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Meet Wade Lawson of SUP with Wade in South Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wade Lawson.

Wade, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After seeing the movie “Riding Giants,” I was determined to learn how to surf giant waves. While struggling to paddle a longboard at the Malibu Pier, I saw the big-wave master Laird Hamilton for the first time. He was standing up on a very large board and effortlessly rode waves that he caught with the assistance of what looked like a boat oar. Laird was the star of “Riding Giants” and he was a big-wave surfer. It quickly became apparent to me that this style of riding waves was something that I needed to figure out, so I did.

Fast forward a few years, my wife had a friend who wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding and knew it was something we did. After a bit of instruction, she was up and paddling in the Marina…and like most who try it, she was instantly hooked. I had just completed training to be a professional helicopter pilot…and the bottom had fallen out of the market.

A week later, the paddling friend called and convinced me to offer this experience to the subscribers of her website. It seemed like a fun opportunity at a time when nothing else was moving forward in my career. Launching our product on her site entailed setting up a website, creating a curriculum of sorts, coming up with prices – essentially setting up a business.

I scoured the internet looking for surf schools who offered such services, so I could find a template to copy. No such thing existed. Our little stand-up paddleboard school was the first.
The first day that our “offer” went live on my wife’s friend’s website, we sold 400 lessons. It kept me busy for a whole summer and we were in business. It wasn’t long until SUP schools started popping up everywhere.

Meanwhile, running a SUP school has allowed me to constantly enjoy time on the water and hone my paddle stroke, which has allowed me to follow my true passion. In the pursuit of giant waves, I’ve managed to work myself into the lineup at the biggest spots on the West Coast, including Maverick’s, Spooner’s Cove, Todos Santos, Nelscott Reef, etc.
2017 will be the second year that I’ve qualified for the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Invitational with some of the best surfers in the world.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Running a SUP school isn’t all fun and games. Over the years, as things have grown, I’ve handed over most of the logistical aspects of running the business to my wife, as it’s very difficult to be on the water and answer the phone at the same time. I’ve also learned a thing or two about dealing with local government, and a variety of recent challenges in Marina del Rey led us to relocate to our current San Pedro location. The water is cleaner, there is a perfect south-facing wave a short paddle from our launch spot, and we believe San Pedro is the “west side” location of the future.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with SUP with Wade – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Almost anyone can stand on a board and paddle…for a while. There are techniques that are counter-intuitive to moving a craft through the water. As long as there is no wind or current, one can move about with little effort.

That is seldom the case. Wind happens when there is a heat exchange between warm and cool air…high and low pressure, etc. When encountering wind on a stand-up paddleboard, your body acts like a sail. The wind will take you to wherever it blows. More times than not, that place is somewhere you don’t want to be.

We teach a technique that allows one to move through the water with the least possible effort, thus cutting through the wind. Most first-timers will use their arms. Arms get tired quickly. Our technique emphasizes the use of the back, obliques, and legs. In a two-hour session, our students will master this method.

Once paddling technique is mastered, it’s on to the surf! Surfing is the best therapy around.

We are a small company. I teach most of the lessons myself. I will enlist other instructors if the groups are big. I think our success is due to the fact that our employees have an equity stake in this company…and that we have kept the operation small. Everyone gets personal instruction from me and not from a 16-year old, who is getting minimum wage and couldn’t care less about your desire to learn.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plans for the future is to promote the sport of SUP…and to promote San Pedro as an incredible place to paddle and to learn fundamentals of SUP surfing.

A lot is happening on the LA Waterfront. This will be the next place in LA to blow up and I’m excited to show folks around!

Contact Info:

  • Address: We have a private beach and boathouse in the Cabrillo Marina. We’re not always at the boathouse so, all reservations for rentals and lessons are by appointment only.
  • Website:
  • Phone: 310.968.0003
  • Email:
  • Instagram: supwithwade
  • Facebook: supwithwade
  • Yelp: supwithwade
    Image Credit:
    Pete Alport – Nelscott Reef Big Wave Unvitational

1 Comment

  1. Kalynn Carlson

    January 31, 2017 at 03:41

    That picture of your nephew Ethan, would be a great one to post on here.

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