She is one of the most famous stars in German windsurfing history: Hamburg-based Andrea Hoeppner has been crowned World Champion three times and celebrated as Champion countless times. She enjoys living her passion for wind and wave sports with a big heart and in a versatile way in the waters of her second home, the northern German island Fehmarn. As a successful owner of the agency Hoeppner Sport- und Markenkommunikation and strategic advisor to boot Düsseldorf for a dynamic dozen years, the active windsurfer, wingfoiler and SUP connoisseur gives an overview of the most important trends in the surfing and fun water sports industry for a fresh restart after the pandamic.
By Andrea Hoeppner
We cannot direct the wind. But we can adjust the sails – and the wings. Following Aristoteles wise philosophy, I am currently looking at the trends and developments in the industry. After one and a half years of pandemic activity, you can tell: Yes, there have been some major changes. But fortunately, most of them are positive new discoveries in terms of surfing and fun water sports as well as multi-talented and increasingly sustainable materials. Let us first look at the water sports areas, because this is the area where the most dramatic shift has taken place.
POWERED BY NEW EQUIPMENT: HOME WATERS ON THE RISE
Initially caused by the long period of travel restrictions, our home waters are enjoying new discovery or rediscovery. In pre-pandemic times, it’s been normal for board fans to fly to their dream destinations and just borrow their equipment there. Accordingly, many surfers had no own equipment at home. The motto was similar to the one in ski vacation: We only do this in our holidays anyways. Because of the following travel restrictions, it became necessary and soon very popular to focus on domestic inland lakes or coastal areas. It quickly became clear to many: only own equipment would ensure independence and flexibility in uncertain times. This phenomenon has been positively felt by the industry. More equipment was sold again. Large slalom-material, SUPs and all-in-one boards for inland lakes are all in vogue. Many of them are all-rounders with an extra plus for the whole family as you can also teach your children to drive around in lighter winds. The multi-talented equipment is patient and provides a lot of fun even when the wind is low.
This development has led to a pleasing chain reaction: Firstly, people had to stay at home. The manufacturers reacted to this and made the best out of it. Our scenic inland lakes and coastal areas on the North and Baltic Seas have demonstrated their potential. In the meantime, the holiday at home, enhanced with optimized materials, has become increasingly enjoyable, the discovery of new areas on your own doorstep anyway. People are happy, prefer to invest their money in good equipment and enjoy their vacation in home waters. I am experiencing this very intensively myself on Fehmarn: The island was almost fully booked long before the peak season. The surf schools observe a very similar development. I hear the same from friends from all corners of the Republic. The entire German water sports family is experiencing a powerful revival. Other European countries report the same positive trends.
WATER SPORTS PARKS: TESTING, LEARNING AND HAVING FUN
Operators of water sports parks for water ski fans, wakeboarders or surfers do feel the upswing too. Wakeboarding is so popular that parks spring up like mushrooms. The water ski and surf resort in Langenfeld, Rhineland, is one of Germany’s magnet attractions in that field, which is constantly expanding and modernizing its offer in response to the increasing demand. Fehmarn now also has a wakeboard park. People are queuing because it’s such fun for beginners as well as advanced. It’s great for kids, teenagers and seniors. It’s easy to learn water skiing and wakeboarding in those parks. In addition, there usually is an attractive gastronomic offer including beach bar atmosphere. People are storming what is within striking distance by car or by train. Long before the current boom, the Associations of German Water Sports Schools (VDWS) was able to report that even during the pandemic period there were no major slides in Europe. From the German and European perspective, the European market has more or less grown by what has been lost overseas.
WINGS FOR EVERYONE: WHY WINGSURFING IS SO POPULAR
My current favorite topic is wingsurfing – yes, right: with a G instead of a D – the trend topic par excellence. Simply put, it’s about windsurfing with an inflatable wing that is not connected to the board. You hold it in your hands. This works on boards with or without foil and even for stand-up paddling, because wings at the front of the long board hardly take up space when uninflated. For example, you can paddle a route and use the wing for propulsion on your way back. I think wings provide freedom. My personal favorite at present is wingsurfing on a foil. I have tripled my water time because I have a lot more fun in lower wind ranges than windsurfing in the same conditions. And you don’t have to be afraid of tangling lines like with a kite, where powerful forces can easily cause problems. Everything is simple with a wing and comparatively easy to learn and handle. You can be on the water quickly with this “wing thing”. On the shorter boards, which are often even shorter than the shortest windsurf boards, you benefit from fast and impressive lift when wingsurfing on a foil, even in lighter winds. Then the main thing is to control the altitude. Because we are not driving, we are flying. This creates a sublime feeling and a very quiet pleasure.
