Interview: SUP Mag UK
Pics: Georgia Wharton, Digi Toast, Waterborn SUP & Scott Warren
Scott Warren is the ever approachable brand manager for Starboard SUP UK & Ireland. Super enthusiastic and stoked on stand up he’s regularly up and down the country, visiting SUP retailers, attending demos, competing at events himself and generally showcasing the big S’s spangly toys. We caught up with Scott for a natter about all things Warren, SUP and Starboard.
- Tell us about your watery history – how did you get into sports of a moist nature?
Unlike the Hawaiian’s my life as a kid was spent as far from the sea as you can get in the UK – the Midlands! Because of this it wasn’t until I transferred to Plymouth Uni from Huddersfield that I first got my teeth stuck into the water through surfing in 2009.
- When did you first come across stand up paddle boarding? Did you think it looked cool?
Dreaming of big waves and watching countless videos of Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama etc it was only a matter of time before a clip of them on a SUP came up. About the same time SUP appeared at our local break down at Bantham (where we spent many nights camping after a surf and a BBQ rather than revising for Uni).
- Where did you first learn to SUP?
My local Plymouth shop Reactive run a Wednesday night paddle so straight on the water with the Billabong Plymouth Store crew and we all learnt together.
- Got any fond memories of your time stand up paddling so far – can you share?
Wow! I think I could write a book about all the amazing times which I have been fortunate enough to experience due to SUP (maybe I should get round to that one day!) But my time at Central SUP as a whole was incredible. To inspire so many people to get on a board and join us for a paddle brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.
- Who are your SUP heroes?
Of course the Hawaiians who inspired me to get on a SUP: Laird, Dave Kalama and the younger guys pushing the boundaries now like Zane, Kai, Connor and Sean.
- What about land based activities – anything that gets you frothing like a silky offshore wave?
I recently got back into mountain niking – it’s the closest buzz to surf and is still fun when it’s raining like hell and your covered in mud. Most of the time the bike stays with me in the van ready.
- When did you become part of Starboard’s UK SUP team?
Not long after setting up Central SUP Chris Kenyon and myself decided to get involved with the national circuit. We promoted everything we did back then and got the call from Chris sometime in late 2012 as a team rider. From that I joined the brand as an employee in summer 2013.
- What appealed about the brand?
Having done my research to buy my first board in 2010 I knew the quality behind the products, the commitment of the individuals was clear to see and this was only highlighted with the UK team when I joined. Throughout my sporting life I have always strived to achieve and I connected to the brand through their on going success in the UK and worldwide.
- Talk us through your day to day responsibilities – is it all paddling, paddling, paddling or do you have to do some work occasionally?
I think I actually spend less time paddling now then I ever did! It’s a very varied role. Just about everything you can think of happens in a day never mind a week, month or year! If I’m in the office I will likely split my time between sales, marketing, event prep and planning. It’s very easy to get stuck in the office (I have a very cosy chair) but it’s great to also get out on the road. This is mainly for sales visits, staff training and of course getting to paddle at all kinds of events.
- In terms of change, how’s the sport moved on in the UK? Is it easier to sell SUP gear nowadays?
It’s certainly grown a LOT since I started paddling. Virtually no one knew what we were doing – especially on a canal in the Midlands! Now most people who speak to have at least seen it before. It’s always a challenge to sell kit but a very rewarding one. In ways it’s easier because there is great demand for the products, but also it’s easy to get distracted by the niche sectors and miss the bigger picture as the sport is so diverse. Just think about the locations you can paddle in the UK and you see what I mean. We have downwind, surf, amazing coastlines, inland lakes, rivers, tidal bores, white water, estuaries and the list goes on. I don’t think there are many places in the world with such diversity all within a day’s drive.
- Tell us about how you plan on developing the Starboard brand in the UK – what are your plans to evolve?
One of our main aims has always been to support the growth of the sport and get more paddlers on the water. I want to get more involved with local events and bring the brand to the paddlers. At the end of the day we are all doing this to get on the water and what better way to do it than at local, friendly and fun events. The best reactions come from people trying the sport and that’s why I started Central SUP and why I’m still here paddling today.
