Are you looking to buy a new paddle board this summer? Perhaps you need a helping hand on how to choose a paddle board that’s perfect for you?
First-time buyers can get overwhelmed with technical terms and knowing what to look for in a SUP. So much so that it can actually become quite stressful.
But fear not.
We’ve compiled a list of eight crucial things you need to know before choosing and buying a paddle board. From the different types of boards, hull shapes, storing factors and to what it all actually means.
Yes, we cover it all.
With our help and this guide, you can choose a stand up paddle board without the stress and with the confidence that you’re making the right choice.
Let’s dive right in.
Before you pick out a SUP, there are some things you need to know beforehand. You need to consider your skill level, what type of paddle boarding activity you want to do, and where you will be paddling.
You also need to think about how you are going to store the board — along with the accessories that go with it.
It’s no good getting a Race SUP if you want to do paddle board yoga. And likewise, an All-Around SUP will limit more advanced riders from reaching a race and touring pace.
Deciding what type of paddling you want to do is a significant factor you have to determine before taking the plunge and buying a SUP.
The different types of paddle boards play an essential role in the shape and performance. Some are more suited for beginners, while others are designed for specific branches of the sport.
All-Around SUPs are perfect paddle boards for beginners learning the basics. These boards have a wide deck and rounded nose that give excellent stability while you find your balance. They’re also a popular choice for experienced riders who want a versatile board to keep up with any adventure thrown at them — such as fishing, ocean exploring, or lake cruising.
If long distances and endurance paddling is your thing, then you should consider getting a Touring SUP. Long-distance paddling is made easy with the pointed nose and displacement hull cutting through the water. These paddle boards allow for more speed and track straighter than an all-around SUP.
Similar to Touring SUPs, there are some highly specialized paddle boards out there dedicated to racing. These tend to be constructed using carbon as the primary material to ensure the board is as lightweight as possible. However, it’s worth mentioning that you can find decent inflatable paddle boards designed for racing as well.
We don’t recommend Race SUPs for beginners or anyone wanting a versatile option. The shape and construction of a racing paddle board do come with some restrictions.
SUP Yoga is becoming increasingly popular. With wide decks and stable dimensions, you can take your downward-facing dog and tree pose onto the water. But don’t assume it will be super easy — the added element of water challenges the yoga basics on a paddle board.
Yoga stand up paddle boards have a lot of similarities with All-Around SUPs. They are versatile in design and perform well in a variety of environments.
Taking your paddle boarding to the waves is great fun and a challenge to your skills. You can try basic SUP surfing with an all-around type board. However, with less volume and a large rocker in a Surf SUP, you can have better maneuverability and catch waves more easily.
Anglers can reach hard-to-reach locations with specially designed paddle boards, allowing a better vantage point to catch more fish. Fishing SUPs feature wide decks to provide further stability. They are loaded with useful accessories, like bungee cords, d-rings to secure tackle boxes, ice chests, rods, and safety jackets.
The inflatable or solid SUP debate is one of the most commonly discussed areas of the paddle boarding world. There are pros and cons to both. You need to consider the different aspects for yourself and determine what paddle board is right for you.
There are a lot of myths about inflatable paddle boards. But that’s it — they are only myths. With developing technologies and high-grade materials, inflatable paddle boards are as good as epoxy SUPs. They can even be better in some areas.
As you glide over the water, more experienced paddlers will probably notice a slight difference in how the ride feels. Fiberglass boards tend to give a smoother ride than the inflatable counterpart. That being said, a decent quality iSUP fully inflated provides a more comfortable ride for longer durations.
Hard paddle boards can be easier to maneuver and are better suited for surfing with a SUP. However, inflatable paddle boards offer greater stability which helps beginners and is suited perfectly for SUP yoga, SUP fishing, and gentle cruises with friends.
Epoxy paddle boards damage easily and often get dinged if they’re not handled with appropriate care. Water can get into the EPS foam core through small cracks in the fiberglass, which results in the SUP becoming heavier.
However, high-quality inflatable boards use military-grade PVC and drop stitch technology to provide superb construction and excellent durability. iSUPs are designed to withstand bumping and knocking into things without tearing or getting damaged.
A beginner-friendly SUP needs to offer stability to help the rider find their balance and learn the basics. Stability comes from the dimensions (length, width, and thickness), volume, and the board’s general shape.
An All-Around SUP is an ideal style for beginners because of the wider decks and rounder noses. The shaping provides more surface area for beginner paddlers to stand on.
Inflatable SUPs: 10’0 to 116’ long and 31” to 35” wide
Hard/Epoxy SUPs: 10’0-11’ long and 32” to 35” wide
The volume of a stand up paddle board relates to the amount of float provided. You need to consider the weight of the rider and their experience level. You can quickly work out the volume required for a beginner board by looking at SUP Size & Weight Charts.
They use a simple formula and multiply the rider’s weight (in pounds) by 1.1 or 1.4.
For example: 175 lbs (rider weight) + 10 lbs of gear, multiplied by 1.4 = 259L. Generally, a beginner rider should be looking for anything between 185L and 260L.
Paddle boards have two basic shapes of the Hull (The Underneath of the SUP). These affect how the board cuts through water and how easy it is to paddle.
Knowing where you will be taking your paddle boarding adventures is a key aspect to determine before buying SUP boards. Have you got a beautiful lake on your doorstep? How about the ocean or an estuary? The environment and surrounding conditions play a massive role in how you should be choosing a SUP board.
