How do you choose the best paddle board? What is the best SUP board for you and your family members?
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, but especially for beginners it can take a while to get up to speed.
What paddle board should you get? An inflatable or a rigid SUP board? And what length and width and shape should you choose?
Here are some of the most popular types of paddle boards: (if in doubt, go with an all-around, inflatable paddle board.)
Paddle Boarding Tips & Advice
When you start paddle boarding there are many things to learn that can make you SUP experience more enjoyable.
SUP Gear & Accessories
In addition to a good paddle board, you will need some other SUP gear before you get out on the water. Some gear like a SUP life jacket is a ‘must’, other accessories like a SUP electric pump will make your paddle boarding more enjoyable.
What to Consider When Buying a Paddle Board
Are you confused about the kind of paddleboard to buy? You are not alone.
There is an insane number of SUP boards out there. Each one of them is enticing in a certain way. Some look great while others are temptingly cheap. It is hard to make a choice, especially because they are all presented as perfect.
Regardless of your skill level, you don’t want to buy the first paddleboard you see. You have to find a SUP that is right for your individual needs.
But what does that mean? To answer your question, here is what you should consider when buying a SUP.
Type of SUP
You will notice that paddleboards are advertised as racing, yoga, all-around or surf paddleboards. They are designed to serve a specific purpose, depending on what you love to do.
a. Surf SUP
Paddleboarders love catching waves too. If you are one of them, you may want to get a surf SUP. Hopefully, this is your favorite SUP activity because they are not that suitable for other types of SUP.
Surf paddle boards are short and have a narrow nose and tail. While they are easy to control, their short and narrow design makes them unstable. They wouldn’t be good for beginners.
b. Yoga SUP
The Yoga paddleboard is for people who like to take their fitness routines to another level. This board is wide and has impressive stability. You will also notice a soft traction pad that covers most of the deck. It gives you a nice platform for your exercises.
Although it is popular among yoga enthusiasts, yoga is not the only thing you can do with it. Paddlers are now doing other exercises such as pilates and crunches on their boards.
c. SUP Racing/Touring
As you can guess, racing paddleboards are made with speed in mind. That is why they are long and narrow. The shape allows them to glide fast through the water.
They are usually 12’ to 14’ long and maneuverability can be hard for beginners. Besides, some of them are as narrow as 24 inches. That would pose a stability problem for any paddler who is not experienced.
Touring paddle boards are also sleek and narrow, but less extreme than racing boards. Touring SUPs usually have front and rear bungees for storing your gear.
d. All-Around SUP
Not everyone gets into SUP with something specific in mind. Some SUPers just want to paddle leisurely and do whatever they feel like doing on any day.
All-around paddleboards are best defined as comfortable. They are neither too long nor too narrow. Their length ranges from 10 feet to 12 feet and the width from 30 inches to 34 inches. Paddlers have an option to choose whatever works for them.
An all-around paddleboard is stable and performs decently. You can even use it for longer distances (just don’t expect the speed of touring boards).
An all-around paddle board also makes a great family board.
e. Kids SUP
Children’s paddleboards are short and not too wide. Most of them are 10 feet or shorter.
Kids’ paddleboards are beginner-friendly. They give a junior paddler the confidence she or he needs while starting.
f. Multi-Person SUP
The best all-around paddleboards can fit two people—and maybe a child. But what about the bigger families? If you want the whole family to enjoy, you don’t have to buy several paddleboards. You can buy one large one.
Multi-person paddleboards are huge. Some have a capacity of 8 people. Everyone can join in the fun, including the dog.
Paddle Board Size
After picking out a board type, you need to think about the size. All touring paddleboards are not the same size. And this goes for every other category discussed above. Use our SUP size calculator to determine what size paddle board you need.
Paddleboards range from 8 feet to 14 feet (sometimes more) in length.
Those on the shorter side, 8 feet to 10 feet, are best for children and surf SUP. Their length makes them easy to control.
Boards ranging from 10 feet to 12 inches are mainly yoga and all-around paddleboards. Anything longer than that is probably a racing or touring paddleboard.
