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What You Need to Know to Run a Successful SUP Shop

by Dive Shop 360 | Mar 1, 2024

According to the 2015 Paddlesports report, Stand Up Paddling has been steadily increasing in popularity year over year since 2010. In 2014, 2.8 million Americans participated in the sport, averaging 5 annual outings each.

Based on the increasing popularity of Stand Up Paddling—and it’s projected to continue growing—operating a SUP business can be an awesome opportunity if you love water sports and want to own a retail store.

Whether you’re an established successful SUP shop or you’re thinking about opening one, there are 5 things you need to know to ensure your store’s success:

1. How to Get Started

Develop a business plan ahead of time. Will your business be a rental only model or will you also sell boards, gear, clothing, and accessories? Will you offer SUP instruction as well?  If you’re interested in offering classes and lessons, you can expand your business to include other sports such as SUP yoga.

Running a fixed SUP business in a retail space that you’ve rented or purchased means you’ll need a permit from the local government. You’ll also need to find a location near a local body of water (ocean, lake, or river), preferably one that’s close enough for renters to walk to. Or, you can do off-site rentals, as well, so people can take a board and go wherever they’d like.

Another important task you’ll need to check off your list is to find reliable vendors and manufacturers to rent or buy your paddle boards from. You might even combine services with other companies who can provide, say, life jackets for your renters. And don’t forget to look at forming other strategic partnerships, too. For example, resorts, tourist bureaus, hotels, campgrounds, etc., can be instrumental in sending foot traffic your way.

2. How to Attract Customers

Every retail business needs a solid marketing strategy for attracting customers. In order to create a successful SUP shop, you need to convince people that your business is the best one town for everything SUP-related. One of the best ways to build trust with your potential buyers is to establish a strong online presence.

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses. If the vast majority of your potential customers are online, then that’s where you need to be, too. No doubt your competitors will be there.

Create a clean, easy to navigate website, and include the essential information consumers need to easily contact or locate you. If you don’t have a website—even a basic one—you’ll lose out on potential customers and that’s a real shame because websites are relatively easy to set up and don’t cost much.

Having a website helps you connect to Internet users (over 3 billion of them who use the Internet every day, according to Money) and establish credibility for your brand, as well as giving you a place to showcase your products and services (it’s like an online brochure, but less expensive than printed ones).

In addition to creating a website for your SUP business, You’ll want to get involved with social media because, as Duct Take Marketing points out, “Using social media helps you build brand awareness, increase your customer base, and connect with current customers.”

Social media provides you with an effective way to connect with consumers via channels they use in their everyday lives and build real relationships with them. Additionally, it’s helpful for connecting with non-competing businesses and other influencers in your industry.

Look for an all-in-one POS system that includes automated marketing tools. Some systems can really help you simplify marketing and drive more sales by allowing you to automatically send customers periodic emails regarding new products, top sellers, promotions, etc., as well as important notifications. Integrated POS & E-commerce systems like Rain POS even offer tools to help you grow your online reviews, which are important for establishing social proof.

3. How to Manage Inventory

Whether you sell or rent paddle board equipment, you’re going to have a lot of inventory to keep track of, including a variety of soft top paddle boards, epoxy paddle boards, and inflatable paddle boards, as well as paddles, life jackets, and leashes. That’s why it’s so important to be able to manage everything you have in stock in an efficient and accurate manner.

Having an integrated, cloud-based point of sale system means you only have to add product information once and it updates your POS and website simultaneously, so you can easily manage inventory, repairs, and rentals seamlessly within one system.

When your website inventory is powered by your point of sale, not only do you get an accurate view of what you have on hand at all times (and wherever you have access to the Internet), but customers searching Google to see who has paddle board equipment they want to buy or rent can see what you have it in stock in real time. This will lead to increased foot traffic and create a successful SUP shop.

4. How to Hire Great Employees & Instructors

Running a retail business can be challenging, especially if you don’t have good employees who can help your store succeed.

Your retail sales team is the face of your company, and customers’ experiences will be defined by the quality of the service they receive. That means that the success of your store doesn’t solely rely on training, but it also depends on the attitudes and values of your staff.

Make sure the attitudes, values, and personalities of the people you hire align with your company culture and your vision for customer care. This will ensure that you bring on board (pun intended) someone who’ll be able to connect with your customers on a meaningful level and treat them to a superior SUP experience.

If your paddle board business offers SUP instruction, you’ll need knowledgeable instructors to help teach renters basic skills and safely transport them to the water.

According to Dance Studio Insurance, it’s your responsibility to:

“Offer your customers state-of-the-art instruction on how to SUP. They will expect you to be an expert in currents, weather, tides, wildlife, CPR and first aid. This is your profession now, and you need to be accredited in Stand Up Paddle Boarding to be competitive. Certification is necessary, especially when applying for liability insurance for your business.”

5. How to Ensure Safety & Personal Liability

It’s imperative that you protect yourself and your business with the proper insurance. Not only will you need insurance that covers all of your SUP equipment, but if you’re renting paddle boards, you’ll have more liabilities. Fortunately, paddle boarding is a relatively safe sport, so insurance should be cheaper than if you were renting equipment for more extreme sports.

Some insurance companies suggest that you can lower your insurance premiums by being accredited by one of the following:

If you hire Independent Contractors to teach your SUP classes, they’ll need their own insurance coverage, while W-2 employees won’t.

Also, you’ll want to make sure you provide first aid kits, whistles, personal flotation devices for all participants, and leash attachments for every board used in open water instruction and closed water guiding.


While a passion for paddle boarding will certainly help you succeed in running a retail SUP business, there is more to it than grabbing a bunch of boards and throwing open your doors. Like any other business, it will require planning. Use the tips above to get your Stand Up Paddle Boarding store off to a good start. If you need more information, check out the following SUP sites:



You can differentiate your company from other SUP shops by mastering the art of customer service. Not only will you build loyalty and trust, but word will spread that you’re the only Stand Up Paddle Board company in the area that truly offers a superior customer experience. This will drive more foot traffic and repeat customers your way, contributing to a healthy, happy, and sustainable SUP business.

Grow your business with Dive Shop 360.