruiting great crew.
If you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently?
If we were to start again, we would have helped set more clear guidelines for the safety aspect of the sport to avoid some of the accidents we have seen around the world, and we would have considered patenting more of our inventions.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
I have made plenty of failures in all respects. Most importantly however is that concerning products one may not want to listen to people in the industry, but rather talk with people who are on the water and inspired by that experience instead of the business aspect. Our own network, for example, did not want Starboard to go into inflatable board development so we lost a few years before we managed to convince them.
How many hours a day do you work on average, and what does your typical day look like?
The day starts by paddling to work at 7:30am, then planning the day concerning development projects, marketing, management, recruiting and all that stuff. The fun part is when we have an idea, go shape a bit and test the boards a few days later. Weekends are set to test new prototypes for paddle boarding and windsurfing. My 10 year old daughter is my real “boss” and helps me balance life.
What motivates you, and who has been your greatest inspiration?
Can our company and our customers help the planet in terms of reforestation and plastic pollution reduction? I think so, and this is what motivates me to create a wider customer base as we have the opportunity to involve those who can resonate with our values. We work to be able to be useful for our environment and somehow hope that the human species might survive despite all its flaws and crazy short term thinking. Inspired by my father, I wish to one day be able to get closer to his way of treating all people with patience and respect.
How do you define success?
Success at Starboard is when we have been able to make someone happy and maybe in a small way have helped the planet restore itself .
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the SUP industry?
I like the spark of the people in the SUP industry. Seeing how we can get more people on the water experiencing the beauty of the planet is vital for its protection.
Where do you see the paddleboarding industry in 10 years? 20 years?
The paddle industry can be a proud custodian of the oceans. We together can stand up for the oceans, so let’s find a way where ISA, ICF, and other associations work together to grow the sport to its fullest.