Burlington, Vermont is located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, which is about 125 miles long and 14 miles wide. Back in April, Russ Scully, who owns WND&WVS with his wife Roxanne, admitted that standup paddling activities had been a bit slow because most everything had been frozen solid for the past eight months. Now, spring has sprung, summer's here and Burlington is ready to get out and paddle. —Tom Fucigna
SUP mag: How did you end up in Vermont?
Scully: I grew up in New Jersey and caught the surfing bug at a young age, and after Roxanne and I met in college, we moved to southern California together. After getting engaged and realizing that we’d never see our family more than once a year if we stayed on the west coast, we decided to move back east and settled in Burlington. Moving to a non-coastal town was a difficult decision, and we quickly started missing our easy access to the ocean, but our roots in Vermont had grown deep and moving out of state was not an option. Instead, we channeled our surf stoke into a few Vermont ventures. The first is a surf-style restaurant we opened four years ago called The Spot. The second is WND&WVS.
SUP mag: How did you first get into standup paddling?
Scully: When we moved to Vermont in 1997, I took the opportunity of living near a huge lake to learn to windsurf, which progressed to kiteboarding. I saw my first paddleboard in 2008, and that’s when the wheels in my head really started turning. "I could paddle that on the lake. I could probably surf with that too. I wonder if I could attach a sail? Rivers? Ocean? All kinds of water." The possibilities seemed endless.
SUP mag: When did you decide to get into the SUP market?
Scully: In 2009 a friend asked if I would be interested in working on a story for the New York Times about standup paddling. She was looking for a non-industry person to demo five different boards and give feedback. "Yeah, of course!" After that article ran, I was a magnet for paddleboard questions. At that time, paddleboards were hard to find in Vermont. I contacted Starboard and asked what was involved in being a retailer, and they graciously allowed me to set up shop using The Spot as my brick and mortar. I ordered a handful of boards in 2010 and started selling them out of the restaurant, but that quickly got out of hand.
There was an open space in another building nearby so I opened up a dedicated shop to house a bunch of boards, paddles and wetsuits. We sold over 50 boards in only two months with very little marketing. After blazing through that first order of boards, we started looking for a more permanent space and last year we settled into the 3,000 square feet we occupy now. To survive the winter months, I also host my agency, Scully Interactive, in the same space.
SUP mag: What features of your location make it appealing for standup?
Scully: We’re a couple of blocks from Lake Champlain in the heart of Burlington’s South End. The fitness culture in Burlington is on fire and we’re surrounded by yoga and dance studios, an indoor cycling studio and a Crossfit gym. We’re ready to get all those fit people outside and on the water, doing something that makes you forget you are even exercising. We’ll be doing board demos on the beach near the shop all summer, so our customers will get a chance to try out several different models before taking the plunge to purchase their own board.
SUP mag: What SUP-related activities do your customers like?
Scully: Most of our clients are interested in getting out on the lake and enjoying some exercise while taking in the scenery. Burlington is a huge yoga town, so we’re anticipating a growing interest in SUP yoga. We’ve also sold plenty of boards to local surfers who head down to surf waves in New Hampshire and Maine.
SUP mag: What brands of gear do you carry?
Scully: We carry Starboard and Naish boards, plus Starboard and Kialoa paddles. One half of the shop is dedicated to boards, gear and wetsuits, and the other side is a great selection of apparel and surf lifestyle stuff. We carry DaKine products, including straps, rack pads, leashes, bags, and rashguards, plus Surfco paddle kits, Quiksilver Waterman accessories, PFDs and paddle apparel. Our apparel lines include Roxy, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, RVCA, Hippy Tree, and O’Neill. We also have jewelry and accessories from some local Vermont artisans, Maui Jim, Pura Vida, our own line of t-shirts and hats, and hot sauce from The Spot.
SUP mag: What size, or types, of boards have been popular?
Scully: Our best selling board last summer was the Starboard Whopper, the perfect all around board for the entire family, and for beginners just getting into the sport. Overall we’ve had a lot more interest in planing boards vs. displacements. We've also recently added Naish inflatables. Most customers are scared to buy anything longer than 10 feet for fear of having to manage the board out of the water (car, garage, etc.), so we’ve had more success with boards in the nine- to ten-foot range.
SUP mag: Have you organized any events?
Scully: We started a recreational race four years ago that we call Standup for The Lake. It's a benefit to support our local community sailing center. This year we’re ramping it up several notches and the event is sanctioned by the World Paddle Association. The race is set for Sunday, August 18th on Burlington’s downtown Waterfront Park as part of a weekend-long Maritime Festival with live music, food, and fun. There will be shorter races for recreational paddlers and kids, and a bunch of rental boards available.
SUP mag: Where do you think the SUP market is headed?
Scully: The growth curve still seems very steep. The fact that standup exists on all bodies of water means we’ll see more and more people looking at that pond down the road and realizing they can now enjoy it in a whole new way. Same goes for every river, stream, lake, reservoir, etc. At some point the growth is going to flatten out, and I expect there will be some brand consolidation, but that won’t happen for a while.
SUP mag: What else would you like our readers to know about your shop?
Scully: There aren’t any stores even remotely like ours in the state. We’ve made all our own racks with bamboo poles and repurposed stuff I’ve been collecting for years, to create kind of a Gilligan’s Island feel. We’re off the beaten path, but we’re in an area that is seeing a swell of growth in retail, fitness, restaurants and local businesses. We have two giant garage doors that open to make it easy for transporting boards in and out of the shop in summer, and in the dead of winter, you can walk into WND&WVS to get a dose of the tropics. It’s a great scene and we’re really stoked about putting Vermont on the map for SUP.