Surf’s Not Up, But SUP’s Popularity Is

The author on Lake Placid. Photograph by Rick LaRocca

When my stand-up paddling story first appeared in the 2011 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors, the sport was just starting to catch on in the Adirondacks. Outfitters throughout the region were introducing athletes and onlookers to surfboard-shaped SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) and paddlesports enthusiasts quickly took to the water on their feet. They claimed the sport offered a unique vantage point and a good workout. They said it was fun and easy. Still, the general public seemed to view the sport as difficult, maybe extreme.

Today, outfitters like the Kayak Shack guarantee clients will be standing, paddling and smiling by the end of their first lesson; and word that stand-up paddling is for everyone is obviously spreading.

“This year it was like someone turned on the lights and now everyone wants to paddleboard,” Kayak Shack owner David Husband reported. “And it’s not necessarily who you might think about when you talk about the sport. Sure, the younger people gravitate towards it for the obvious surf image it projects, but a lot of our clients are 30–50 year old men and women, as well as families.”

The number of SUPs on the water is growing steadily, as are the varieties of stand-up boards. Many new SUPs are not designed with surfing waves in mind, which wasn’t the case two years ago. As manufacturers realize that freshwater regions offer an excellent growth opportunity, new shapes and materials are regularly introduced to offer more durability, speed and stability. My favorite board at the moment is plastic, with a contoured bottom, cup holders and built-in straps so I can load up for a long paddle or take it camping. Robin Keysor of Maui North said, “The v-bottoms are faster and track better in flatter small lake situations.”

Jason Smith, manager of Adirondack Lakes and Trails in Saranac Lake, reported that paddleboard sales doubled in a year, and rentals and overall interest continue to grow. Racing is also becoming popular on the SUP scene. “We held our first annual Adirondack SUP Festival on June 23rd, 2012 and we saw great crowds of people who were interested in learning more about SUP.”

Take a look at the original story for a quick lesson. Stand up on a SUP and remember to bend your knees. It really is easy.



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