It’s no secret that there’s been a long-running debate in the SUP community over whether events should embrace a 12’6″ or 14′ board class for female racers. Paddlers, industry insiders, race organizers, SUP media and others have all weighed in with their arguments either for or against the two different sizes.

Finally, two of the sport’s flagship races—the Carolina Cup and the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge—have made their decision: leave it up to the ladies.

Both events have adopted an “up to 14-foot” board policy, which essentially allows women the opportunity to compete on the same boards and equipment as the men, if they so choose. Last week’s decision by the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge followed in the footsteps of the Carolina Cup–which announced the same switch back in December.

Both the Carolina Cup and the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge have adopted “up to 14-foot” board classes for female racers in 2019.   Photo: Greg Panas

Also jumping on the bandwagon was the ISA, who announced they would allow boards up to 14′ for 2019. However, 2018 will see no change and the board-class limit will remain at 12’6″ for the ISA Worlds in Brazil later this year.

The moves were celebrated by several of the top female paddlers in the sport, including Fiona Wylde who shared her excitement on Instagram.

Undoubtedly, this is the latest sign that the #ipaddleforequality movement is beginning to deliver results. More SUP events are embracing not only pay equality, but now equal options in terms of board size.

In the past, many women have complained that being restricted to 12’6″ boards has hindered their performance in competition, especially in long races like the Carolina Cup’s 13-mile Graveyard Race. Meanwhile, those against the 14′ board-class argue that the larger boards are harder to control, especially in surf races, for smaller paddlers.

Nevertheless, this latest development signals female paddlers will finally have the freedom to make their own decisions about what’s beneath their feet.

We’re likely to see other events follow suit with the board-class changes, so we’ll keep you updated as the story unfolds.


Photos from the 2017 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.

Photos and analysis from the 2017 Carolina Cup.