Hong Kong-based paddle maker kicks start your rowing experience.
This week’s interview is with Lister Woo, Co-founder of Typhoon8, Hong Kong based rowing equipment company since 2003. With the Dragonboat races upon us, the Tung Ng Festival kicking-off and AIA International Dragonboat Race coming up next Tuesday, on the19th at Stanley Main Beach, we thought we’d cover a company that makes the paddles, the most important equipment of this popular sport.
ButterBoom: How did Typoon8 come about? Where did the idea come from? And why the name Typhoon8?
Lister Woo: The idea of T8 was started in late 2002. My partner, Michelle Shortis, and I, both rowers noticed that both outrigger canoing and dragon boating was getting very popular as a sports, not only in Hong Kong but all around the world. We foresaw at that time, that there was going to be a growing market for higher quality paddling equipments. After a couple of months researching the manufacturing, suppliers and feasibility of setting up, we took the plunge, came up with some designs and within a few months was able to launch our very own paddles by early 2003, Typhoon8 was borned.
The name T8 is derived from the typhoon signal warning number 8, we thought that it was an appropriate name for us as it is when typhoon signal number 8 is hoisted, that is the only time we canâ€™t go out to paddle (we still go out even when T3 is hoisted). We were joking around that T8 would be the time for us stay in doors and make paddles!
What are your plans for Dragon Boat this year? How are you involved?
We have a pretty good season so far both on and off the water. I am a member of the Hong Kong Island Paddle Club and we are a competitive paddling club in Hong Kong. Our team have done very well this year winning gold in all 3 categories at the Deep Water Bay race.
Besides paddling and running T8, I also do some coaching for several corporate teams.
How are the Typhoon8 paddles better than other paddles and why should I buy them for my team?
T8 provides both wood and carbon fiber composite paddles. We source our timber from various places in Asia and we focus on the weight, flex and balance of the paddle. We have done many tests to the paddles and our minimum breakage force is 85lbs. Also, the new improved resin tip is impact proof, meaning it is indestructible when used in any rowing capacity. The Philippines National team is using T8 paddles.
Our top of the range, carbon paddles are made out of weaved carbon and it is a one-piece design.There isn’t anything like this in the market. The paddle is light, yet very strong.
What was the start up capital that you and your partner Michelle Shortis put in to get it going?
Well, like most startups, jumping from a steady pay check and sinking our own funds into an unproven business was scary but exhilarating at the same time as it was a business that was close to our heart.We basically worked the first year without a salary. In any event, I think we must have put in about $500k to start.
Wow! There are over 70 products on your website, you are selling everything from canoe to instructional DVD , apparel and jewellery. Besides the items that are sourced from other suppliers, you have designed Typhoon8 paddles, apparels and also jewelery. Who is the designer of T8 products?
I do most of the paddle bag designs and product development while Michelle designs the majority of the merchandising and apparel designs. This year we have a fashion designer on board to create a new line of paddling/performance wear.
What is the determining factor for Typoon8’s success today?
Top quality products, hard work and good service.
That sounds like a natural answer. So, what purchase recommendation can you offer to a serious newbie interested to get started in this sport? What are the must have items one must invest in for this sport?
A good start up kit would consist of a wood paddle, padded paddling shorts and a UV proof paddle shirt. This will cost no more than HK$800. Gloves, sunglasses are optional.
The padded shorts will protect your butt from rubbing against the seat. The paddling top not only shield you from harmful UV light but also protects you from chaffing. Varnished wood paddle is durable and will protect you from blistering compare to paddles which are not varnished.
Can you give us some idea of how popular the sport has become? Lots of people and companies participates in the races and heaps of supporters/ spectators head on down to a crowded Stanley beach during the Dragon boat festival in June but beyond this what are the highlights of this sport for the rest of year? What about prize money?
There are very few races with prize money but people join the sport for the good reasons – mainly to keep fit, build team spirit within company staffs or just to build a network of friends who enjoys this sport and mainly because its loads of fun! The race originated in China, 2000 years ago but was only introduced to the outside world in 1976. Now there are about 55 countries with dragon boat teams. I think the latest countries that joined the International Dragon Boat Federations are Iran, Uganda, UAE and Egypt!
The major local dragon boat events include the Deep Water Bay Race run by my club, Hong Kong Internationals and Stanley races. There are now about 300+ teams in Hong Kong!
Every year there are 2 major international races, the Dragon Boat World Cup and the Club Crew World Championships. These events are held in different countries every year.
Thanks Lister for your time.
So there you have it, insight into one of the hottest growing sports that has been a Hong Kong June highlight for a longtime. If you are interested in getting some Typhoon8 paddles or would like to know how to get involved, we recommend you get in touch with Lister.
1704 Sungib Industrial Centre
53 Wong Chuk Hang Road
Wong Chuk Hang
phone: +852 2518-3823
fax: +852 2518-3923