Photo by Aaron Black-Schmidt

SUP Women | Kristin Thomas

Age: 53
Known For: Former Executive Director, SUPIA; Avid racer

As (former) executive director of the Standup Paddle Industry Association (SUPIA), how have you seen women's roles in the sport change since you began paddling in 2010?
SUP is now almost half women when you include all types of SUP. That is really different and exciting for watersports because so many watersports are so male dominated. If you're looking from an industry side, businesses, manufacturers and retailers are definitely paying attention to those facts.

Why is that?
Somebody should trademark the phrase "bicycle of the water" because it's the best description of SUP. It's the most versatile watercraft we've ever had, you can use it anyway you want. There should be one in your garage. It can be used for transportation or to go on crazy adventures.

What about female racing?
As a 53-year-old, when I started in high school they were just changing sports from girls' leagues to actual sports. We forget that, and teenagers today don't feel that. But there are other societal things, like (the paddling physique) is not the ideal female body. The guy body you get from paddling is ideal, but the female body you get from standup paddling isn't curvy and soft and necessarily what society thinks it should be.

How does the industry do in its portrayal of women in the sport? Can we do better?
Overall, I think the industry does a fairly good job. I think it depends on the niche and who you are talking to; sometimes I laugh when I see an ad and think, "Who is this for, men or women?"

Are you seeing more females on the starting line?
Depends on the races. We like to push the "Carnage is fun to watch," thing but not all guys will do that and a hell of a lot less women will do that. Runners like the same thing: they want the 5k or 10k and know what they are doing. We need to have a standard series that has flatwater courses where (racers) know what the start's going to be.

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