Daniel Epstein was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder when he came across a problem. The adventure enthusiast was hoping to go paragliding with friends, but had a very difficult time finding a group of outfitters to take them. Epstein had found a gap in the adventure sports industry-communication.
Four years later, Epstein has taken matters into his own hands. Along with two other adventurer friends and fellow CU Boulder grads, Elliot Bates and Will Butler, Epstein created SWAE Sports, an online community for the adventure sports world.
SWAE, an acronym for snow, water, air, and earth, follows three assumptions. First, the founders realized that most adventure sports are inaccessible to the average person-most of the outfitters would rather be outside doing what they love than creating a website to promote their services. Second, adventure sports can be incredibly expensive. And finally, Epstein and crew are promoters of sustainable adventuring, and highly aware that the “adventurous lifestyle will not exist tomorrow if we don’t start working towards a healthier environment today.”
This summer, the entrepreneurs began to promote their business along the West Coast. However, the group chose a non-traditional and markedly adventurist method of promotion: a cross-country bike trip.
The trio set off from British Colombia on June 16, heading from Canada into the state of Washington. As they made their way down the Pacific Coast, they stopped in various coastal towns meeting with local outfitters to promote SWAE’s business ideals and sign up interested outfitters. the company’s website, connects individuals interested in booking an adventure with the outfitters that can serve them. Once the website is finalized, consumers will be able to search for an adventure by country, state, region, and activity.
What seems to set the group-who added a fourth member, young journalist Jesse Amorratanasuchad, to their team along the road-apart from other organizations is their raw passion for adventure themselves. As they rode into Santa Barbara last week, nearing the end of their journey, it was clear that this was no ordinary business venture.
“We are all our own customers,” Amorratanasuchad said. “We’re adventurers too. We go right up to the outfitters on our bikes and say ‘Hey, we just came to see you because we think your outfit is great.’”
The advertising and marketing on the site is free for the outfitters; SWAE only gets a commission when someone books an adventure.
“When we meet with an outfitter, in the end what we’re doing is the boring stuff for them, and ideally in the right way,” Epstein said. “We want to be able to help those communities be sustainable.”
While in Santa Barbara, SWAE signed three local outfitters, Circling Hawk Paragliding, Santa Barbara Surf School, and Captain Jack’s Santa Barbara Tours. Bo Criss, of Circling Hawk Paragliding, was impressed with the business’s innovative ideas. “An interesting aspect of adventure sports is that they are very individual,” Criss said. “For these guys to want to help create more of a community among these individualists is an awesome goal.”
After their stop in Santa Barbara, the cyclists went on to sign outfitters in LA, and completed their unique trip with a 150-miles ride from Manhattan Beach to Baja.
“This is conservation through adventure,” Epstein said. “We promote human powered, excessively rad, and environmentally friendly sports. There’s nobody who wants to conserve the environment more. We just want to make it easier for everyone, too.”