Paddle boarding now bigger than ever Cadel Walton demos a Bic Sup paddle board at the Outdoor Retailer Show on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in Salt Lake City. In the last few years there has been significant growth in the popularity of paddle boarding. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
Paddle boarding now bigger than ever
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Colorful paddleboards and pictures of people practicing the sport in beautiful settings filled the exhibit halls at the world's largest outdoor retail trade show in Salt Lake City. It was the latest illustration of the sport's exploding popularity. The show was the week of Aug. 2.
 
They make long, skinny boards for racers. They make wide, sturdy ones for more casual users. Some of whom do yoga or fish off the boards. They even make inflatable boards. Those are for people who want the convenience of rolling them up and putting them in a bag.
 
Once viewed as a fringe activity or fad, paddle boarding is now carving out a growing place in the profitable outdoor recreation industry. A growing number of companies are doing a quick business. They sell boards, paddles and accessories.
 
Whether in oceans on the coasts or inland lakes and rivers, people are increasingly drawn to the sport. It can be done for robust exercise and racing. Or people can use them for casual paddling or yoga with friends. Even dogs can come aboard.
 
Participation in stand-up paddling in the United States has increased nearly three-fold from 2010 to 2014. That's according to a study from the Outdoor Foundation. That makes it one of the fastest-growing outdoor sports, the foundation says.
 
Last year, an estimated 2.7 million people participated in the sport. The numbers rose from about 1 million in 2010. It was the first year the foundation began including the sport in its annual survey. The participation numbers put it on par with surfing and BMX bicycling.
 
The sport is easy to learn and can be practiced all around the world, said Jimmy Blakeney. He is marketing manager at Bic SUP, one of the leading companies making boards.
 
And there's what Blakeney calls the "cool factor" that also draws people.
 
"You're standing up, you're in your bikini, you're being seen," Blakeney said. "Boards are cool. A lot of young people really like being on a board versus a boat."
 
The roots of modern paddle boarding are traced to Hawaii. Surfers used paddles to get out further or do exercise when there were no waves. The sport slowly spread from Hawaii and has been around in the United States for about 10 years, Blakeney said.
 
Growth really quickened about five years ago, he said. Companies not only sell to outdoor shops, but to rental companies. They rent the boards for those who want to try them for the first time.
 
The Stand Up Paddle Industry Association formed in 2012. It brings unity and support for manufacturers, retailers and people who teach, train and organize races.
 
Kristin Thomas, the industry association's executive director, said the flexibility of the boards is a huge draw.
 
"It's very easy to use on one level and yet can be as extreme as you want it to be. People are surfing huge waves. They are doing whitewater," Thomas said.
 
As an expanding sport, the industry is trying to establish best safety practices. And manage different rules being established. For instance, there is still debate taking place. Should paddle boarders wear life jackets or have the boards harnessed to their ankles, like surfers?
 
The U.S. Coast Guard recently designated paddleboards as a vessel, like a canoe or kayak. It means users must have a life jacket and sound-making device aboard unless they are within a swimming, surfing or bathing area.
 
A 21-year-old Utah man recently died while paddle boarding on a mountain lake. It happened when winds came up and he went missing, authorities said. He wasn't wearing a life jacket, they said.
 
Prices for boards range from $400 to $2,000-plus. Paddles cost from $75 to $100. As is the case with any sport's equipment, you have to pay more for lighter, higher-performing boards. Bic SUP's top seller is one that costs about $1,000, Blakeney said.
 
"We always say: light, durable, affordable. Pick two," Blakeney said.
 
The majority of the people are leisure users who use the boards about 10 times a year, he said. A smaller portion of people, often the types who are drawn to running and triathlons, use the boards for strong exercise and compete in a growing racing circuit, Blakeney said.
 
The World Paddle Association formed in 2010 to oversee the sport.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do manufacturers build different kinds of paddle boards? Why can’t one kind work for everyone?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (50)
  • John0724-YYCA
    8/26/2015 - 10:04 p.m.

    Well I think that when they go surfing on the boards I think that the place will be crowded like crazy because I think that the people there would have no place to surf next year and the next year after that. I really don't know why surfing look so fun.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    8/26/2015 - 11:22 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for paddle boards to become but bigger than the original paddle boards that are used in swimming classes, but I think that bigger paddle boards might be very challenging to do like push ups on the big paddle boards. Also people can be able to stand on the paddle board which someone will stand on the paddle board and use a paddle to move like the boats that are kind of similar to the people who use the boats in the canals of Venice.

  • simons-
    8/27/2015 - 11:09 a.m.

    I would never do it but it looks cool!

  • joscelynb-
    8/27/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    I think that paddle boarding is fun yet hard. I have done it before and I liked it.

  • ashleyh-8172002-
    8/27/2015 - 11:32 a.m.

    Are you talking about paddle boarding with out me. I wish I was there. The week of August 2. if I was there I would have a long skinny board.

  • valerieh-nar
    8/27/2015 - 01:34 p.m.

    I want an inflatable paddle board!

  • haydenw-hol
    8/31/2015 - 03:37 p.m.

    Paddle boarding seems to be really fun. But that is a lot for a broad! But I would love to try paddle boarding but not in the ocean because with all those waves it would be very hard to balance. I would love to be taught how to paddle board it looks easy but I am bad on blancing on stuff. I is really cool how they do yoga on the broads if I did yoga on a paddle broad I would probably in up in the water.

  • gracec-12-bro
    9/03/2015 - 10:10 a.m.

    Why do paddle boards cost so much? I don't get it.

  • jasonk-ver
    9/09/2015 - 02:51 p.m.

    I went paddle boarding once and I loved it! I hope to do it again and maybe even race like the article said.

  • joelc-kne
    10/01/2015 - 09:50 a.m.

    I liked this story because it really tells you about how it works and gives you facts about it and it really describes what is going on what not to do and what to do.

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