Top Gear Innovations of 2014
It's an exciting time to be a standup paddler. As the sport continues to establish itself across the world, paddlers continue to innovate not only on the water, but also in the realm of SUP technology. In every part of the industry, these visionaries continue to hone their crafts. Here, we give you the lowdown on the innovations that you'll see more of in 2014. –Will Taylor
As in the larger world, the future lies with the children. Daily, more SUP groms are popping up all over the world and demand gear that fits their smaller bodies. Companies such as Riviera, Tahoe SUP (pictured above) and NRS are offering pint-sized paddles and boards for the sport's future rippers,. Thanks to this gear they'll be out in front of all of us before too long.
We're about to see an uptick in paddle design innovations. There are manufacturers such as Quickblade offering their new V-Drive paddle (pictured above), which has a double dihedral (forming a V) that looks like it's going to take the market by storm. Companies like 27 North are offering Kevlar paddles. There's also an increase in shaft stiffness offerings. Stiff paddles put more wear and tear on the paddler but direct more energy to the water, making them good for racing and downwinding. More flexible paddles are easier on the paddler, making them good for training, distance paddling and surfing. Manufacturers like Kialoa, Quickblade and Ke Nalu are offering more stiffness choices as paddlers continue to explore these nuances.
Companies continue to emphasize inflatables, both for price point and convenience for the end user (you). Board makers pushed inflatable design last year with big releases from Naish (One), Starboard (Astro Touring), Fantaic (Fly Air Race and Touring) and Sea Eagle (NeedleNose). Expect to see more variety in these designs (such as Starboard's river-specific Astro Stream or Tahoe SUP's touring Alpine Explorer). Also look for designers to cure inflatables' general lack of stiffness by adding higher PSI capabilities and rail stiffeners (rods, harder plastic). Everybody wins in this arms race.
If you've ever been to a high-profile SUP surf contest or race where the big names are competing you'll notice one thing immediately: their boards are not production. That's because pro paddlers are riding custom boards. Boards built for a rider's weight, height and paddling style add to the competitive edge. That includes custom surfboards, the likes of which you'll see under the feet of Caio Vaz, Mo Freitas (pictured above) and Candice Appleby. At races it's not uncommon to see hand-built race boards by Infinity, Kings and Hobie flying around buoys. The perks of these rides are available to the general public and help many manufacturers bolster revenue during winter months. Expect to see more and more custom shapes filter into local lineups and starting lines.
This article originally ran in our 2014 Gear Guide as "The Biggest Gear Innovations of 2014."
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