Paddling in the ocean comes with some challenges you need to keep in mind:
Remember always to check the swell and wind forecasts to ensure you get the safest window to paddle in. And always respect the ocean. Generally, the water’s surface is choppy. So keep this in mind as you will need a board with greater stability to help you out.
If you want to give SUP surfing a go, look for a board with a larger rocker and shorter length to help catch and carve the waves.
Lakes and bays offer perfect conditions for flatwater paddling. This is the ideal place for beginners to learn the basics and to give SUP yoga a go. It’s also a common setting for anglers to cast their rods; however, river and ocean paddling offers fishing opportunities as well.
Remember to keep safe on flat water and keep a watch for hazards:
Most types of paddle boards will be suitable for flatwater paddling. This is often a great place to do speed training on touring boards.
Adrenaline junkies may want to test their skills on rivers and white water rapids. For this adventure, inflatable paddle boards are recommended to withstand bumps and a rugged environment. Trekking with a SUP is also a super cool experience, and with an iSUP, you can take your equipment up any mountain to high altitude lakes for something truly spectacular.
That said, not all rivers are raging. There are plenty of gentle meandering waterways perfect for a relaxing cruise for a lazy day on the water.
You also have to make sure you understand any state laws or regulations in the area you will be paddling. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) now classifies paddle boards as “vessels.” Specific rules come with this when operating outside of the limits of swimming/surfing/bathing zones. Every vessel must have:
Paddle boards are exempt from having to display a hull identification number. However, remember that motorboats and large-sailboats always have the right of way. It’s your responsibility to be safe while out on the water.
There needs to be a PFD for each person on board every vessel in most city areas and recognized recreational paddling locations. So if you have a Multi-Person Paddle Board, and are giving your buddy a ride, you need to have two life jackets with you.
In some areas, the PFD regulations are for under 12’s. Make it a priority to check and keep up to date with the latest paddle board life jacket requirements.
With paddle boarding, there are some top accessories that everyone needs in their kit bags. Some are crucial while others just make for a better experience:
Before buying your stand up paddle board, you need to know where and how you will store it. There are some fantastic paddle board wall racks out there that are innovative in storage design and space-saving.
The beauty of having an inflatable SUP is that you can simply deflate the board, pack it away in a backpack, and tuck it away safely in your house. Before packing away an inflatable board, you have to make sure that it is completely deflated and dry to avoid any damp or mold build-up.
If limited on space, an inflatable stand up paddle board is the recommended choice. However, if you have ample storage space available, there’s no issue with having a standard board.
And last but not least, your budget is an important thing to know before choosing a stand-up paddle board. There are plenty of options out there ranging in price.
We don’t recommend getting the cheapest inflatable SUP board on the market as they are often made with basic materials. However, the mid-range iSUPs are often reliable, durable, and of excellent quality, making them worth the extra dollars.
Epoxy SUPs range from basic and low-costing, right up to performance-specific and highly specialized equipment that will cost at least $1,000 or more.
Don’t forget about the extra accessories that you need to get hold of as well. These all add up and should be part of your budget.
The most cost-effective way to buy a paddle board for the first time is as a bundle. Here at GILI Sports, we package everything together that you will need for an epic adventure so you can make sure you hit the water paddling.
Take a look at the GILI Komodo 10’6 SUP for example:
Our GILI Komodo inflatable paddle board is the most versatile SUP in our collection. It’s an excellent all-rounder suitable for yoga, fishing, cruising, and even taking your dog for a paddle.
Dimensions: 10’6 x 33” x 6” (225L)
Weight capacity: 340 lbs
The GILI Komodo is an exceptional all-around performance inflatable. All the accessories you need to get started are included as a bundle offer, making this great value for money.
The main thing to look for when buying a paddle board is stability — you need to be comfortable when standing on the board to have the most fun. A SUP’s stability comes from the boards’ dimensions. The longer and wider the board, the more stable it will be.
You should also look for high-quality materials used in the construction, taking into account your budget. Mid-range inflatable paddle boards tend to use military-grade PVC, which is durable and solid underfoot. Hard SUPs with carbon fiber will offer a more lightweight option while also being tough.
When thinking about weight, you need to look at the volume of a SUP. You have to consider your weight and the weight of any gear or companions — dogs or humans etc.
We recommend these guidelines:
It is important to remember that you can never be underweight for a paddle board. But being over a board’s max weight capacity will add drag, make you unstable, and affect the amount of fun!
A general rule of thumb is to have the SUP at least two feet longer than your height. As skills improve, the riders’ height has less importance on the size of the paddle board. However, the riders’ height does directly impact the length of the SUP paddle needed.
A SUP paddle needs to reach around 8” to 10” above your head. Most paddles are adjustable, so you can get the length right for you.
All-Around design paddle boards are the best for beginners. They are generally longer boards with a wide deck and rounded nose. This shape gives the best stability while learners get to grips with finding their balance and techniques.
The GILI Sports 10'6 Air Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is an excellent choice for beginner paddleboarders. This is a wider board with great versatility, meaning you can take it just about anywhere as you progress through your paddling journey.
How to choose a paddle board for beginners sometimes confuses people, but it’s a pretty straight forward process. The ideal size for a beginner paddle board is 10’6 to 11’ in length and 31” to 35” in width. If you’re looking at inflatables, try to get something at least 5” in thickness, which will help the board’s overall stability and float. As you improve your skills and get better balance, you can experiment with shorter and narrower boards.
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