Capital SUP Annapolis co-founder Brian Meyer is an archetype of the homage, “Do what you love, love what you do.” In 2014, the elite racer fled the corporate world to build Maryland’s premier SUP shop with his two business partners. Since then, Capital SUP been the backbone of the area’s booming paddling scene. We got him on the phone to discuss giving back to the community, following his passion and what the future holds for the sport. – MM
I went to college at University of Hawaii. I told my parents I was going for school but I really went to surf. After a few years there I wanted to try something different. One day I went down to a local outrigger canoe club, jumped in a boat and was hooked. Within a year I raced on a six-man team from Molokai to Oahu.
I was adopted as a newborn and after college I reached out to my birth parents. They live in Maryland, so I decided to move there and get to know them. At the time, standup racing was just becoming a thing in Annapolis, and there wasn’t an outrigger club so I got a board, started paddling and got to know a lot of the local paddlers.
After a year-and-a-half of working a corporate job I decided I was going to quit and open a paddleboard shop. Capital SUP Annapolis started mostly out of passion for the sport and the pursuit of designing my own schedule. We got the business started with less than $20,000 while my two business partners and I still had full-time jobs. Our main focus is providing paddling experiences. We do standup paddle dance classes, yoga, race training, LED night tours and more. We went from putting 3,000 people on the water in the first summer to over 8,000 a summer within a couple years.
We’ve done a lot of work to create a robust safety program for our business, but there are still people who come SUP without taking proper precautions. We need to continue educating paddlers and the maritime community about both safety and what standup really is. A lot of people still have no idea.
From day one we’ve made a point to give back to the community, and in January of last year we started a non-profit called Live Water that gets veterans on the water. One of the first guys on the team was Cody Irons, a 24-year-old who lost both his arms while on active duty. We got him outfitted with a special paddle and brought him out to the Pacific Paddle Games last year. We also do a lot to help clean up our local waterways. We find that by creating connections to the water we inspire people to want to help.
I used to race a lot. I got pretty good, pretty quick and was able to compete on an elite level. Traveling and competing took a lot of time but it helped us market our training program. As Capital SUP has grown my racing has taken a back seat, but we’ve developed several paddlers that are going to make big statements in the coming season.
Last winter I took on a role with the International Paddle League (IPL). The IPL isn’t a new idea. There are great events established all over the world and instead of creating new events, we’re connecting them. Our goals are to grow the sport and provide additional media for athletes and brands. The industry has had some growing pains; we’re just trying to steer it in the right direction.
There’s so much water in this world that SUP is bound to stay popular and keep growing. Obviously getting SUP into the Olympics will help, but even without that I think SUP will continue growing. We’re still in the childhood phase of the life cycle.