What are the most significant trends in SUP?

The trend continues to be growth in the inflatable market across North America. Paddlers are extending the season and thinking of SUP as a year-round sport, even in colder climates, which is great for the industry. Increasingly, recreational paddlers are traveling with their inflatable SUPs and focusing on destinations where they can get on the water.
—Andrew Mencinsky, Brand Manager, Boardworks

There are a lot of changes and consolidation going on, and some people are trying to find their exit. This is totally normal and expected as an industry matures. Today, more people are downmarket, looking for inexpensive and durable options, which has led to inflatables becoming a significant portion of the market quickly.
—Jimmy Blakeney, Product & Marketing Manager BIC Sport North America

I see as many paddlers or more than ever. This is the off-season, but shoulder season areas like North Carolina to Florida, Texas and California are still going strong. I’m seeing a reduction in SUP companies and marketing budgets, which means less exposure. There are a lot of reps and former SUP industry people taking jobs in areas like real estate and converting SUP into their side gig again, like the beginning.
—John Beausang, Publisher, Distressed Mullet

The biggest trend in our world is the growth of river surfing. With so much awareness around land-locked surfing right now, we are seeing more people discover- ing they can surf on rivers. This is bringing a lot of new people to the river for the first time.
—Mike Harvey, Co-owner, Badfish SUP

What’s the next big SUP innovation?

Inclusion in the Olympics. This development will propel the race side of our sport and allow competitive growth across a broader spectrum of our population. There is no reason SUP can’t be as popular as many other sports.
—Andrew Mencinsky, Brand Manager, Boardworks

Products accommodating all sizes of smartphones. People aren’t using them to call someone while they paddle—and relying on cell phone service for emergencies on the water is not smart—but rather people use their device as a camera. Taking a photo or shooting video is how people want to capture and share their on-water experiences with friends. We have seen more demand for simple easy-access pockets on even the most basic models.
—Lili Colby, PFDiva, MTI Adventurewear

The next big innovation will be materials. As far as shape and everything else, we’ve kind of figured it out. It was the same story in whitewater—for a while, boats changed shape every year, but now we have freestyle shapes and river running shapes. That’s happened in SUP. Sure, we’ll refine board shape, but now the industry is looking to what’s next and materials are a big part of that.
—Jimmy Blakeney, Product & Marketing Manager, BIC Sport North America

Is foiling here to stay?

It seems like foil boarding is sucking a lot of energy out of SUP in general right now, but if you look closely amidst all the cheap stuff on Amazon on the low end and the foiling videos on Instagram on the high end, there are still brands and athletes out there trying to push innovation.
—Mike Harvey, Co-owner, Badfish SUP

The brands that are going to be successful are those with a laser focus on their customer

Foiling looks awesome but I haven’t tried it yet, which speaks to the trend, I think. When it becomes affordable and easy to learn, that’s when we’ll see what this trend is really capable of. Affordability, accessibility and safety will be the three key factors for foiling to go to the next level.
—Jimmy Blakeney, Product & Marketing Manager, BIC Sport North America

Has the boom and bust cycle levelled off?

I believe the boom has leveled off, the bust might still be coming for some portions of the industry. SUP is here to stay. It’s easy when you are close to an industry to think everyone sees all the machinations of brands, events and sponsored athletes, but at the end of the day, 90 percent of the market just wants to have fun gliding across their local water, maybe getting a little workout, maybe feeling like a surfer in some way. To that user, it’s not a question of the macro trends, it’s a question of the micro design elements delivering an awesome experience.

The brands that are going to be successful are those with a laser focus on their customer. That said, in my estimation, the industry will likely keep consolidating and the brands, athletes and events that survive will likely be those that have an authentic message coupled with an authentic end-user experience. The days of just selling a “me too” board for $1,400 and waiting for the money to roll in are over.
—Mike Harvey, Co-owner, Badfish SUP

Not sure boom and bust has applied to SUP, at least so far. According to stats from SUPIA, participation is still growing. Numbers from the Outdoor Industry Association seem to confirm this. Is the energy of the early adoption phase gone? Yes, for sure. But that’s a sign of growth, not boom and bust.

The get rich quickly have moved on, or gone broke. Now we have a healthy maturing of the market, yes, with consolidations taking place, but that’s primarily to combat Asia’s destruction of margins. Oversupply is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, something retailers seem quite aware of. I hope we run more responsible product forecasting to avoid the problem of a damaged growth, where volume increase leads to a financially broke industry.
—Andre Niemeyer, SUP Connect

What does the future hold for SUP?

With the slow down and levelling out there will be more thought into research and development, and less rush to get a product into the market to make a quick sale with little regard to environmental impact on manufacturing. We must think about leading the way to protect our natural resources, so they will be here for our children. Recent environmental announcements are concerning and any move to make our manufacturing more sustainable should be a priority.
—Joshua Hall, American Canoe Association Instructor Trainer Educator

With Millennials and the next generation, we’re seeing a lot of people wanting to do many activities, but not necessarily purchase all the gear. Urban athletes especially want to have access to good gear but may not have the storage space or ability to haul it around—they may not own a car. In France, where BIC Sport manufactures, there are community sailing programs accessible to everyone on the coast. The centers have sailboats, and also kayaks and paddleboards. We have similar communities in Boston. I think this style of access will evolve to be the preference of the new generation.
—Jimmy Blakeney, Product & Marketing Manager, BIC Sport North America

Retention. Standup paddling seems to be quite a sticky sport, with nearly 40 percent of all buyers in 2017 being people who already own standup paddleboards, according to some of the latest stats from the Standup Paddle Industry Association, SUPIA, and SUPindustry.org. The fear the the sport was a fad—hot now but quickly going away—is behind us. The challenge now is how to build an industry beyond a commodity product, a sport with a lifestyle, something attractive to be associated with.
—Andre Niemeyer, SUP Connect

There are more bucket list races, rather than groupies traveling to everything.There are some local races and a few national events drawing people for the setting, like the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, or for the community, like Chattajack 31. There is also migration to other crafts, specifically to OC and surfski.
—John Beausang, Publisher, Distressed Mullet

Learning vacations while immersed in wild places are increasingly popular. I think people need to connect to these wild places more than ever. SUP paddlers have an incredible opportunity to be ambassadors for the environment. The more people who have the opportunity to connect to these places the better. I want people to see what we have and what we could lose, then they can make their own minds.
—Norm Hann, Owner, Norm Hann Expeditions


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