So you’ve decided to get into Stand Up Paddle. Congratulations ! But you might well be a bit lost in the bewildering range of board models there are to choose from. Don’t panic, we’ve put together this concise guide to help you make the best choice possible when you buy your first SUP board.
To choose the perfect Stand Up Paddle for you, especially if you’re a beginner or just an occasional paddler, the first things to look for are the volume and width of the board. These two elements will determine the board’s stability, and are inextricably linked to your body size/weight. The bigger/heavier you are, the more volume and width you need in your SUP. You’ll find a guide to recommended board size/rider weights for optimum stability in the tech specs for each of our boards. These are essential reading before making your board selection.
Beware of over-estimating : a small rider will have more difficulty paddling on a board that is too wide, and an SUP with too much volume will probably feel heavy and cumbersome to manoeuvre.
Final point to consider : if you are looking to purchase an SUP that will be used by various different riders, it would be better to buy a larger size : smaller riders will, all the same, be able to use and enjoy a bigger board, but the inverse is not the case.
There are seven main categories of SUP board : Surf, All-round, Flatwater, Touring, Race, Windsurf and Inflatable.
Depending on the kind of riding you want to do, you need to steer your choice towards the range of boards that will be best suited to that. The descriptions which follow will help. Be aware that there is no such thing as a board that is perfect for all riding styles. It’s all about compromise….
Stand Up Paddle « surf » boards, conceived specifically for surfing waves, are often quite short, usually have a narrow nose and tail width, and have a more pronounced “rocker” (the convex curve of the board/deck between nose and tail).
These characteristics make the boards more manoeuvrable in waves, but noticeably slower and less easy to steer on flat water. They are also less stable, being thinner and therefore having less volume.
These versatile, all-rounder boards have been conceived to ride in all kinds of conditions. They’re well suited to beginners, especially as they allow you to try everything SUP has to offer on one board.
Those boards looks like big, longboard surf boards, with a steep front and rear “rocker” (the convex curve of the board/deck between nose and tail), making them smooth-gliding on flat water, but also giving you response and control for surfing small waves.
Those boards are wider, thicker, and have a less pronounced rocker, giving improved flat water steering control. They’re mainly intended for use on the flat, for activities like exploration, yoga and fishing. Their bigger volume also allows you to carry a child, family pet/animal or bag on the board’s front section.
These boards are designed for long distance exploration paddling on any flat water, and for downwind runs at sea. They’re generally quite wide (for stability) and long, giving more forward speed AND steering control. The nose is often quite pointed, with a “V” shaped hull underneath, helping with straight-line course-holding and avoiding hitting chop full-face. They are usually very stable and are well-suited to beginners.
Designed for serious competition racing on open sea, these boards are usually either 12’6 or 14’ long. These dimensions are what defines the two main categories of board in use on the competition circuit today. Their width (different widths are sometimes available) depends on the skill level and size of rider, given that the narrower the board, the faster it will be, but also the less stable it will be. Race boards are often made from carbon fibre to minimise their weight.
This is an optional extra you might find on some of the all-round “Surf” boards. They’ve got a mast-foot mounting, allowing you to fit a windsurf sail rig to the board. Some, like the 11’6 Performer, also have an integral, retractable dagger board, which improves their upwind performance.
Inflatable SUP boards have the considerable advantage of folding down to a compact carry bag size, of being easily transportable in the boot of your car and of fitting into a cupboard for storage. Great news for anyone living in a small flat or apartment ! This also means they can also be easily taken on board a cruise ship or airplane. All good news and an ideal solution for our more nomadic, wandering paddlers. Built using the super-tough Dropstitch system that allows them to be high-pressure inflated, they are stiff and sturdy in use, although their performance and feel are slightly different from those of conventional rigid boards. They’re also great toys for kids to play on, they’ll love the boards’ “dodgem car” ability to withstand knocks and bumps.