It's hard to think back to a time when SUPs weren't a part of the coastal landscape. And by that, I mean, any coast—ocean, bay, lake, sea, lagoon or river. But the reality is, we first saw these boards less than a decade ago. And now, we're seeing massive SUP yoga festivals, dudes landing 66-lb sailfish from paddleboards, 150-mile races through European countryside, and, of course, SUP riders annoying surfers in the line up. Today, numbers of boards sold are skyrocketing into the millions globally.
Unlike traditional surfboards, which were made domestically for five decades, the large SUP companies were quick to move their production overseas. SUPs came on the scene shortly after large surfboard manufacturers had moved factories to China and Thailand. Those countries are making the majority of SUP boards now, and market numbers indicate that a full 95 percent of SUP boards are made in Asia.
With traditional surfing, which has more of a core base and defined culture, foreign made boards (aka “China Boards”) carry somewhat of a stigma. But, for the growing masses of stand up paddlers, there seems to be little concern regarding where their board comes from. That’s where a company like Glide SUP is bucking the trends, and making all of their boards in the heart of Salt Lake City, in what they claim is the largest SUP factory in the country.
“Our quality control is amazing. We have a good group of guys who take a lot of pride in what we do,” says Anthony Johnson, a former pro skateboarder who is now making boards at Glide.
Being in Utah, most of the paddling is done on the Great Salt Lake or in reservoirs. There’s local recreational paddling, river surfing, and a growing number of flat water races. They also ship a good number of boards to Florida and the West Coast.
For the most part, boards made in Asia are epoxy and relatively durable. But as you can imagine, Glide proudly flies their "Made in the USA" flag pretty high. There are only a handful of production SUP companies that build boards in the US. Glide estimates that those factories have about 25 percent of the yearly output on their own. Glide make durable boards, and unlike the brands that have to travel to China for quality control, Johnson and his crew have their hands and eyeballs on each board. Team members from all over the country have seen how the boards are made at Glide.
“At Glide we not only take pride in leaving the smallest footprint possible on the environment with our production and manufacturing process, but we also avoid the impact on the environment by not shipping to the USA from overseas,” he adds. “We also believe it is extremely beneficial to our local economy to be made and sold in the USA. We are creating many local jobs, and putting money directly back in to our economy.”
And the boards are really not much more expensive than the leading Asian made, top selling SUP companies. Sometimes they’re even cheaper.
“We just retooled everything to keep the price competitive. We figured out how we could spend our money the smartest way. When we first started, we made every kind of board. But now, we’ve discovered our niche and it’s working for us,” adds Johnson.
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