If there is one take away message from the Northwest Paddling Festival this year, it’s that stand-up paddle boards are hotter than ever! The variety seems to be growing, with more manufacturers joining the game and coming up with more designs, including the faster racing displacement-type hulls with the piercing bows, and inflatables. Prices have gone up too. High end, lightweight and fast boards made out of exotic composites have pushed the upper limit way up. And it’s not as easy to find a decent, cheap, used SUP on Craigslist anymore either.
Everyone loves SUPs! They are great for dogs! And kids! Personally, I am attracted to the simplicity of being able to carry my board under my arm to the water and going for a quick paddle, without bothering to put on a sprayskirt and drysuit. Who needs it? Especially during an unseasonably warm day like we had at the Festival (82°F!) And as far as wearing a PFD goes, I got plenty of floatation leashed to my ankle! No need to practice wet-exits, complicated self-rescues, or learn how to roll. That makes it a lot easier to learn than kayaking (but also less satisfying, I might add).
Still conspicuously absent were any homemade wooden paddleboards. Katya and I brought her cedar strip board and set it down on the beach to show it off. We were mostly fishing for compliments before we went off paddling in the lake, but it was also part of an experiment I wanted to conduct. I’ve developed a hypothesis, that certain people are simply blind to wooden boats. I think it falls outside of their perception. It's like they are presented with information that just doesn't fit into their worldview and they don't know what to do with it.
The blindest demographic of all seems to consist of attractive young women, especially ones wearing bikinis. They are like the kittens in the classic 1970 Blakemore and Cooper study, where scientists raised kittens in an experiemental environment consisting only of horizontal stripes. They kittens grew up completely blind to vertical lines and when removed from the experimental environment, kept running into chair legs. In contrast, older people are more likely to see and comment on a wooden board or kayak. The demographic most likely to stop and admire a wooden board appears to consist of older men, especially the ones with a lot of facial hair and a background in engineering. Our observations at the Paddling Festival provided overwhelming support for this hypothesis. If you happen to own a small wooden boat yourself, I challenge you to set it out on a crowded beach one day and see what happens for yourself.
Other Festival highlights:
- They were giving away free SealLine dry bags next to the transparent EddyLine Journey. I picked up a 5L bag!
- The SUP on-land simulator.
- The Dragonboat.
- The native Salish canoe.
- The Aquaglide Multisport 270 compact inflatable sailboat. When you have arrived at your destination, you can use it as a mattress!
Of course the coolest thing of all was the SUP Buddy beverage holder for your SUP. Katya and I had first heard about the SUP Buddy from its inventor, Devin Carroll, at Urban Surf across the street from Gasworks Park in Seattle, and we ran into him again at the Festival. Elegant in its simplicity, the SUP Buddy actually has proven to be amazingly versatile: Devin uses it in his shower not only to hold on to his beverage but also to give him a place to hang his wetsuit, for instance. Check out our interview with Devin in the video.