Could New Surfing Trend Become Boon to Industry?

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Surfing has always been about riding the waves and staying ahead of the big breakers. But like much of the rest of the world, the surfing gear industry has been through some rough times over the last few years, so anything that boosts sales is welcome news. In the U.S., for instance, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association recently released figures to show that sales went down 3.5% between 2006 and 2008. This may not sound huge, but when you consider that revenue went up pretty much every year prior to that, it’s a major loss.

Which is why many in the surfing world are welcoming the new trend of stand-up paddling. It’s basically what it sounds like—a method of surfing that involves standing on the board and paddling on somewhat less volatile types of water such as rivers, harbors, and lakes.

Of course, hardcore old-style surfers are liable to look upon this trend with a touch of scorn. Stand-up paddleboarding, as it’s called, has none of the daredevil spirit of traditional surfing, and while there are wipeouts, they are nowhere near as spectacular as the ones that can occur on the big breakers.

But there is a certain appeal to stand-up paddleboarding. Riders get to hone their balance and control their own motion while seeing the water from a fresh perspective. Plus, it can be done in bodies of water where boating is hardly practical at all, such as in shallow creeks or narrow waterways.

The sport hasn’t yet caught on in a big way, but it has a strong following where it does exist. And over the last few years, the first competitions have sprung up in places like Colorado, where the TEVA mountain games featured a paddle surf competition in Gore Creek.

Although some in the surfing world are skeptical about whether this form of the sport will catch on, stand-up paddleboarding boosters point to the fact that traditional surfing isn’t exactly easy to get into. In fact, if given the chance to grow, stand-up paddleboarding could even become more popular and widespread than traditional surfing, which is difficult to learn and confined to coastal areas where there are large waves.

But even if stand-up paddleboarding only gains a fraction of the popularity that old-fashioned surfing has, it could be more than enough to boost an industry that could use a little help.

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