Shop Talk: Pirate Coast Paddle Company

Newport Beach, Calif. isn't just the setting of the hit TV show, The OC. Newport is home to the infamous beach break, the Wedge, as well as million-dollar homes, and the ever-famous Balboa Bar. It also hosts a unique adventure SUP shop, Pirate Coast Paddle Company. Tim Lukei, one of the owners at Pirate Coast, tells us about what it was like being one of the first shops in the area, the shop's growth, the variety of events they offer, and the glories of paddling Newport's beautiful Back Bay. —Rebecca Parsons

SUP mag: How did Pirate Coast first come about?
Lukei: I've been surfing most of my life; I love the ocean. When SUP started getting popular down here, my best friend and I went for this awesome paddle down the coast of Laguna and I was hooked. Pirate Coast got started because we just kept paddling around in Newport and had tons of people asking us, 'what is that? Where can I do it? Do you offer lessons?' We started scratching our heads, wondering, 'How is SUP not in Newport Beach yet, how is there not one company renting or giving lessons?' So, basically, we saw the need and dreamt up what it could look like and how we could get it started. We didn't have any experience starting a business, but we decided to go for it. We bought twelve boards and said, 'alright, let's figure this out.'

SUP mag: How has the shop grown since you opened your doors?
Lukei: We started at the Newport Aquatic Center in 2010 with twelve boards, doing primarily group events and lessons. We stayed there for a couple years, doubling in growth and profit every year. In 2012, we moved locations over to the Newport Dunes and now we have our own beachfront with 50 boards and 25 employees.

SUP Mag: What about Newport Back Bay makes it an appealing place for SUP?
Lukei: Newport Back Bay is ideal for paddle boarding because our location lets you paddle on flat water, so you never have to worry about waves or crazy wind currents. So, you have the ability to take out people of all ages: beginners, tourists, and people who aren't comfortable with the ocean, because you might as well be paddling on a lake. It's really unique in that you can paddle up into the natural preserve, around the island, through boats and past huge homes. You can even paddle to a restaurant and have lunch or dinner. There's just so much to see and explore in the Newport Harbor—it's huge. If you really explored all of it you'd be paddling for days.

SUP mag: What types of activities do you offer?
Lukei: In the summertime we have SUP glow night tours three nights a week. Each board has an LED light system that illuminates the water below and creates this really unique, amazing experience. Sometimes we see rays, schools of fish, critters, all sorts of fun stuff. The night tours are probably the most popular of our events. Also in the summer, we have what's called Paddle and Popcorn. It's a sunset paddle and then you come back and watch a projected movie on the beach.

We hold Wild Wednesday SUP and Sip, too. It's a sunset paddle and then everyone heads over to Sol Cocina for an exclusive happy hour for Pirate Coast, that's extended until 8:30, which is pretty cool. And, we have a SUP Squatch, which is a ten-man paddleboard that's really cool for corporate events, birthday parties, or larger groups to all go have fun and be on one board together. It's really good for team-building exercises. We also have nine summer sessions of Quicksilver Kids' Pirate Paddle Camp for kids ages six to twelve. They do all sorts of paddling stuff, play on the aquatic playground, go on treasure hunts and different walks on Balboa Island, and other crazy, fun stuff.

SUP Mag: What's your favorite route to paddle on your guided tours?
Lukei: Generally, we head from our location to the Pacific Coast Highway bridge. Round trip, it's about an hour. If the crew seems more experienced we'll continue on and paddle around one of the islands, but it kind of just depends on the level of the people paddling with us. If conditions are right, we'll head to the upper estuaries, but with the tide and wind it can be kind of tricky, so we won't go up sometimes 'cause the way back gets so gnarly.

SUP mag: Do you host any races or charity events?
Lukei: Not necessarily races. We partnered with this huge event called Paddle for Privates. It's a big charity event for private part cancer: breast cancer, testicular cancer, and things like that. We've also helped with Standup for the Cure's event here. And, we hold an event called Paddle for Water. It's a big charity event and two- to three-hundred people come. It's basically a big beach party where there's live music, food, drinks, different vendors, and of course, SUP. It raises money for an organization called Charity Water that builds clean water wells throughout the world.

SUP mag: What's your vision for the future of your shop?
Lukei: The vision is more locations. It's looking like we're going to have a spot in Huntington Beach this coming summer. We're hoping to have a second location in Newport, and then slowly work our way up and down the coast.

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