Chung-Shih Sun is an award-winning industrial designer, pictured left. Prior to founding Gearlab in 2008, he offered his professional design services to companies and clients in the fields of intel and product design for more than 20 years. Last month, at Outdoor Retailer, Chung-Shih Sun was recognized as a finalist to receive an Innovation Award for his cutting edge firepit design.
We spoke with Chung-Shih Sun from the Gearlab offices in Taiwan last week to find out why Greenland Paddles are so special to him and what new intros we will see from the brand in Spring 2019.
What was your road map for starting Gearlab? I live and work in Taiwan, which is one of the largest producers of bikes in the world, and where I came in contact with many carbon fiber manufacturers. Taiwan is an island nation surrounded by three bodies of water — the South China Sea to the Southwest, the East China Sea to the North, and the Philippine Sea to the East.
I have 15-plus years experience as a paddler, and I am a Level 2 instructor. I combined my love for design with my passion as a paddler to create a state-of-the-art carbon fiber Greenland paddle, one of the oldest paddles used for survival by the Inuits.
What year was the business founded. In 2008. We started off designing and manufacturing bikes and, as a side project, we used our connections with carbon fiber manufacturers to create Greenland paddles on a small scale. The response was so overwhelming in the Taiwanese paddling community, since they understood the benefits of Greenland paddles, that we introduced our designs and the benefits of the Greenland paddles to the North American and European paddling communities — the largest in the world.
What can we expect for Spring 2019? We are focused on creating paddles for the big-body water enthusiast including the ocean. Our latest designs, launching in Spring 2019, will be the ninth version of the Greenland paddle for the brand. They are lighter with several new internal components to improve the structure for strength, agility and weight. One paddle is slightly wider and offers a slightly sharper edge and costs around $400. Our ambassador feedback around the world has been more than excellent. They are overwhelmed by how well this paddle performs over our current versions.
“Unlike most other paddles on the market, all the Gearlab models are grounded in 1,000 years of tradition and completely revolutionary at the same time. I can paddle longer and more efficiently with no pain compared to any other paddle that I have tried, including Euro blades and custom carved wood paddles. The craftsmanship is impeccable, and they are incredibly fun to use.” — Maureen Nowak, Gearlab Athlete Ambassador, pictured right.
We recognize that the price tag is high for the average consumer so the second paddle for Spring 2019 is a plastic carbon fiber hybrid geared toward first time users, instructors, kayaking clubs, and guides who have heard of Greenland paddles but have not had a chance to try them. It will be in the $120 to $150 price range. We are hoping that this hybrid will be a much easier entree price point and push the greatest volume while getting our brand name out into the mainstream. Now, most people will have the opportunity to try the paddle.
Do you outsource production? Gearlab outsources the carbon fiber because the material requires industrial machinery to produce but, once the carbon fiber material is delivered to our studios in Taipei, the paddles are hand-crafted, hand-finished and assembled in-house. With all of the specifications for each of the models, there are close to 2,000 paddles going through our facility each season.
What makes a Greenland paddle so appealing? Greenland style paddles were originally made in wood handcrafted in someone’s backyard or garage for long distance touring. Greenland paddles are actually a lot easier to use and maneuver providing you with greater paddling distance, less fatigue and injury. Most consumers are not familiar with the operation of Greenland paddles because they use traditional European blades where you have bigger sized edges for shorter distances.
In today’s paddling market there are not many Greenland style paddles but there is a need and a demand for this type of paddling experience. And with the need for the niche, and ability to get the carbon fiber, we are able to bring the product to the paddling market. We know that once you are able to experience the ease of using a Greenland paddle, you will fall in love with the experience immediately. Our brand believes that there is a huge opportunity to turn the mainstream paddlers into fans of Greenland style paddles and paddling technique. Through our 30-plus ambassadors, organizations, clubs and word-of-mouth, Greenland paddles have gained legitimacy and the demand is growing.
Written by Teresa Hartford
Greenland paddles by Gearlab are available online direct-to-consumer and at select North American specialty retailers with a demo fleet to check-in/check-out. For more information click here. Photos courtesy Gearlab