Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 5 – 8.
While the SUP market seems to be heading for consolidation — cases in point include Confluence’s recent purchase of Boardworks; Corran SUP selling to Canada’s Kayak Distribution; and Surf Tech inking a new distribution agreement with NSP — it hardly means a dearth of new designs. In fact, the category continues to take market share from conventional paddlecraft, thanks to enhanced stability, speed and the all-important ability to unleash consumers’ inner Laird Hamilton.
As with the kayak category, the niche also is branching out to include sport-specific boards targeted toward fitness and fishing, as well as the women and youth demographic.
“We continue to see significant growth in the women’s-specific SUP category, and have seen success with versatile designs that pay attention to detail, beauty and function,” said Boardworks marketing manager Gretchen Gamble. “Women are looking for user-friendly, smart designs that are lightweight, easy to transport and come with unique, inspirational graphics.”
To that end, with the added muscle of Confluence, Boardworks unveils two new women’s SUPs this year in the Muse (MSRPs $1,099/hardboard $1,149) and Tracker (MSRP $1,849). Measuring 10 feet, 2 inches long and 31 inches wide, the inflatable cruising and fitness-oriented Muse is made from new, lightweight, five-thick drop-stitch material making it easy to carry and transport. It also features a soft, non-chafing croc skin deck pad for traction and comfort. At 11 feet long-by-35 inches wide, the Tracker is a fishing-specific platform with a deep, double concavity running throughout the bottom for secondary stability, speed and tracking. It’s built with Boardworks’ new Innegra-Glass construction and comes with Realtree camo graphic accents and a patented LIFTSUP handle for transport.
Consumers’ inner surfers are also being felt inland, with landlocked buyers also catching the stand-up craze on rivers, fueling increased demand for inflatable SUPs. This is also fueling a fury of new designs. “As whitewater SUP continues to evolve, people are looking for more agile shapes,” said Hala Gear President Peter Hall, whose new Hala Atcha 86 ( MSRP $1,299) measures 8 feet, 6 inches-by-34 inches-by-6 inches and comes with a generous rocker and whitewater-surf shape. That includes a wide nose narrowing into a shallow tail for stomping Class I-III rivers. Also look for the Atcha’s new drop-fin — a spring-loaded fin that collapses when hit by a rock, meaning no more playing Superman — and the new Hala Luya, featuring one of the world’s first tapered edges for control in an inflatable vessel.
The touring category is also picking up steam. “We’re seeing a massive increase in touring boards this year over last,” said Mike Bill, president of Sup ATX, adding that touring board sales are up 50 percent this year. Leading the brand’s charge in the category is the new Annabel Anderson (MSRP $1,885), an 11-foot, 6 inch-by-29-inch carbon tourer. Co-designed by pro paddler Anderson, the board offers stability, speed and tracking in a Lahui Kai 3X Carbon Construction.
Based on the burgeoning sales of its 11-foot Cross Adventure, BIC Sports officials maintain that stability and ready-to-go-ness are key. “Our adventure-ready boards have been hugely successful,” said Marketing Manager Jimmy Blakeney, adding that stability and additional capacity are design drivers. He also stresses the importance of attachment points that let its Adventure series be outfitted with coolers, bait boxes, tracks, GPS mounts, rod holders, camera mounts and more. “We tried to create the iPhone platform, with everyone else creating the apps for it,” he said. BIC also isn’t ignoring the inflatable craze, with four new additions to its popular eight-model SUP Air Series, including an 8-foot, 4-inch-by-28-inch, 14-pound kids board (MSRP $699); a 9-foot, 2-inch-by-36-inch, 19-pound river board (MSRP $949); and a 10-foot, 6-inch-by-34-inch, 21-pound fitness/yoga board (MSRP $949). “They’re all super rigid with a Dyneema stringer belt from nose to tail and rails wrapped in double-layer OPVC,” Blakeney said.
Paddle-makers are also hot on the SUP craze. Longtime canoe-paddle maker Bending Branches debuts its new Balance (MSRP $285) for SUPing, with a smaller feather-shaped blade at 85-square inches, perfect for high-cadence paddling. Lighter than most synthetic-only paddles, the 27-ounce, 11-degree-bend paddle marries a 100-percent carbon shaft with high-tech blade shape made from red alder and basswood for the beauty and warmth of wood.