Summer is coming, do you have any 2022’s SUPs left in the shop? We explain how this is both good and bad news. Core brands have anticipated this situation and offer solutions to help you get back on track. By David Bianic.
I start with an ‘s‘ and everyone is talking about me. Who can I be? “SUP”? Close, I am “stock”. And yes, everyone in the boardsports sector has this word on their lips in 2023 after a stratospheric rise in 2020-2022 followed by a sudden stop. So should we be sounding the alarm and throwing the life rafts overboard? “Similar to the rest of the industry, SIC is experiencing overstock from late factory deliveries due to lagging production caused by COVID,” says Casi Rynkowski, Global Brand Manager, adding that “market saturation in specific categories like inflatables has caused stock levels to be higher than normal.” At NSP, International Sales Manager Sander Blauw recalls that 2022 started off as a strong year, before the war in Ukraine and inflation took their toll: “By May things have definitely started to cool down into the new reality with slower sell through and warehouses remaining quiet and well stocked when they are traditionally emptying out.” He also says that he is pleased to see rigid boards back on the up, more so than in 2018 and 2019, which suggests people are looking to make sportier investments. Similarly, lower-end models suffered more, says Seb Thursby, from Aquaglide’s Customer Service Department, while “high end boats above £1000 RRP are selling better in 2022 than even 2021”.
Affected like everyone else, Spinera are keeping a philosophical outlook: Sven Josten assures us that with their surplus stock level, they are in a position to meet any orders that come their way in 2023. The same positive attitude can be found at Starboard, whose 2024 Board Meeting has just finished up in Lanzarote, where distribution partners appeared optimistic about the upcoming 2023 season.
Before moving on to the products, here’s a quick look at prices. At Glory Boards, the situation is clear, forced to increase prices by 8%, while Tripstix are talking about +5%, as are Tahe.
Many say they have reduced their margins to keep prices down, helped by container prices returning to normal, says Pleuni Holthausen of Moai Boards. For a premium brand like SIPA Boards, the rise in public prices is not seen as a threat, says Miha Raušl, Marketing Manager, because their customers are in “the top 5% earners”. This increase is not totally consistent though, reminds Sven Josten from Spinera, while some models have seen their price increase, others are actually lower than last year. It’s the same principle at Starboard, highlighting rigid composite models, where the cost of carbon fibre, for example, has increased.
Price is not the only criterion of choice for retailers though, there’s also sales conditions and Indiana’s Commercial Director Niki Dietrich confirms that these will not change in 2023, i.e. volume discounts, transportation costs and payment terms.
Finally, we asked whether the brands would be able to deliver their 2023 ranges on time this spring, even though many retailers are still struggling to sell 2022 models. The short answer is yes. All brands have received their stock and are ready to deliver, if they haven’t already.
ISUP ’23: ALL-ROUND
Whether you’re a beginner, a weekend warrior or looking to rent, you’ll find that this simple, accessible design is still top of the pops. It is also the most fiercely-fought price category and for the retailer relying on a (real) SUP brand, it’s all about stressing the added value on the basic looking models. Construction is therefore a key argument for specialised shops, take Jobe Sports for example who employ X-Dropstitch on their all-round models (Yarra, Yama, Mira, Loa), with a stringer on top- an assurance of quality and light weight. STX are also banking on their FXL technology, a fusion type construction in woven, double-layer dropstitch. Lighter and stiffer, this provides nothing but benefits.
Dual chamber inflatables also have convincing sales arguments, for both safety and increased rigidity. Starboard’s iGO range lives up to this design brief, on both their Zen and Deluxe constructions. The brand are also proud of their welded rail technology (anti-leak) and can boast about their record product return rate: two boards out of a thousand sold. All-rounders don’t necessarily have to be low-end, as is the case for Tripstix’s 10′ Minke. At almost 1700 euros, this iSUP offers unique technology in its field, TX VaccuAir, which is a multi-chamber construction (two chambers for eight tubes in total) with granules, which means the shape of the board can be highly refined on its extremities, like on a rigid board.
Having become a sub-category amongst the all-rounders, the so-called compact models are growing in popularity after Red Paddle Co launched them in 2018. To celebrate fifteen years of existence, the English brand are launching a Compact 8’10” in 2023 with solid advantages: their proven MSL PACT construction to start with, as well as its highly tapered, really surfy outline with a pintail and a twin-fin, sold with a five-piece carbon paddle and a premium Titan II pump.
