Interview: SUP Mag UK
Pics: AV SUP Club
AV SUP Club is another popular stand up paddle boarding club located on the banks of the River Hamble. Featuring an idyllic flat water location the club caters for all comers – beginner to advanced. SUP Mag UK caught up with founding member Drew Wood to hear about all things AV SUP.
Tell us a little about the history of AV SUP Club?
AV SUP Club is the brainchild of Drew Wood (owner of ActionVan, The Ultimate Camper Van Conversion Company).
ActionVan has always had strong links with the mountain biking, sailing and windsurfing scenes and through these connections sponsored the then UK No 1 wave sailor John Hibbard back in 2004/5/6. John was one of the leading lights in bringing SUP to our shores and now heads up Red Paddle SUP operations at Tushingham Ltd (distributors of Starboard and Red Paddle Co).
Drew has also been involved in the sport from its infancy in the UK. He helped run a Team 15, RYA 8 – 18 year windsurf club (Calshot Flyers) on a voluntary basis at Calshot Activities Centre and not only is a qualified Senior Windsurfing Instructor, he has now achieved BSUPA certification as a Paddle Board Instructor.
With a huge surge in the sport of SUP, Drew, with the help of Rich Marsh (BSUPA) pinpointed Eastlands Boat Yard, based on the beautiful river Hamble in Hampshire, early in 2012 as an ideal flat water spot to create a club and school alongside the main business converting vans. In May 2012 they moved the business and got the ball rolling.
Now recognised as a British Stand Up Paddle Board Association (BSUPA) training centre and with Mary as Club Secretary/ Treasurer and BSUPA instructor and ActionVan team driver Karl Hobbs on board as Club Chair and BSUPA/ASI instructor, the only way is up or down the river…
What made you think there was a need for a SUP club in your area?
Where in such a built up urban area can there be such a beautiful setting to teach and enjoy SUP? Since opening, we’ve introduced hundreds of locals to the club and school and worked closely with local colleges, scout and guide groups as well as local councils and trusts – particularly the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, holding open days and river expeditions.
What sacrifices have to be made when running a successful SUP club?
The move to Eastlands Boat Yard was extremely difficult financially for ActionVan – it doubled our rent overnight. The club would not exist if it couldn’t operate from AV HQ. But both are going from strength to strength and we’ve just signed up to another three year lease.
How many members does AV SUP Club have?
AV SUP Club has presently got 40 members and is growing year on year.
Do you have any exclusive perks available for members?
AV SUP Club offers a fantastic, safe environment in which to paddle, based at a private launch site on the Hamble.
Who are the stars of AV SUP Club (all disciplines) and how do you think the club environment has contributed to their progression?
Beginners who have caught the bug on a taster session or Ready to Ride course and then joined up are our stars. We value the grass route approach and hope to keep this going for the foreseeable future.
How important do you feel that having a network of SUP clubs is?
Networking is key and getting ideas from each individual club is invaluable. A couple of our guys get involved with racing on a fun basis – and we hope to see you all at our UK SUP Clubs event on 3rd October.
SUP is a fantastic social sport with numerous disciplines. We firmly encourage an ‘each to their own’ approach. Be that racing, surfing or a gentle paddle to the pub – and you can paddle to quite a few from here!
We have younger members and we have folks in their 70s. We’ve introduced quite a few to racing, staging our own events as well as helping with the Hamble River Games 2014, where the majority taking part were novices.
What plans does AV SUP Club have moving forwards?
We are lucky enough to run the club from the privately owned Eastlands Boat Yard and are now in our fourth year. There is no room to grow physically, but loads of time to continue introducing people to this great sport and expand the club’s membership.
If you could go back to the start, what would you do differently a second time around?
Nothing really, all has been good!
Many industry professionals believe that SUP clubs are the future of our sport in the UK – do you feel this is the case or could it grow organically on its own?
Without the club scene you’ll not attract new blood. It’s all about the ‘stoke’ for the newbies and us as instructors and ambassadors for our sport. Richard Marsh was instrumental in introducing the Royal Navy to Karl, which in turn has introduced club instructors to the MOD when they assisted during training events at Whale Island HMS Excellent.
Any final shout outs and/or thankyous?
Cut the politics – enjoy the paddle! We have a core group of members always willing to help out at events and group sessions so thanks to all of them, especially Mary for all her hard work behind the scenes, Martin Barlow (Local Liaison Officer) and of course Karl Hobbs, our Chairman.
I’m really grateful for the opportunities that the club has given me to pass on my limited skills and knowledge to our club members and clients whilst travelling to my ‘proper job’ at HMS Collingwood where I am also able to pass on the stoke for all things SUP; when not instructing naval students.