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Pro SUP competitions in 2022 – does anyone care?

Pro SUP competitions for 2022 look to be abundant (at time of writing). But does anyone care? The APP have been able to run a few events in 2021. The most notable being the Carolina Cup. But with COVID, international travel complications and other red tape it was deemed necessary to cancel the remaining and/or reschedule. Complications aside the organisation has announced a full (or as full as can be) calendar into next year. In tandem, events have been confirmed by the ISA in Peurto Rico and the ICF in Poland.

The above is great and pro level SUP seems to ticking along. If not quite to the same level as a few years back. But with the majority of stand up padders firmly in the recreational camp what purpose do these pro events serve?

Pro SUP competitions.

As much as anything pro SUP competitions are where the brands involved can shine a light on their performance development and new technologies. New constructions, materials, shapes and shiny new kit have (in theory) a global stage. Add talented athletes (who rely on international exposure for their pay packet) who can make this equipment work in optimum conditions and you have the ideal marketing dream. We’re talking hard boards here.

Marketing and exposure are all well and good if there’s an audience. And we’re sure there’s a decent percentage of paddlers around the globe who are interested. Yet the majority most likely isn’t. As most SUPers tend to pilot their inflatable 10’6 board on flat water the upper echelons of SUP performance will pass quietly by. From brands and organisations involved that’s a lot of expense to be losing by not converting sales targets. Which after all is the bottom line with all this.

Stand up paddle boarding progression.

The hope of many within the SUP industry is that a large portion of those entering the sport over the last few years will progress. In doing so the fair weather paddler that once was discovers stand up paddling as a sport. He/she then chooses their path and follows it. This means upgrades of equipment will be parted cash for and all that R&D, marketing and exposure on behalf of SUP companies doesn’t go to waste.

An APP SUP race event in motion.

With numbers of new stand up paddle boarding recruits being significant since the COVID pandemic took hold it’s hoped the small group who do push on is significant enough to bolster the performance side of the industry. A numbers game if you will. A bigger cake means bigger slices to chew.

Recreational stand up in 2022.

It’s a big gamble to keep producing high performance SUP gear that mightn’t sell. Especially when it’s far easier to focus on what the majority wants. There’s no reason the iSUP market won’t continue its growth for 2022. There are still those without a paddle board (surprisingly!). A whole host of reasons exist why it’s easier for a SUP company to deal in inflatables exclusively. Easier storage of mass items; easier to transprt to customers; less likelyhood of damage (unlike hard boards); more chance of actually selling the equipment and so on.

Most people’s idea of SUP is anything but performance and pro level orientated.

The next few years will be a litmus test for SUP and its longevity. Fingers and toes are crossed that out of the many who’ve recently discovered stand up will stick with it. Even if a SUP event, pro or otherwise, never makes it on said person’s radar. Having a channel to display personal skills and performance gear, via pro competition and events, is a good thing. There needs to be the Formula 1 of SUP in place to help bring kudos. We only hope that the gamble pays off and there’s enough of an audience to make pro SUP competitions viable for the long haul.

Event pics courtesy APP.

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