Stand up paddling has reached an evolutionary juncture in its developmentally pathway, igniting a conflict of ideologies and interpretations, as to whether the sport is ultimately served best moving forward, as being embraced as a paddle or surf sport.
Significantly, in the minds of the general populous, governance and associations made between the activity and the mantle upon which it rests, go a long way to defining the sport and ultimately the label given it by the media, sports and recreational bodies the world over, resulting in an attraction or reluctance of end-users to get involved.
In historical context, the phenomenal popularity of windsurfing, was due in no small way to its good fortune that it was embraced as a sailing sport, regardless of the use of a board and it’s niche adaptation to wave riding and jumping. The benefits inherited through such association, based on the sports primary means of propulsion in difference to surfing – and sailing’s well established connections with the Olympics and wide reaching global acceptance and popularity on all manner of waterways, contributed to the manifestation of a truly great sport and recreation.
From the perspective of the SUP industry, it is highly relevant, many major brands owe their existence to windsurfing and its phenomenal success and they too must be thankful and take stock of the fact, it associated at the time with sailing, not surfing and today we have the same juxtaposition.
Stand up paddling, in the same manner, embraced by the professionalism and omnipresence of Canoeing and Kayaking Federations and Associations and in turn their affiliated Clubs, who in turn are affiliated with the International Canoe Federation (ICF) will doubtless ensure a vastly wider global demographic and acceptance at a time when the sport is in confusion as to the direction it should take.
Self governance is now highly improbable and while governance by a Surfing body may sound enticing, represents the peak of the pyramid of interest and a misrepresentation of the sport, where it should be implicit, the smallest niche participant representation should not be in a position of governing an activity in which there is no historical interest, technical expertise or significant numbers.
Add to this, the not insignificant reality, the vast majority of their membership are profoundly against the inclusion of SUP, it must be highly questionable as to why a surfing body would want to govern a paddle sport firmly beyond their founding brief, even over and above the wishes of the membership. On the flip side, the vast majority of canoeists and kayakers would welcome the inclusion of stand up paddling into the embrace of their respective membership bodies in all of its guises. Outrigger canoeists in SUP sport, have in this respect, already made their presence known.
From this perspective, the pyramid must be inverted and our line of thinking altered to that of the current media hype and the will of the few, which is running dangerously in parallel to the very issues which contributed to the demise of windsurfing.
The Lost Mills Event, located deep in canoeing and kayaking’s European heartland, is as far removed from ocean shores as you can imagine, yet it is locations like this where SUP sport growth must be nurtured in alignment with a connection with canoe and kayak sports, in order to rapidly popularise and spread the growth of the sport with a profound message to all comers, that SUP is first and foremost a paddle sport and thereby bring it finally to rest in the hands of those who by default, understand the nature of paddle sports.
Mistral, as an iconic windsurfing brand, recognise this reality and side unconditionally with the alignment of SUP as a paddle sport which must in turn align with the likes of the canoeing and kayaking in order to flourish, not wither, hence our wish to fully support this event for all that it represents.
Current and Former References World Paddle Awards Media Winner 2014 Mistral Red Dot - Head of Design and Development European Director of Operations Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI) Founding Director of Water Skills Academy UK (WSA) Vice President - Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association (AOCRA) Secretary - Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association (AOCRA) Delegate to International Polynesian Canoe Federation (IPCF) National Coaching Director - Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association (AOCRA) Author Stand Up Paddle - A Paddlers Guide Outrigger Canoeing - The Ancient Sport of Kings Outrigger Canoeing - The Art and Skill of Steering V1 - A Paddlers Guide OC1 - A Paddlers Guide ASI Water Safety and Rescue Trainers Manual ASI Level 2 Open Water Trainers Manual ASI Level 3 Downwind Paddling Trainers Manual AOCRA - Coaching Manual Competition Multiple Australian National Champion and Molokai Masters winner 1997/98 (Outrigger Canoeing) www.kanuculture.com