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 in 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 an expanding place in the lucrative outdoor recreation industry. A growing number of companies are doing a brisk business. They sell boards, paddles and accessories to accommodate the popularity.
Whether in oceans on the coasts or inland lakes and rivers, people are increasingly drawn to the sport. It can be done for vigorous exercise and racing or for casual paddling or yoga with friends and even dogs 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, 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 - unlike other board sports like surfing, wind surfing and snowboarding - and can be practiced all around the world, said Jimmy Blakeney, 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, where 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 accelerated about five years ago, he said. Companies not only sell to outdoor shops, but to rental companies. They do well renting the boards for people who want to try them for the first time.
The Stand Up Paddle Industry Association formed in 2012. It brings cohesion and support for manufacturers, retailers and people who teach, train and organize races.
Kristin Thomas, the industry association's executive director, said the versatility 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 a burgeoning sport, the industry is trying to establish best safety practices and manage different rules being established. For instance, there is still debate about whether paddle boarders should 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 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 retails for about $1,000, Blakeney said.
"We always say: light, durable, affordable: pick two," Blakeney said.
The majority of the people are recreational 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 vigorous 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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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

  • ethanw-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    Manufactures build different kinds because not everyone wants to race them so some they build are for casuals users and a different kind for people to roll up and put it in a bag.

  • travisb-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different kinds of paddle boards because everyone doesn't have the same tastes. Some people prefer the lighter, thinner boards, and others prefer the longer, wider boards.

  • calaabj-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:17 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different kinds of boards because not all people like to ride on boards they will fall off of and if they just wanna take a swim or fish or just ride and the blow up ones are for people that like things that are easy to store.

  • hollyk-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different kinds of paddle boards so people can have better safety and ti fit different type of peoples likes,and one kind doesn't work for everyone because some people like small,big,thin,or wide.So, everyone can't just use one kind of paddle board.

  • mimir-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different kinds of paddle boards for different activities. Paddle boards can be used for racing, fishing, yoga, and other recreational things. Having lightweight skinny boards would be very hard to use for yoga unlike a broad paddle board.

  • audreya-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Why manufactures build different kinds of paddle boards and why one cant work for every one is because some want to put in a bag for easy storage, racing them and even yoga.

  • callans-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    The reason why there are different kinds of paddle boards is because there are different uses for them. If you're going to race, you want a long, skinny, light weight board. But if you want to do yoga, there are wider, sturdy paddle boards to use.

  • johnj-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different types of board because everyone is different and some need a wider board whilst some need a smaller board.

  • helenaw-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:19 p.m.

    Manufacturers make different kinds of paddle boards because the paddle boards have to be either light, durable or affordable they cant be all three only two so they must make different kinds to suit different people.

  • brooklynk-fel
    9/02/2015 - 02:19 p.m.

    Manufacturers build different kinds of paddle boards so that the boards can serve for different purposes. For example, there are wider and more sturdy ones for more casual uses, like yoga or fishing. For racers, they make long, skinny boards. One kind can't work for everyone because there are certain needs for certain activities.

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