This year I went to Orange County California and watched the Battle of the Paddle. I made the trip because I am genuinely interested in where this sport is going. The race looked like a lot of fun and I would love to have participated, but I don’t even have a race board! My 9’6” Naish quad fin probably wouldn’t be a good board for the Battle. So, my buddy Chris and I made a weekend of it and checked out the race, but also the SUP industry. So, here are my observations:
#1 I think every paddle surfer needs to re-think their quiver – not just boards, but paddles.
I know I am. Long gone are the days that you can just buy an 11 or 12 foot board and expect to have an all around solution for all conditions. Boards have become SO SPECIALIZED that depending on wave height and texture you could use two completely different boards that are merely 5” different in length. Naish’s new line of boards for example has an 8’10”, and a 9’3”. The 9’3” is great in most conditions for surfing, yet after speaking with Harold Iggy, Naish’s shaper, the 8’10” is more for an ideal situation of perfect waves, glassy, and rippable (considering my height and weight). So, I see the quiver expanding. You also want to be able to go for a paddle on flat days, so a race board (probably a regulation 12’6”) would be best for those conditions. So if you primarily surf, you may need a couple boards depending on conditions, and for flat days, you want a race board to go hammer out a good paddle.
What about paddles? There are many paddle options out there, each doing different things, yet because of the steep $350 price tag for a carbon paddle, virtually everyone has only one paddle in the quiver. I am going to ARGUE (more in the future) that the paddle is going to be the future for racers especially. I think most people out there are “over paddled.” We can learn a little from cycling in this regard. Bikes have gears. We should all have a quiver of paddles so we can make paddling easier and use higher cadence for most conditions. Cadence and resistance can be varied greatly depending on the paddle blade and I think mixing it up in a very specific way could greatly benefit most of us (get your piggy bank out).
#2 Boards have come a long way – Shortly
Over the past year, Stand Up Paddle Surf boards have gotten smaller, more maneuverable, more surfable, more durable, and more FUN! It is quite amazing. Each manufacturer has made a serious effort to create great boards. I can’t wait to see the innovation for next year. For example, this year I was really impressed with Starboards new grip system where you don’t need to add a rubber deck or put wax on. This will save weight since the rubber decks hold water and weigh the board down.
#3 Athletes train SMARTER!
I briefly spoke to Ekolu Kalama and he told me about his cramping situation in the last race he was in. He was dehydrated, not fueled properly, and in my opinion probably not trained properly for the race. Yet, he still won the race, a testament to his athletic prowess! In the near future, I see the athletes training smarter, fueling better, and changing their stature. They will develop stronger cores, get lighter, stronger, quicker and hold better posture. I think they will find ways around shoulder injuries (which seem to be the prevailing issue at the moment) because they will know how to strengthen their shoulders properly and do necessary stretches to prevent injuries. Varying paddle blades will also help. For the every day paddler, I wrote a conditioning guide that you can download for FREE!
#4 Still a baby
This industry is still young. In the future, I see board shops popping up all over the Midwest in lake and river communities. I see race boards getting faster and more narrow, and a special type of board that is a hybrid race/surf board that would benefit racers in all conditions (like blasting in and out of surf breaks). From a physical side, I see the sport taking a cue from triathlon (I’ll talk more about that in the future).
#5 Boards get Cheaper
With all the competition popping up out there, and with this economy/unemployment situation, I personally see boards getting less expensive. Right now most surf boards are $1500 and up. I see price points dropping by a couple hundred over the next year. People have “paralysis by analysis” because there are so many options out there and new boards are popping up all the time. This will, in time, drive prices down.
These are all things I think we will see in the future. What do you think?
Drop a comment and let me know… these were just my observations and I’m curious to hear so options for other out there!
For More Pics from the Battle, click here