Living in Santa Barbara, Warren Thomas opened the first dedicated standup paddleboard store in North America- Standup Paddle Sports (SUPsports ®) in 2007 after seeing a rise in the popularity in the sport. The business provided a store front for his ever growing online retail business SurfingSports, which began in 2000, and a place to showcase the custom SUP boards and accessories he began designing in 2005.
A man that spent most of his life on the water, you can tell his passion belongs in the waves. Riding the H2O is something he has done since he was a youngster. While getting his degree in Oceanography, he traded his surfboard for a windsurf board. A chance meeting with Laird Hamilton in Malibu in 2003 exposed him to the early days of SUP known as "Beach Boy Surfing".
My husband AJ and I first met "War Dog" when we went to one of their free demo days in the Santa Barbara Harbor. The store provided a large selection of boards and paddles to demo. Staff members joined the paddlers in the water, offering tips and advice on paddle stroke and specifics of each board. Warren and the crew made me feel very welcome even if I didn't hold the paddle in the right direction in the beginning.
Stoked after our first ocean paddle session, two weeks later my husband and I were in the shop buying two custom made boards by Warren named One World. One walk into the store and you could tell the team lived, breathed and slept SUP with products fit for weekend warriors and daily paddlers. As Thomas puts it, "Our client base covers the entire spectrum of standup paddlers equally split between the sexes from kids barely able to stand up and walk and Octogenarians to never-evers and pros who paddle flat water and waves. It's so fun that it seems to resonate with just about everyone. "
Beyond retail and demo days, the shop also offers rentals and expert instruction for groups, individuals and even team building. Have a ding in your board? Well, the shop also does repairs too.
The team can offer all kinds of guidance to what fin shape to use to where to paddle if you want to first learn to ride waves on the board. As far as their favorites places to paddle, they prefer off the beaten path (or in this case wave)."Anywhere that's away from the most popular prone surfing breaks," War Dog said. "Our numerous point and reef breaks are magical when there are waves. I prefer the lesser known spots. The coastline has abundant marine life and the Channel Islands area is one of my favorites. River, lakes, coastline- there are still many places left to pioneer in California.
Loading up the Subaru with our new boards.