Whazzup with SUP: New Inflatable Boards for 2015/16

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While the SUP market might be truncating somewhat – cases in point include Confluence’s recent purchase of Boardworks, Corran SUP selling to Canada’s Kayak Distribution and Surf Tech inking a new distribution agreement with NSP – it hardly means a dearth of new designs. In fact, the category continues to take market share from conventional paddlecraft, thanks to enhanced stability, speed and the all-important ability to unleash consumers’ inner Laird Hamilton.

Leading the charge is the fact that consumers’ inner surfers are being felt inland, with landlocked buyers also catching the stand-up craze on rivers, fueling increased demand for inflatable SUPs. This is also fueling a fury of new designs. “As whitewater SUP continues to evolve, people are looking for more agile shapes,” says Hala Gear president Peter Hall.

The new Hala Atcha 86 ($1,299) measures 8’6 x 34″ x 6″ and comes with generous rocker and whitewater surf shape — including a wide nose narrowing into a swallow tail — for stomping Class I-III rivers. Also look for the Atcha’s new drop-fin, a spring-loaded fin that collapses when hit by a rock, meaning no more playing Superman; and the new Hala Luya, featuring the inflatable world’s first tapered edges for control.

As with the kayak category, the niche is also branching out to include boards specific to such applications as fitness and fishing, and even the women and youth demographic. “We continue to see significant growth in the women’s-specific SUP category, and have seen success with versatile designs that pay attention to detail, beauty and function,” says Boardworks marketing manager Gretchen Gamble. “Women are looking for user-friendly, smart designs that are light-weight, easy to transport and come with unique, inspirational graphics.”

To that end, with the added muscle of Confluence, Boardworks unveils two new women’s SUPs this year in the Muse ($1,099/ Hardboard $1,149) and Tracker ($1,849). Measuring 10’2” long and 31” wide, the inflatable cruising and fitness-oriented Muse is made from new, lightweight, five-thick drop-stitch material making it easy to carry and transport. It also features a soft, non-chafing croc skin deck pad for traction and comfort. At 11’ long x 35” wide, the Tracker is a fishing-specific platform with a deep, double concavity running throughout the bottom for secondary stability, speed and tracking. It’s built with Boardworks’ new Innegra-Glass construction and comes with Realtree camo graphic accents and a patented LIFTSUP handle for transport.

The touring category is also picking up steam. “We’re seeing a massive increase in touring boards this year over last,” says Mike Bill, president of Sup ATX, adding that touring board sales are up 50 percent this year. Leading their charge in the category is the new Annabel Anderson ($1,885), a 11’6”x29” carbon tourer. Co-designed by pro paddler Anderson, the board offers stability, speed and tracking in a Lahui Kai 3X Carbon Construction. It also comes with a proprietary SZY-TRE (pronounced SHIZZY-TREY) gear saddle.

Based on the burgeoning sales of its 11-foot Cross Adventure, BIC Sports maintains that stability and ready-to-go-ness are key. “Our adventure-ready boards have been hugely successful,” says marketing manager Jimmy Blakeney, adding that stability and additional capacity are design drivers. He also totes the importance of attachment points that let its Adventure series be outfitted with coolers, bait boxes, tracks, GPS mounts, rod holders, camera mounts and more. “We tried to create the iPhone platform, with everyone else creating the apps for it,” he says.

BIC also isn’t ignoring the inflatable craze, with four new additions to its popular 8-model SUP Air Series, including a 8’4” x 28”, 14-lb. kids board ($699); 9’2” x 36”, 19-lb. River board ($949) and 10’6” x 34”, 21-lb. Fitness/Yoga board ($949). “They’re all super rigid with a Dyneema stringer belt from nose to tail and rails wrapped in double-layer OPVC,” he says.

Paddle-makers are also hot on the SUP craze. Longtime canoe-paddle maker Bending Branches debuts its new Balance ($284.95) for supping, with a smaller feather-shaped blade at 85 sq. inches, perfect for high-cadence paddling. Lighter than most synthetic-only paddles, the 27-oz., 11-degree-bend paddle marries a 100 percent carbon shaft with high-tech blade shape made from red alder and basswood for the beauty and warmth of wood.

The C4 Waterman Supsquatch</b is a party barge ($3,999) that's Bigfoot big, plain and simple. Measuring 16‘x6.5’x8”, use it to bring along the kitchen sink and even coffee table on your next sup outing, be it on a Waikiki wave or float down the Colorado. Made of strong, durable, heavy-duty PVC vinyl, it comes with handles for carrying (thank God), stainless steel D-ring attachment points for accoutrements, and rolls up for transport and storage.