Jersey girl finds bright spot in SUP business

Nancy Malleo came all the way from New Jersey only to discover she wanted to start her own stand-up paddleboarding business.

Malleo, who lives in Top of the World with her two daughters, moved from Wyckoff, N.J., in 2010 after her mother passed away.

"My daughters wanted to try high school in a different part of the country," Malleo said. "I said [to them] 'I don't know,' but then my mom passed away ... "

Before she knew it, Malleo had rented out her house in Jersey, sold her furniture and packed whatever they could fit in the car and headed across the country during summer of 2010.

At first, she thought they might settle in San Diego, but Malleo wasn't too enamored with the city when she got there. Just a bit further north, she came upon Laguna Beach.

"I pulled into Laguna on a Sunday, and I was like, 'Wow, I like it,'" Malleo recalled.

She went to visit the high school, got a feel for the city, and ended up renting a cottage in Woods Cove.

"I knew it would be our last adventure together," she said about making the move. "And the girls love it here, of course."

Malleo had never stand-up paddleboarded until she arrived in Laguna.

She bought a used paddleboard and started doing it every day while she was looking for a job, which proved to be difficult. She took a job as a SUP instructor and quickly realized she could do this as her own business.

In April 2011, she launched SUP Fitness Laguna, and a little more than a year later, business is picking up, she said.

The business is ranked No. 5 in Laguna Beach on Trip Advisor and No. 1 in Dana Point, Malleo added.

Stand-up paddleboarding is a growing industry. In 2010, sales of stand-up paddleboards accounted for 9% of total surfboard sales in the U.S., totaling $14.5 million, according to a report by the Surf Industry & Manufacturers Assn.

The average price of a paddleboard, according to SIMA, is $1,105, making it the most expensive product in the hard goods category. Longboards followed with a cost of about $691 on average per board.

Despite the sport being a hot trend, it's still somewhat of a tough business, Malleo said, because it's a seasonal service. It's getting busier now with summer.

"People don't visit Laguna in winter even though it's always nice here," Malleo commented.

Starting the business didn't require a ton of money. The boards, of which she has six, were $800 apiece, she said.

Then there's the business license, insurance and safety certifications. She also is an ambassador for Next by Athena, a swimwear label, to help develop a paddleboarding line of swimsuits for active women.

Malleo is figuring out the next step to help her business grow.

"I'm actually starting to have turn business away," she said.

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