SUPAA and the Board Restriction Debate


SUPAA and the Board Restriction Debate

If you’ve ever been to a SUP race, you know that beyond the competition and social scene, one of the funnest aspects is the demo surrounding the event–looking at and trying the latest in board and paddle designs. And, if you’ve been to an SUP race in the last year or so, you’ve probably noticed how narrow the latest raceboard designs have become. Some worry this progression will hinder SUP’s growth, because as the boards continue to trim down, the difficulty in riding them increases.

There have been movements to set race rules and restrict some design nuances in the past–Rainbow Sandals’ Battle of the Paddle and the World Paddle Association come to mind.

Now, the Standup Paddle Athletes Association (SUPAA), an upstart association of professional paddlers, are collectively voicing their concerns on the direction of board design and racing restrictions, and how they’ll affect SUP racing’s growth.

SUPAA recently published an article discussing its newly adopted board restrictions, determined by collaborating with athletes and board manufacturers like Starboard, Naish, Fanatic, BIC, 404, NSP, Imagine, JP, Kings and Bark. The restrictions focus on board width, rail height and weight, in an effort to promote boards and board divisions that are more user-friendly:

“At a certain point producers can lose sight of the fact that pushing design is not always better for the sport as a whole. More aggressive designs usually come at the expense of stability and cost in stand up paddle board development. The more a product costs and the harder it is to use, the fewer customers you will have,” SUPAA states.

Thus, SUPAA has come up with the following standards that will go into effect in 2015:

No board shall have raised rails greater than 4.92 inches (12.5 cm) as measured from the standing area to the top of the rail.

• 14’ width minimum of 23 inches as measured at the 3-inch rail mark
• 12’6 width minimum of 23.75 inches as measured at the 3-inch rail mark

• 14’ weight minimum of 10 kg (22.05 lbs.)
• 12’6 weight minimum of 9 kg (19.84 lbs.)

Professional paddler and SUPAA President Chase Kosterlitz believes these standards will keep the sport open to all.

“Everyone is going to have their opinion but the more people we get involved in this, the better the brands will do and we can all continue doing what we love. We want to take into account every angle and are reaching out to manufacturers to coordinate with them,” Kosterlitz says. “Ultimately, what we want to see is more people on the water and racing. The people benefiting from the restrictions most will be the new paddlers because they’ll have that good first experience, will get hooked and want to continue involvement in SUP.”

In an effort to move forward with the board restrictions at races, SUPAA will be holding certification courses for event directors over the next year. “We’re hoping to hold three classes in Europe, one in South America, and at least three in the States,” says Kosterlitz. “Because our sport is new, a lot of the race directors are also new and haven’t actually raced themselves. There’s a lot of good information from athletes that the race directors could benefit from. We’re trying to move forward with a cohesive mindset because our agenda [at SUPAA] is to help the sport to continue to grow in a fun, inclusive way.”

But, while the SUPAA makes its push towards creating consistent rules across the board, Event Director Barrett Tester—who puts on Battle of the Paddle (BOP), the Mongoose Cup, ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships, and other notable SUP events—believes the restrictions should be put into effect on a situational basis:

“I think it varies depending on the event. I’ve met with Chase [Kosterlitz] and support the SUPAA’s work, but it’s an interesting thing,” Tester says. “It’s all good what they’re trying to do because there’s a need for races to be standardized, but BOP won’t adopt the SUPAA restrictions,” he says. “I think the SUPAA needs to get rules in place and then send officials to help with events so people can get a taste of it first. If a race becomes a SUPAA-certified race, I’ll follow the guidelines and will be compelled to take the certification course, but we’ve seen organizations try to take ownership like this and I don’t know if it really drives traffic to events.”

With that being said, Tester and the ISA are meeting with SUPAA in an effort to better understand and potentially adopt the restrictions at future ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships. “Right now, we’re going through the process with SUPAA and the ISA to try to adopt the SUPAA rules. It’s good for the sport to be standardized, but I’ve found as an event director that, while some rules sound practical, they don’t actually end up being effective,” Tester states. —SC

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  • porkchop

    Elite sup racing isn’t for everyone. That’s why they hold a recreational race afterwards. That’s when the kooks get their turn.

