For more than 25 years, Marc-Antoine Benglia has been an entrepreneur, trying his hand at everything from technology to the arts. Today, he’s combining the two as the co-founder of a high-end paddleboard company, Wavellon, which uses innovative technology to create inflatable boards that are as smooth to ride as they are uniquely designed.
It was Benglia’s wife, Suzanne, who first began paddleboarding. Living close to Meech Lake, the couple often went kayaking together. However, Suzanne usually couldn’t go kayaking on her own due to the trickiness of hoisting the kayak onto the roof of the car.
And so she began paddleboarding. While it took some convincing, Benglia eventually tried it out too and hasn’t looked back since in the past six years.
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“It’s so easy,” he says. “You deflate them, roll them, store them in the garage. You put them in the trunk of the car and, within minutes, you’re paddling.”
There was only one issue. When Benglia was out on the water, enjoying nature, “You look at the board and it’s white and with a stripe of orange and red,” he says. “It’s not that great.”
As well as being unattractive, Benglia says most inflatable boards aren’t very stable, turning to one side or the other with just two strokes of the paddle. Having grown up sailing in the south of France, Benglia thought there must be a better way to engineer the boards and make them more visually appealing.
After running his ideas by his long-time collaborator Sylvain Lambert, a seasoned designer with a technology background, Wavellon was born in 2022.
Benglia and Lambert began by visiting different manufacturers and creating their first prototypes. Then, for each board, they commissioned an original piece of artwork from various artists, starting with Quebec painter Chantal Laflamme.
When commissioning artwork, Benglia and Lambert ask artists what inspires them about nature and waterways and to link that to their own place of birth.
“We’ve got artists, destinations and experiences, so our motto is ‘the art of living the experience,’” Benglia says.
Benglia, Wavellon is the first paddleboard manufacturer to offer a fully uninterrupted graphic design on a board. The company also uses something called MSL Fusion when constructing its boards, which allows for higher air pressure, which means a more rigid board for easier water flow and transportation. Plus, the boards use carbon-fibre for ultra-light paddles and blades.
Wavellon boards retail for $1,999 and each design has a limited edition run. While the price might sound steep, Benglia says they’re aiming for a market that’s already investing in high-end paddleboards and offering an option that’s “not as athletic-looking, but which is really good quality and inspiring.”
Sales are going well; Benglia and the team went to trade shows in Ottawa and Montreal and began selling boards right away — an accomplishment, since that was in February and paddleboard season doesn’t start until summer.
The Wavellon team is now in research and development for next season’s paddleboards and have already signed renowned artists from Canada, the U.S. and the Middle East.
“What we want to be is the luxury brand for inflatable paddleboards,” Benglia says. “We really want to go global.”
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