The growing pains of stand-up paddleboarding

Summer sport? For almost ten years, the answer has always been the same: the stand-up paddle, or “SUP” for insiders. The craze for this board that glides on the water and is handled with a paddle, a discipline imported from Polynesia, is undeniable, and if the number of practitioners may still seem modest – some 100,000 amateurs in France – it continues to grow, surfing on a favorable economic situation.

Because the stand-up paddle is at the crossroads of many current concerns. Accessible, the discipline is more than ever with the boom of inflatable boards in recent years. More easily transportable, they also display more attractive prices than rigid structures, without however sacrificing too much on the quality of the material (between 250 and 500 €). “Manufacturers have taken the wave wellcomments Serge Lougarot, technical advisor in charge of SUP development at the French Surfing Federation. Three or four years ago, we received many phone calls from large retailers asking us how we felt the market was developing. They invested in it, and you can now find boards for sale absolutely everywhere. »

In the mood of time

The SUP also fits very well with the desires for the great outdoors and a return to nature already claimed in leisure activities in recent years, but whose confinement and the pandemic have further accelerated the expression. For the general public, the image of the “superior” by the sea still dominates, like that of the windsurfer yesterday. However, it is indeed on inland bodies of water, rivers and lakes, that most of the current development can be seen.

“Contact with nature, the ease of embarking from anywhere and the high temperatures this summer, which obviously accentuate the aquatic asset, favor the attraction of the disciplinetestifies Benoît Sfiligoï, president of Sup Riders 47, a club co-founded in Agen (Lot-et-Garonne) in 2018. Basically, it is especially in the Mediterranean that the practice has developed. Today, we are increasing the number of discovery days on our Passeligne lake, with three instructors holding the federal initiator certificate. The success is such that two new ones completing their training will soon join us. »

The issue of security

Supervision in clubs is one of the challenges to come, because the enthusiasm for this new sport is not without drawbacks in terms of safety. The death in early July of a 16-year-old girl in the Tarn served as a reminder that the aquatic environment can be dangerous. “We try to communicate as much as possible about the rules to be followed and good practices.emphasizes Serge Ligarot. SUP provides a real feeling of freedom, but we must not forget that there are risks, knowing that the instructions are not necessarily the same at sea and in open waters, that it is always better to avoid go alone, etc. »

Attention highlighted by Benoît Sfiligoï, whose club, with only 16 members, intends above all “train as many people as possible to avoid dramatic accidentsinsists the president of Sup Riders 47. We too often see inappropriate practices on social networks, and we must constantly remind the rules, again and again..

Ensuring sports succession

The other challenge is more sporting. Tricolor performances regularly rise on the crest of the waves, as confirmed by the 13 medals (including five gold) won at the last Stand-up Paddle World Championships, in El Salvador in 2019. Nevertheless. The French Surfing Federation observes the difficulty of attracting its young people. Because competitive SUP requires more financial investment (€3,000 for a board) and very intensive training. “The very high level calls for a culture of effort that is no longer too much in tune with the timeslaments Serge Lougarot. It is a societal evolution that we take full force. We have not yet reached the end of a golden generation, but we know that we must now concentrate our efforts on our competition circuit to ensure renewal. »

A future that must also deal with a certain vagueness in terms of governance, shared between the International Canoeing Federation and the International Surfing Association, even if the latter remains in charge to discuss the Olympic future of the discipline. In 2028, maybe.


Upcoming World Doubles

Not one, but two stand-up paddle world championships are looming in the coming months. It is the result of a long struggle between the International Canoeing Federation (ICF) and the International Surfing Association (ISA) for the governance of the discipline. A conflict brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which, in August 2020, decided to spare the goat and the cabbage, granting the two bodies the possibility of organizing international competitions. The ICF Worlds will therefore take place in Gdynia (Poland) from September 7 to 11, while those of the ISA will settle in Puerto Rico from October 28 to November 6. On the other hand, it is the only ISA which presides over the Olympic destinies of stand-up paddle. Its president was pushing for integration into the 2024 program, like surfing. The ace. For 2028 in Los Angeles, everything remains open.


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