I got started in the outdoor industry simply because of my passion for doing things outdoor. I was the kid that didn't come home when the streetlights came on – my mom would yell out the front door, piss off my neighbors and eventually I'd show up smelling like a dumpster – and eat cold dinner. What can I say – I didn't like being couped up inside.
I owe a lot of my passion to my parents who encouraged me to be that way. We were what most people would consider 'poor', but I had no clue… I had everything I needed. I guess I would say that's probably what motivated my parents to encourage me to explore the natural free wonders of a drainage creek or lumber pile from the lot being cleared across the street.
Flash forward 30 or so years – that's where the passion was able to cross paths with a business. I bootstrapped a stand up paddle board company alongside my wife and we both left behind pretty successful "corporate" careers.
It was in the earliest stages of the business development – doing tradeshows, calling magazine editors, and the other hustle and bustle that I realized the best part about doing business in the Outdoor Industry was going to be the people. I was dealing with people that were TRULY PASSIONATE about their work. Words can't describe how much that energized me. Coming from a very process oriented, sterilized engineering business I felt like I hit the jackpot. Here I am having business conversations about really cool shit – 'Where did you paddle this weekend', "Dude, how the hell did you land that monster red off that board?'. You can't beat that with a 10-foot stick.
The business, the people, the passions of the outdoor industry are what make it tick. There is more money to be made slinging stocks or real estate, but I promise you there are way harder working, authentic people in the outdoor space that invest their soul into their business. It takes an entire ecosystem of different business to support the outdoor experience. From Manufacturers to retailers to rentals, each and every business serves the purpose of sustaining the industry and the passions associated with it.
Often times I find that the word 'business' and 'passion' collide…sometimes in a very visible sense. You've got the business side of the equation which means planning and structure, and delegation, and ultimately more and more people involved…which can dilute things and cause unauthentic outcomes. The passion side is telling you to just do cool shit and be involved in the details and be as true to you (or me in the case) as possible. It's really hard to do and replicate every single time. One example in particular was a recent article our marketing team wrote and distributed, the goal of the journal was to promote the idea that you could own a paddle board (thru financing) for a similar cost of monthly or so rentals. However, the result of the article took on a tone of condemnation of the rental industry (which was NOT the goal). This article made it past me and into public consumption truly because I wasn't aware… I didn't see it. It was a mistake by my team – just a bad take.
So, I wanted to take a second to promote the Rental Operations of all kinds SUPs, Kayaks, Bikes, etc. These guys bust their tails and risk their money to allow people to have an affordable experience. They are the front-line battlers – swinging the sword first. I would say 50% of people that get into any outdoor passion – probably start by renting. Without the rental operations our industry would have a tough time surviving. It's an experiential space. You can't buy a kayak and sit it in your living room…you have to use it.
There are tons of operations across the country that can provide you with the ideal experience you want. I would highly suggest that if you want to get into the watersports space and you don't know what to do– you start by renting. They can help you understand more about the boards, put you on a board you will be comfortable with…and at the end of the day, you can walk away without having to worry about maintenance. Be it a BOTE Board or another brand, you can learn a lot about what you want to do.
At the end of the day, our goal is to sell an experience. There are many different pathways to being on the water… both renting and owning are great options and both have their unique advantages, which is where the idea of our article started.