Published in Stand Up Magazin #23 Spring 2023
How SUP sport came to Ukraine and was expelled again.
Andriy Anisimov founded his Rapid SUP brand in Kiev in 2017, having been involved in paddle sports for a long time before that, like many people in Eastern Europe. He worked together with a bigger company from Canada, which mainly produced kayaks and canoes for rentals. Around 2016, the company also offered him paddleboards. Andriy was immediately intrigued by the idea of stand-up paddling. “We don’t have opportunities to surf in Ukraine, but SUP made me feel like I was riding a wave with a paddle. Unfortunately, however, the boards were very heavy and unwieldy,” Andriy tells.
It was very hard to get a board in Ukraine and the ones that were available were very expensive. Andriy then decided in 2017 to start his own SUP brand.
“I had three contacts from manufacturers, one for carbon boards, one for inflatables and one for paddles. So I decided to fly to China to see what was possible,” says Andriy. In 2018, the first SUPs went on the market. He created a race team together with Oleksii Sidenko, one of the first and best SUP paddlers in Ukraine. The first race the Rapid SUP race team participated in was the GlaGla Race.
Andriy: “We met there with Leo Nika to discuss the possibility of bringing his brother Claudio into the team for the EURO TOUR, that’s how it all started.”
In the meantime, they built an active SUP community in Kiev. The sport was very well received. The first SUP race, if you can call it that, was integrated into a kayak marathon.
„We brought all the people who owned a SUP to Kiev. Many paddled on inflatables and on our rental hardboards from Canada. In miserable weather, about 70 paddlers started and we sent them on a 10 km race course. This was the first ever SUP race in Ukraine.“
The whole thing took place on the large water reservoir of the Dnieper north of Kiev. The conditions were not very easy, but now the sport of SUP had arrived in Ukraine. The participants were all happy to be there. After the first success, more SUP events were organized. Now also on the coast to the Black Sea, such as in Odesa or Chornomorsk. Andriy carried the sport to cities traditionally associated with paddle sports to introduce SUP as a new trend. The whole thing took place on the large water reservoir of the Dnieper north of Kiev. The conditions were not very easy, but now the sport of SUP had arrived in Ukraine. The participants were all happy to be there. After the first success, more SUP events were organized. Now also on the coast to the Black Sea, such as in Odesa or Chornomorsk. Andriy carried the sport to cities traditionally associated with paddle sports to introduce SUP as a new trend.
With the introduction of the sport, at some point the question of organization arose. Where should the new SUP enthusiasts of Ukraine be accommodated? Andriy founded the Ukrainian SUP and Surfing Federation and contacted the ISA. But unfortunately there were problems with another request from Odesa. Andriy sat down with Capser Steinfath to discuss some problems. Unfortunately, the inclusion of SUP in Ukraine was delayed for a couple of years because of the competition from Odesa, which blocked the ISA. Andriy suggested to the surfers in Odesa that together they would create an organization in which they would manage the surfing sport and take care of the SUP sport. Unfortunately, the competitors from Odesa rejected the proposal. After a few years, the ISA surprisingly decided to accept the surfers from Odesa as a member of the ISA.
Andriy: “After this decision, we turned to ICF. We needed an international organization that would recognize SUP sport in Ukraine. Our Ministry of Sport requires national organizations to be incorporated into an international body in order to gain national recognition.”
In the meantime, however, the dispute over SUP supremacy has subsided and Ukrainian SUP athletes can also participate in ISA races. For example, Ukrainian Damodara Mokhniuk also participated in the European Championships in Denmark.
Foto: Damodara on the Black Sea
Andriy first built his brand around board rentals in his region. Everything revolved around Inflatable Touring boards in the size around 12’6″, which are relatively wide so that the customer can comfortably stand on them. However, Andriy also had his first missteps: “Initially, we also tried to sell SUPs that can be used for fishing. Unfortunately, these boards were not well received, so we stopped production again.”
With his enthusiasm for SUP racing, Andriy naturally also manufactures raceboards: “We produce Inflatable SUP raceboards adapted to the ICF amateur class. Since 2018 we also produce hardboards, but at the moment mainly for our race team.”
However, making raceboards has its pitfalls and since starting five years ago, Andriy has had to change manufacturers a few times. But now they have found a good partner in Prestol Composites in Latvia. Andriy is responsible for the shape, which he develops together with the team. Then the first prototype is built and tested.
Damodara Mokhinuk has been a big part of Rapid SUP for a few years now. He is actively involved in SUP racing. Living in Graz and growing up in Izmail on the Danube south of Odesa. Damodara has been an active paddler since 2014 and was then in the paddling club at his place. In 2017, the club bought SUPs from Rapid and everyone was excited. The club grew and Damodara competed in his first SUP race with the 2018 Ukrainian SUP Championship. Damodara became the Junior National Champion and three years later he participated in his first international race with the Rapid team in Hungary at the ICF World Championships.
Everything was going great, the team and the sport were under construction. But then Russia decided to attack its neighboring country. Andriy had to adapt to the new situation very quickly.
Andriy: “In January 2022 we were still at the GlaGla Race with our team and when we were back home in Kiev, the first bombs fell at the end of February. The Russian invasion destroyed about 80% of our business.”
Andriy lost all his income from the rentals. The Black Sea coast near Odesa was no longer safe as the Russians mined the coast. Rapid SUP lost all its customers in Ukraine in a very short time. It quickly became clear that if Andriy wanted to continue with Rapid SUP, he would have to move the headquarters out of the country. Andriy found an investor for his brand in Poland and thus moved the business to Poland.
Andriy: “Our containers were already ready for shipment when we moved to Poland. It took us almost a whole year to complete all the formalities for the move. I couldn’t leave the country during that time because I was drafted for military duty.”
At the beginning of 2023, Andriy will be able to take care of his business again and will be ready for Europe-wide sales.
Damodara is currently in Graz, where he is staying with Christian Taucher and preparing for the 2023 SUP season. His first big race this year is the SUP Alpstrophy on the Faaker See.
Andriy is currently in Kiev and continues to work on raceboard development. Together with Hungarian canoe marathon world champion Marton Kover, who is also on the Rapid SUP team, he is working together to build the sport of SUP in Eastern Europe.
Find more infos under www.rapid-sup.com / Socialmedia @rapidsup