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Are indoor and simulated watersports in our future?

Vol. III, No. 65

An indoor SUP competition at the Dusseldorf Boat Show. Photo by Messe Duesseldorf.

An indoor SUP competition at the Düsseldorf Boat Show. Photo by Messe Duesseldorf.

The end of the year is always a hot time to discuss trends seen over the past 12 months, and/or make predictions for the year ahead. So, what’s the new trend in watersports, aside from the continuing popularity of SUPing?  Could it be indoor watersports?

Indoor and simulated watersports have popped up on my radar screen recently. With a little research, I’ve found out that it truly is a growing industry, and Germany seems to be the mecca of simulated sports. Tom Kaiser explains it an his October article in Boating Industry: “Germany, a country that’s slightly smaller than Montana without the plethora of lakes in the United States, has witnessed a proliferation of cable parks that some predict will be replicated here. At cable parks, a mechanically powered cable pulls skiers, boarders, skaters or surfers across the water, affording them an easy way to ride, without the need for a boat.”

Germany’s seeming dominance in the world of indoor watersports simulation is validated by the veritable amusement park that will be set up at January’s Düsseldorf Boat Show. Though the show is indoors, as the average temp in Düsseldorf in January is barely above the freezing point, visitors have the opportunity to scuba dive, paddleboard, canoe, kayak, wakeboard, fly fish, try their hands at underwater photography, and even (believe it or not) sail an Opti or other dinghy at the show. Apparently, they have wind machines. Take a look at the brochure, which includes this map of activity locations on page 6, and tell me you don’t want to go!

Germany’s doing it, but will it happen here? Perhaps. Cable parks are popping up rapidly in the US as well. In 2014, a 90-acre lake-based watersports park is set to open in the Miami area, where “real” watersports are available right nearby, and year-round! I tried an indoor surfing simulator in Clearwater Beach just last weekend. The local surf shop chain, previously known only for selling cheesy t-shirts, is now home to a standing-wave surfing facility. It’s a popular activity for everybody from tourists to kids at birthday parties, and even at least one local retiree!

With the recent success of indoor recreation areas like the Sono Field House, which was recently converted from industrial space to a popular indoor sports and rock climbing simulation facility, could there be an opportunity for indoor watersports or a cable park in Fairfield County? Nothing can replace Long Island Sound, but I can’t say I would mind going wakeboarding without having to check the tide!