Cool September mornings, snow on the peaks, no crowds in the parking lots at Lost Lake, and Brian Bielmann images in the front of my mind courtesy of the Swell 2 show last Thursday…time to get on the lake. I love fall in Whistler and I REALLY wanted to love the C4 iSUP but in the immortal words of Billy Bragg, “Oh love is strange.”
I spent three days with the C4 iSUP XXL 10’9″ this week and like so many summer loves from days past, the iSUP (inflatable stand up paddle) and I had our moments but when the clouds rolled in and sunlight faded to grey the hype fell to my feet like the water cold rushing around my ankles. iSUP, I’m sorry, but I’m really not that into you.
The iSUP myth is undeniable. Adjustable paddles that fit in the car, awesome! A 10’9″ board that rolls into a backpack sack with it’s own pump and drops in the hatch back without pulling out the stroller, perfect! An excuse to slip on my Matuse 2mm v-neck surf shirt…ya baby! But that’s where the love affair ended.
Like any summer love, we cut to the chase…from the first pump I was disappointed. The pump handle was cracked at the thread where the valve insert was also missing – a.k.a. where someone at the rental shop tried and failed to glue the plastic fitting back together. I know, no fault of C4..but not the best start. OK, moving on, I pumped until the pump handle would no longer compress – with my hand squeezing the crack – and the board was firm. Yes! I snapped it up with one hand with the jazzy nylon carry strap and popped it onto the glassy lake. Stepped on, one paddle, and NO…the C4 XXL (?) immediately flexed and bent into a banana shape and sunk to the water line under my feet. This can’t be right? Out of the water, more pumping, more firm, back in. No better, but it was early, the lake was calling and I paddled it out.
I’d tell you how it handled but it didn’t. The rocker was so pronounced under my weight (185lbs) that there was no sweet spot, no chance it would plane or even begin to glide. Each paddle stroke made the board bend more under my feet. C4…XXL…Fail.
PART 2 – Hit Me Baby One More time
Back to the shop. Just to be fair. They offered to let me keep the board for another day and the tiny girl at the desk (who paddles herself and loves the C4 iSUP’s) sent me away this time with a new pump!! OK, let’s try this again. We headed back to Lost Lake but mama bear and two cubs sent us packing to Rainbow Park on Alta Lake. Pump, pump, pump…valve on new C4 pump not working…pump until the pump handle won’t compress and the board squeals – literally – under the pressure. Step on…same bend. Step off, more ridiculously hard pumping, back in the water…bend, sink, pivot. WTF? “Something is wrong I say to my wife.” I paddle up wind and felt the board bend under my feet with every gust. Back to shore. Repeat pump…will not take any more air…back in the water…bend, sink, I’m outta here.
Part 3 – I’m Really Not That Into You
Meanwhile back in ‘the lab’ I get out the computer and the measuring tape (my wife has lost interest after a week me of convincing her ‘we need this’ and is convinced I’m obsessing…but damn it, this is summer love babe, it’s September and I need to know what happened?) “Every report on this board says people love it?” I tell here. “You should write about it.” She says.
So why didn’t the C4 iSUP XXL work? My first guess is the tacky ‘i’ Apple reference but here are a couple real life signs…1st, found the C4 instruction video – and yes, I did everything right – check. 2nd, it’s inflatable, what did you expect? Next the tail of the tape, the C4 10’9″ XXL massive 34″ spec. width was right on but the length measured no longer than 10’4″ – even on the curve(?). In fact, stood up next to a new C4 10’6″ in the shop the difference was indistinguishable?? Did I get a shorter, chubbier version of the XXL? Was it less volume? Did the staff give me the wrong board? Did the photo evidence really show the tail fins out of the water? I don’t know…but I know this isn’t area 51 and a 185lb guy shouldn’t sink a 200 litre SUP.
Meanwhile back to the shop, “…sorry guys, I wanted to love it.” Immediately guy who wasn’t working the last two days says, “Ya, no worries. I’d like to tell you different but a lot of bigger guys say that… and we’re selling them off anyways.”
There is no place in the retail word where the US v. Canadian pricing divide is greater than surf boards. I shopped for a Naish Glide 12.0 (glass) last year and saw prices in Canadian board shops up to $2300 while the same board in the US at retail is $1600-1700 (FYI: wholesale cost for either is $1200.) You do the math.
A short lesson in surf board / SUP retail…big US supplier with no interest in the tiny CDN board market gives CDN distributor the rights to purchase and re-sell their boards at 30 to 50% higher than US retail MSRP, end of story. I’ve been in this business for 20 years and while prices vary on hard and soft goods north and south I’ve never seen a cash grab like this. Do your homework and find the closest US price + shipping and you may be surprised how many $100’s of dollars you can save shopping around. Next, take that to your Canadian dealer and they will pass along the message. Only time and consumer revolt can turn the tide.
That said, I am independent, and if you know me I am also the biggest self-proclaimed shop local advocate this side of 49 degrees lat. Bottom line…shop at home.
1. I don’t sell boards unless they are either from Canadian producers OR purchased at fair market wholesale…which usually means direct from the US supplier at the same wholesale price they offer US accounts.
2. Don’t let CDN board shops tell you ‘shipping is so expense’…shipping a board from Oregon to BC, or from Vancouver Island to Whistler for that matter, is the same or better than to or from any other destination. Dealers don’t tell you shipping skis and snowboards is expensive…the operating cost is in the price.
The only arguably legit difference in price in imported boards is the debate around tax and duty. My advice, NAFTA reigns supreme – any board manufactured anywhere in North America is duty-free (and remember boards made in “communist” China are subject to duty in Canada and the US). As for taxes, while BC’s HST has hammered additional upfront cost on dealers, it has not changed the consumer tax rate.