Hamming it up – South Hams SUP and sea with Dave Ewer (Reactive Watersports)

Dave Ewer is proprietor of South Hams (Devon) based watersports emporium Reactive Watersports. Adopting a proactive approach Dave and his team are super stoked on SUP and are regularly seen out on the brine – flat or waves – actively promoting all that’s awesome with the sport. Add the fact they organise super popular SUP club paddles and you have a winning formula. In the second of our features highlighting strand up paddle retailers we caught up with Dave for a natter.

Dave Ewer

Tell us a little about Reactive – when did you set up shop and why?

Dave: We started Reactive up in ’96, I’d been working in various local watersports shops when a good friend (Andy B) offered to back me opening a new store in Plymouth. It was a no brainer. Even though we lost a load of money and I had to buy him out a few years later! We started as a windsurfing shop but always ‘reacted’ to the market and sold wake boards, kitesurfing gear and then SUP in ’07 when the first kit showed up on our shores. Basically if we enjoyed the sport we got on the water teaching and selling the gear.

How long have you been in your current location and what’s so good about it?

Dave: We moved to our current location in about ’09 (PL9 7HP). We’re right on the main road but back on to a flat water tidal creek – great for trying out boards back to back. We also have a fine wakeboarding spot 100m form our back door. There’s a free carpark in front of the shop and we’re on the road to the beach from town. It works for us even though our previous spot on the marina was more scenic.

South Hams SUP Dave Ewer

What’s your local put in like? Is it flat or more all about waves?

Dave: Well as we say we’ve got flat water out the back of our store and plenty of scenic estuaries on our doorstep within 15mins. But for us we live to surf, (don’t we all?). Bantham, our local (busy) surf break, has some fine banks and it can be awesome on its day. There are plenty of quieter spots nearby if you know where to look.

Is there a better time of year to SUP in your area – if so, when and what makes it good?

Dave: The South Devon coastline is great for exploring secret hidden coves and beaches off the beaten track. On a glassy summer’s morning the rocks and coves are amazing, the water can be very clear (if we haven’t had rain). I can’t think of a better place on its day in the summer. Autumn and winter is less busy but we have more reliable waves and/or wind for downwinding.

Dave Ewer SUP #2

What gear do you stock and why?

Dave: We’re not tied to any one brand and (much to the frustration of our suppliers) we tend to chop and change brands in order make sure we have the best deals available for our customers. Although sales of inflatable boards have increased no end over the last few years our heart still lies in quality hard boards. Saying that the improvements and convenience of a durable iSUP makes a lot of sense for a lot of customer these days. We always have plenty of demo boards for our customers to try before they buy, they often come in thinking they know everything about one board and that’s the one for them. Very often, however, they try another at the same time and walk away with a different more suitable piece of equipment.

Is Reactive all about its regulars or do you attract SUP customers from across the UK?

Dave: Just like most shops we always want to have a larger market share. We often send boards around the country and some abroad – although it’s getting tricky with couriers now. We’d always recommend you work with your local store, if possible, then you can try before you buy. Also if you have issues they’re there for you. We often have customers who have purchased unsuitable boards and have had no come back when they try to return or change. Please try before you buy and shop local if possible, it will almost always work out for best.

Dave Ewer SUP #3

What are your thoughts about SUP in general – do you see it as a growth area?

Dave: SUP is still growing and I’m sure it will continue to if not over supplied with too much gear. When we first started selling SUPs we thought customers would own one board and paddle that would be it. However many of our cutovers come back for a wave SUP, then a tourer or racer and maybe an iSUP. It certainly surprised us a few years ago how much demand there was for ‘another’ board. The growth for us will always be in wave SUPs – once you’ve had a great ride you’ll always want to get another. Boards have improved massively and make SUP surfing far more radical than in the old days.

Talk to us about your own personal paddling experience – are you an expert or still getting to grips with it?

Dave: I’ve been paddling for some time and being a competent windsurfing wave sailor and experienced surfer SUP has been a fairly easy sport to relate to. These days I love scaring myself on my local reef break just as much as paddling with the family on a glassy weekend up to the pub for lunch. Can’t beat a good SUP fishing trip followed by a beach barbecue can you?

South Hams SUP Reactive Watersports

Got any burning ambitions to visit any global SUP spots? If so, what’s top of your list and why?

Dave: I’ve been pretty fortunate travelling in the past, windsurfing at some of the best spots in the world. Although I haven’t got a bucket list to run through with SUP (as yet), I’ve come to the conclusion the best place in the world is simply surfing with your mates at your local beach on the best day of the year – life doesn’t get much sweeter.

Tell us about the SUP you’re currently rocking – what board and paddle combo are you using?

Dave: Having a shop I tend to be spoilt for choice, however, the JP 8.2ft Surf Pro is my ride of choice. It’s fast, turns great, is super light and is great in most conditions I find myself. (I also have the 8.6ft Surf for those bigger windier days). I own the matching paddle as well (rude not to!).

Do you have any interest in competing or are you just happy to promote the sport and be an enthusiastic participant?

Dave: I’ve done a few comps this year. I won ‘The Legend of the Bay’ Surf event at Watergate which was fun, (although I had a shocker at the BSUPA Nationals). I’ve also been doing a few local race events (with my 14yr old son Blue, who came 2nd at Watergate). No doubt this year I’ll be doing some more racing around the UK and hope to run an event in 2016, (Watch out Jason Sawyer I’ll be ahead of you soon enough!)

Dave Ewer SUP Reactive Watersports #3

We know a lot of shops sponsor riders, do you have anyone on the roster? If so, who and why do you support them?

Dave: We have some talented staff who compete nationally in SUP and windsurf but we’ll be looking to add to our team for the coming season.

How do you think Reactive contributes to the local SUP scene? 

Dave: We’ve taught thousands of people over the last nine years. Teaching in the local community and running plenty of free taster days and demo days has been a great way to spread the SUP message. We also run two regular club nights, in season, welcoming new people to the local SUP scene. We’re always here to help out  rail tape your board or give you some tips on not getting nailed on your first wave session. Or just book a taster session with us – you won’t be disappointed as the spot is great.

Reactive Watersports SUP

Any final shouts, thanks or praise?

Dave: Thanks to my wife Annabel for letting me slip off the beach when it’s going off, (I think she’s used to it now).


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