Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUPing) has become a hugely popular passtime worldwide. SUPing is accessible for everyone from complete novices to experienced water sports enthusiasts. With technological advances allowing stable, user friendly and inexpensive boards to be brought onto the market it has never been easier to get into the sport.
This guide aims to help an entry level SUP rider in selecting the right board for them.
SUP disciplines (and board designs) fall under 6 main categories: Race, touring, downwind, cruising/family, wave and foiling. Each of these disciplines require different specifications from the board design. But in essence, Longer, thinner boards with flat bottoms (low rocker) will produce more glide, move faster and more efficiently. Short, wider boards with pronounced rocker lines are more manueverable and are used primarily for wave riding.
As Race, Downwind and Foiling are advanced disicplines board selection for them is not covered in this guide.
A wave specific board. The oultine draws into a point at the tail to give manuverability when on the wave with a wide mid section to maximise stabliity as much as possible. The base of the board is curved from nose to tail (Rocker), this slows the board down while further increasing manuverability.
When deciding on what board you want to begin your SUP experience, the most important factor is stability. The key to enjoying the sport is to feel comfortable on the board and able to progress your skills at a pace that suits you.
The stability you have on a board is a function of a few aspects.
As with any sport, expereince gained through practice will mean your skills and balance improve and you are able to move onto more advanced gear and conditons. However, when selecting your first board, the other factors are far more important!
The bouyancy (floatyness) of SUPs is defined by their volume, measured in liters - where one liter can support one kilogram. As a general rule when selecting your first board, take your weight in kg and double it. This will give you a minimum literage to be looking for in a board and will give you plenty of positive bouyancy to ensure a solid platform under your feet. There is no issue going bigger, more volume just means more bouyancy.
The width of a board (usually measured in inches) defines how stable the board will be to sideways rocking motions, where wider boards, especially boards wider in the nosr are more stable and offer more support when the water surface gets rougher. A general rule is that your first board should be at least 30 inches wide, and ideally 32+ (especially for larger riders).
Length is a factor, as it often has more surface are for volume and stabilty, but the longer your board is, generally, the greater the glide. Meaning the distance your board glides with every paddle stroke. Longer boards 10' for surf, 10'6" - 14' for flat water and down wind boards have the most glide. Conversely the shorter you go, as with performance surf SUP's, the less glide you have and the more the boards yaw side to side, meaing that you have to have paddle stroke (J-stroke) skills to keep the board tracking straight.
When deciding on which type of board you should get it is good to know what you want to get out of the sport.
For people wanting to get into the waves, obviously a surf style SUP will be most suitable or Hybrid board that does both. Equally, for those who want to cover massive distances on flat water, touring SUPs are best. However, most entry level SUP riders are still figuring out what direction they what to head with the sport, and will be best suited to get an allround (cruising / family) style SUP that will allow them to dabble a little in everything while they descover what discipline they enjoy.
Therefore a good allrounder with a suitable bouyancy, length and width is going to be most appropriate for the majority of first time SUP pruchasers.
The next major question to ask is whether to get an inflatable or hard board. There are advantages to each style.
Hard boards are unquestionably better for wave riding, they have smaller sharper rails that can be engaged on the wave and allow the board to turn well.
There is a huge choice of board shapes and sizes when selecting a hard board, meaning there is a perfect board out there for every person in every situation.
Thin rails and solid body mean that most hard boards are less wind affected when out riding.
Infaltables can pack down making them easy to transport and travel with.
They are super durable and will take much more punishment than most hard boards before needing repairs (however, repairs on an inflatable are harder to do and gurantee).
Being full of air makes the board far more bouyant than a hard board, meaing it is more stable (great for inexperienced riders) and able to take more weight - most inflatable 'all rounder' boards can support two (or more) adult riders.
Inflatable SUPs wont hurt when you fall on them, and make an excellent swimming platform for kids. The softer deck will also help to reduce muscle fatigue when paddling.
The board doesnt have to be packed away at the end of every session. It is completely fine to leave it inflated for a season while transporting and storing it like a hard board. We do advise letting a little pressure out when storing as hot conditons can cause the air inside to expand and put stress on the seams.
If a board is wanted for general flat water use, family use, heavier riders and/or travelling then inflatable is often the best option
If a board is wanted for surfing then a hard board is advisable.
There is a massive range of boards to choose from when purchasing your first SUP. The following gives you a few examples of boards that would suit entry level SUP riders but is by no means a complete list.
Inflatable version of Starboards 'Go' range of hard boards. Good length and width options with super high volume make this board perfect for stable crusing with family or alone.
Available in a huge range of constructions and sizes so its easy to get the perfect board for you.
Sunova THE ONE
True all rounder board aimed 'to get every-ONE into the water'. Equally at home in flat water as it is in small waves, great board to develop your skills as you descover which part of the sport most interests you.
As the name suggests! Perfect touring board, stable and efficient ride, able to cover huge distances while storing all the gear youll need at the same time. Also a great board for fishing off of or downwind SUP riding.
JP Surf Wide
Shaped to give the wave riding capabilities of a perfromance surf SUP but with added width to ensure stability. The perfect board for a novice or heavier SUP rider to get into the waves with.