After three years of operating from the back of a van and tow trailer, Northwest Paddleboarding is opening a shop near Howard Amon Park in Richland.
The new store will offer walk-up rentals and a wider range of equipment for sale.
Krista Patterson, who owns the company with her mother, Cathie Hobson, said sales doubled from year two to year three and are expected to triple this year. And since the “ideal location” opened up by the park, Patterson said opening a store seemed like the next logical step.
Northwest Paddleboarding is moving into a 400-square-foot space at 710 George Washington Way, Suite D, in Richland, next door to Fur Babies Bakery and Boutique. The space was vacated by Columbia Kayak Adventures.
Northwest Paddleboarding will open the new store in May with a grand opening planned from 4 to 6 p.m. June 1.
Patterson said her business will benefit from having a dedicated space for equipment sales and a more convenient rental process.
The shop will continue to sell the Glide brand that Northwest Paddleboarding uses for its rentals, in addition to stocking inflatable boards by Red Paddle, which Patterson called the “best inflatables on the market.”
Featuring pressure up to 25 PSI, the boards are “amazingly rigid; you wouldn’t realize they’re inflatable if you weren’t told—they feel like a hard board,” Patterson said.
She said selling inflatable paddleboards will make efficient use of the small shop’s space. Free demos on all boards prior to purchase will still be available.
New tours and opportunities to get on the water also are coming this season.
Patterson said one of the most popular tours Northwest Paddleboarding offers is in partnership with LU LU’s Craft Bar + Kitchen. The tour launches at Leslie Groves Park in north Richland and ends at Columbia Point Marina, where the group disembarks to terra firma for a free drink at LU LU’s, plus 10 percent off menu items.
Similar tours are being organized for endpoints at Kimo’s Sports Bar & Brewpub in Richland and Cedars Restaurant and Lounge in Kennewick.
Another new offering Northwest Paddleboarding has set up is called Community Paddles, which will be every Friday and one Wednesday per month.
Patterson said the focus of the new event is to “get people who have boards to meet other people who do too,” and give people a reason to get out and use their equipment.
It’s free to anyone with their own equipment, with full equipment rentals available at a reduced rate of $20 for two hours.
Paddleboards typically can be rented for personal use at $49 for two hours.
Community Paddle will not be a tour, but rather will launch from various places. Patterson said this will introduce paddlers to less frequented launch points and provide “opportunities to go there and learn about them in a safe environment.”
Community Paddle events will be open to participants ages 6 and older.
A Community Paddle Facebook page also has been established to connect area paddlers.
“Paddleboarding continues to grow in popularity as visitors seek fun and exciting ways to explore the Columbia River. This sport and leisure activity enhances the Tri-Cities’ position as a tourist destination of choice,” said Michael Novakovich, president and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities. “Having local providers like Northwest Paddleboarding not only offer additional opportunities for visitors to take advantage of the Columbia River and enjoy our great weather, but also increases the quality of life for residents as well.”
This summer, paddlers also will see a new face leading classes. Patterson is in the process of bringing additional instructors onto the team, freeing her up to develop new programs for the company.
Since Northwest Paddleboarding’s inception in June 2015, Patterson has led almost all classes and handled the social media and marketing end of the business.
Patterson said Northwest Paddleboarding’s hour-long classes are the bread and butter of the business. Current classes include Introduction to Standup Paddleboarding, or SUP, SUP Yoga, and Moonlight Paddle for ages 12 and up. Classes cost $49 each.
Northwest Paddleboarding also offers a SUP Kids class for youth ages 10 to 15, a SUP Safety class, as well as private lessons for individuals and groups.
Through local company, Explore More Northwest, customers may take Northwest Paddleboarding’s boards on weekend camping trips.
Ron Tucker of Kennewick, a Hanford tank farm manager with Washington River Protection Solutions, is a fan of the sport.
“What’s so nice about our region is the water. I swim in the river and boat and bike around the river. Doing the SUP is another way to have fun in the river. It’s very relaxing,” he said.
Tucker became interested in paddleboarding after participating in the free Yoga in the Park. After experiencing firsthand Patterson’s aptitude as an instructor, he signed up for the Introduction to SUP course.
“I had never done paddleboarding in my life,” he said. “It can be a workout; just the balance of it can be challenging. It’s a fun, unique different thing to do.”
Tucker said he has tried just about all of Northwest Paddleboarding’s classes and tours, and has recommended SUP to many of his active friends. He said this summer he plans to give the only class he hasn’t tried—SUP yoga—a go.
“With Krista, she just seems to be really involved with the community too, not just her own business. I’m super impressed by someone as young as I know she is to do all that. I certainly support what she’s trying to do and think she’s going to be successful,” Tucker said.
Northwest Paddleboarding will continue to offer rental drop-off service and group lessons at private homes for parties and other events.
Patterson said one of her latest marketing campaigns aimed at diversifying the company’s business is to present paddleboarding to local companies as a valuable teambuilding experience or customer appreciation tool.
“It’s so good for people to get out of the office,” she said. “Getting to know coworkers in a different fashion tends to boost morale.”
Part of what inspired Patterson to explore this new outreach effort was figuring out how to get her boards on the water more often.
She said weekends and evenings bring in a lot of business, but midday is slow while people are at work.
Having hired an additional instructor, Patterson said she looks forward to having more time to identify more opportunities for expansion, translating to dollars that will help pay the lease on the new store during the off-season.
Patterson remains optimistic though, and said that based on the business plan she and Hobson established three years ago, “So far, everything has happened and we’ve succeeded.”
Northwest Paddleboarding: 710 George Washington Way, Suite D; 509-378-1469; northwestpaddleboarding.com; Facebook; Instagram.
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