SUP’s Top Trends of 2016

Kai Lenny almost broke the Internet with his hydrofoil antics in 2016. Photo: Franck Berthuot
Kai Lenny almost broke the Internet with his hydrofoil antics in 2016. Photo: Franck Berthuot

SUP’s Top Trends of 2016

Another watery year is rippling its wake out behind us. As we look ahead to whatever challenges 2017 may bring—headwinds, big waves, tough rapids—we stop paddling for a moment to take notice of what happened in 2016. Here are the top trends of the year, from the eyes of the SUP magazine staff.

1. SUP Hydrofoiling. Nothing garnered more attention in the SUP world, whether on social media, in lineups, on our website or in the world beyond SUP, than standup paddle hydrofoiling. It seems like every superstar in the sport hopped on one in 2016 and came away raving. Once you see someone flying down the line on an unbroken wave going twice as fast as a normal surfer, or gliding on downwind swells in the open ocean in person, you can’t get it out of your mind. How this will actually translate into sales and market share is debatable—it’s extremely hard to do, even with the improved technology being used—but there’s no doubt that foiling caused the most new buzz in the SUP world this year.

2. Inflatable Improvements. We’re big fans of inflatable standup paddleboards here at SUP and use them again and again when running whitewater, traveling around the world and getting to remote places. In 2016, inflatables saw some great leaps in technology, making an already great thing even better. Red Paddle Co.’s FFC carbon rod technology, Hala Gear’s new “Inflatable Glass” and NRS’ fully redesigned line are just a few of the major changes that inflatables went through. In 2016 there were more stellar options than ever for blow-up boards which means more paddling for more people on better equipment. That’s something we can get behind.

3. Beginner Displacement Hulls. Part of why SUP has gotten so popular, so fast is its image: standup paddling allows anyone, anywhere to get out on the water on a board and experience the “surf” lifestyle. Maybe that’s why surf shapes have traditionally been the most popular boards for beginners, rental companies and one-day-a-year lake-house paddlers. Whatever the reason, they’re not really the best boards for beginners. A wide, stable displacement hull is faster, more fun to paddle, more versatile and can be just as user-friendly as a surf shape. To their credit, most of the top SUP manufacturers have taken note of this and are producing easy to use, durable displacement shapes for the beginner market. Smart.

4. SUP Fishing. Why wouldn’t you want to fish from a SUP? Well, a few years ago, you didn’t have many options. Boards had to be jury rigged and were basically wide boards painted to look like fishing vessels. Now, there are so many fishing SUPs on the market, we don’t even know where to start. There are boards with endless mounting possibilities (phones, drinks, coolers, rods—you name it), versatile inflatables and boards so big that you could hunt Ahab’s favorite foe from them. Kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor industry, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, and just as we’ve seen with the development of SUP versus kayak, we’re going to see even more paddler casting from standup paddleboards in 2017.

5. Refinement. There’s no doubt that 2016 was a settling year in the SUP industry in many broad ways. There were several big shake-ups and absences in the professional world (Payette River Games, Standup World Series/Tour events) and some good-sized manufacturers have down-sized or been acquired by other companies. While this year certainly marked what could be considered a downturn in the standup paddling industry, we’re by no means in dire straights. According to the 2016 Topline Participation Report from the Outdoor Industry Association, SUP has been the fastest-growing outdoor sport in the United States over the past three years. Over three million people standup paddled last year alone. If you’re reading this, you’re one of them. At SUP, we consider creating new “core” paddlers the new challenge in front of us. The good news is there are a lot of interested people. While the initial SUP boom may be over, there’s plenty of opportunity in our world still.

What trends did you see in 2016? Share with us in the comments!

Thanks for paddling with us this year. See you on the water in 2017!

More on the year’s SUP innovations.