Report: Standup Paddling’s Growth Continues

Photo by Mike Yoshida
Photo by Mike Yoshida

Report: Standup Paddling’s Growth Continues

A recent report revealed some very promising news about the standup paddling community: it’s growing.

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association released findings that showed in the past three years, participation in standup paddling has increased by nearly 120 percent. That’s more than other fast-growing sports including adventure racing, MMA, rugby and BMX.

In a fitness landscape that has seen interest in traditional sports such as golf begin to wane, paddleboarding is leading the charge of non-traditional sports. And with the sport of standup paddling not much more than a decade old, it would seem like the possibilities are endless, right?

Well, not so fast.

While reports like this are undoubtedly promising for our industry, we can’t be ignorant about the fact that new sports are fragile. As quickly as a new sport may soar in popularity, it can just as easily collapse and fade into oblivion.

Just look at what happened to rollerblading.

The key for a new sport to succeed is not for people to try it once, but for people to become hooked. To have a large following of enthusiasts for which the sport has become a part of their identity.

As an industry, standup paddling is on the verge of reaching this critical point. An increasing number of new SUP events are popping up around the world from Detroit to Israel. Events don’t happen without an enthusiastic base of supporters, and the increase in events is certainly a promising sign about the state of our sport.

However, our sport still suffers from the problem of converting first-time fans into lifelong paddlers. People are eager to try the standup paddling, but something often holds them back from becoming diehard paddlers. Whether it is fear of investment–both money and time–or simply not understanding the long-term advantages of standup paddling.

But standup paddling is different from other new sports in that it is accessible to everyone. From extreme sports adrenaline-junkies to seniors looking for a relaxing hobby, everyone can find their niche in SUP. And if the official report from The Sports and Fitness Industry Association is any testament, many people are.