Fort Lauderdale has been called the Venice of America because of its expansive canal system. With 40,000 yachts, 100 marinas and a world-(in)famous beach scene, the city circulates on, over and around the water. Josh and Lori Vajda of Precision Paddleboards run a retail shop, and now have three rental locations in Fort Lauderdale. --Tom Fucigna Jr.
SUP mag: How did you get into SUP and why did you decide to enter the market?
Vajda: My wife Lori and I took a lesson about four years ago, and afterwards she said, "We should do this every week." We were hooked, and we finally had a sport we could enjoy together.
After renting for a few months, we started shopping for boards, but were disappointed by the selection in local shops. Nobody offered demos, and product knowledge was lacking. My background is in specialty retail. I thought that a growing, broad-appeal sport like SUP needed an advocate in our community, and that SUPers deserved expertise and service. We sought out brands that represented excellent values in design and construction, identified a location that would give our customers access to the beach and flat water, and opened Precision in December of 2010.
SUP mag: What services do you provide?
Vajda: We offer lessons for all skill levels, rentals and tours. Renters can paddle flat water on the Middle River or in the ocean at the public beach across the street. We offer a concierge service and provide racks or wheels for transport. Currently, our tour venues are Fort Lauderdale and Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, and we do parties or private tours all over South Florida.
SUP mag: What SUP-related activities do your customers like?
Vajda: They enjoy everything from SUP yoga and social paddles to race training and family fun days. We started our Standup Paddle Academy recently, which has helped connect a community of paddlers, and brought a new generation of competitors and enthusiasts to local events and races.
SUP mag: What gear do you carry, and what's been popular?
Vajda: We carry Suplove, Riviera, BOGA, Fanatic, King's, Coreban and MHL Custom boards. We've seen a shift over the past few months to touring boards. They borrow design cues from race boards, and with so much calm water to explore in our area, they're excellent fits for most of our customers. Our leading sellers are still 11' class surf-style boards. Quickblade is our most-popular paddle line.
SUP mag: Have any accessories been trending?
Vajda: In January 2012, we saw a video of Tyler Knight's NightSUP board, with lights installed in it. It's the most innovative SUP product we've seen to date. We’ve been leading tours and now sell the kits and conversions nationwide.
The NightSUPs have transformed the standup paddle experience for me – it’s peaceful and serene, and I can now paddle any time. Our customers love what they can see when paddling, like manatees, rays, lobster and fish. It’s like having your own full moon every time you paddle.
SUPThings nets, suction-cup water bottle holders, VestPac hydration packs and MTI belt pack PFDs have also been popular.
SUP mag: Have you sponsored or organized any events?
Vajda: We run an annual charity event downtown on the New River called Riverwalk on Water. We'll be doing it again April 14th and look forward to raising money for local charities. We also sponsor the annual Waterman's Paddle for Humanity in Deerfield Beach, and our Standup Paddle Academy team and race team both participate in local and regional events. We see ourselves as ambassadors of the sport, and it's important for us to support and attend local events.
SUP mag: Where do you think the SUP market is headed?
Vajda: Like any young industry, we're likely to see tremendous innovation and consolidation over the next few years as our sport matures. It will be exciting to see how our industry chooses to grow, develop, police and market itself.
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