Former Pro Paddler Helps Make Boating More Fun
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2018
For many, recreational boating is a way of life. But, it can always be improved. That’s what multiple-timepaddling champ Luke Hopkins foresaw many years ago with inflatable watersports products, such as Standup Paddleboards (ISUPs). For the boating community, it’s a match made in heaven.
Hopkins, a former kayak and standup paddleboard champion at events such as the Go Pro 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 manufacturing and on-the-water performance. In his Body Glove role as Watersports Division President, Hopkins believes that we are now seeing the heavy adoption of inflatable products in boating.
“The reason that inflatable products have taken off is three-fold. First, manufacturing and technology has come a long way. Consumers have more confidence in the technology. Our retailers see very little issues in the way of returns,” asserts Hopkins, who’s also co-host of “Facing Waves”, a syndicated travel adventure show that is seen in over 40 countries.
He says the second reason is convenience and improved user experience. Inflatable SUPs are easier to store on a boat and transport. Essentially, an ISUP, IKayak, or hybrid board storage backpack is an exciting, fully-contained outdoor watersport to have on board.
“It’s also incredible how far we have pushed the envelope with inflatables. 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 inflatable board pricing is now at a point where boaters and wanna-be paddlers can pick it up for a reasonable amount.
“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. Today, if you do your research right like so many of our customers do, you can pick up an ISUP without breaking the bank.”
Hopkins says it comes down to the innovative design, manufacturing process, and materials.
“Both consumers and retailers have to be careful about the products that they choose. For example, 90% of SUP customer service issues are related to the fins, be it losing the hardware to attach them or 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. Designing and manufacturing is a lot like your paddling stroke; you have to be technically superior than the competition. Plus, securing the business and satisfaction of a new retailer and its customers is just as thrilling as any race I’ve ever won.”
This article first appeared in the Year End Issue (Nov/Dec) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.