S’up yo? They’re flat but evidently phat. Can you guess what the continent’s fastest growing sport is?
According to a 2013 report by the Outdoor Foundation, not only is stand up paddle boarding the fastest growing watersport in America, it’s the fastest growing sport, period. More than 56 percent of those who participated in new sports last year donned bikinis and boardshorts and wobbled there way along lakes, rivers and oceans on a paddle board.
In the Kootenay region, SUP is also seeing a huge rise in popularity and retailers are experiencing unprecedented growth. Eric Lange, the owner of Syndicate Boardshop in Invermere, has been selling paddle boards for five years and “sales have doubled every year” he says. “Demand is crazy. We now sell more of these than snowboards.” When asked what the appeal is, he replies, “everybody can do it no matter their age or ability. And it’s fun on flat lakes or fast-moving rivers.”
One of the fastest-growing sports in the world is perfectly suited to the endless waterways of the Kootenay region and the coast.
Andrea and Chris Ryman, owners of Endless Adventure in the Slocan Valley, offer both calm and whitewater SUP lessons. “I developed a SUP fitness program called SUPness, which incorporates cardio while learning new techniques with focus on balance and core strength,” Andrea says. And for the more adventurous she recommends Rock Island in Trail, which “is an awesome spot to surf in the spring and fall with metre-high standing waves that attract kayakers, surfers, and SUP paddlers alike.”
The couple have also organized three SUP races, with the help of Nelson retail store ROAM, and Andrea says they’ve had excellent turnouts for all the events because “SUP offers so much variety – lake, fitness, ocean, river – that it appeals to people from all walks of life. For some, SUP is a new passion replacing other sports while others are using it as a way to get on the water in the off season.”
Kootenay enthusiasts are going beyond just sales, instruction and participation. Kathy Verigin of Castlegar just launched standuppaddleboardingguide.com, which showcases gear, disciplines, news and events from around the globe. Nelson-based inventor Kaj Gyr has sold a few of his designs, including a pod that affixes to a SUP and allows you to sit on it easily, to global manufacturers. And designer Steve Kerr of Kerr Boards, also in Nelson, has been making high-end cedar-strip SUPs for the past two years and is expanding into foam construction this year.
So is SUP here to stay? Everyone interviewed for this article believes so. “It definitely has staying power,” says Eric Lange. “I’ll be like canoeing – everyone will have one eventually.”