The revival of stand-up paddle surfing is creating sales across the country for an industry once confined mostly to the surf-accessible coasts.
The growing interest is evidenced by the surge of SUP boards exhibited at the recent Action Sports Retailer trade show, Jan. 24-26 in San Diego.
SUP is generating ``energy within the surf market'' and is its ``fastest-growing sport,'' said Sean Haggar, general manager of Hobie Surfboards in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The firm introduced its first SUP model in mid-2007 and since then has been responding to market demand.
``We sold out our first shipment of molded boards [that became] available in March, and we are close to selling out our second shipment in May,'' Haggar said. Cost per board: $1,299-$1,395. Like many board makers, Hobie manufactures its boards in Asia.
Hobie's SUP boards have a machine-shaped, closed-cell expanded polystyrene foam core. The core is reinforced with Divinycell rigid foam, from Diab Inc., around the fin board and top and bottom surfaces. Four layers of glass cloth are overlapped individually on the white epoxy resin rails. Haggar said Hobie buffs the ethylene vinyl acetate traction pads where the feet stand. Most deck traction pads are made of EVA copolymer foam.
Channel Islands Surfboards of Santa Barbara, Calif., is introducing a 10-foot-long, ultralight, 20-pound SUP board for $1,700, said product manager Scott Martinson. The firm's boards are made in Carpinteria, Calif., and include a new two-chamber model with lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy resin decks.
Also part of its 2008 lineup, Channel has upgraded its Caddi board with a rocker, to assist with maneuvering the surf. That board has an EPS core.
Surf Technicians Inc. of Santa Cruz, Calif., known as Surftech, showed four SUP models developed with master surfer Laird Hamilton and designed as ``optimal crossover boards for both flat-water and wave riding,'' said Sander Nauenberg, marketing manager. The boards, from 10 feet to 12 feet 1 inch, are manufactured in Chonburi, Thailand.
Nauenberg said Surftech is seeing strong demand for its boards, priced from $1,300-$1,800.
Paddleboards are ``still a novelty,'' according to Sunny Trinh, co-owner of 9 Fish Surfboards LLC of Santa Monica, Calif., which entered the SUP market last April and manufactures its boards in Shenzhen, China.
Today's SUP equipment offers athletic cross-training exercise, a fresh-water platform for fly-fishing on a lake or river and an alternative format for surfing, racing or cruising. But the sport has its origins in Hawaii - ``stand-up paddle surfing'' is a close translation of the Hawaiian ku hoe he'e nalu - where it also was called ``Hawaiian beach boy surfing,'' a 1960s reference to entrepreneurs paddling oversized boards to photograph visitors learning to surf the waters off Waikiki Beach.
The paddle used depends on whether it's for carving turns on waves or paddling in flat water. The paddle's length reflects the rider's height, and its materials include carbon fiber, fiberglass and ABS for the shaft and blade.
Trinh said 9 Fish sells a 24-pound SUP board, called the Orca, with an EPS foam core and three layers of 6-ounce fiberglass and epoxy resin for $895. The Orca is 12 feet long, 27 inches wide and nearly 4.8 inches deep.
Recently launched King's Paddle Sports Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif., focuses on 10-foot-long high-performance SUP boards. One of the principals, James Wilmer, said that in the past 18 months King's has shipped about 50 boards, retailing for $2,000, much of it through ``word of mouth.''
Wilmer said WNC EPS Blanks of San Diego supplies King's with cores of fused EPS foam for hand crafting; a San Diego glass shop applies the epoxy satin finish. Each deck pad is custom shaped.
A King's board can be 3-5 pounds lighter than a traditional board with a rigid polyurethane foam core, Wilmer said.
Another surfboard firm, Starboard World Ltd., headed by Svein Rasmussen, added a SUP element to its line in mid-2007. Starboard exhibited a carbon-fiber-reinforced composite board of 14 feet 8 inches and priced at $2,599. A steering system is optional at $200. Other Starboard models start at 9 feet 8 inches and cost $1,099-$1,549. The boards are made in Bangkok, Thailand.
Boardworks Ltd. of Oceanside, Calif., has teamed up with C4 Waterman Inc. of Honolulu to produce a full line of SUP boards ranging in length from 9-14 feet.
Using thermal epoxy compression technology, the Boardwork boards are made from a 1-pound EPS foam core and layers of 4-ounce fiberglass thermally bonded with epoxy resin; a thermally formed 9-pound high-density sheet foam; and a hand-laminated double layer of 4-ounce fiberglass. The rail is wrapped with high-density Divinycell sheet foam and fiberglass cloth. The boards are made in China.