Source: Fanatic & Sebastian Schoeffel

What’s SUP?

It’s been the hottest trend sport over the last two summers: stand-up paddling, SUP for short. There is hardly a lake or river on which the stand-up paddlers do not cruise up and down with their boards. An integral part of this trendy leisure sport on water consists of technical textiles.

According to legend, stand-up paddling goes back to Polynesian fishermen and surf instructors on Hawaii. The latter stood with paddles on their surfboard, to get a better view of their surfing students. Then in the early 2000s stand-up paddling spilled over from Hawaii to the rest of the world. Since then it has also developed in our local waters to a leisure sport of its own. For many years, however, hard-core water-sport fans in particular have been punting with their paddle boards across the water. “Between 2015 and 2018 the market seemed saturated, at that time sales figures were hardly rising”, says Daniel Aeberli, product manager at Fanatic. With a market share of ten percent, the Bavarian sports-products manufacturer is one of the biggest firms to surf the stand-up paddle trend in Europe.

Source: Fanatic & Klaas Voget

No longer a niche product: just like stand-up paddling, technical textiles are constantly developing from niche items to mass goods / Photo: Fanatic & Klaas Voget

Stand-up paddling replacing holiday flyers

But in the last two summers the wind has changed. In Germany alone, according to estimates, around 200,000 rigid and inflatable SUP boards were sold in 2020. “That has a lot to do with the weather but also with the fact that discount stores like Lidl are now also selling paddle boards – and of course with the coronavirus”, Aeberli explains the trend. Initially the consequences of the lockdown, including short-time working and delivery bottlenecks, were felt significantly at Fanatic, where surfboards, kite hang-gliders and neoprene suits are also manufactured.

But, starting in May, orders suddenly rocketed, Aeberli remembers. The reason: because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions and associated uncertainties, many people were (and are) choosing “staycations” – i.e. in their home waters. Plus the fact that anyone can learn stand-up paddling, without any great experience in water sports. While beginners, on boards up to five metres long, can manage about 8 kilometres an hour, professionals can make a good 14 kilometres an hour (by comparison, pedestrians walk at about 5 kilometres an hour). And right at the front in this water-sport trend of the hour come technical textiles.

Source: Fanatic & Thomas Marzusch

The stand-up paddling boom, in which technical textiles are playing a major part, shows: even after decades technical textiles are still a trend-setting material. / Photo: Fanatic & Thomas Marzusch

Fibres to travel

Thus in the rigid composite SUP boards, along with a styropor core and bamboo, you will also find glass and carbon fibres. “The layers of fibre, arranged in a sandwich construction, bring stability and rigidity to the boards”, explains Aeberli. That makes for a very immediate feeling of movement, he says. But even in the inflatable SUPs, the boards which you blow up with air, Fanatic makes great use of fibres. Thus the inflatables, weighing eight to eleven kilograms, consist of drop stitch. For this material, which is also used for HGV tarpaulins, tens of thousands of fine and tear-resistant nylon fibres are woven together and then covered with PVC. “Drop stitch is produced in a lengthy process which combines a number of working stages”, explains Aeberli. But, he says, it is worth it, since that makes the inflatable SUP boards light, dimensionally stable and easy to pack. To stand out from the cheaper suppliers, who are also surfing the SUP trend, at Fanatic they purposely place great emphasis on quality in their textile materials and processes, says Aeberli. “For you know the saying: pay peanuts and you get monkeys.”

Ronny Eckert

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