Dr. Hamilton, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Paddleboard

If you live near the water, work in the water sports industry, or are young and hip but don’t wear skinny jeans. Then you have probably noticed the virtual overnight explosion in popularity of the sport of stand-up paddle boarding, or as the in crowd calls it, SUP.
The act of standing up on a long board or higher volume version isn’t anything new. In fact it was one way that instructors and “beach boys” would paddle out in Hawaii to take pictures for tourists learning to surf. That was in the 60’s, and the Hawaiians had been doing it a long time before that.
What sprung the sport out of the niche of a niche was the marketing juggernaut that is Laird Hamilton. He among other several other big wave surfers had taken up the sport to train while the swell was down. What came next was natural, SUP became cool. Why may you ask? That’s easy, because guys like Laird Hamilton are really freaking cool. Couple that with it being a fairly easy sport for beginners to pick up and its off to the races. All you need is a picture of Laird, tanned, blond, and looking like a norse god carving on a four foot swell and the boards and paddles will sell themselves. It high school all over again, coolness by association. Don’t even use the thing, just carry it to the beach, hang it up over the fireplace, keep it on your car. It just says “yeah, I’m meeting up with Laird and the Strap Crew for beers later”. Essentially it has become fixed gear bikes with narrow handle bars for people that don’t wear skinny jeans or have gauges in their ears.
Aside from the almost hipster culture it has developed, I have come to be less and less annoyed by it. Why? Well honestly it’s a money making machine. It is a sport that has taken some struggling kayaking or surf shops and given them a new lease on life, as well as a much heavier wallet. It’s also the perfect market for many paddle and surf shops to pick up as it doesn’t require a lot of specialty equipment (boards, paddles) and it is already cool enough to sell itself. No need to really retrain staff, hire experts to put on clinics. Take some kayaking instructors, show them some YouTube videos and put them on a board for a couple weekends.
So for the die-hard sea kayak and surfski guys like myself, it’s time to stop seeing the paddle board as an enemy, as another niche that will steal people from our areas of watersport. At the end of the day it will get people on the water, and help keep some of our favorite gear haunts and hang out shops alive. Stop worrying and learn to love it.
Besides have you seen some of the girls that paddleboard?

About newenglandwaterman

1600 Master Near Coastal, Master of Towing Vessels, and a whole binder full of other pieces of paper. You can find me at the controls, hooked up and hard over, when I'm not at home playing with the dogs
This entry was posted in General Ramblings, paddle dippings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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