Musings about my ideal standup paddleboard
It’s been a full season with my new all-around standup paddleboard. Gets a person to think. Funny how this mirrors when I started SUPing. All I had was one NSP 11’ board. That’s it. Didn’t know much about the sport, but oh what I learned! How to turn, balance and generate speed. In retrospect, that was a great board to learn on.
So here we are again. Back on an 11’ all-around, but this time not as a beginner. And as good as that old board was, this new one is a lot better. It’s got tie-downs, a Y-handle, and that ricochet material. They might seem like small things, but they make a board better, more flexible, able to do more. This actually is a big deal. We experienced SUPers usually forget that most people buy just one board. They don’t own a quiver, and even if they do, it’s usually one for the husband, one for the wife, and maybe the kids. All-around standup paddleboards, almost always. With so many of these boards being purchased, why not think of them a little differently? The Pau Hana Big EZ embodies some of this, but it can do better.
The first thing to change is the width. Thirty-two inches is a lot of width. The philosophy is that it’s great when you’re learning your balance, and that’s true. Unfortunately most people get over that hump pretty quickly, then the extra width is overkill. Most paddlers will do fine on a 30” wide standup paddleboard. Keep the wider models for rental fleets, teachers, and people who truly need something that big. Give the rest of us something a little sleeker and faster. This would give small increase of speed, maybe .2 mph, but that would make a nice difference. A narrower board is also lighter.
A faster standup paddleboard means you’re going to do longer distances. Keeping with that cruising idea, why not add four tie-downs behind the midpoint. An all-around isn’t an ideal distance cruiser, but why not make it a little more flexible? SUP camping isn’t a high-speed experience anyway, so why not? The Big EZ already has two SeaMounts behind the handle. All it needs is two more.
Last change is more nose rocker. Not much, just a little. Why? If you’re a paddler of any gumption, you’re going out whenever you can. That means chop. The Big EZ is already pretty good in side chop, but not from the front. That wide, flat nose loves to just slam into waves. That can get pretty punishing, let me tell you. Now too much rocker and you’re losing speed, but a little extra helps with that front side chop.
More rocker is also better on the waves. As any surfer knows, more rocker means the boards fit the curves of the waves better. For a board of this size, it especially means less pearling. (Pearling: when the nose digs into the water while on a wave, usually tossing the rider unceremoniously forward, often to the amusement of their fellow surfers.) A narrower standup paddleboard has less volume too, which means less board to push through maneuvers. Plus the speed makes it easier to catch waves.
In defense of the all-around standup paddleboard
Why doesn’t this board exist? I think the SUP industry looks at all-arounds as a board to graduate from, not a destination. It’s a first standup paddleboard, but if you’re a serious SUPer you’ll eventually go for a flatwater or surf model. That philosophy has some truth. Specialized boards do better in their respective environments than a jack-of-all-trades board. Truth is, if you want to push your abilities you probably need something like this. However, that’s still assuming you have space for multiple boards. And then there’s the cost! These models can cost two to three times as much as an all-around. Not everybody can afford this.
If improving the all-around board sounds like a dumb idea, consider the car industry. The hottest segment of cars right now is arguable the crossover vehicle, the true all-around of cars. I expect my own Honda CRV to not only carry my family, shlep my SUP gear, help my friends move and crawl its way over icy roads, but also bring me back and forth to work. It does none of these amazingly, but it does them all competently. What’s wrong with that? Maybe the SUP industry should start taking all-arounds a little more seriously. The CRV was kind of an oddball when it came out in the late 90s; now it’s one of the best-selling cars in America. Maybe it’s time to give all-arounds a CRV makeover? Just stop thinking of it as just a beginners’ board.