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Sad demise of Origin paddleboards: impact on the SUP scene

It’s been announced in recent days that Origin Paddleboards is no longer trading, and that many of the kickstarter backers have lost their money.

First up – to all those of you who’ve lost your investment – that really sucks, and if McConks could afford to give you kit for free to in a small way compensate for your lost investment, we’d love to do so.  But sadly, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s about what impact the collapse of a small company has on the SUP scene.

The founders of Origin had already gone off grid before McConks burst onto the scene, so we’ve not had the pleasure of meeting them.  But by all accounts they were good guys, with an aspirational vision, strong ethics and morals, and great marketers.

At McConks we were impressed by the story being told by their online marketing material, and admired what they were trying to do.  Maybe we were even a little inspired by them, and shared some of their ideals and ideas; giving a proportion of our profit to charity, focussing on managing the environmental impact of board production, using the very best raw materials and components, producing the very best boards, focus on worker welfare and health and safety.  And we also admired their desire to repatriate manufacturing from the far east to Europe.  It remains an ambition of McConks to return some iSUP manufacturing to Europe, and if possible the UK in the future.

So their demise is a sad day for those of us in the SUP world who think that there’s a better model than the traditional model. And it raises some serious questions for the SUP sector.

  • Does it mean that there is no space in the SUP world for homegrown boards, or homegrown brands?
  • Are ethics and morals no longer affordable in SUP?
  • Are small brands inherently risky?

The good news is that the answer to all of those questions is no.  We can’t speak for the rest of the SUP sector.  But we think:

There’s definitely still space for homegrown brands.  Loco,  Fatstick, Neptune,  Freshwater Bay are going from strength to strength and growing every year.  As are we.   But there’s a key difference between all of these/us and Origin.  Unlike Origin, all of the these brands, including us at McConks, are standing on the shoulders of giants of iSUP, and using factories in South East Asia who are the best in the world at making inflatable SUP boards.  So whilst McConks admires Origin’s attempts to do things slightly differently by bringing production to Switzerland, they were taking on a significant risk in doing so.  Which is probably why they were seeking the risk to be underwritten by kickstarter investors.

The outcome of this is likely to be that customers are less likely to put money up front for kit that isn’t yet on terra firma.  That’s not an issue for us at McConks because we don’t seek part payment on preorder discounts.  But any brand who relies on preorder capital might find it more difficult post Origin.

Ethics and morals. Are they dead?

No, not at all. Our business model is built on strong ethics and morals and we’re still going strong.  There are, of course, issues with using the South East Asia to produce boards.  Many suppliers don’t have an environment or worker welfare policy, and those that do treat the policy with disdain. Shipping the boards all the way from South East Asia has an impact on sustainability and embedded carbon.

But we know, that if you spend the time and effort, it’s possible to find manufacturers who really care about QA, about their worker welfare, and who care about the environment.  It’s just that they’re never normally asked the question.

And are small brands risky?

No.  Make sure you buy from brands using paypal or your credit card.  Then you’re pretty much covered for every eventuality.  McConks doesn’t take money unless we have stock for sale.  Admittedly we flirted with Kickstarter when we were starting out.  But we very quickly realised that wasn’t a sustainable model for us and SUP.  Most people want to pay for decent product, not to fund development for something that may or may not be feasible or deliverable (kudos to those that do!).

So our plea. Please don’t tar all small SUP brands with the sad demise of one brand.  They were very unique, which was both their USP and (in our humble opinion) the root cause of their problems.

If you’ve been affected by the collapse of Origin, and are still looking for new, superlight, top quality paddleboards, please drop McConks a line.  We mentioned earlier that we couldn’t support everyone who had lost their shirts in the collapse.  But we do have a specific discount code just for Origin affected customers.

Happy paddling

Andy and Jenny

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