The SUP Industry Today

Posted by on 10/17/2014

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

We all know Stand Up Paddle Boarding is the fastest growing sport in the world right now. But some of the statistics about SUP might surprise you. It took less than 10 years for SUP to go from a non recognizable word to a household name. Here are some of the key points that have contributed to Stand Up Paddle Boarding becoming the immensely popular sport it is today.

The growth of the SUP industry in numbers


The SUP industry has seen enormous growth over the last few years. The number of manufacturers has dramatically increased each year as well as specialized paddle boarding stores opening up across the United States.


1.2 million people tried SUP for the first time in 2011, with over 50% of those first time SUP users being interested in trying it again. In addition to all of the first time paddlers, experienced SUP users participated in over 9.6 million SUP outings in 2012. Those outings can range anywhere from a basic paddle to participating in a race or SUP event. Interestingly 25% of the population ages 18-65 have never done SUP but are interested in trying it out. 



Check out the timeline of events leading up to the tremendous growth of the SUP industry.

1960's - First documented photographs of Stand Up Surfing emerge from Waikiki.


2003 - "Beach Boy Surfing" (aka Stand Up Surfing" added to Buffalo Big Board Contest at Makahana Beach. A photo of Laird Hamilton was picked up by surfing media.


2004 - Rick Thomas credited with bringing SUP to California from Hawaii. 


2007 - Standup Paddle Sports establishes the first dedicated SUP store in North America.


2008 - The U.S. Coast Guard officially classifies SUP boards as vessels.


2013 - SUP has the most first-time participants of any sport in the USA

SUP Yoga

Demographics of the SUP Industry

The demographics of stand up paddle boarding are constantly changing and very diverse from year to year. This can be attributed to where the sport was started geographically, how it emerged into its own asport as well as the rapid growth the sport has seen over the last 10 years. As in any new sport or activity, it takes time to gain exposure to the masses and develop a market clearly recognized and categorized by the public.

The median age for someone SUPing in 2012 was 28. A study about the 2012 SUP Industry, by "The Outdoor Foundation" states that stand up paddling attracted the most participants in an outdoor activity in the U.S. That’s phenomenal for the new sport that’s still “wet behind the ears” (no pun intended.) The study included all ages from 6+, with the 18-35 year old demographic having the most participation and the most interest in the sport.  In 2013, 43% of the people who went SUPing were female. A large part of this can be attributed to the popularity of SUP Yoga as well as female media highlighting the sport as an fun and exciting new way for women to exercise and stay in shape.


While the SUP industry is growing across the world, note the United States is the largest consumer of SUP related products and boards. In 2011, 55,000 boards were purchased in USA, with Germany and France accounting for 12,000 boards. According to “Tower Paddle Boards” and “Paiwen paddle boards” 95% of all SUPs are made outside of North America (overseas) although the bulk of SUPs are purchased in North America.


The SUP sporting goods category is still such a small and young industry that each year new data comes out that completely changes how the market is represented and understood. On the contrary we are starting to see trends and areas of yearly growth in specific SUP subcategories. As the SUP industry starts to mature in coming years, the percentage of growth is anticipated to slow down becoming closer to that of the current paddle sports industry standards.

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