A longer SUP is faster. But it will be harder to control. So if you are an intermediate SUP boarder who likes to tour with a smaller body, a 12’6 SUP would be better for you than a 14-foot one.
The width of a paddleboard affects its speed, maneuverability and stability. For newbies, it is wise to go for a wider board. It may make the board slower but the stability will build your confidence.
Even though wider means more stable, don’t go too wide if you are small and if speed is important. For instance, if you are buying a SUP for your kid, 36 inches would be too wide. And if you’re into SUP touring you should not go above 32 inches.
3. Volume and Thickness
The thickness and volume of a paddleboard determine its rigidity and buoyancy.
In the case of an inflatable SUP, the thickness is a big deal. A thin board will bend in the middle leading to poor performance. Unless you are purchasing a children’s SUP, go with a thickness of 6 inches. Multi-person paddleboards can go up to 8 inches.
The volume of a paddleboard is measured in liters. Manufacturers usually indicate it somewhere. Boards with a higher volume float well and can handle a lot of weight.
Inflatable Paddleboard Vs Solid Paddleboard
In the last couple of years, inflatable paddleboards (iSUPs) have become very popular. Some paddlers, however, maintain that solid SUPs are still superior in a few ways.
Both paddleboards, solid and iSUP, are amazing. But they have their advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on your specific situation.
Inflatable paddleboards are known for their durability and ease of transport and storage. With an iSUP, you never have to worry about air travel or lack of storage. Once deflated, you can go with it anywhere.
The best iSUPs are also made using tough PVC material. If you are looking for exceptional durability, get an inflatable paddleboard. This makes them suitable for whitewater or anywhere with lots of sharp objects.
Another reason to choose an iSUP is if you want a yoga board. You can still use a solid board but an inflatable is a little softer.
Solid boards are not all bad. An epoxy paddleboard will last if you take care of it. You will be able to travel with it too (especially if it is shorter).
Hard paddleboards are superior when it comes to performance. Most SUP racers use them. They are sturdy and slice through the water impressively. Some iSUPs are giving them a run for their money in this area. But generally, solid paddleboards are better performers.
Other Paddle Board Features
a. Hull Type
In a paddleboard, you will find either one of two hull types: the displacement hull or the planing hull.
The displacement hull is mainly found in paddleboards that prioritize performance. It gives the board a pointed nose which knifes through the water with little resistance. This hull makes it easier to paddle faster and farther without using too much effort. Most racing and touring SUPs have a displacement hull.
The other one, the planing hull, looks flat and wide. It is, obviously, not the ideal choice for races. However, it is stable and maneuverable. Most fitness and all-around SUPs come with this type of hull.
SUP fins help your board move in a straight line. The fin design affects maneuverability, stability and design.
The single fin and tri-fin setups are the most common. You may also come across a quad fin setup.
The single fin setup has one large center fin. This design helps with tracking and is suitable for flatwater paddling and racing.
A tri-fin setup has the large center fin and two smaller side fins. The purpose of the center fin is the same as in the single fin setup: tracking. The two additional ones help with control, especially when surfing. However, they can slow you down in flatwater.
Things such as a storage bungee and paddle holder don’t affect the performance of your paddleboard. But they make you more comfortable. See if the SUP has any additional features that promote convenience.
Paddle Board Price
Paddleboards can be as costly as $2000+ or as cheap as $200.
But, as with everything else, the less you pay, the less you should expect. A $200 SUP is basic and made with inferior materials. It would only be good for lightweight beginners and kids. $2000, on the other hand, will give you remarkable quality.
Expensive is not always ideal, though. Leave those costly boards for professional SUPers who want outstanding performance.
You will find a quality paddleboard starting from $500 (iSUPs) and $800 (solid).
The factors to consider when buying the best paddle board are not complicated. Manufacturers already make special boards for the different SUP variations. So, pick a SUP type and find a size that suits and the features that matter to you. For a decent paddleboard, don’t set a budget of less than $500.
As usual, remember to stay safe and have tons of fun!