Stand up paddle boards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Before you commit to purchasing a SUP, there are some important things you need to know.
From choosing a specific type of paddle board that’s just the right size for you, to preparing storage space, there are a handful of things to consider. Whether you opt for an inflatable or hard SUP, it’s important to know what works best for you.
In addition to cost, you’ll want to know what skill level is required for each paddle board, how they perform, and how SUPs are transported. They all have different hull types, different features, different widths, and come with a variety of accessories.
This may seem like a long list of things to think about, but we’ve created this guide to help first-time board owners, as well as seasoned experts who just need a hand in choosing a new sup board.
Types of Paddle Boards
First off, it’s important to decide what type of SUP you are looking for. In order to do that, you need to identify what its main use will be.
Will you be taking your dog for a leisurely cruise down the river? Do you plan to compete in paddleboard races or go for an expedition? Or simply want to share joys of paddling with friends and family?
Depending on your needs, there are different types of SUPs for activities such as surfing and yoga. No worries if you’re still not sure what you’ll use it for. There are some pretty cool paddle boards suitable for all uses.
What Size Paddle Board Do I Need
Each type of SUP is constructed to fit a different need or style of paddling. Similarly, the size and shape of a board can affect the ride and performance. While longer boards are faster, shorter ones are easier to maneuver. Long SUPs also generally feel more stable, but can be difficult to store and transport.
Paddle Board Sizing
Short boards are less than 10’ long, and a great choice for kids. They are also suitable for surfing waves and usually have a planing hull.
Medium boards are somewhat longer (10’ - 12’) and suitable for recreational paddling and SUP yoga.
If you’re in for a long-distance touring or after a quicker SUP, you’ll need a long board. They are at least 12’ 6” long and have displacement hulls.
Choosing Inflatable vs Hard SUP
Another important thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want an inflatable or hard SUP. Hard SUPs are usually made of lightweight, durable and affordable materials. Inflatable paddle boards are easier to store.
The choice really depends on your needs. To help you decide, let’s break these choices down according to performance, transportation, and cost.
In this category, we have to admit that standard harder boards are the best option.
You will be able to travel faster, smoother, and be more stable over long distances on hard SUPs. They are a great choice for beginners too, because they require less effort. Hard SUPs are slick on the bottom and glide much faster than inflatable boards. Inflatable SUPs have friction against the water because of the material out of which they are made.
If the water is choppy, hard boards are more stable than inflatables because they have more weight to them. In calm and flat water, such as in lakes, inflatables perform well.
On the other hand, if you plan on paddling in situations where you would similarly use a raft or where there are bumps and rocks, then inflatable is a better way to go. They are also more comfortable for yoga.
There is a clear winner in this category: the inflatable board.
An inflatable SUP is easy to inflate, transport and store. They fit in a backpack and are convenient for both car and plane travel.
If you have a hard SUP, you will need a mounted rack for your car or a temporary rack system. In some cases, you’ll also need a special bag for traveling. This cover will keep your SUP safe and prevent scratching or damaging the body of the board.
The cost slightly varies between inflatable and hard SUPs, but generally the latter costs more. This is mainly because of the material and manufacturing processes.
Paddle Board Storage Space
Another important thing to factor in when purchasing a SUP is how much storage space you will need. Inflatable boards are easy to deflate, and place in a backpack. On the other hand, hard boards require storage space that will keep them safe from weather and harsh conditions.
How Much Does a Paddle Board Cost on Average
Cost plays an important rule when choosing the right SUP. Prices range from less than 500$ for basic level boards up to between 1500$ and 2000$ for premium priced boards. While they are more affordable, cheaper boards are less durable. Remember, you get what you pay for. Pricier paddle boards are made of high-quality materials, have great performance, and are usually artistically designed.
Paddle Board Skill Level
Picking the right SUP can either help or hinder your ability and skill level. If you are a beginner or novice, it may be better to pick a longer, wider board. A bigger board will give you stability against bumps and waves. If you are a skilled paddle boarder or if you are taking up racing, then the shape and structure of your board will also have different criteria.
Which SUP Hull Type Should I Choose
Hull is the body of a SUP. It determines how the board will perform in the water.
The most common type of paddle board hull is a flat, curved recreational hull. They are also known as surf-style hulls. Most recreational SUP boards have the surf style shape.
Displacement hulls have a pointed nose that will keep you going in a straight line for a longer period. They are suitable for faster and smooth rides. Displacement hulls are equally suitable for touring, racing, and fitness paddling.
Planing hulls are flat and wide. Short and medium long SUPs usually have planing hulls. They are quite similar to surfboards, which means that they are easy to maneuver. They also make a good choice for leisure paddling and SUP yoga.
What Kind Of Paddle Is Better For Me
Besides your board, another piece of equipment you will need is a paddle. Paddles start at the low end, with fiberglass or aluminum adjustable paddles. They end with higher-priced, high-performance full-carbon fiber SUP paddles.
If you are racing, you must opt for a fixed carbon fiber paddle cut to your height preference. Carbon stand up paddles are much lighter than adjustable fiberglass paddles. Due to their lightness, they are the only choice for SUP racers. On the other hand, adjustable stand up paddles are the best choice for beginners and families, since they fit people of varying heights.
Which Are The Most Important SUP Accessories
Every SUPer loves their accessories! These few basics make for a great starter kit:
Dry bag for your phone and wallet
Booties & Wetsuit (depending on the climate)
Simple tool/repair kit
Spare fins & screws
More accessories can be added to the list depending on whether you’re a pleasure paddler or racer. You can also choose specific accessories for inflatable SUPs as well as for traditional hardtops.
How To Take Care Of Your SUP The Right Way
You should now have enough information to make an informed decision as to what type of board you want to purchase. In addition, here are a few simple tips on how to take care of your SUP:
Always properly store your board. Whether it’s inside or outside, make sure your SUP is completely protected from the weather and harsh elements. Never store your board in full sun.
A clean board is a happy board! Understandably, your board is bound to get wet and sandy. You’re at the beach, aren’t you?
We recommend you to wash it after each use. For an extra neat SUP, polish it routinely to prevent any scratches and/or decay.
Store the board above the ground, on sawhorses or hooks on the wall. Don’t leave them on the floor of the garage, kids will jump on them... trust us. We actually had someone forget that their board was on the garage floor and they backed over it… We fixed it but it was an expensive repair!