SUP market expands with diverse yoga, whitewater and fishing niches

Check out what's ahead for the SUP market at outdoor retail in 2015.
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As the initial stand-up paddleboarding wave subsides, the market is looking to mature.

There are positive signs, with consumers beginning to ask for SUPs for more specific uses beyond the simple tour — be it extended trips, fishing or even whitewater and yoga. That’s prompted a slew of designs to meet such disparate needs.

“People are using SUPs for far more than just daily recreational paddling,” said NRS Marketing Director David Blue. “They’re pursuing long-distance tours and even multiday trips.” NRS addresses this crowd with its new inflatable, 12-foot, 6-inch Adventurer SUP (MSRP $1,295), designed to address an emerging interest in adventure touring. Six-inch thickness ensures buoyancy while six stainless steel D-rings offer easy rigging and ample load capacity for everything from overnighters to multiday missions. It comes with a RazorBack acrylic stiffener to increases paddling efficiency.

Inflatable SUPs are taking the river-specific niche by storm for their durability. Hala Gear continues its penetration into the category with the new Hala Peño (MSRP $1,299), an “advanced whitewater SUP” for surfing standing waves and stomping whitewater. At 7 feet, 11 inches-by-33 inches-by-6 inches, it comes with a swallowtail and unbreakable quad fin plus one. The brand also debuts the Hala Fame (MSRP $1,299) as an overnight gear-hauling rig. “We’re getting more specific with our boards,” said company founder Peter Hall. “That’s what consumers are wanting.”

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Other innovations we’re spotting on the show floor include advances in versatility and portability. “There’s still huge interest in paddleboards, but there are some significant barriers to entry,” said Corran Addison, president of Corran SUP. “Paddleboards are big, cumbersome and expensive. For some, storage and transport issues are insurmountable.” Corran SUP aims to tackle these issues with its Hydra (MSRP $699, with paddle), a first-of-its-kind take-apart board. Its price point comes in at about half that of most inflatable boards, and it breaks down into three sections that can be re-assembled in minutes. It also can be adjusted by removing or adding sections, morphing from a small version for the kids to an extended model for fishing and touring. “Versatility, price and convenience were the key points we addressed to remove the barriers to entry,” Addison said.

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On the SUP hardshell front, design tweaks are centering on enhanced performance in hulls as well as “magic” lengths for versatility. Twelve-and-a-half feet has proven a popular size, carrying enough waterline for speed while staying nimble for quick turns. Amundson’s 12-foot, 6-inch TR series (MSRP $1,500) — available in widths of 27 and 29 inches — is made from Rhino-Lite composite and features a flat bottom for stability and directional control. A new, more rounded underwater nose shape sends water under the board and initiates planing, while the raised foredeck sheds water. It comes with a recessed cockpit for a lower center of gravity and deck inserts for PFD storage. “It represents the modern SUP board,” said Marketing Manager Doug Hopkins, “with a graceful shape and precise lines.”

Bic Sports addresses both the niche and mainstream trend with several new models, highlighted by the new Tracer (Touring-Racer) series (MSRPs $1,899; 12 feet, 6 inches-by-27 and 29 inches/$1,999 14 feet-by-28 inches), a cross between performance racing and all-purpose touring, combining speed and glide with stability. The boards employ a Carbon-Innegra weave for weight reduction and rigidity (the smallest board weighs in at 26.5 pounds) and come with generous volume, slight V tail for maneuverability and pronounced keel for tracking. It also debuts a new Cross adventure board and series of Soft-/Ace-Tec boards for comfort and durability. “The market is going more mainstream toward recreational users and deeper toward the enthusiast level with niche products for race, expedition, fitness, yoga and surf,” said Marketing Manager Jimmy Blakeney.

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Gender specificity has come to SUP boards as well. “We’re seeing huge growth in the women’s market, particularly fitness paddling and yoga,” said Boardworks Marketing Director Gretchen Gamble, pointing to the brand’s new 9-foot, 11-inch Joy Ride Flow (MSRP $1,349) as a highlight in the category. Designed for women and SUP yoga with a stable, 32-inch width, it features a bamboo deck with soft, non-slip yoga mat, as well as multiple deck plugs for transporting gear, attaching the paddle, and anchoring for stationary practice.

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--Eugene Buchanan

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