Q & A with Kyle Schaefer, co-founder of Tidal Roots. Kyle and his friend Kent Scovill started tidal roots in 2012, and are based in Eliot, Maine. If you have never tried stand up paddleboarding, or SUP, before, this interview will have you clamoring to get on a board!
ND: Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Kyle Schaefer and I co-founded Tidal Roots with Kent Scovill. We craft hand made wooden stand up paddleboards that are built to connect to our customers and the outdoors, through a soulfully crafted product.
ND: What inspired you to start making stand up paddleboards?
Kent and I both approach life with a sort of “think different” attitude. With stand up paddleboarding growing like crazy across the world, we both saw an opportunity. The opportunity was to jump in with a product that was unique, made from local & sustainable materials, has a certain aesthetic appeal and puts performance and feel first. After borrowing a SUP from a friend and getting some quality fishing days on it, we were sold! We went to the drawing board and began our first northern white cedar prototypes. Its been an evolution everyday since our first boards hit the water.
ND: My dad has fished for stripers off the rocky coast in York for decades, but I can’t imagine him climbing on to a stand up paddleboard. What might you say to someone has never tried using a stand up paddleboard? And what type of experience can someone expect when using your boards on the water?
There are more and more ways to get outside, access the water, and find peace in the natural world than ever before. Stand up paddleboarding is one of our favorites, because this sport gives you the ability to almost walk on water. The feeling of standing on a board, gliding across ocean reefs in the expansive wilderness of the North Atlantic, is a feeling that I can’t quite describe. Every moment that you step on your board, you turn yourself over to the natural world where you are no longer in full control. Seals play in the surf as we paddle, fish swim beneath, and the birds dive for bait. Our boards give us silent access to these types of special places. If you have a little faith and adventure in you, your paddleboard will take you to new places, and show you things you’ve never seen. Our boards fit into this natural environment. The water that helped our cedar trees grow tall in Maine, is the same water that we float on as we paddle.
ND: What are some of your favorite local places to paddle?
Well, this is a great question. And a question that I can answer with only a certain degree of honesty, Pepperell Cove on the north side of the Piscataqua River in Maine is a special place. There is a great variety of environments to paddle – you’ve got sandy flats, islands, plenty of sea life, and the ocean is just a quick jaunt away for more adventure and longer paddles.
ND: When I looked at your website, the statement “products with a soul” caught my eye. How does your product embody this statement?
Each paddle board that we craft carries a part of us in it. We, as makers, give each paddleboard a piece of ourselves through the process. It’s the makers dedication and connection to the craft that shines through when you are on the water. As a builder you have a lot of power. You have the power to create something special. You have the power to choose materials that have meaning. You have the power to do things the right way—which may be the long way, but its the right way. You have the power to inspire your end-user, simply, with the way that you approach building their board. It’s a connection that you can’t put your finger on or see but you darn sure know that its there.
We believe that our paddleboards do, in fact, have a soul that will resonate with our paddlers.
ND: Tell me a little bit about the process. From selecting the wood to water ready, what goes into each board?
Every board starts as a tree several hours north of Portland, Maine in a Northern White Cedar grove. Each tree is harvested, processed, and selected with specific qualities in mind to make the perfect board. We take the cedar back to our work shop at the Salmon Falls Mills, that sits on the banks of the Salmon Falls River in Rollinsford, NH . Our work shop is rich with history, as we walk on the same floors that textile workers walked on back in the early 1800s. It’s inspiring to know that we are walking on the same floors that makers did from a different era, two centuries ago. Now comes the fun part. We mill the cedar into specific dimensions for our top and bottom decks, and also for the sides of the board and nose and tail. We apply the cedar to a proprietary CNC cut frame that is specific to each model that we produce. We have five different models, all for types of paddlers and situations. Hours of shaping, adding accessories, sanding, fiber glassing, etc ensue to make the perfect board. Some boards get wood burned art as requested by customers and some have specific accessory layouts, to best suit the needs of our adventurous customers. We build our boards custom for sure, BUT we also produce our stock models to sell to our customers right off the shelf. I’m certainly simplifying the process here but you can tell that a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears goes into each board.
Get a beer:
Kent and I used to have business meetings early on for Tidal Roots at When Pig’s Fly in Kittery, Maine, a great pizza and craft beer spot on Rt. 1. At the time the bar was manned by our first customer ever—a gentlemen named Tom that watched our ideas morph into a reality and he then became our first customer. It was a special connection for sure. They are constantly innovating with the beers they pour—great place to discover new brews.
Chauncey Creek is a favorite summer joint for sure. It’s a BYOB, off the beaten path, lobsters off the boat kind of a place. Located on Chauncey Creek in Kittery, Maine, you can bring your own sides, order lobster, have a beer, and best of all you can paddle or boat to this spot! Put it on the list.
Time on the water is so valuable to us, but any chance we get to get to the mountains we take it. When I get a window of opportunity I love to get to the mountains to ski, hike, backpack and fish. But a favorite local romp in the coastal woods is probably Mount A. in York, Maine. Its the tallest point in our southern seacoast so you can see the ocean at the end of the short hike. Also when we get a good dump of snow, you can get some great ski turns in!
Drivable day trip and what you do when you got there:
It truly depends on the season but since we are talking about paddleboards and time on the water I have to say the Maine Island Trail! MITA is an incredible system of islands linked up and down the Maine coast. You can become a MITA member and get access to some of the most incredible camping spots in New England. It’s a gem and you can access the islands by boat, paddleboard, kayak, etc.
There are a bunch of islands off of Portland, Maine, which is a quick drive for us. When you get on the water and pull away from the Portland, all you have in front of you is beautiful ocean and sparsely inhabited islands. The adventure starts with navigating to your camping destination. When you get to the island its important to practice “leave no trace,” but you can have a fire, cook a meal from the sea or just soak in the peace & quiet that these islands provide so bountifully.
ND: Our favorite and final question, what are you grateful for?
As each year goes on some of the things that I am grateful for change, but there are always a lot of things that stay constant in my life as a source of gratitude. Moments of peace are pretty high on the list—add family, friends, my dog and time outside and that’s heaven on earth. With all of that said, I am grateful for reflecting on these things everyday and keeping them close and dear to me.