There are a number of options facing consumers interested in purchasing their first SUP. The list of brands is seemingly limitless and the range of uses for a stand up paddleboard span the gamut from surfing to touring and everything in between. Before making a purchase, buyers should have a general understanding of how they intend to use a board. How a paddler will use a board is essentially dictated by the type of conditions where they will be paddling on a regular basis. If you will be on an inland waterway, a flatwater touring board with a displacement style nose will be a good choice. Conversely, if you live along the coast and will be spending the majority of your time in the ocean, a SUP with a planing hull may be more desirable.
First time buyers should try as many different boards as possible before making their purchase. Many shops located near the water have extensive demo fleets providing customers the opportunity to test out different models. Attending a paddle event with a demo section is another great way to try a range of different boards at little to no cost.
More often than not, the style a beginner paddler will choose is a 10’6” SUP that resembles a longboard and they will paddle primarily on flat water in a lake or marina. These boards are built for stability and their ability to easily float paddlers of all abilities. While a classic 10’6” all around SUP is widely popular, they are not the only option.
Touring boards are a popular style for recreational paddlers. These boards are typically 28” or wider and built for comfort and stability. They are designed with glide in mind and work well for extended periods of time on the water. A more efficient glide will allow you to paddle longer without tiring which will extend your experience on the water and enable you to get the most out of your new board.
Epoxy vs. Inflatable
Boards can get banged up over time or you may simply out grow them and move on to a different shape. For this reason, inflatables are a great option for first time buyers. Your paddling skills will progress, but you can always use an inflatable for traveling and they make a great second board for introducing friends to the sport. The compactness and ease of storage is also another benefit of an inflatable SUPs.
Length and Width
Generally speaking, increased width and volume equate to stability. First time paddlers should look for a board that is around 30 inches wide or greater. It is also important to take into account the fact that a narrower board may work well for you in protected flat water such as a marina, but it may be too tippy in choppy conditions. The majority of touring boards, for example, are between 30-32 inches wide and anywhere from 12’ to 14’ in length.
Weight is another important consideration as is the ability to establish a firm grip on the board’s handle. Buyers should consider whether or not they can safely lift the board overhead to place it on and off a roof rack in addition to carrying it to and from the water.
Deck Pad and Features
The texture and firmness of the deck pad is also something one should consider when choosing their first SUP. Deck pads come in a range of textures and thicknesses. If you cannot envisage yourself standing for an hour or more on the deck pad, you may want to consider a different board. Many recreational and touring boards have a deck pad with a smooth or ribbed texture. This style of deck pad works well for a variety of conditions and is comfortable with or without footwear. Surf style SUPs tend to have more noticeable traction in the form of firm grooves or bumps to allow surfers to grip the board more effectively when riding a wave.
Boards on Boats
Many boat owners now store paddleboards on their vessels as a quick and easy way to explore during their excursions. Most SUPs are made with a rigid construction which will inevitably lead to the board becoming dinged up or worse when maneuvering it on and off a boat. Soft tops with an outer layer of foam or the ever expanding range of inflatable boards is therefore the best option when looking to add a SUP to your boating experience. An inflatable is not going to suffer dings or damage a boat and their compactness makes them easy to store.