It's just not surfing
Amongst all modes of wave riding, Stand Up Paddleboarding - or SUPing - is the most recent to be popularised. It has a long history, of course, being first used by the Waikiki Beach Boys while teaching cashed up haoles how to surf in the first half of last century.
SUPing all but disappeared till the turn of the century when it was reinvigorated by a small cohort of Hawaiian revivalists. Since then it’s become so popular that, unofficially at least, SUPing is considered the fastest growing water sport. The rapid expansion has been noted by various organisations and has now caused a tug-of-war at the Olympic level.
At the heart of the matter is both the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the International Canoe Federation (ICF) claiming ancestry over SUP. Despite it’s beachside heritage, the ICF is arguing that the use of a paddle automatically makes SUP part of its organisation. They deem the correct name of the sport Stand Up Canoeing, which would change the name to SUCing and be given the nod of approval by some surfers.
The backdrop to the quarrel is SUPs seemingly inevitable rise to Olympic status. It was recently included in the 2018 Youth Olympics and pundits expect it to be elevated to the Olympics proper very shortly. When that happens the sport can expect a big revenue hit. Likewise the body that governs it. Cue the wrangle for dollars.
A quick read shows this to be a classic power struggle. For the last ten years the ISA has been expanding their reach, accrediting countries, many of them landlocked or with negligible surfing potential, to bolster their Olympic case. Many SUP events are flatwater races held in rivers far from the coast. Wave riding doesn’t come into it but the ISA opportunistically calls it ‘surfing’.
This inland incursion challenges the ICA in their traditional powerhouse countries. There’s also the matter that one style of canoeing - the C1, or sprint canoe - is very similar to SUPing and has been an Olympic sport since 1924.
While this story will barely affect most surfers it provides a cautionary tale as surfing proper - actual wave riding that is - becomes an Olympic plaything. At present the ISA is the surfing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee, however for surfing in the Olympics to work it needs the best surfers in the world. Read: Championship Tour surfers - and they’re all WSL athletes.
At present the ISA and WSL are co-operating, but as more money flows into surfing from government bodies and wagon-hopping sponsors the possibility for dust ups such as the above increases.
The current brawl between the ISA and ICF will be mediated in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.