Yes and no. Paddle Boarding has definitely been growing in popularity over the last few years but it has been around far longer than that. Paddle Boards are essentially long modified surf boards. They can be laid upon and paddled in the manner of a surf boarder but they are made to be stood up on. Then you use a long paddle with a bend in it to provide a more powerful thrust. To successfully use paddle boards you have to keep your eyes on the horizon instead of looking down and paddle like the gondoliers in Venice would. It is a great cardiovascular exercise and there are a lot of athletes that are using it for cross training purposes.
It started back with the kings of the Hawaiian Islands. They used the boards specifically for this purpose and in 1926 Tom Blake was restoring surf boards from that era to put in a museum. He modified an OLO surfboard by drilling holes in it to lighten it and covering it with material to stand on. Two years later Blake won the first ever, Mainland surfing contest. With the same board he broke virtually every record for paddling a board and many held until as late as 1956. Thus the first paddle board was born. Even though the boards have continued to evolve Paddle board Manufacturers and Retailers sell boards that still use some of Blake’s original design principles.
Even with Blake’s notoriety the board remained a subset of surfing in the eyes of many until resurgence in the 1980’s. Norm Shifren won a Watermans Race that consisted of a 22 mile race from Point Dume to Malibu. That win caught the attention of a surf inflatable paddle board journalist by the name of Craig Lockwood. Lockwood Began production of a professional quality Paddle Board called the Waterman in honor of the race. Boards with that design have won more races than any other and is still a popular type to this day. Soon after that manufacturers in L.A began turning out 300 to 400 paddle boards, which is half of the total sales, per year in the United States. Many new races dedicated to Paddle Sports started to spring up across the country and it continues to grow in popularity.
Online message boards and meeting places for Paddle Board enthusiast are becoming more prevalent and it has never been easier to get started in the sport. eBay and other online auction sites are great places to look for beginners gear but to get the best prices you may want to wait till winter. A new board can run from 3 to 4 thousand dollars but you can sometimes find a good deal on a used board in the off season.