  • Watergirl

    The dimensions I’m on board with and understand, but why the weight restriction? If the technology exists, why prevent its use? If you want to grow a sport, why place limits on the technical aspects? My board barely squeaks in above the weight restriction – and it wouldn’t if it didn’t have 1.5 lbs of paint on it. And in reality, there are times that a light board is at a disadvantage… but given the HUGE disparity in rider size, how can a minimum weight be determined? My 19.5 lb board would be too much volume for a 100lb racer and a 200 pounder would sink it….the same board that gives me optimum performance is useless for others. Also, the carbon/kevlar that it is made of has easily withstood repeated punishment that punctured my carbon and glass boards. Yet this durability is going to be illegal? Just because it is light and expensive? The more common a technology becomes, the CHEAPER it becomes (look at computers, ipods, flat screen TVs, aluminum frame bikes) I think this is a bad idea for a sport in its infant stages with a huge potential for growth.

  • Corran Addison

    THANK YOU! This is my point – make elite elite – really pro -really top level, and then hold a race for the Citizens afterwards. Different event – different equipment if need be.

  • Axxis

    This is the reason a ONE DESIGN class exists in many sports and it should be the same for SUP. It enables anyone to get into the sport on a standard design board and improve their skills until they are ready to move up to play with the experts.
    Pro’s should be able to ride whatever they want as advanced product development will always help progress the sport.

  • Axxis

    PS. Just consider what would have happened if these guys had got together 5 years ago and tried to “restrict’ the sport by limiting board sizes/desgns at that point in time. I’m quite sure the boards the pros are riding today are fairly different to those of 5 years ago and I’m sure the impact of the design process has benefited the sport with trickle down technology helping with development of mid and low end boards for the average consumer. This sport is still just in it’s infancy and trying to tie it down tightly at this point is just stupidity. Look back on this in 5-10 years time and how this is handled may be viewed very differently.

  • ponobill

    First a rulebook that looks like a combination of a wishlist for a union and a bureaucrats wet dream, now board restrictions, both handed down by fiat with no discussion during formation. If I were putting a race together I’d make sure people knew it had nothing to do with SUPAA.

    If this silliness actually prevails (stranger things have happened) it will kill innovation in the sport. It’s already been severely damaged by the existing 12’6″ and 14′ lengths that were arbitrarily created more by accident than any serious thought. The goofy restrictions dictate the template for all boards by establishing midpoint as the width measurement, which means width forward or back designs will be handicapped. Don’t imagine that these restrictions will not affect more recreational racers. As it is, you can’t buy a race board over 14′ unless it’s custom or a downwind board.

    As others have said, the sport is much too new for these kind of restrictions, and if someone wants to make it easy for newbs to enter the sport then a focus on one design and inflatables makes ever so much more sense–but not at the pointy end of elite racing, where innovation should flourish instead of being stepped on by people who could very easily be accused of trying to maintain their own advantages.

  • Ucycle

    This happen in pro cycling when UCI restrict more aerodynamic design frame in the 90’s. I understand making stuff too light in cycling can cause safety issue for themselves and other but this doesn’t apply to sup. If it break in half you fall in the water, no body get hurt.
    Are they going to put a paddle length, blade size and weight restriction too?
    I don’t race but I hate a governing body put restrictions which halt SUP design development. In the end its going to hurt the consumer products. SUP companies is not stupid, they know they sell more 30″ wide board than racing board.

    Also why put handicap on people who have above average balance?? Should we add weight to racer like they do to racehorse jock so everyone have equal weights to make it a “fair game”?

    How is all this restrictions going help propel the SUP sport? Like what they said in motorsport: “Win On Sunday, Sell On Monday”.

    and who the hell is SUPAA, never heard of them until now, who vote them to be our spokesperson in “Our” sport.

  • Dave Kissane

    I think these guys take themselves too seriously. Feels like the nanny state to me and it also feels like it is being driven by the manufacturers with vested interests. Lets keep it simple otherwise it is just going to turn people off. Worst of all who is going to manage the scrutineering at events???? As a competitor, do you really want to wait in line for 30 minutes at each event to get your board measured 5 ways??? I think i will just go back to Hawaii where it is unlimited and just a bit more chilled…

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