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In Conversation with Jim Wight from Sup2Summit

Updated: Mar 6

Four people on SUPs paddling on a loch in Scotland

I am often so focussed on the racing side of Stand-Up Paddleboarding, that I forget about the other huge passion of mine which is adventure paddling. I was lucky enough to be an Ambassador for the Water Skills Academy and through them I gained my Adventure Paddling and Guide qualifications. I then had memorable trips to Knoydart, Sweden and a SUP and Sail holiday around the Isle of Mull – trips I will never forget. 

 

So, I thought it would be worth chatting with someone who has a huge amount of expertise in this field and has seen massive changes with his business over the last few years. There have been some big challenges for Jim Wight, Lead Expedition Guide, from the Sup2Summit team from Scotland recently – I'm grateful for the chat and his honesty: 

 

S: Can you tell me how long you have been involved in SUP?  

 

J: That’s a little bit of a funny one really. Around 2012/13 the outdoor centre I worked at in Kent got stand-up paddleboards. At that point in my life, I was heavily into rock climbing and wasn’t doing as much paddling or water sports anymore. Some of the team within the outdoor centre asked me to come along for a paddle on the new sups. After I watched a couple of YouTube videos, I went along. I jumped on from the pontoon, paddled across the basin and back, stood on the back of the board, slid it back onto the pontoon and walked off! My words were something along the lines of “it will never catch on.” How wrong was I. About six months later the outdoor centre had a poster on the wall with someone doing an arctic expedition on a SUP and that started my journey.  

 

 

S: Did you add SUP to an already existing business or start the business because of it?  

 

J: The outdoor industry can be a tough place on relatively low wages, I found myself living in my Vauxhall Astra Estate whilst managing an outdoor centre inside the M25. No one was aware that I was living in my car and after 7/8 months of this, I was starting to think of ways to change my circumstances. I had got into stand-up paddling, mainly touring and surfing, and I was still doing some mountaineering. Sup2summit was the idea but I didn’t know what to offer yet. After freelancing in the outdoors across the UK in a multitude of different sports I moved back home to Scotland. The business plan was made and Sup2summit started in 2018 to the public on the east of Scotland.  

 

 

S: How have the years been treating you, from the start of business and through Covid? 

 

J: To start things were very slow, the east coast of Scotland is a funny place that lacks tourism and most locals at that time didn’t know what SUP was or they had the belief that our waters are cold and dangerous, which is true to an extent. Word of mouth and some stunning pictures through social media catapulted the business in 2018/19. Then Covid hit and like everyone else we were locked down. Once open again around June time everyone wanted to get out and we ended up fully booked for the rest of the year within a week. In 2020 we launched our first round of expeditions and sup holidays; they sold out in hours.  

 

 

S: How have the last few years been for the business?  

 

J: Since 2022 we’ve seen a big change in mindset sadly. Our regular programme of activities has slowed down significantly. The Covid mindset of getting outdoors and enjoying activities in the fresh air has slowly slipped away and we’ve had to re-adjust what and how we offer activities. We’ve found bringing in more high-end sup holidays has saved our business, where our coastal tours and beginner lessons have fallen away dramatically. To be honest, we are probably moving into the sup holiday/expedition market and away from the local activities but that will depend on this year and how it all transpires.  

 

 

S: Did the demise of the Water Skills Academy affect your business?  

 

J: Yeah, it’s been an awful time for the industry. The original Water Skills Academy management had a great ethos around how the training body ran and what it offered out to trainers, schools and the public. We ran about 6 sup safety and rescue courses each year and the same with sup instructor courses. The content of all courses was excellent, and I truly believe there is now a big loss in the guiding element of the industry now.  

 

 

S: You recently had your FB account hacked - what effect did that have on you? 

 

J: This happened 10 days before the Water Skills Academy liquidation was first mentioned to some of the trainers and made for a pretty tough time for mental health. Took quite a lot to pull myself out of this one if honest. Business wise it was a huge loss losing 12k followers but also, I lost my own personal page and with that, memories of friends and my family/kids. It was awful, and all happened at the worst time.  

 

 

S: What are you having to do to claw back those lost followers/customers? 

 

J: We just had to start again, but with that means more social media posting and sharing our content around the various sup groups of the UK and beyond. We can see a massive decrease in reach and interaction with our content. One new thing we are trying is our Sup2summit Road Trip where we want to connect with as many paddlers as possible across the UK, so they can meet us personally rather than just seeing the sharing of posts.  

 

 

S: How do you see SUP changing/progressing over the next five years and how can you be a part of that? 

 

J: That’s a real hard one if I’m honest and I think there are differences across the UK regarding what and why people partake in SUP. For us, I believe we will be here offering our support, holiday programmes and expeditions and slowly moving into the international expeditions. We have big plans for trips abroad that people haven’t thought of.  

 

 

S: How do you feel when you are out on the water and where is your favourite place to paddle. 

 

J: For me, paddling is escaping the day to day, relaxing and getting close to nature and wildlife. I’ll never understand racing but then I’m not competitive. I don’t understand why anyone would take this wonderful sport that can provide so many journeys and experiences and make it competitive. But that’s just me. Being in Scotland I am lucky enough to paddle with Minke Whale, a variety of dolphins, sea otters and seals as well as a huge number of birds from sea birds to birds of prey including ospreys and sea eagles. That to me is everything. The east coast is where it’s at for me. We have a huge amount of wildlife where I’ve seen most of the above and when you get off the water there are no midges, and you can enjoy a beverage midge-free!


 

Thanks Jim – as you can see, the challenges of running a SUP business have not been easy over the last few years, but we look forward to seeing where Jim goes with this. We love his honesty about SUP racing (maybe one day!) but as you can see, for him it’s all about keeping his head up and his eyes open, to view the spectacular wildlife and scenery where he lives in Scotland. Do get in touch with Jim if ever you are up his way and want to share the magic with him! 


Find a great SUP adventure on the Sup2Summit website and follow them on Facebook.

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