South Vancouver Island boardshops have taken a beating in recent months, and the December closure of Bill and Ted’s Boardshop in Duncan – one of the last shops to carry wakeboarding gear – deals a heavy blow to wakeboarders in the area.
Ted Battryn, co-owner of Bill and Ted’s, says the decision was based a number of factors, but the upshot of it was that returns just weren’t justifying all the work that went into it. Small erosions were nibbling away at the gains, he explains: with a few percent lost to online sales, a few to big box stores, a few more to a bad economy, that slender margin between making profits and losing capital can disappear altogether.
“We had to make that decision,” says Ted. “And it was a hard decision.”
Matt Tyson, owner of Hello My Name is Boardshop in Shawnigan Lake, also had to make a tough call in calling it quits last September. He had moved his shop from Sooke, where it was known as Community One, shifting away from a more varied product line to focus on water sports. But like so many Island businesses, his was just getting by, with not enough revenue to justify staying in business.
“People do a lot of their shopping online instead of supporting local shops, and yeah, they can get better deals,” Matt admits. “We could match it but there just wouldn’t be any profit.”
The shops’ closures are sure to affect local boarders – at least those that like to get their gear in person. For the rest, internet sales may be the only way to go, but the savings in price might come at the cost of solid advice from experienced pros on what exactly you should be spending your money on.
Seasoned riders might know just what they’re looking for, Matt points out, but for those starting out, the right gear can make all the difference – a too-large board under a kid out for the first time will be harder to control, cutting faster in the wake, and taking a lot of the fun right out of the experience.
“You lose the knowledge of the people in the shop,” he says. “I wakeboard in the pro division; I know the product inside and out, and I know the best way to suit someone to a board. Online you just get a line out of a catalogue.”
At the moment, wakeboarders are left with Alternative Groove in Nanaimo, Parker Marine in Nanaimo and Courtenay to service the entire south end of the island. Further north, Jay’s Lace It Up in Port Alberni also carries wakeboards and accessories. Slim pickings for Vancouver Island’s 32,000 square kilometres, speckled with more than 700 beautiful lakes.
Ted is not ruling out another incarnation of Bill & Ted’s, and hopes he can apply all that he’s learned from the experience to future ventures.
“Regardless of how it ended, it’s not something I regret,” he insists. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. The people we met were amazing: the people in the industry, the customers, those we sponsored … I would do it all again.”
He and Matt both intend to stay active members of the boarding community, taking part in events and helping out where they can.
“I’ll still be offering help finding boards,” promises Matt. “I’ll still be providing the service – just not out of a shop.”