- What’s your most popular piece of equipment? Why do you think that is?
For the past five or so years the all-rounder has been the go to product. If you ask anyone into SUP chances are they have been on, owned or at least tried a 10.5ft Drive – it was my first board and I loved every second on it. For just about everyone it gives the rider a surfing image on a board which is easy to handle in all conditions – what else could you want?
- Give us your thoughts on SUP kit in general – you must have spotted certain trends?
There is a couple of really interesting things coming into the market. I think overall the best boards are now being developed as SUP boards and are no longer ‘big surfboard’ shapes. The all-round boards are becoming wider but easier to move around, the pro boards are losing volume and ripping, the Vanguard shapes are incredibly popular for waves. It’s an exciting time to be in SUP that’s for sure.
- Talk to us about your personal quiver – what are you using and why?
I try not to get too carried away with having too much kit, which is easy when you have the brochure constantly staring at you. I have at the moment three race boards and three surf shapes (it could easily be more) but they cater for everything I do on a SUP. For Racing the 12.6ft Sprint is lightning fast and works well in most conditions for our UK races. Downwind I have the 12.6ft Ace. Nothing else gets close to it when catching bumps. My old favourite I no longer race but can’t sell is the 2014 12.6ft Turtle Bay which surfs like a short board – great in summer. For surf I have a 6.10ft Hyper Nut which is just mad and so much fun. An 8.5ft Pro for when it gets serious (normally stays hidden during the summer) and a 9.5ft Nut for lazy longboard style wave riding.
- Where’s your local spot? What does it offer stand up paddle boarders?
I’m fortunate enough (when at home) to live five mins from Bantham so it’s normally a cheeky surf before or after work. It’s not just about surf though, you can explore stunning coast line, run a fun downwind section and also just laze around in the bay. For most beginners trying waves Bantham offers plenty of protection over at the Bigbury side and having the café there is a bonus, plus stacks of parking.
- Any plans to hit up locations further afield – if so where you headed?
I’m mostly on the road now in the UK through until October as we are normally stacked out with sales and events – although it’s still full on in winter but we can sneak away so I’m looking at a trip to Bali with the international team probably tied in with a stop at HQ in Thailand. Hopefully a winter break in the Alps for some skiing and snowboarding as well.
- Describe your dream destination – why does it appeal?
Anywhere I can go play in surf, snow or trails. Really it’s always great to check new places but there is one condition: there must be a brew available. I don’t work without tea!
- Is it just waves or are you happy paddling all waters?
Anything will do. I would really like to do more white water, and some tidal bores, but also big long paddles in stunning scenery are just amazing. I once did a paddle with SupXcape through Portugal that I will never forget.
- Got any burning SUP ambitions outside of your normal routine?
I would love to do some of the big challenges like the 11 Cities and the Molokai. I would also love to go out to a place where the people have never seen SUP and teach the locals and get them on the water.
- Any final thoughts on SUP or Starboard?
If you have never tried SUP or never stepped outside of your comfort zone on a board then don’t hesitate go and do it – the results will be amazing. My journey started from just giving it a go and here I am in my dream job. Starboard is such an amazing brand to be involved with, I want to share all the amazing products, developments and the brand’s story with everyone. Starboard are paddlers and to me that goes pretty well with the ethos of our sport.
- Shouts and thanks?
Now without writing a BAFTA thanks speech a huge thanks to anyone that’s helped me get to where I am now even before SUP became my thing. Dave at Reactive in Plymouth for starting my SUP journey, Chris Kenyon and the Central SUP team for every amazing moment building the club there. The Tushingham team for giving me the opportunity to work with them and with Starboard. The international team for always inspiring me to do more. Mostly importantly to all the wonderful friends I have made along the way within SUP, I would write a list but perhaps I will save that for my book.
Right I’ve run out of tea, time to get a brew on 🙂