A New Wave of Boarders Stands Up

The Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point, California, is believed to be the largest organized stand-up paddleboard event in the country. The September 2013 event featured more than 1,200 participants. Photo courtesy of Steven Georges/The Orange County Register/Zumapress.com
The Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point, California, is believed to be the largest organized stand-up
paddleboard event in the country. The September 2013 event featured more than 1,200 participants.
Photo courtesy of Steven Georges/The Orange County Register/Zumapress.com

By Greg Mellen

What’s SUP? Not much, what’s up with you? No, what’s SUP? It sounds like the start of an Abbott and Costello routine. But in this case, SUP is the popular shorthand for stand-up paddleboarding, a recreational and competitive sport that has been experiencing exponential growth. And it’s no joke. The sport has become the most popular paddle sport in the country, according to Adam Tremper, competition coordinator for the American Canoe Association, a nonprofit group that oversees all manner of paddle sports. “Ten years ago, no one had heard of it,” Tremper said. Now, his group sanctions or runs more than 100 SUP races per year.

Leaders in the sport estimate that more than 500 SUP races are staged annually. Stand-up paddleboarding has also established itself as a major and growing player in the $7 billion surf and skate industry. What remains to be seen is what impact the sport can have in the event industry as it becomes more entwined in the American sporting fabric.

Despite its massive growth on the participation side, event organizers and leaders are still taking a wait-and-see approach to its viability as a spectator sport. Even Battle of the Paddle, by far the world’s largest and most prestigious SUP event, has yet to become a moneymaker. “Battle of the Paddle is a massive event, it gets worldwide attention and it loses money every year,” said Barrett Tester, the event’s coordinator. Nevertheless, event founder Jay Longley sticks with it year after year because, said Tester, “He loves it.”

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