Shop Talk: Covewater SUP
Santa Cruz is a serious hub for surf culture in California, and, in recent years, SUP culture as well. Located on the Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz is home to redwood forests, an abundance of wildlife, and killer point breaks. Its beauty is unmatched. Here, Scott Ruble, owner of Covewater SUP, speaks of integrating SUP into this surf community and the growth he’s seen in recent years. —Rebecca Parsons
SUP mag: Tell us about your background.
Ruble: I’ve been surfing since high school and worked in the surf industry for about a decade. I was introduced to standup by a friend in 2008. He was an old surf buddy and had just gotten back from Hawaii. He called me up and said, ‘Dude! Have you tried standup paddling yet?’ And I said, ‘No.’ So, he found a couple boards, came down to Santa Cruz, and we went out paddling.
By the end of that year, I got my hands on a used 12’1’ Laird. A year later I drove down to Santa Barbara’s Blueline and bought a Paddle Surf Hawaii. By late 2009, I’d done a couple races and was rigorously surfing SUP. I went on a walk with my wife one day and was like, ‘There’s no standup paddleboard availability; you can’t find them, and you can’t get them. We should open a shop.’ And we did. We opened up the shop in April of 2010.
SUP mag: Tell us about the history of Covewater SUP.
Ruble: When we first opened, our boards were eleven- to twelve-feet and weighed thirty pounds or more. A lot of the paddles were fixed length and aluminum. When I look back now, it was junk, but at the time, that’s all there was.
It was exciting when we opened the shop; the SUP community in Santa Cruz came to the grand opening. We felt like it was a big deal. Now when we look back on it, we had maybe fifteen boards for sale in the shop and another fifteen demos. That was mind-blowing. Now we’ve got well over 100 boards. SUP has definitely come a long way in Santa Cruz—there’s exponentially more people doing it now than in 2010 when we opened. We’d like to think we have a lot to do with that.
SUP mag: What about Santa Cruz makes it an awesome place to SUP?
Ruble: Santa Cruz is on the Monterey Bay, which is part of the greater Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It’s a very special place because of the wildlife: you’ve got tons of sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, elephant seals up the coast, cormorants, dolphins, and we get a lot of whales coming through. For those who like to surf their standup, there’s also a plethora of fun, accessible, point break waves that are perfect for standup. It’s really got everything you could ask for in terms of a Pacific Ocean setting for standup paddling.
SUP mag: Tell us about the retail side. What types of boards do you carry?
Ruble: We carry everything. There are so many different boards that we look at and we think, ‘That’s the perfect board for Customer X,’ or, ‘That’s the perfect board for Customer Y.’ Whether it’s a guy who just wants to flatwater paddle with his family, or a woman who wants to race, or someone who wants to surf, there are a billion different customer profiles and a billion different boards that are going to be just right for them. I like to have not only one right board for them, but maybe three so that they can really choose the perfect board, right down to micro-level.
SUP mag: What boards are popular in your shop right now?
Ruble: We have some really nice downwind conditions here, particularly north of Santa Cruz county, so people who have been standup paddling for awhile start saying, ‘Hey, what’s this downwinding about? That looks fun.’ So, popular boards right now would be the SIC Maui downwind boards and SIMSUPs.
SUP mag: Do you lead tours?
Ruble: We do a tour of Elkhorn Slough, which is a slough down towards Moss Landing, about 25 minutes south of here. It’s a really rich, marine bio system. It’s very tidally influenced, so you can ride the tide into the slough and then ride it back out. It’s teaming with birds, leopard sharks, bat rays, and all sorts of neat things.
SUP mag: Do you sponsor any athletes?
Ruble: Yeah, we have a team of local people that we sponsor. There are about seven people on our team. They’re just good people, good ambassadors for the sport, and really strong paddlers.
SUP mag: Do you host or sponsor any races?
Ruble: We did our own race for a couple years, the Covewater Classic. The second year we made it a free race, sort of a giveback, and that was really fun. Each year we sponsor the Surftech Jay Moriarty Memorial Paddleboard Race, as well as the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest, and then a couple smaller races also.
SUP mag: Do you support any charity groups?
Ruble: Like any shop, we get lots of requests for donations. It’s a hard position to be in because you really want to support and lend help to each one of them, but unfortunately you’ve got to pick and choose. So, we do lots of gift certificates and free rentals for various groups that come to us. But in terms of annual ongoing support, we donate to Surfrider, Sea Odyssey, Surfaid, Save Our Shores, and Coastal Watershed Council. These are organizations that we really believe in on a personal level and that are also are closely tied to the interests of standup paddlers.