We checked back with Waterman League Group CEO Tristan Boxford after the mid-January announcement of the creation of the Association of Paddleboard Professionals (APP) and its new eight-stop world contest tour which kicked off February 11-17 at Sunset Beach in Oahu.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) produces a separate Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship series.
We wanted to know more about the APP's vision of the evolving business of staging professional paddleboard surf and racing competitions, and what it means for the industry, brands, and retailers.
Where do you see opportunities for paddle surfing and the tour to grow?
Tristan Boxford, WLG and APP World Tour CEO: The beautiful aspect of the sport of Stand Up Paddling is that you can do it anywhere there is a body of water, and so it means that we are completely unrestricted on where we can take it.
Over the past seven years we have proved this by producing events in the center of Hamburg, in a wave pool in Abu Dhabi and even up in Lake Grey in the Chilean region of Patagonia.
As we move forward, rather than focus on coastal or inland waterways specifically, we have identified the key markets across the Americas, Asia and Europe in which we want to be and focused on high profile venues that can essentially bring the sport to the masses. This is illustrated in 2017 with our venues in Tokyo, Germany, New York and San Francisco, but also China, one of the newest markets for the sport.
However, we are maintaining iconic venues such as Sunset Beach, the World Tour Opener, to deliver the awe inspiring action and continue the legacy that has been created with this World Championship platform.
What’s your intended mix of growing with endemic companies vs. aspirational companies?
Tristan Boxford: We are certainly focused out.
While we have a strong industry program that involves the leading SUP brands in the market place, our venues and the nature of our events and media deliveries are geared towards corporate partners outside of the endemic world.
Our product is unique in that it is a lifestyle sport by nature, embracing the core elements that the surf sports enjoy, but its all-access appeal provides real opportunity to speak to a much broader demographic, and numbers that can legitimately engage large corporate brands.
In addition, our on-site activations and enhanced media deliveries will strengthen this value proposition as we move forward here.
Do you have an existing model in mind that you hope to emulate? The WSL, ISA, Street League skateboarding, Open and Dew snowboarding tours come to mind.
Tristan Boxford: I see our business model as different from any of the examples above, although it of course does share some similarities, especially when it comes to media deliveries.
Stand Up Paddling is extremely unique in the sense that it legitimately bridges the lifestyle sport and mass participation sectors, with such a diverse range of applications that it is anything but one dimensional and has huge potential for continued and significant growth.
Our core focuses are as follows:
- Establish key and iconic venues across all major global markets that bring our sport to the world in the most high profile manner possible
- Develop a sports lifestyle festival that is a mix of dynamic sporting action, participation and entertainment
- Deliver a high quality media product that provides a meaningful value proposition to our partners
- Nurture the core while growing the sport through its tangible accessibility to realize true mass participation
What’s your relationship to hardgoods and apparel brands and retailers? Is there a strategy to align with one or more of these companies?
Tristan Boxford: We have an industry program for the hardsgood companies to support the growth of the Tour and in return, receive promotional benefit and return for their support not only as a brand, but through their sponsored riders too.
As far as the apparel brands are concerned, we have ongoing conversations with a number of high profile brands both in the space (surf/lifestyle sector), but also outside of the endemic market altogether.
There is a real opportunity to capitalize on the opportunities that are presenting themselves in this growing sport sector, and we are exploring some interesting opportunities for creative partnerships that could deliver real return and benefit over the long term.
Surf, skate, and snowboarding are now all Olympic sports. Where does Olympic recognition fit in your strategy?
Tristan Boxford: There is no doubt that Stand Up Paddling as a sport does fit into the Olympic model with relative ease, especially when compared to surfing, given the all-terrain nature of the sport and the ability to hold an event at 1pm, in front of a major market audience on cue, for example.
We certainly value the Olympic movement and the opportunities that it could potentially bring to our sport and our Tour and are proactively working to ensure a unified and successful approach to supporting this should it become a reality.
However, the World Championship platform is our focus, as the health and success of this platform are critical to any eventual inclusion in the Games and will provide the means for both existing and future professional athletes to pursue a real and sustainable career.