Finally, a trend towards high-end graphics is reemerging and brands like Anomy are spearheading this, working with Fresco Tech, a high-pressure heat transfer process: “It enables high-resolution prints with an endless range of colours and textures and ensures the intensity of colours to withstand over time.” explains Mariona Ruz.
ISUP ’23: TOURING
From a pure leisure activity, SUP becomes a real sport when a rider opts for a touring model. This is an interesting segment because the importance of price fades as technical properties take centre stage. The most popular size is still 12’6″, like the Roam from Aquaglide, made to go fast and long due to its Universal Mounts and Molle Plates (attachment points), which allow you to attach anything and everything. Less racy but more versatile, the Okeanos Air 12’6″ from SIC Maui has an advantage for the wanna-be waterman, namely a pretty straight outline and a wide tail that allow for easy downwinds, which is one of the unique sensations that SUP provides as a sport. Just as sporty, the 12’6″ Alpha Fusion from Sroka is relatively narrow (28″) and very light (8 kg), providing good speed. Light doesn’t mean fragile though, this model is made in Fusion construction with three layers of PVC on the rails, a Sroka exclusive.
For smaller riders, however, these “big boards” can be intimidating and some brands are offering a “light” version of their touring iSUP, such as the 12″ Voyager MSL from Red Paddle Co, which is only 4.7″ (120mm) thick, thanks to a Rocker Stiffening System that stiffens the board. The same idea is used by Jobewith the new 11′ Sena, which is 4.75″ thick. “The Sena belongs to our Aero Series which gives you a premium SUP experience for a friendly price.”, explains Martijn van Gool. And indeed, apart from the stringer, it’s the same technologies as their Premium and Elite ranges. And for lighter riders, the kids, Vast offers an Astro 8’6” at a super attractive price, but the construction does not compromise on safety, guarantees Tom Lazarus. RRD are also taking care of our little ones through their Air Evo KID Convertible, an 8’7″ x 30″ for 110 litres, which can be transformed into a SUP windsurf (mast base and extra centre fin), as well as having a safety kit (15l float) to reassure mum and dad.
On the other side, stronger riders are not forgotten about with “beefed up” boards like the Stowaway XL 10’10” from Tiki Surf, a big 350-litre baby. To inflate such a volume, we recommend investing in an electric pump like the new GE 22 Capri from Scoprega (Bravo), whose strong point is its silence, less than 75 dB, without compromising on inflation capacity: 170 l/min, up to 1.25 bar (18.1 psi). Powered by a lithium battery, this Capri can inflate three 265-litre SUPs on a single charge.
ISUP ’23: KAYAKING AND FISHING
A number of all-round and touring models allow you to attach a seat using D-rings, like the Trend T1 (in hot pink!) from JBay.Zone, or the 11′ Alpaka from Swiss newcomers Mint Lama. Tahe’s SUP-Yak is also proving to be a real hit, maybe because it has the option of attaching two (elevated) seats onto a single 10’6″, carrying up to 135kg. Other brands are going deeper into this SUP/Kayak hybridisation. This is the case for BOTE with their 12’4” Rackham Aero, which can be transformed into… an SUP pedalo! This removable APEX Pedal Drive system frees up your arms for fishing, while their Magnepod magnetic attachment system keeps lots of different items close to hand and secure.
Aquaglide are also big believers in the potential of SUP fishing, highlighting the Blackfoot Angler, an 11-foot, 36-inch wide board with a really rectangular outline that inspires stability at first glance. The brand have their own Molle mounting system, mentioned earlier, and (separately) sells a real raised seat with aluminium frame.
ISUP ’23: WIND & WING & FOIL
These two-in-one inflatables (and more if needed) are enjoying a real spike in interest, sparked off first by rigid multipurpose models. JBay.Zone are making moves with their WJ Comet: “Together with JWing and JFoil, you will experience the thrilling feeling of floating above the level of water”, boasts Sales Manager Federico. STX are also launching iFoil models for beginners to wing and foil. In 5’10” or 6’4”, they are offering a very compact package that is very appealing for lugging around your gear. For those who prefer sailing to wings, their iWindsurf comes in four sizes (250 to 285 cm) and offers a wide range of products, whether for newbies or salty sea dogs.
