Sitting in front of a computer at Greg Jensen’s home one evening in 2009, Danny Ching and his new business partner were playing around with ideas for a name for their fledgling company. As they googled various names an error message appeared on the screen – 404. “What about that”, thought Ching; it was different. The area code for Hawaii is 808 and being half Hawaiian, the number 404 is catchy and provided a way for him to place his personal stamp on the new Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) manufacturer.
2014 marks a turning point for 404 SUP as they formally moved out from beneath the rising corporate prominence of Riviera Paddlesurf. Despite having the winningest SUP racer in their portfolio, Riviera assembled a separate racing team the previous year making 404’s market position within the corporation unclear. No stranger to adversity, Ching’s extensive background in paddling and a degree in business make him uniquely suited to steer 404 SUP to a solid position in the SUP industry with the same style and grace displayed during his numerous victories on the water.
Rider owned 404 SUP is currently the only SUP manufacturer owned by a top professional SUP racer. Sitting inside a popular Mexican restaurant at the northern end of Hermosa Beach, California, Ching spoke about the challenges of running a profitable global small business while holding onto the values and culture which first brought him and so many others to the sport of SUP. Sponsoring team riders is a highly visible marketing tool for SUP manufacturers. Some corporations benefit from being able to inject large amounts of cash into the SUP industry and host “destination” events around the globe while offsetting the cost through their other business lines. At 404 SUP, Ching is leading an effort to focus on the fundamentals – something he knows well – and work to make a return on 404’s investment in team riders yet retain the laid-back family culture strongly associated with the sport. Mentioning the ongoing proliferation of corporate sponsored “World Champion” events, he laughed that despite his countless SUP racing victories it’s young 404 Team Rider Travis Baptiste who is the only member of 404’s Racing Team to have a “world” title. Travis certainly earned it, he said, but this just highlights the way manufacturers are shaping the sport at the moment. “I’m a manufacturer myself,” he said, “and I don’t want them to have as much influence as they currently do.”
Ching talked about his goals as an athlete for 2014 as well as the future years. At 30, he knows he has a few years left to be competitive at an elite level. His passion and strong roots in the outrigger canoe racing community throughout the Pacific led him to compete in several 100 mile endurance races last year which took him away from SUP racing. He plans on setting a different course this year and focusing more on stand up. While still juggling the schedules of the different outrigger race seasons, stand up racing and his responsibilities as a businessman, Ching knows he cannot be everywhere at once and has worked to surround himself with a team of experts. 404 SUP has retooled its website and is offering a new range of production boards in 2014, in addition to its venerable U.S. made custom shapes. For more information on 404 SUP’s range of products see 404SUP.com. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the man in the green hat at a race or SUP retailer near you.