Red Paddle Co. – The world’s most popular inflatable stand-up paddle boards

What’s your riding style? Is it cruising and distance paddling? Is it racing? Surfing? Whitewater? Windsurfing? Maybe yoga? Whatever it is, Red Paddle Co has an inflatable stand-up paddleboard (SUP) for you. And if you’re a committed volleyballer or a Frisbee tosser, a shell collector or a photographer, the family from out of town or the girl’s weekend sort of beachgoer you’re forgiven if you, until now, have been confusing SUPs with surfboards and windboards. You should know that there’s a big difference – literally. Stand-up paddleboards are, in the words of CNN’s Health & Wellness editorial director David Allan, “something of a hybrid between a surfboard and a Venetian gondola.” Ideally for the typically-statured 180 pound male rider, a surfboard should be approximately seven feet in length while a windboard should measure eight-and-a-half feet. The average SUP, on the other hand, is 10-and-a-half feet in length – and for those yoga and Pilates-style riders out there upwards of three-to-four feet wide. Red Paddle Co’s SUPs vary – significantly so – in dimension and purpose. There’s the 22-foot four-person Dragon MSL for racers who thrive on team spirit. The 14-foot Ride L MSL for families or groups of friends who want to share an adventure. The 12-foot-six-inch Elite MSL for serious racers in the 12’6” Class. The eight-foot-ten-inch Whip MSL for surfers who want to take their ride all over the world. The 10-foot-seven-inch Windsurf MSL for windsurfing beginners looking for the perfect way into the sport – and of course the 10-foot-eight-inch Activ MSL for yoga, Pilates, and fitness fans. However, the most popular board by miles is the multi award winning 10’6” Ride, the all-round board, suitable for most types of water and for a variety of paddlers. “We always tell customers that inflatable is unbeatable when it comes to stand-up paddle boards,” the GM of the Red Paddle Co, Andrew Meakin, said when he spoke with Spotlight on Business in early June.  “The most important thing for us is really the customer’s experience with their boards. We want them to know that our inflatable SUPs are the stiffest, the most durable, and more importantly the most reliable out there – plus, they deflate, roll-up and they’re easy to transport even by hand or on your back to remote locations. I think that we are looking at the paddle boarding world differently than anyone else out there. We want to be able to connect people to the water in whatever way they envision.” 


Red Paddle Co first hit the water in 2008 in the UK as “a bit of an idea,” Andrew said with still-suspended disbelief and a chuckle from his Vancouver office. “The sport was new when our co-founder John Hibbard brought the idea of an inflatable SUP to a fledgling market and a lot of people thought it was a silly idea. No one dreamed that a board that required an air pump and can be carried in a suitcase-size travel bag would be able to withstand lakes and rivers – let alone the ocean.” 

But they can.

Thanks in part to their Tech Air manufacturing processes and MSL board construction – an industry-leading process that is overseen at the company’s private facility – Red Paddle Co is the SUP brand to beat. The benefits of the “MSL Fusion process,” Andrew explained, are numerous. “We’re the only company in the world making inflatable SUPs this way. Our process gives you a lighter but stable SUP, greater stiffness at lower pressures which means less pumping and more paddling, enhanced durability, and a superb, second-to-none cosmetic finish – our boards look cleaner and smoother than anything you’ll find out there.”

Stand-up paddleboarders the world over seem to agree. 

Red Paddle Co took home the 2017 Gear of the Year award from Outside Magazine, the 2017 Gear of the Year award from Backpacker Magazine, the 2017 Gear of the Year from Men’s Journal, and the 2016 Inflatable Gear of the Year award from SUP Connect.

As the torchbearer for what’s become a globally-embraced competitive and leisure sport, the Red Paddle Co business model continues to set high industry standards.

“We’re always asking how we can bring customers into the brand, into the sport,” Andrew explained. “That means, by extension, that our customer service is really important to us. If a prospective stand-up paddleboarder or an established stand-up paddleboarder reads about us, reads about the sport in a magazine or sees the sport on TV or the internet, we need to be ready to take that call, to answer their questions, and bring them through. There are people who don’t really know what type of board they want or why they should by a Red board, and that’s what our staff is here for. We love the sport and we’re available digitally or on the phone to hold anyone’s hand through that process – it’s what we do! It’s also key to our business and we want to get it right. That’s still our attitude ten years on and I think it really speaks to our message, our direction: we follow through consistently because we listen, we learn.”

The pedagogy doesn’t stop with sales, he continued.

“For us, the safety element is also a big one. You are looking at a sport that when done right is relatively safe, but if it’s done wrong it can go really, really wrong – and it does happen. Everyone needs to take responsibility. The industry needs to be really big on safety and we take that responsibility very seriously.  Any SUP can make pretty much any stretch of coastline your own personal playground but even pros need to set limits.”

And Red Paddle Co helps their customers responsibly set those limits. At the complete eight-step SUP Safe: A Simple Guide is available to the general public. The SUP Safe Checklist, which holds to the motto ‘If in doubt, don’t go out,’ looks like this:

  1. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Don’t leave the house without a mobile phone or communication device.
  2. Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out – they can change quickly.
  3. Avoid offshore winds or dangerous water currents.
  4. Always go with a friend.
  5. Wear a suitable personal flotation device (PFD).
  6. Wear suitable clothing for the time of year.
  7. Always wear your leash and hold onto your board if you get into trouble – it will help you float.
  8. Inflate your board between 15-22 psi to ensure a stable and stiff board.

“Making sure our customers – and ourselves and our loved ones, for that matter – stay safe is a big part of our message, our direction, and how we follow through,” Andrew said.

Red Paddle Co’s holistic presence is felt far and wide. The Country/Language Selector at is 17 countries strong – not bad for a company that started in the UK only 10 years ago. 

“After the UK, USA and Canada we have a great presence in France, Germany and Spain, but we sell boards in over 60 countries worldwide and have some fantastic strong holds all over the globe. We’ve really honed our ability to build large wholesale channels across a variety of countries and cultures. Our main channel of focus, much like other brands, is the wholesale channel. It’s really important that we work closely with our wholesale partners to grow the brand across every market. As a paddleboard is such a considered purchase, talking to experts is very important in aiding the purchase process. Educating staff at shops in every market we’re in and making them experts is a big focus for us. A developing area of focus for Red Paddle Co is the online D2C channel. While most brands would look to take on this channel alone, alienating their existing wholesale accounts, we leverage a retailer-integrated ecommerce system – which effectively means that when a sale is made through our website that it is fulfilled by the closest retailer to the consumer. It’s a way for us to learn, grow, and measure the effectiveness of our channels so that we can partner with our wholesale accounts in a way that is best for everyone,” Andrew said.

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By David MacDonald