Pics: Ocean Specific
Ocean Specific has been a loyal supporter of the UK SUP scene for a while. The brand leans more towards performance-oriented SUP but still love all aspects. Starting first as an apparel brand, OS now provides hardware in the form of paddles (which SUPM is very familiar with). We caught up with Enzo Boccia from Ocean Specific to have a delve.
Tell us how you got into SUP first off?
I think I first saw a Naish SUP ad in a kitesurfing mag. It grabbed my attention because I was out of action due to a powerlifting accident ( many moons ago I competed in powerlifting at a regional and national level ) and thought it would be the perfect rehabilitation whilst also getting me out on the water. I always enjoyed water sports such as surfing, kite and wakeboarding using them as a means of decompressing and active rest.
And when and why did you decide to start a brand relating to SUP?
It started with a common problem. Having a light firm grip is essential for an effective stroke but challenging with a wet paddle or sweating palms and overcompensating with a tight grip is the leading cause for poor form and injury.
So we formulated a low-cost solution – the Ocean Specific grip wax. Feedback from SUP surfers was very positive, and distance racers especially loved it because it meant they could localise grip where they needed it without hindering sliding transitions. Blisters were also greatly minimised. At first, it was just paddle wax and apparel, but these days you sell hardware also.
What made you decide to get involved with actual equipment?
Demand. Most companies (not all) focused on 80% of the market, which was recreation and board design. The plethora of paddles, shapes and materials lead to a confusing choice for even the seasoned paddler. Ocean Specific wanted to simplify the choice whilst sourcing the best shapes for your chosen discipline with cost-effective quality. Initially, SUP paddles borrowed the outrigger teardrop paddle design and ran with it. This was probably the main reason for injury early on as the stroke may be similar, but the biomechanics of lever load is not. Thanks to a few captains of industry and elite paddlers these have now been refined into a more streamlined version that most of you are familiar with and revolutionised the performance of SUP.
How have Ocean Specific paddles been generally received?
Amazingly. We decided to test our first paddle (SR) at the world’s biggest race… The Gla Gla and at its inaugural race we took a podium finish.
To be honest, we thought we would be providing paddles for a chosen few who had a good understanding of their discipline and wanted a quality paddle to improve their pursuit. Our intention was to offer performance-based paddles at a price point that would promote and encourage the sport’s surf and race aspect.
Was 2020 as big a year for you as it was other Stand Up Paddleboarding brands?
It was a crazy year full of uncertainty. Our sponsored team SHAC was preparing in earnest for the world’s longest race The Yukon 1000, only to be put on standby for the following year. They were also preparing for the Gla Gla which was postponed too. Ultimately the year was positive in the sense that it meant another year to train and more people than ever being introduced to SUP.
Where do you see 2021 going? Similar?
The crystal ball question. How the COVID-19 crisis is managed will dictate whether 2021 will see early or late adoption of some recreational paddlers’ natural progression turning to performance paddling.
Virtual racing went a long way to kickstarting new entrants into the thrill of the chase, and we are in no doubt that some fresh blood and new hammers will be showcasing their skills on return to live racing.
Got any new Ocean Specific products in the pipeline you can tell us about?
We soft-launched our new double dihedral paddle recently (V-Rx) which was so well received that we’ve had to delay the full launch due to pre-sales (it may be out by the time you go to print).
And what about Ocean Specific’s evolution in general – any ideas that you can reveal?
Do you fancy starting a board brand, for instance?
We have no intention in launching a mainstream board brand at this time. We prefer to showcase and promote reputable brands that add value to the sport and produce high-quality boards with outstanding customer support. Hypr Hawaii is our favourite hardboard surf and flatwater race SUP, especially for their exceptional Guns and for providing boards accessible to all levels of ability or discipline. Their after sales is to be commended. For inflatables, FatStick are hard to beat for quality and price.
If so, would it be inflatables, hard SUPs or both?
Hypothetically. IF.. we were to add boards to our range they wouldn’t be normal mass production boards.
What about branching out into other areas such as foiling, for instance.
The dark art. Our Strike Series Kevlar SX paddle has been extremely well received in the foiling community, so new equipment will inevitably be added to the project board.
Tell us about your personal SUP goals for 2021.
I am looking forward to re-connecting, chewing cud and having a blast with all the wonderful and crazy people I’ve had the privilege to share water with. One foot or overhead makes no difference when you are having fun with the fam.
And when lockdown restrictions ease this time around what’s the first thing you will do SUP wise.
Get on an aeroplane and catch some with my friends around the world. First, stop NZ. Raglan and Wanaka.
Back to Ocean Specific and can you give any insight into how it’s been building a UK SUP brand?
It’s been a blast. You have to have a passion for the sport and an eagerness to promote all aspects. Share the wealth. Share the knowledge.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned with OS?
Due diligence, embrace the mistakes, find the like-minded and help each other.
How (if at all) would you do things differently should you start again?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. If I had, I might not have met so many incredible people. Follow your path.
Sum up your SUP experience to date in three words.
Paddle. Paddle. Paddle.
Final observations on stand up paddleboarding in general?
It’s an incredible sport with an abundance of benefits. The versatility of the sport lends itself to every ability, and the sense of family is unsurpassed—the best sport in the world.
Thanks and praise?
Firstly I’d like to thank our sponsored team at The Surrey Hills Adventure Company for their tireless pursuit in promoting grassroots SUP racing and Foil. Team SHAC racing. Skip Innes and Craig Sawyer at Team SHAC Yukon 1000. All our brand ambassadors (especially Ryan James for the feedback and R&D), SUP Junkie for their support and being the keystone in British racing. Saviour Aquilina at Saviour Watersports for his extensive knowledge and many repairs. All the like-minded SUP clubs, businesses and instructors who have embraced our company. The athletes of the GBSUP team for showcasing UK talent. We would also like to acknowledge SUPM for all their support and contributions to growing SUP in the UK and abroad. We wish you all much success.