March 18, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

This Response To SUPAA’s Board Restrictions Announcement Totally Misses The Point (Let’s Drop The Pitchforks, Shall We?)

Stand Up Paddle race board design restrictionsSo the SUP Athletes Association announced their recommendations for board restrictions last week. Their proposal is basically three simple rules (for the width, weight and depth of race boards) that SUPAA wants to introduce at their sanctioned events in 2015.

Well since that announcement there’s been a LOT of chatter on the various news sites, forums, Facebook and in the parking lot. While a lot of the top paddlers and many leading brands are supportive of the move toward width/weight rules, there are clearly some that are not. In short: There’s been some debate in the SUP world this week… Lots of it. And that debate turned fiery when Corran Addison posted an open letter in response to SUPAA’s announcement, which was then reposted by Standup Journal.

Corran is the guy that founded Imagine Surf, sold it to the Neil Pryde Group, then went on to found the Corran SUP brand. The guy even launched a new concept board on kickstarter recently. In short: Corran isn’t your average joe shouting from an armchair, he’s actually got some extensive knowledge about this sport.

However on this topic I believe he’s way off.

Corran’s post (which is more of an angry rant than a reasoned response to SUPAA’s proposals) focuses on his opposition to the 12’6 board class. Only problem is, SUPAA never said anything about enforcing the 12’6 board class in their announcement. All they mentioned were proposals for width, weight and depth restrictions. I know which individual paddlers are running SUPAA and I’m certain that having 12’6 as the only board class is the very last thing they’d want. They actually probably agree with Corran that we should be racing on longer boards.

So why on earth is Corran Addison so pissed at SUPAA? I’m really not sure…

Actually I’m not sure Corran even read the SUPAA announcement at all. At least not all of it. It’s as if he saw the headline “Board Restrictions” and then let everyone know how he felt about the topic in general, rather than analysing what SUPAA is actually proposing and providing an analytical rebuttal.

Seriously: Read SUPAA’s original announcement and then read Corran’s response. It’s as if he’s responding to a different article. Corran makes some interesting points, but I’m not exactly sure why he’s directing his anger at SUPAA. The matter was made even worse when Standup Journal reposted Corran’s thoughts without providing any context, which turned the whole thing into a shit fight as people lobbed in comments from the sideline without knowing exactly what was happening.

So in short: SUPAA proposes width, weight and depth restrictions, then someone gets seriously pissed at them about length restriction…

The irony of all this is that “length restriction” was actually the first ever board restriction in this sport.

The 12’6 board length restriction was introduced at the 2008 Battle of the Paddle. Soon after that, the 14′ board length restriction came into being. That’s right, we’ve been living with “board restrictions” for almost six years. All SUPAA wants to do is extend those restrictions to cover the width, weight and depth of a board, in order to stop the sport becoming an expensive balancing contest (which will inevitably happen to the flatwater side of SUP racing, as anyone who followed the rise and fall of high-kneel canoeing can tell you).

You may not agree with the numbers that SUPAA proposed (there are some that I would question), but you can’t fault them for doing hundreds of hours of work in consulting with leading manufacturers and getting at least some sort of consensus from an industry that is otherwise extremely competitive and fragmented. In other words: SUPAA has put a LOT of work into their board restriction proposals and should be commended for that.

We don’t all have to give them a high five and accept what the rules they’re proposing, but the last thing we should be doing is attacking SUPAA for all the hard work they’ve done.

I believe that some sort of restrictions on width and weight in SUP race boards are inevitable. Anyone that’s followed elite, flatwater racing the past year or two will surely agree. And remember: We already have restrictions on length. Plus don’t forget that the “Unlimited” class will always be unlimited; SUPAA doesn’t want to change anything there, in fact they want to promote it.

On top of all this, these proposals by SUPAA are just that: proposals. You’re welcome to debate them. And even when these rules do come into effect, they can still be changed if/when there are improvements in board construction materials, design, stability, etc in the future.

Now back to my point… If you agree with me that width/weight restrictions on 12’6 and 14′ SUP race boards are inevitable, then we have a very simple choice in front of us: We can either choose to have a healthy, analytical debate and come up with the best numbers that’ll help the sport in the long term, or we can just grab our pitchforks and attack the people and organisations who have already started putting in the effort.

Yes, we need strong debates as this sport evolves. We need to hear different proposals and different expert opinions, in order to overcome challenges and keep the sport strong. And no, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of emotion in your argument. However what we don’t need are irrational attacks on those who are working hard to make a difference.

If you want to let off steam in order to make a point, that’s fine. However if you’re going to add your opinion to an important debate in this sport, whether it be through an angry rant or an analytical response, at least read the article you’re replying to a couple of times first.

Healthy debate is vital; irrational attacks help nobody (except publications that want to boost their pageviews).

So if you have some constructive comments to add to this whole “board restrictions” debate; read the original announcement from SUPAA and then leave them a comment or send them a private message.