The Big Idea: KAHUNA paddles into new markets

Steve Legge started KAHUNA paddleboards in 2010 and now finds himself leading the way as Canada’s largest manufacturer of standup paddleboards (SUPs). The popularity of the sport has skyrocketed and true to the KAHUNA name itself, Legge’s paddleboard production has become a big business.

“We grew by five times my expectation and it’s still going,” said Legge.

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Just like his boards, designed bigger, to boost stability and glide speeds, Legge has a need for speed, as he works to accelerate growth and extend the reach of his brand.

“The one thing I can say is common amongst all good entrepreneurs is they are doers, not wonderers,” he added. 

To get it all done he’s leveraging local resources and the power of connection to help him manage the rapid expansion.

“I’m contracting locals for specific work. We have a ton of very talented people in the Sea to Sky corridor,” said Legge. “I’m also taking executive level management courses.”

The most recent of which will be the one-and-a-half day business Strategy Camp with CEO coach and entrepreneur Shanon Susko at the Whistler Chamber in May.

Into international waters

To date, Legge has been distributing to retailers exclusively from coast to coast in Canada, but demand for his boards has him riding an international wave of growth opportunity.

“I’m now looking at the U.S. and Australia for even greater growth,” he explained.

Legge thinks the relaxation and core strength benefits of this workout on the water are highly appealing for professional athletes, so that’s where he’s directed his initial international focus.

“We’ve had many professional athletes approach us about my product,” he said.

With connections in NHL organizations, Legge has been able to introduce his boards and has seen a ripple effect that has him putting a lot more focus to getting athletes in the NHL and other pro sports on board.   

“There are a number of hockey players and pro athletes who say it’s a great contributor to their conditioning that gives them longevity in their sport,” explained Legge.

The brand gets social

One practice this paddler credits for his success in business is always being available for clients to connect with him. He’s now applying this core value to the social media channels that link KAHUNA with their customers.

Through their Facebook, Instagram and Youtube communities Legge plans to interact with their brand’s following more than ever as SUPers take to the water this summer.

“We’ll be having weekly photo contests where winners can score gear like free t-shirts and hats for example. We’re also growing our ambassador program, which in turn, creates some really quality content,” he explained while praising his cross-country community of paddlers.

Having ambassadors across Canada like local athletes and adventurers, Dave Narona, Mike Edwards, Davey Barr and Julia Murray gives

KAHUNA powerful brand reach to a wider audience.

SUPport for e-commerce

Kahuna’s current website is built to provide in-depth product information and connect customers to one of KAHUNA’s retail dealers or rental providers. Legge has built an extensive network of vendors from coast to coast which works very well, but at this stage of growth he also recognizes the additional need to offer items for sale on his website for those who are unable to visit one of his dealer locations in Canada.

“We’ve been getting numerous inquiries from remote locations across Canada and internationally,” said Legge. “We will offer select items for sale — our accessories and inflatable boards will be available.”

So, the shopping cart functionality is coming soon to kahunapaddleboards.com and with the ability to ship directly to remote customers, KAHUNA Paddleboards is set to speed into uncharted exciting new waters.

“I’ve been riding SUPs since 2005,” said Legge. “Through the fitness of SUP I enjoy better sleeps and a stronger core. The more people we can get out enjoying the water with a top quality product, the better.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

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