One of the benefits of owning a seasonal business is it gives you the chance to explore other places during the off season, and not just visit other places but actually live there, like a local for a time. This past winter we chose to go to California. We chose California, not only because it is always 72 degrees and sunny (which is not the case by the way) but also because that is where the sport of stand up paddle boarding really took off in the late 90s. We wanted to meet other paddlers, try different equipment, go to some races and generally experience the life. I have to say, we liked it!
We met some great people while we were there. Like Maggie from Blue Paddle SUP and her paddle posse. We can't thank her enough for showing us the scene, making us feel welcome and generally just giving us endless tips. We also found Coconut Pete's, a great second hand board shop for surf and SUP that focuses on recycling and refurbishing old boards to give them a new lease on life and to cut down on waste!
We saw that there is a real concerted effort to make the surf and SUP industry a little more environmentally conscious. There is still a long way to go but at least people are really looking at it and trying to make a difference. Wetsuits made by Volte use recycled plastic bottles for their neoprene and solvent free glue. The ECOBoard Project stamp has become a quality mark as much as who shaped it. These are just a few examples of what is being explored. There are then people experimenting with even more extreme solutions to our current environmental crisis and how the surf industry fits in, like the guys from Surf Organic Boards growing surf boards out of mushrooms.
We also learned about the advantages we have paddling here in Ireland over those paddling in California. Our coastline is full of coves, bay, and estuaries, so we can always find a sheltered place to paddle in almost any condition. California, on the other hand, is more or less a straight line so you can only get really perfect conditions first thing in the morning before the sea breeze starts to blow. Ireland, and especially Kerry, has a staggeringly beautiful and varied coastline. This makes paddling here all the more enjoyable, with something new to see around every bend. While in southern California you find yourself paddling an endless stretch of sandy beach or full marina to escape the inevitable onshore wind. In California it's all about the sport, the gear, the technique, the speed. In Ireland you have another reason to paddle, the joy and excitement of discovering new places!
We love California, we may move there at some point, but for the minute, our return to Ireland came with a whole new appreciation for what we have and where we are. It also instilled in us a greater sense of why what we do is important and the confidence of knowing that what we offer is of the highest quality.