PADDLE BOARD BUYING TIPS
Over the last couple of years stand-up paddle boarding has become the fastest growing sport in the world. It is not hard to understand why : it is very accessible, relatively easy to pick up, great fun and most importantly, very good indeed for the mind and body.
We love seeing our customers learn the basics and then want to buy a board of their own. But in the world of inflatable stand-up paddle boards (iSUP) one thing is certain - there is a lot of choice! Choosing a board can be confusing and a bit overwhelming, so how do you know which one is right for you...?
As with any considered purchase there are a few key things to decide first before rushing out and splashing your cash. Asking yourself the key questions below should help you
figure out what type and importantly what size of board you need.
After that it's down to where you'll be using it most and your budget.
Unfortunately one size does not fit all when it comes to iSUPs. Length, width and thickness can all make a difference. Below is summary of why size matters and how to choose the size that's right for you. We definitely recommend talking to a retailer or instructor to help and advise you.
One thing to also bare in mind is that progression can be quite rapid for a regular paddler so don't be afraid to consider a board you can 'grow into'. It will last you longer and you'll get more out of your sessions on the water.
If you can, try out as many boards as possible before you...err... take the plunge.
Call us for a chat for more information or to arrange a demo of any of the boards that we sell.
Who is the board for?
(eg. the primary user)
This is a very important part of the board-selection process as boards are designed for specific users - eg. the height, weight type of rider and their ability all come into play.
Choosing the right board for the main user will mean it will perform better plus be easier and more enjoyable for that person to use.
Where will the board be used most often?
Certain boards, a bit like cars, are designed to do different things. Some paddle boards are great at going in straight lines and exploring (ie. Tourers. Ideal for river use), whilst others are better at going round corners and being more manoeuvrable (better for small waves and the sea).
Most good SUP brands will offer an 'allrounder' type of board and these can be a great first board choice if you want to use your board in a variety of places or even take it on holiday with you!
What's your budget?
How much you are prepared to spend will be one of the biggest drivers in which board (or brand) you decide to go for. The sayings 'you get what you pay for' and 'buy cheap, buy twice' can certainly be true when it comes to iSUPs. It's worth checking the construction (see below) and what the accessories are like too, such as the paddle and back pack etc.
That said, a budget board can be a great choice as long as you understand what you are getting for your money.
What LENGHTH board do you need?
Generally speaking, the longer it is the quicker through the water and the better the glide will be.
A 10'6" is a very popular or standard length All Rounder SUP and will do most things well depending on the riders weight & height. For a heavier rider (over 100kg/15st) then something around 11'0 would suit.
Touring boards are normally 11'8" to 12'6" and are great for rivers and flat seas as they are designed to go further and carry more.
Race SUPs are either 12'6" or "14'0" and are usually quite thin!
Surf SUPs are usually shorter and have a more rounded shape which is good for turning (carving). Lengths can vary a lot but typically a surf SUP is less than 9'0" long.
How WIDE should it be?
A wide SUP is not always the most stable as it also depends on the person riding it (size and ability). The weather conditions and, if on the coast the sea-state can also affect board choice. If a SUP is too wide for the rider it will be harder to paddle and might be too buoyant (ie. sit too high on the water) and be more susceptible to chop.
32" is fairly standard and 34" would be as wide as most people would need it to be plus also be good for taller/heavier riders. Shorter/lighter riders could also consider 30-31" wide SUPs.
Racing SUPS can be as narrow as 19" and require a lot of focus!
What about the THICKNESS ?
How thick a board is can often be overlooked but it does make a difference.
The thickness can determine how much weight the board can carry as well as the stiffness. The stiffer the board the better as the board will be faster and more responsive under foot.
4" thick : Beware. For the majority of adults this will mean the board is too flexible. Depending on the length it could be ok for kids though.
5"thick : For an all round board for riders up to 100kg, 5" thick is fine plus it can also work for Tourers for lighter riders (up to 80kg).
6" thick : These are generally for heavier riders (+90kg) using all round SUPs and Tourers (boards over 11'6" and riders over 65kg).
Are all iSUPS made the same way?
All iSUPs use drop-stitch technology. Inside each board are thousands of threads (or stiches) that prevent the board turning into a giant rugby ball when inflated and gives them rigidity. However, this is where the similarity ends as each board manufacturer will use different methods of putting the their boards together.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell which type of construction has been used so it's definitely worth talking to a SUP retailer to understand all the different marketing jargon.
Generally speaking there are 4 main types of construction :
Single Skin : Light but not that stiff. Ok for kids.
Fusion/Laminated Double Layer : Two layers of PVC heat bonded together. Much stiffer and more durable (less prone to punctures)
Glued Double Layer : Two layers of PVC glued together (before fusion/laminating was invented). Stiff but heavier. Nowadays used by brands needing extra strength (eg. white water SUP boards).
Stringer : These boards use a thin strip (6-8" wide) of PVC as the second or third layer, along the bottom and sometimes the top of the board, to add stiffness.