Visitors to Bend may be forgiven for thinking the city on the Deschutes River is the birthplace of stand-up paddleboarding.
Stand-up paddleboarding, SUP for short, owns summer in Bend like football owns fall. Flotillas of paddleboarders ply the river near the Old Mill District and on the lakes along the 66-mile Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Outside magazine in March named the city the best stand-up paddleboarding getaway in the nation.
So much the better for Stand on Liquid, the paddleboard retailer and manufacturer in Bend.
“The fact that we have 40 lakes within 40 miles makes it a great spot for people to go paddle,” said Quentin Wilson, Stand on Liquid sales director.
But the origins of the sport lie in Hawaii, where surf icon Laird Hamilton, among others, helped popularize it. Hawaii is where the founders of Stand on Liquid discovered stand-up paddleboarding and keyed on its business potential.
Mike and Jenny Mudd founded the company as a retail outlet in 2010 and produced their first board in 2011. Partner Rob McDonald became half-owner about six months ago, Mike Mudd said during a phone call from St. Augustine, Fla.
“I’m prospecting for some new dealers while I’m down here,” he said Friday.
Today, the company produces 17 different models, including inflatables, priced from $500 to $1,600. The models range from durable entry-level boards suitable as rentals at lake resorts and summer camps to high-performance works of art. Stand on Liquid contracts with six factories in China to make its boards, Wilson said. The company continues to retail another 30-40 brands of boards, as well, he said.
Mudd said the company outlook shuns the sunny coast of Southern California, with its “20 different manufacturers and 1,000 different shops,” for Wisconsin and Minnesota and their thousands of flat-water streams and lakes. The Midwest is the company’s future, he said.
Stand on Liquid has something for “the slightly less athletic individual who wants to paddleboard,” Mudd said. “But we have some really good performance boards for the athlete that wants to go for a 10-to-12-mile paddle.”
Stand on Liquid sells at its shop in Bend; it also targets specialty retailers, where the product can find a spotlight, rather than big-box stores, he said.
Paddleboarding is evolving to appeal to niche users — fishermen and yoga practitioners, for example, according to Wilson and Mudd. For those who like to fish, including Mudd, Stand on Liquid also supplies accessories, including rod and beverage holders.
“I’ll paddle out to Hosmer (Lake) and the back channel and fly-fish,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7815
Q: Are you concerned that stand-up paddleboarding may be a passing fad?
A: Mike Mudd: I see kids paddling on these things; they spend all day on them. My 6½-year-old daughter and her friends spend all day on the water, and they just have a blast. That’s why I feel it’s not going to be a fad.
Q: Where do you expect the company to be in five years?
A: Quentin Wilson: We expect to be one of the top 10 stand-up paddleboard manufacturers in the U.S. And that’s an achievable goal.