Recreation departments in Shelburne and Yarmouth are working on a proposal for funding to add stand up paddleboards (SUP) to their activity programs. Funding for instructor training is part of the request.
Nancy Lakusta, owner of East Coast Paddle Company, says she has been working hard to introduce the sport to the region for several years. She’s concerned about the recreation departments’ intentions and the impact the government-funded initiative would have on her business.
She currently offers SUP programs for all ages at various price ranges and provided SUP service at Lake Milo every Wednesday for the 2017 season. She has volunteered as well in the past for Yarmouth Recreation’s youth camps, offering equipment use and instruction free of charge.
Lakusta has volunteered at the Shelburne Kayak Festival in 2015, 2016 & 2017 and with a number of local youth organizations.
“I’ve done this to share my passion for SUP and my mission has always been to make it accessible to everyone,” she said.
She says a large part of her customer base has been the local markets in the tri-counties and that working with recreation departments is a key part of her business.
In her experience, SUP is a relatively new activity in southwest Nova Scotia and she says her programs are never filled to capacity.
“Look at our local demographics and growth in the area. Is there demand and sustainability for an additional eight to 12 SUP instructors with equipment funded by the municipalities? I feel any potential growth for SUP will be in the tourism sector and adventure market, not the local market for recreation services or Paddle Canada lessons.”
She adds that SUP is considered a high-risk activity and that insurance reflects that. Her business costs are significant. Equipment is costly, in addition to a vehicle, fuel and advertising.
“I think to oversaturate a market with any product or service will make the product share too thin and those products and services will eventually disappear,” she said.
Yarmouth Recreation director Frank Grant says it’s not the intention of Yarmouth or Shelburne’s recreation departments to compete with East Coast Paddle Company.
“The main focus is to introduce the sport to mainly youth but also others who may not have the means to access this activity,” he said.
“The equipment would be shared among several recreation departments so people in each community would really only be able to access it for about one week during a summer.”
He added that the instructors who would be provided training are part of other programs and that their position is much larger in scope than providing SUP instruction solely. The program would be used only as a support to services that Lakusta offers.
“I really think anything that we do, will complement her business, not hurt,” he said.
Lakusta says she does not wish to dispute the recreation departments’ decision to add SUP to their programing but that she is no longer interested in a partnership with them.
“Is it not a municipality’s responsibility to not come in direct competition with products and services already offered in the area by small business? Small business is the tax base and this makes no sense,” she said.
“At this point they have not received funding and I wish them the best with their future plans. I have the foresight to reach out to other communities where SUP services may not be available, including Clare,” she said.
She will also offer tours, lessons, SUP fitness and social paddles throughout southwestern Nova Scotia.
“I hope in the future, municipal departments will consider the impact they could have on small business,” she said.