FOR WOMEN AND MEN: KITING CELEBRATES A DOUBLE OLYMPIC PREMIERE
2024 is the time! In the French olympic waters off Marseille, the kiters are surfing for medals. And that won’t happen – as originally planned – in mixed teams. At the beginning of June, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that women and men will each hold their own competition. The athletic factor, the visually fascinating and beautiful sport and the wide wind range in which kite sport can be practiced, have made the sport on foils a new Olympic attraction, which is sure to trigger more waves of enthusiasm. In addition, I am delighted that windsurfing on the iQ-Foil for women and men will also be honored at the Olympic Games in 2024 and will hopefully have a further pull-effect for surfing in general.
SURPRISING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SUP MARKET: HOW QUANTITY CAN LEAD TO QUALITY
There were times when the SUP industry looked with concern towards discount stores and cheap offers of SUP equipment. There were whole sets for only 250, 300 Euros to buy. The brand manufacturers feared the loss of their market share. But it did not turn out as bad as many expected. It wasn’t the dedicated stand-up paddlers who used to spend 800 Euros or more on good material in the store and now stormed the supermarkets. It was a brand-new group of SUP interested beginners who found their ways to SUP sport through the low-priced offers. And some of them were so enthusiastic that she or he later changed to better material. Which is a really nice development.
The SUP market offers very different boards for all possible purposes. The current winners are the so-called Touring Boards. They are a bit narrower and longer and can be paddled straight over long distances. Additionally, they offer space for small (picnic) luggage on the bow. For newcomers, however, I would recommend wider boards and definitely a professional instruction or participation in a course. This makes a lot more sense than you might expect at first glance. SUP driving is not always as easy and harmless as it looks. The most important rule for beginners: In offshore wind, there is a clear and simple “no” to taking off with an SUP. Apply the same rules as you would for a swimming mattress or similar water toys. In the waters of the northern German island of Fehmarn, for example, the sea rescuers always position themselves offshore and leeward off the beaches, waiting there to collect the ones blown offshore. They unfortunately never get bored in high season. We make every effort at and together with the boot Düsseldorf every year to convey import information like this, supported by many experts and the Association of German Windsurf Schools (VDWS) in the Surf sport hall 8a of the leading international water sports exhibition. In case you are not in a position to afford a course or do not find the time, you can always start by watching relevant videos on YouTube. But I stick to my recommendation to better learn from and with experienced professionals as it is a) fun, b) you meet like-minded people to share your passion with and c) it still is the best basic training for safety on the water.
FOR A BETTER FUTURE:SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS ARE ON THE RISE
The following applies to the entire surfing and fun water sports industry: There is a strong increase in the development and the production of sustainable materials. Everyone is working to avoid ecological damage as much as possible. With the exception of low-cost providers, I note that the will to do so is now very strong. The manufacturers take responsibility. This is a clear trend. My recommendation to the buyers: Find out more, ask for it! If in doubt and if possible, rather spend a few more Euros to reward this commitment and thus help driving the development into the right direction. A simple example: There are solvent-containing adhesives and unfortunately also very volatile plasticizers. If you ever had a new inflatable rubber animal in your car, you might remember the terrible smell. You can be sure that this is not healthy for your family and yourself. There are solvent-free and therefore much healthier solutions leading to the same or better quality. It is also worth thinking about the lifespan of a water sports product. Cheaper usually breaks down faster… And then what? Those looking for a longer lifespan, better prepare to invest a little more. As a reward you do not need to dispose the device too quickly at the expense of the environment.
THE NEW TREND-LOOKS: POWERFUL COLORS AND RETRO DESIGNS
To highlight its 40th anniversary, the windsurf manufacturer Fanatic, founded in 1981 by German Admiral’s Cup winner Udo Schütz, has launched a new retro-look board series. With their purple decks and Mosquito pattern prints, they are reminiscent of the boards in the 1990s, which were super popular and known as “Falcon”, “Mamba” oder “Ultra Mosquito” and are now enjoying a colorful comeback with a high fun factor. Starboards, for example, dance over the waves like a fresh blue breeze, highlighted by orange or yellow accents. In the loft of the sailmaker NeilPryde, currently color gradients are en vogue. In kite sports, producers often rely on their own recurring colors for better brand recognition. Sails show up in colored block stripes, in stylish black and white designs or in almost romantic pastel creations. This versality ensures that there are almost no limits to one’s own preferences. Which, as a good picture, fits perfectly with surfing and board sport and their many facets.
About boot Düsseldorf
With 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the largest boat and water sports fair in the world and the meeting point for the entire industry every year in January. Around 2,000 exhibitors present their interesting innovations, attractive new developments and maritime equipment. The next boot will take place in Düsseldorf from 22 to 30 January 2022. The nine-day fair with 220,000 square meters in 17 different halls will host the international market and offer an exciting insight into the entire world of water sports. There is something for everyone here. The focus is on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities, beach resorts and chartering. All necessary information can be found on the boot Düsseldorf website, boot.com.
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