Although identified as a premium brand in the foil world, Slingshot are playing the popularity card with their Wing Raiders XL (100, 120 and 150 l.), “great for SUP Foiling and winging with their mid-board foil placement and short nose that minimises swing weight and maximises pumping performance.”, explains Wyatt Miller, Wind/Wing Brand Manager. The conviction that foil and wing-SUP should be accessible is also a driving force at Mistral, assures Steve West: “there needs to be a transitory solution whereby the skills of using a wing can be learnt without needing a foil”. And this is the exact concept behind their Sunburst 10’5″, an interdisciplinary board, which allows you to experience the sensation of the wind, wing in hand, and of course wingsurfing thanks to two small lateral fins, but it remains an SUP accessible to the whole family for classic use.
One of the widest line-ups of inflatable foilboards comes from Indiana, with a plethora of models from 4’1″ to 6’4″, completed by one of their best-sellers, the 10’6″ Wind & Wing, with its two extra lateral fins in the middle of the board for wingsurfing, says Niki Dietrich. As for Tripstix, the brand are announcing the development of a foilboard with ClustAir construction, very promising. In this category, Starboard have a strong case with their Air Foil: the patented foil attachment system is not located under the board but on the deck, only 1.5 cm from the feet, providing unequalled responsiveness. A real plus.
As is often the case in the foil segment, and especially with inflatables, it’s all about packages. Sroka have put forward two packages, Air 6’4” and Sky Rider 5’4”, both sold with the Classic foil and its 1750 front wing.
RIGID SUP ’23: UNDEAD, BUT ALIVE!
Like zombies, you should not write off rigid SUPs too soon. The market has shrunk to a trickle, but there are still enthusiasts, and not just among the elite. The HIT Cruiser from NSP might not be new but it’s a safe bet. Inexpensive and rock solid, this board was originally designed for hotels, resorts, schools and rentals, says Sander Blauw, before it became popular with families and “private” use! Among its hidden treasures, an M8 connector that allows you to mount a mast base for recreational windsurfing and a hole in the nose so that renters can put an anti-theft chain through it. It’s the same deal for the Tahe Beach Cross (10′ or 11′) in Tough-Tec construction with its ultra solid polyethylene cover for withstanding impacts.
Naish are also still enjoying great success with their rigids in 2023: “Composite boards are a fixture and not only reserved for the experienced rider” says Product Manager Michi Schweiger, “I would call them essential for any SUP rider who has the means to store them/get them around”. Their Nalu 10’9″ GTW, a classic longboard with an iconic wood veneer, and the Mana GS 10″, an all-around cruiser, remain popular boards and affordable alternatives to inflatables. The same wood effect can be found at FatStick, whose Bamboo Bullet hasn’t aged a day over the years and is now available in a high-performance carbon version.
Among the micro-trends in rigids, downwind Foil SUP is taking off, confirms Andy Wirtz from Norden- a 100% composite brand who are working on a design of this kind, alongside their existing Foil SUP. Others have already done so, like Indiana with their Downwind SUP Foil in 8’4″ and 7’6″, a very interesting design with a longboard, surf-like outline, but a 100% downwind hull.
While it’s true that rigids tend to specialise in specific uses, there are still some “Swiss Army knife” models like the Hover SUP from Naish, a four-in-one crossover board: SUP/Foil SUP/Wind Foil/Wing-Surf.
And if your shop lacks the space for rigid boards, brands like Indiana offer drop–shipping solutions, “which is reducing the warehouse/capital risk for the shops and helps us all to sell more hardboards,” says Niki Dietrich. On the other hand, their size is also an indirect advantage for shops, says Jacques Freydrich of Tahe, because transporting them individually is still tricky and expensive, compared to good old-fashioned shop pick-up. So “Yes it is worth retailers stocking them” concludes Jacques.
After two editions, goodbye Lyon, hello Strasbourg. This new location for the Paddle Sports Show (P2S) in 2023 will be a live opportunity to get a gauge on the market at the end of the summer season and the dates are the same, from 27 to 29 September. Why Alsace? First of all, its proximity to the northern European markets, including Germany, attracts more stallholders – nearly 75% of the spaces are already booked – and the surface area is 15% larger than in Lyon. This more central position on the continent also means smaller journeys for both exhibitors and visitors alike. New, but all the better for it, P2S is opening up to foil sports, while retaining a strong focus on kayaking. In short, a show more in line with current trends in the sector. Will you be there?