Jason Heinz has been shaping surfboards since he was 15, living in Maui and California along the way. In March, 2011, he opened his own shop, Epic Surf Co., in his native Victoria. "If you really want to push your own brand, you have to have a flagship store," he says. "Bricks and mortar give you legitimacy."
What sets Heinz apart is his new interest: paddleboarding. Heinz may be the first Canadian maker of stand-up paddleboards, tapping into a growing trend among wave riders. "I call it the fountain of youth for surfers," he says.
Heinz tried paddleboarding about six years ago, and saw the sport taking off in California. "As a board shaper, it's a natural progression, and seeing the progression of the sport opened the door for me."
Paddleboards are like surfboards, but they are longer (measuring up to 12 feet 6 inches), wider and thicker, and are propelled by a paddle.
They are also more expensive, going for up to $1,600 in Heinz's shop, compared with $425 to $625 for surfboards. They come in three styles: The "all-around" is for any use. Heinz prefers to make the more specialized "surf-specific" (for bigger waves) and "racing" styles. A typical board costs him about $410 in materials (foam, fibreglass and resin) and takes about five hours to make, leaving a nice $200 to $300 profit per board.
After shaping the block of foam with common woodworking tools, Heinz invites the customer to examine the board-in-progress, choose the art and watch him apply the fibreglass and resin. "It's a very personalized experience," he says.
So far, business is off to a good start, in Heinz's view: $50,000 revenues in the first year, with a goal of doubling that in year two. "We hit all the goals we intended." With much of the competition coming from manufacturers in Asia, he figures the made-in-Victoria label will keep customers coming back.