Ask the Expert: Behind the Scenes on Stand-Up Paddleboards with Matt Wagner

  • Apr 30, 2024
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Ask the Expert: Behind the Scenes on Stand-Up Paddleboards with Matt Wagner

This is Part II of our “Ask the Expert” article series featuring insider interviews to give you more insight into the people and processes that influence the Bestway products you enjoy.


Matt Wagner is an outdoor enthusiast who’s channeled his passion for packing up the right gear and getting outside into improving the quality of the camping and recreational items available for other adventure seekers.

Wagner began his career in product management more than 12 years ago for a well-known outdoor camping brand and then brought his experience to Bestway in 2018, overseeing the air mattress, air furniture and watersports product categories.

Now the Product Management Director, Recreation, Wagner says his favorite moments are bringing products to life and solving customer (and sometimes company) pain-points.

Ultimately, Wagner says the journey to the solution is rarely a straight line.

“There’s always a period at the beginning (of the product development process) when you’re dealing in hypotheticals,” explains Wagner. “You have a hole you’re trying to fill, or a problem you’re trying to solve and an end point at the end of the season...what happens in between are a lot of unexpected problems.”

He continues, “You may not have the exact outcome you were expecting. So, you really need flexibility midstream to ensure that the end reality still aligns with your original intentions.”

Ultimately, it’s one of Bestway’s unique, competitive advantages in the marketplace. 

A New Discovery: How Product Innovation Happens

Additionally, it’s those “U-turn” moments that have led to some surprising innovations, such as Bestway’s electric SUP air pump, the PowerGrip™ Sport High-Pressure DC Electric Air Pump.

The team hadn’t intended on developing their own model, but after the supplier they worked with made some changes, it became clear that the team needed to come up with another solution.

“The universe sort of served up this opportunity for us,” laughs Wagner. “The more we looked at the project, the more we realized there was an opportunity to bring some additional functionality (and improve) what the pump did.”

The team decided to take the pump a step further in functionality. Their goal was to get the best performance for inflating stand-up paddleboards without sacrificing inflation speed, while also adding another feature.

We wanted to “make it better at what it was intended to do while also opening up compatibility with other items,” Wagner says. “We were able to integrate a solution between two different styles of pumps, which meant the item had the ability to toggle between modes to handle higher or lower pressure items.”

He adds, “it was an innovation to a problem (that we were not) looking for.”

How Bestway Designs for a Variety of Watersports Experience Levels

In addition to those electric sport pumps, Wagner has played an instrumental role in developing Bestway’s watersports category, Hydro-Force™, focusing on building a solid variety of options to meet the needs of beginners all the way to advanced stand-up paddleboarders.

He knows the average consumer looks for helpful and clear information to effectively select the board that fits their needs and experience levels.

“We’ve worked to focus the line so we’re offering fewer (items) and a lineup that more logically addresses how to optimize your board based on who you are and what you intend to do,” Wagner says.

It’s this focus that has inspired the qualities of one of Bestway’s most popular stand-up paddleboards: the Oceana.

The Oceana is a standard-sized board with more width and stability and can handle a higher weight capacity. This category of boards, known as “All-Around,” is ideal for beginners who need more help with balance or want to bring a kid or dog along for the ride. The board is ideal for most users, which ultimately makes it a crowd-pleaser, he says.

More athletic outdoor enthusiasts who have better balance may be more inclined to choose a board that is more focused on performance. “Touring” boards are designed with maneuverability and speed in mind, with a focus on decreasing drag and taking a “further, faster” approach. This category of paddleboards is “typically longer and’re sacrificing stability but improving your speed,” says Wagner.

How to Avoid the Most Common SUP Errors

The use of paddleboards has surged in recent years, and most people encounter many of the same pitfalls setting up their boards for the first time, says Wagner.

For instance, people may wonder why their boards sag in the middle, even after they’ve inflated it on shore.

According to Wagner, it’s likely one of two common mistakes: underinflating the board or exceeding the weight capacity of the board.

If the front is sticking up and it’s “banana-ing,” the SUP likely isn’t inflated enough or is damaged and slowly losing pressure, says Wagner.

The other mistake? Having the valve stem in the wrong position when you’re pumping air into your SUP.

“Instead of holding the air you’ve just pumped into it, all of it escapes from the valve,” shares Wagner, and then you have to start over.

To avoid the problem, Wagner suggests setting the valve to the locked position after each use so it’s already in the correct position when you go to inflate your paddleboard. It must be in the locked position to keep the air inside of the board, as counterintuitive as that may seem, he says.


Wagner advises that users should take the time to test and understand how their SUP works by inflating it at home before going on their outdoor adventure.

Another important tip – choose the board based on the manufacturer.

“(Bestway’s) advantage is...having tighter quality control,” says Wagner. “Buying directly from a reputable manufacturer helps to ensure you aren't spending more for things that are not related to the utility of the product” like an additional, well-known brand name, design or color, which often increases the board’s price exponentially.

The next time you take your adventure outside and stand up on your inflatable paddleboard, take a minute and remember the incredible technology and innovation that went into the watersports item under your feet!


Every article is researched and created by experienced copywriters, product and industry experts and outdoor enthusiasts who want to enrich your life with fun, adventure and happiness!

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