In the market for a stand-up paddleboard? Here are some options

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PINELLAS PARK — When stores were partially closed during the height of the pandemic, Timothy Leonard remembers the staff at Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure being busier than ever. Customers weren’t allowed inside, but they could make purchases from outside.

Leonard, supervisor of the kayak and stand-up paddleboard department, hopped from customer to customer and marked boards with “sold” tags to avoid duplicate sales.

“We couldn’t keep (paddleboards) in stock,” Leonard, 30, of St. Petersburg said. “We would have people coming all hours of the day coming to get them. . … Who knows how many we sold per day?”

It wasn’t a short-term trend. The Sports and Fitness Association tracks participation rates for more than 100 sports in the United States. Since 2016, the first year on the current report, stand-up paddleboarding has grown every year.

In 2021, the association reported 3.789 million participants, up from 3.675 million in 2020 and 3.562 million in 2019. From 2020-21, the sport grew 1.8%, according to the report. From 2019 to 2021, it grew 5%.

“It has become way past a fad or a regionally specific thing or maybe even (drawing) a certain kind of participant and has become much more mainstream, much more part of the American recreation (stage),” said Tom Cove, the association’s CEO. “It’s a really viable long-term thing.”

With indoor activities limited during the pandemic, Cove said the sport became attractive to many looking to explore the outdoors. With more time on their hands, they could learn the sport with ease and make it part of their lifestyle.

“It’s easy, it’s accessible, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of skill,” Cove said.

Leonard suspects word-of-mouth helped grow the sport’s popularity over the past three years. In addition, the Tampa Bay area offers a perfect oasis for outdoor enthusiasts looking to get out on the water.

Bill Jackson’s offers a variety of paddleboards, including inflatable ones that have grown increasingly popular. Pre-pandemic, Leonard said the store sold maybe 15 inflatable paddleboards in a year. Today, they sell about 15 a week.

Leonard, who has spent the past 10 years paddleboarding, said he likes its openness (as opposed to a kayak) and better sight lines.

“You can see more, because you’re up higher, so you can see down into the water,” Leonard said. “You can see all the different turtles or fish or shells or whatever you want to see by standing instead of sitting down low in the water.”

Looking for a paddleboard? Here are some popular options. Prices are Bill Jackson’s:

Bote HD 12-foot

The 12-foot board is helpful for newcomers looking to travel longer distances. However, its weight could be a deterrent for those who might need help lifting it on and off the top of a vehicle and getting it in and out of the water.

Price: $1,799

Board dimensions: 12 feet x 32 inches

Board weight: 45 pounds

Capacity: 315 pounds

Material: Gatorshell technology

Bote HD 10-foot-6

Similar to the HD 12, this build is good for newcomers wanting to explore the local waters, especially around St. Petersburg/Clearwater. Its shortened length makes it easier to move around in and lighter to carry.

Price: $1,499

Board dimensions: 10-6 x 30

Board weight: 38 pounds

Capacity: 240 pounds

Material: Gatorshell technology

Bote Breeze Aero 10-foot-8 Inflatable

Easy to pack in a bag without having to worry about tying it down to a car rack. Doesn’t take up much storage space, so it’s a good fit for those in condos or apartments. Can be more affordable than a solid board.

Price: $699

Board dimensions: 10-8 x 33

Board weight: 20 pounds

Capacity: 250 pounds

Material: Inflatable AeroULTRA technology

SIC Mangrove

Great for fitness, it allows users to get in a workout while on the water. The fiberglass material is lighter than the Bote boards, making it easier to haul. However, it is more fragile and susceptible to damage. Popular for beginners who might be looking to do yoga on the water due to its stability.

Price: $1,499.95

Board dimensions: 11-6 x 33

Board weight: 34.2 pounds

Capacity: 220 pounds

Material: Dragon-Fly technology

SIC Okeanos

Great for gliding quickly through the water, it’s a good fit for those more comfortable with the sport. Its narrower shape helps build speed with ease.

Price: $1,999.95

Board dimensions: 11 x 28

Board weight: 27.3 pounds

Capacity: 190 pounds

Material: Dragon-Fly technology

Have an outdoor adventure we should try? Curious about the ins and outs of fishing seasons in Florida? Know a cool business or owner to profile? Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.