Stand-up paddleboarding, often referred to as SUP, is a fantastic way to explore waterways and stay active. Whether you plan to cruise on calm lakes, explore harbours or coastlines, ride ocean waves, or explore serene rivers, selecting the right stand-up paddleboard is essential for a successful and enjoyable experience. As a beginner, navigating the world of SUP boards can be overwhelming, but fear not! This beginner’s guide will walk you through the key considerations when choosing a stand-up paddleboard.
Why Stand-Up Paddleboarding?
Before we dive into the details of choosing a SUP board, let’s quickly explore why so many people are drawn to this watersport:
- It’s Accessible to All Ages and Skill Levels: SUP is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, making it an inclusive activity for families and individuals alike.
- It Provides a Full-Body Workout: Paddleboarding engages your core, arms, legs, and back muscles, providing an excellent full-body workout while enjoying nature and getting a dose of Vitamin D.
- It’s Versatile: SUP can be enjoyed on various water bodies, from lakes, rivers, oceans harbours and estuaries, to even small ponds and creeks.
- It’s Relaxing!: Paddleboarding offers a peaceful way to connect with nature, unwind, and reduce stress. You can even do yoga on some SUPs!
Now that you’re excited about the possibilities, let’s explore how to choose the right stand-up paddleboard for your needs.
Types of Stand-Up Paddleboards
SUP boards come in various shapes and sizes, designed for specific purposes and water conditions. Here are the primary types:
- All-Round SUPs: These boards are versatile and suitable for beginners. They perform well in various conditions, from calm lakes to small waves.
- Inflatable SUPs (iSUPs): Perfect for those with limited storage space, or in situations such as on boats where a more forgiving material is preferred, iSUPs are portable and easy to transport. They’re also quite durable and can handle a variety of conditions.
- Surf SUPs: Designed for catching waves, surf SUPs are shorter and more maneuverable, making them suitable for ocean use.
- Touring SUPs: Longer and narrower than all-round boards, touring SUPs are ideal for longer excursions and more efficient paddling over longer distances.
- Racing SUPs: Long and streamlined, racing SUPs are built for speed and are typically reserved for competitive paddlers.
Considerations for Choosing a SUP
Now that you know the different types of SUPs, it’s time to consider various factors when making your selection:
- Board Size & Width: Choose a board size that matches your weight and skill level. The size of your paddleboard is crucial for stability and performance. As a beginner, opt for a board with more volume and width, as these factors contribute to stability. A wider board (around 30-34 inches) is easier to balance on, making it an ideal choice for newcomers.
- Weight Capacity/Volume: Ensure the board can support your weight and any additional gear or passengers you may want to carry. Ensure that the board you choose has a weight capacity that comfortably accommodates your needs. Overloading a paddleboard can compromise stability and safety. There are many ways of trying to work out what size board you should use but there is no exact science when choosing (even if you find a SUP Size Calculator somewhere online). It will vary on your ability to balance as well as the conditions you take it out in. Someone who has not done any paddle boarding before is going to feel a bit wobbly on any board you put them on to start out – the more time they spend on it the stable they will feel. Having lessons or joining a SUP group will help iron out any flaws in your technique which should make balance less of an issue. A good indication is to multiply your body weight by the specified amount below to find an approximate volume and buoyancy that works for your skill level. Eg If you are an intermediate paddler weighing 80kg and mainly touring, a board volume of approximately 160L would be recommended.
- Beginner/Touring: 2.75
- Intermediate/Touring: 2
- Intro Surfer: 1.5
- Experienced Surfer: 1.1
- Board Length: Longer boards (10-12 feet) track straighter and glide faster, while shorter boards (under 10 feet) are more maneuverable. Select the length based on your intended use.
- Board Thickness: Thicker boards provide more buoyancy and stability. Most SUPs are around 4-6 inches thick.
- Materials: SUPs can be made of various materials, including epoxy, fiberglass, carbon and plastic. Inflatable boards are typically made of PVC. Solid stand-up paddle boards are always going to be more efficient through the water as they will not flex at all. They also will have more shape to them – meaning the rails will sharper and harder giving a better release of water and less drag. These more defined rails will be more evident on the surf and race boards and will make the board faster, nimbler and will give you more feeling in what the board is doing. Depending on their construction they may be heavier than their inflatable counter parts but the more you pay the lighter it will be.
- Epoxy: Epoxy boards are rigid and provide excellent performance. They are a bit heavier but offer durability and responsiveness, especially in windy conditions.
- Inflatable (iSUP): Inflatables are made from durable materials like drop-stitch PVC. They are lightweight, easy to transport, and surprisingly rigid when properly inflated. Consider the durability and weight of the material, and the stitching and glue used on inflatables as cheaper options may not last as long.
- Plastic: Plastic boards are incredibly durable and resistant to dings and scratches, making them a good choice for rocky waters or rental fleets. They are also more cost effective.
- Carbon: Carbon boards are the lightest however can be more susceptible to damage.
- Fin Setup: Fins affect the board’s stability and tracking. Most SUPs have a single center fin, which is suitable for cruising in calmer conditions, but some have multiple fins for better stability or maneuverability in the surf. For beginners, a single large fin is generally easier to handle and offers good stability.
- Local vs Overseas Brand: Buying a local brand like PPC will mean better quality & smoother & faster process if there are any warranty issues.
- Transport and Storage: Consider how you will transport and store your SUP. Inflatables are the most convenient for portability.
- Budget: SUPs come in various price ranges. Set a budget and look for options that fit within it, considering additional costs for paddles, safety gear, and accessories. Package deals are common.
- Try Before You Buy: If possible, rent or borrow different types of SUPs to see which one suits you best before making a purchase.
- Accessories: Don’t forget to budget for essential accessories like a paddle, board bag, leash, life jacket and a waterproof bag for your belongings.
Choosing the right stand-up paddleboard is essential to ensure you have a fun and safe experience on the water. Take your time to research and consider your needs, and if possible, consult with our experts or experienced paddlers for additional guidance. Once you’ve selected the perfect SUP, you’ll be ready to embark on countless adventures and enjoy the many physical and mental benefits this sport has to offer. So, grab your board, hit the water, and start paddling your way to a healthier, happier you!