Lee Rolfe is the super friendly and approachable proprietor of West Sussex’s LAR Watersports based in Pagham. Although initially sceptical of stand up Lee soon discovered the joys of elevated sweeping and is now one of the main SUP retailers in the area. We caught up with Lee for a natter to find out about his local and what gets him buzzed on SUP.
Tell us a little about LAR – when did you set up shop and why?
The only reason I started was I eat, sleep and breathe watersports. I have been based in Pagham for ages but started in Burghfield, Reading, some 25 years ago. Waterskiing, windsurfing, kayaking and now SUP.
How long have you been in your current location and what’s so good about it?
I have been based in Pagham, Bognor Regis, for 14 years. When I was in Reading I just felt so cut off from the coast so had to move.
What’s your local put in like? Is it flat or more all about waves?
I love waves but it’s not often that Pagham works – unless there’s a gale outside. I go to Bracklesham/Witterings for waves. For flat cruising Pagham is great. You can paddle along the coast East to Selsey or west to Bognor and beyond. If you know the tides Pagham Harbour is good for pottering, but beware of the rip as it’s fast and strong.
Is there a better time of year to SUP in your area – if so, when and what makes it good?
For waves it’s the winter, spring and autumn otherwise any time as long as it’s not windy. If there’s breeze then I’m windsurfing usually.
What gear do you stock and why?
Quality and price are the main factors. I stock Fanatic, Tabou, Vandal and Blu Wave mainly although we can get hold JP, Naish and Quatro.
Is LAR all about its regulars or do you attract SUP customers from across the UK?
It’s mostly locals. When I say locals lots travel some 60 miles plus to get SUPing. We do ship boards and accessories anywhere in the UK (and occasionally abroad) though.
What are your thoughts about SUP in general – do you see it as a growth area?
For sure SUP is growing fast. Unfortunately with that comes the every man and his dog syndrome jumping on the band wagon producing some very poor cheap products which are more likely to put people off. There’s also a safety issue to consider. We try very hard to educate the customer.
Talk to us about your own personal paddling experience – are you an expert or still getting to grips with it?
I’m no way an expert. It’s still early days for me but I love improving and that’s the great thing about this sport. It has a very quick learning curve if you can get out on a regular basis.
Got any burning ambitions to visit any global SUP spots? If so, what’s top of your list and why?
With my commitments at home I can’t really go abroad. I stick to UK travelling in my van to Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and sometimes Ireland. These places are as good as anywhere overseas, just a bit colder.
Tell us about the SUP you’re currently rocking – what board are you riding and paddle you’re using?
I take a few boards with me so anyone wishing to try them they can. I have a Tabou Wide Boy 9.2ft, a Tabou 8.6ft Supasurf and 8.3ft Fanatic Allwave. I also carry 10ft and 10.6ft inflatables. I use a one piece Fanatic 100% carbon paddle and am happy for people to try.
Do you have any interest in competing or are you just happy to promote the sport and be an enthusiastic participant?
At my age I’m defo an enthusiastic participant only!
We know a lot of shops sponsor riders, do you have anyone on the roster? If so, who and why do you support them?
Yes we have Phil Plume who is a Fanatic/ION team rider – he does a lot of racing. He also enjoys waves and is doing a great job promoting the brands and shop.
How do you think LAR contributes to the local SUP scene? What would you like to see more of with the Pagham (and surrounding) SUP community?
What I find so frustrating is trying to persuade windsurfers, jetskiers, kiters and waterskiers to take the plunge. Many see it as a bit slow and boring – which is exactly what I thought until I tried it. They really are missing out though. It’s so much easier to get people to try/ take it up if they were thinking of kayaking, dingy sailing or surfing.
We keep talking about getting some comps organised – one day soon I hope. Watch this space…
Any final shouts, thanks or praise?
Thank you to everyone that has supported LAR and all those that share the water with me. See you soon!