The sport of stand up paddle boarding is winning more followers in the Bay, as either a flat water harbour activity - a new, fun way to surf – or both.
Also known as ‘SUP’, short for stand up paddle boarding, the sport which originated in Hawaii has swept round the world, becoming ever wider in its appeal along the way. There are now boards for the surf, flat water cruising, racing, ocean trekking, river running, etc.
The barrier for most newbies has been cost (upwards of $2000), closely followed by the sheer bulk of the boards. Most beginner SUP boards start at ten feet plus, however the game has now changed with the arrival of Red Air inflatable boards – designed by a British SUP champ and manufactured in Taiwan. The actual production process is ‘top secret’ but it’s based on a sandwich composite of the rugged synthetic rubber used in inflatables (IRB’s).
New Zealand distributor of the Red Airs is NZ Paddle Company based in the Bay of Islands. Chief company enthusiast Bill Dawe describes them as way better than kayaking – and without the back strain. For a start, you’ve eliminated the need to manhandle a large board on and off your roof rack. The only modest effort comes in pumping up your Red to a ‘rock solid’ 15 psi. (Every board comes in its own kit bag with a repair kit, Scoprega (Italian-made) hand pump.)
Bill Dawes points to the pleasures of cruising coastal areas from a standing position, with great views down into the water. It’s a delightful way to get up close and personal with nature, he says.
All sorts of people have bought Reds, from families who want a robust board ‘for beach or bach,’ to boaties keen to replace their weighty plastic sit-on kayak strapped to the deck, with something more user friendly. They can even be towed behind a boat as a ‘scurfer.’
They make a great learner’s surf board (Reds weigh 12kg and harmlessly bounce off you in a wipe out), or a perfect play platform for the kids in the sea, or lake.
Your editor test drove an 11 foot Red and found a surprisingly satisfying experience: the boards paddle well and feel light and lively but with plenty of stability. Don’t for a moment think this is something like trying to stand on a lilo - the stiffness, construction and design provide a stable platform. Bill rightly points out they don’t demand the same ‘sweet spot’ (perfect point of balance) approach as a solid stand-up board. Reds are much more forgiving on where you place your feet.
If ever there was craft that could lay claim to being an affordable all-rounder for the sport, this is coming close. The Reds come in two basic sizes. The Red Air Eleven (3.35 metres), the most stable, retails for $1199 – far cheaper than most stand-ups even selling second hand. The Red Air Ten, also costing 1149 is more wave-orientated but still stable at 29 inches across.
Bill’s NZ Paddle Company offers a range of well-priced paddles that start from $89 for a fixed length aluminium model to $164 for a high quality three piece adjustable fibreglass paddle. He claims an adjustable aluminium paddle at $129 is the ‘best budget option’ on the market, if your board is likely to be used by people of different heights.
Price aside, the bottom-line value of these boards lies with their roll-up portability. Sling a Red in the car – off you go.
If you want to take my board for a spin, phone Grant Dyson on 027-668 6242, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information: www.thepaddlecompany.co.nz