“We are not separated by oceans, we are connected by it.”
Those are the words of Todd Bradley, spoken on a call between the Mustang Survival HQ here in Burnaby, BC, and Todd’s home on O’ahu, HI.
With a literal ocean between the two locations, the conversation bringing us together that day was, in fact, about water. More specifically, paddling on it.
We teamed up with Todd to create something unexpected and unique: a custom designed inflatable stand up paddle board. It honors Todd’s past, our shared value of living life beyond land, and our being a part of the Wing Group; where innovative inflatable technology are the overlap of our Venn Diagram.
The Evolution of SUP
While the roots of stand up paddling run deep in Hawaiian culture, its current popularity is often tied back to the 1980s - and to a stellar group of surfers who were looking for a way to train and condition their bodies.
Todd Bradley was one of those surfers.
Brought up on the shores of O’ahu, he spent nearly all his time in, on, and by the water in his youth. Competing in surfing, paddling and racing both outrigger canoes and sailboats in the 1970s, he attended university in Colorado where he translated his love of watersports onto terra firma. Now an avid Hydro-foil surfer, Todd is again branching into new frontiers in watersport.
Falling in love with the mountains while studying, he made his way back to the islands post-university; working full time while getting back to his first love—the waves.
‘We would get towed in on big waves a lot—that’s what we were training for. You never know when the surf is going to come up but you have to be ready; your legs and core have to be strong. Stand up paddling seemed like a good way to get us there.’
Using old canoe paddles and windsurfing boards, while doing it to keep in shape, they were also inadvertently igniting what would become a hyper-accessible sport in the water world. They simply didn’t know it yet.
Todd’s design savvy and love for the ocean first saw the opportunity to create a better (read: lighter via carbon fibre) paddle. Then, a more dynamic board. Partnering up with Dave Parmenter—a local surf shaper—they started to create boards for high performance SUP surfing.
Answering the cry for more boards and more paddles, C4 Waterman was born; a company rooted in Hawaiian values, and dedicated to bringing people into closer connection with the water. C4 stood for CORE FOUR: Balance, Endurance Strength, Tradition—the 4 values of the Hawaiian Waterman.
Their boards and paddles made waves at the first trade show they went to - and from there, a surge of other companies began making their own boards, paddles and gear tailored to stand up paddling; within 5 years 160 companies had joined the fast-growing trend.
Which also happened to be the perfect time for a pivot, and a fresh innovation.
Introduction of Inflatables
As most adventure-hungry marine lovers do, Todd and his waterman friends sought out diverse places to put their boards in; rivers ranking high on the list of places to try.
Yet, the hard fibreglass boards were getting smashed.
Again, Todd’s innovation-brain got to work - and remembered a fabric—dropstitch—that was an inflatable medium that could get really rigid when filled with air.
With a basic design in hand, he found a factory that could build the board. What resulted was an early prototype of what is today’s inflatable stand up paddle board.
They could withstand the rugged river floors. The big wave performance wasn’t the same as the fibreglass boards, but they saw a recreational potential of the board. And, they could travel easily with them—especially when deflated.
Similarly to the introduction of the fibreglass boards 5 years prior, the inflatables caught on...and took off even faster. Within the next 2 years, countless companies were producing their own inflatable SUP boards.
It also happened to be when the masses caught on to the stellar experience of SUP-ing, and the paddling community exploded.
All because a small handful of surfers wanted to workout, then take their boards everywhere.
What We’re Building
It’s one of the C4 Waterman values—Tradition—that we’re most excited to be bringing to this unique and generous collaboration.
In Todd’s words:
‘Tradition is key - and the Hawaiian spirit of Aloha falls into that. We share and we learn from tradition. When we meet people in different settings or circumstances, we grow from sharing tradition; sharing about a sport or something that we do goes beyond the ‘doing’ itself.’
Honoring the SUP lineage and legacy in working with such a pioneer in the sport like Todd, we’re proud to be working in partnership with someone who deeply shares our values; that life beyond land is one worth chasing, and that finding a way to adventure with family deepens memories and helps bring traditions forward.
Water’s a part of Todd’s family’s day to day life; where his wife, two sons and daughter find themselves with a bevvy of experiences on the ocean that tell their family story, and have helped cultivate a new generation of water-people. Turns out the water-loving apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in the Bradley family.
That’s a future we’re excited about; ways we can teach the next generation about the water and what makes exploring in and on it so special.
“The water has a language and we are drawn to its allure—to experience and understand it.
The experienced Waterman understands this and looks for tools to share in its beauty and sport.
For the waterman:
‘No single piece of equipment defines us. It is the water.’”
Our commitment to staying at the forefront of engineering and development of goods and gear is aimed at encouraging the watersport curious, to avid water-lovers and all the way to the experienced marine adventurers to stay open and curious - willing to see and experience the water in a new way.
And, do it safely; backed by gear engineered for the most demanding environments, that support you in whatever marine adventure calls to you.