Behind the brand: Neptune
Interview: SUPM Pics: Miles Taylor (PROtography), SUPM
Tell us about Neptune’s history – how did the company come about?
After trying it several years ago I went to buy a board and could not believe how expensive they are. A good mate sewed the seed and said, “just do it yourself, can’t be that difficult” – sometimes I hate him!!! It all went from there, from getting in contact with an old shaping mate to then finding a good factory (still with the same one, which is rare in this industry). Then came the design and finally brand. That came from a mate saying call it Titanic, then another said Poseidon (after The Poseidon Adventure disaster movie) which made me think of Neptune and that was that. At this point you get an idea what my mates are like.
When did you first come across stand up paddleboarding? Did you think it looked cool?
Initially, I didn’t have much interest in the sport. Then I tried it and thought, that was fun, then tried it in some low tide ankle biters and couldn’t believe I was surfing, that was it for me!
Where did you first SUP?
At the home of Neptune SUPs, The Seven Sisters (River Cuckmere), East Sussex. I’m so lucky to have that stretch on my doorstep. Also, we have some amazing coastline here so blessed to have the best of both worlds.
Got any fond memories of your time stand up paddling so far?
Too many to mention, always hard to beat the first wave on a new piece of kit, regardless if it’s windsurfing, surfing or SUPing.
Who are your SUP heroes?
Always Laird, not just in SUPing he is an all-round aqua legend.
What about land based activities – anything that gets you frothing like a silky offshore wave or flat water glass?
In some ways everything I do now comes from skateboarding. I started as a kid and that led me to surfing, snowboarding, windsurfing and finally SUPing.
Where did the idea Neptune SUP range of products come from?
The first board was the Allrounder, in case nothing else happened with Neptune I knew I would have a board that was perfect for what I wanted, designed in the UK for the UK. The WindSUP & YogaSUP came from that. Then the SurfSUP, Cruiser and most recently Carbon Race have all been from organic growth and feedback from everyone we talk too.
Was it tricky getting Neptune off the ground?
It just all took time (and money), I was in no rush and wanted to make sure I got it right, especially the factory. It’s all well and good having a board with a great shape and looks but if it’s thrown together and doesn’t last, what’s the point?
Talk us through your day to day responsibilities – is it all paddling, testing, paddling or do you have to do some work occasionally?
Neptune was never set up to make money. I know that sounds strange but that’s the way it is. I have several other business interests that keep me very busy and more importantly support Neptune (which is my passion). I always answer as many enquiries, do as many demos/events as possible. I love chatting about SUPing (maybe too much) and always try and speak with every Neptune SUPs family member at least once.
What’s been key to your success within SUP?
By keeping it simple, making great quality kit at prices others just are not willing to go to. We never do discounts as we believe if you can sell a board for one price on one day, do it for that price every day. Customer service is also key to our success, we are always happy to do free demos and will ask/answer as many questions as needed to insure people get the right kit.
In terms of change, how’s the sport moved on? Is it easier to sell SUP gear nowadays?
SUPing has grown more than any other watersport I know of. So yes, it is easier but it has also meant some companies charging more to the uneducated. Just put the word SUP on it and charge more. Also, being environmentally conscious, lots of brands say they are but as far as I know Neptune is the only carbon balanced brand out there.
Why do you think inflatables are more popular than hard boards in the UK?
Simple: cost and perception of ease of use. The reality is very different, so many people buy an iSUP realise it’s no fun to inflate etc so leave them inflated (removes one reason). Then the cheap/nasty kit is just no good so people end up selling and buying something that actually works (removes the second). We stopped doing ours when a couple of good brands offered quality ones at a decent price. Also, from the company’s point of view it’s way easier to ship an iSUP than a hardboard.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2019? Which areas will you focus on the most?
Same as always, change only when needed and just continue to do what we do best.
Tell us about how you’re developing the Neptune brand moving forwards.
Just by listening to feedback and trial and error. It’s easy to say, “Developed a new tail shape” with new graphics and charge another 30%. With our Allrounder boards the shaping R&D was done way back in the day on traditional longboards. A lot of kit in the UK was designed in other countries for other countries conditions. Also, most brands wrap their kit in one or two layers of glass because their R&D is done for soft sandy beaches. Neptune uses three layers of quality glass as unfortunately we haven’t got as many soft sandy beaches.
What’s your most popular piece of equipment?
By far the Allrounder, it does exactly what it says on the box. It’s great on lakes and rivers but really comes alive in the waves.
Give us your thoughts on SUP kit in general.
Most hard boards are good, my only frustration with a lot of the kit out there is the price. I know what factories charge and I know what brands sell for. Nearly all kit is made in either China or Malaysia, it doesn’t matter where kit is made as long as it’s made well. I wanted everything to be made in the UK but it is just not viable.
Talk to us about your personal quiver – what are you using and why?
The Allrounder is my go-to board. I’m still using the first ever sample board from the factory, it’s several years old, been used at all the demos, mates have taken on holidays etc and it still rides like a dream.
Any final thoughts on SUP or Neptune?
As long as people are having fun and are being safe on the water It shouldn’t matter what they ride. It would be nice if more brands offset their carbon footprint. If we are not careful the playground we all love will end up being closed.
Shouts and thanks?
A massive thanks to Gazz, he is Neptune’s number two, he really helps out and is a massively valued member of the Neptune family. Shout outs to Mark (the guy who sowed the seed), Chris C, Graham and all the members of the Neptune SUPs’ family. My dad, a great role model and waterman in his day. Lastly my wife Louise, without her support none of what I do would be worth doing.