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How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board: Beginners Guide

The popularity of stand up paddle boarding has sky rocketed in recent years and “SUPs” have become one of the most purchased items of water sports equipment in the UK. If you’ve ever used a SUP, you know why this piece of gear has grown to be commonplace on the water.

The first time you stand up on a paddle board, you begin to see the world from a different perspective. Not only can you get a good workout, it is also a great way to explore, see unspoiled scenery and pristine waters from a different viewpoint than the land lovers.  Likewise, standing on the board versus sitting in a kayak gives you a much better view into the water.

As with all water sports equipment, getting the right gear that suits your physical attributes, ability and aspiration will greatly increase your enjoyment. A runner wouldn’t run wear trainers 2 sizes to small or large! To help find a stand up paddle board that suits you, here are a few pointers for beginners. Pay careful attention to volume and the weight ranges, solid epoxy or wooden boards versus inflatable boards (known as iSUPs) hull type, length, width and thickness

1) SUP Volume and Weight Limits

Volume

This is basically the internal volume of the board, often expressed in litres. The more volume a board has the more water it can displace and the more weight is can carry

Weight Limits

Most boards will have a safe weight limit indicated by the manufacturer. However if it doesn’t there is a simple bit of maths which can give you and idea of the weight a board will carry.

Bodyweight(llbs) x (y) = Approximate Volume (litres)

  • Beginner, Balance Challenged, Touring and Race boards y = 1 to 1.4
  • Novice or Rough Conditions y = 0.8 to 1
  • Advanced Surfing y = 0.6 to 0.8
  • Pro Expert Surfing y = 0.5 to 0.6

Remember: When considering weight, consider more than just your body weight as you will most probably have any of the following with you

  • Pets
  • Spouse
  • Kids
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Drinking water
  • All types of gear: fishing, backpacking, climbing, etc.

If a paddle board cannot carry your weight (or the combined weight of you and your spouse, kids, or dog), it will ride too low in the water, feel unstable and have more drag. In extreme cases it may even sink underneath you.

2) Paddle Board Length, Width, Thickness

Length

The length of your board depends on how you want it to handle, as well as what you want to use it for.

  • Short – At under 10 feet, the short stand up paddle board is great for surfing because it is more maneuverable! An 8-foot board is best for the kiddies. These are the easiest to learn on and always have a planing hull.
  • Medium – Medium SUPs are between 10 feet and 12 feet long and are perfect for all-around use. If you want to try multiple paddling activities, this is the length of the board you want. Most are planing hulls, but you can find some displaced hulls in these sizes.
  • Long – Anything above 12 feet and 6 inches is a long board. If you want to take up touring or paddle straight and swift, this is the best stand up paddle board length for you. However, be aware most are displacement hulls and not great for beginners.

Width

Wider boards are more stable, but they are also slower and less manoeuvrable than narrow stand ups. It’s best to use wider SUPs for yoga,workouts, fishing, and carrying gear.

As a general rule, larger people should choose wider boards and smaller people narrower boards. Wider boards can be difficult for smaller people to manoeuvre , and thinner SUPs can be hard for larger people to stabilise.

Regardless of size, all beginners might find narrow is too difficult, and feel more stable starting out on a wider board. Remember the watercraft you learn on doesn’t have to be the stand up paddle board you purchase!

Thickness

Thicker boards have more volume and can manage more weight

3) Epoxy/Composite Versus Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards

Epoxy

Epoxy boards, also called composite boards. They are built from EPS foam for lightweight buoyancy, and surrounded by layers of fiberglass and epoxy to create a hard, stable shell.

Epoxy can endure bumps on rocks, they’re easy to carry, and relatively inexpensive for those on a budget. In fact, there are a multitude of reasons to purchase this type of SUP:

  • More agile, smoother maneuverability, longer glide, and quicker speed
  • Feels more stable due to being partially submerged in water
  • Better for surfing, touring, and whitewater paddling
  • More rigid for precise reacting

What Factors Should You Consider Before Buying an Epoxy Board?

We recommend a composite board if:

  • You are interested in racing, surfing, long-distance touring, and whitewater paddling – basically anything that requires faster speeds.
  • You have experience paddling – you will notice the smoother ride.
  • You want accurate, responsive turning movements.
  • You have space to store it and cash for a protective cover.

Inflatable

Many beginners turn to an inflatable stand up paddle board to learn the sport. This is due to the affordability of the PVC exterior and air-filled pockets. There is typically an included air pump as well as a carry bag, and sometimes even a paddle.

When these SUPs are properly inflated, they become close to as stable and firm as solid boards. Here are the reasons to choose an inflatable versus an epoxy:

  • Can use for paddling activities from yoga to leisure paddling
  • Easy to store in a small living space such as a garage or apartment
  • Easy to store in a small vehicle
  • Can fly with you on vacation.
  • More durable with drop stitch technology.

What Factors Should You Consider Before Buying an Inflatable Board?

iSUPs are recommended if:

  • You are a beginner and don’t want to get hurt when you fall.
  • You are worried about fatiguing fast – the soft top of a board is easier to stand on for longer periods of time.
  • You want a light board you can easily take with you on backpacking trips, in a smart car, and through your checked in luggage.
  • You are going to tackle some rocky shores and want a durable product.

4) Hull Type

Displacement Hull

Stand up paddle boards with displacement hulls have fronts that looks similar to kayaks. The pointy hull is best for displacing water at rapid rates for a quick moving board that can cover long distances. These are generally harder to maneuver than boards with a planing hull.

If you have a displacement hull, be careful with volume and weight. Too heavy a load will cause drag and even sinking. If the cargo is too light for the SUP, it will be hard to maneuver. The best uses are racing, long-distance touring, overnights, and fitness.

Planing Hull

The stand up paddle boards that look like surfboards have a planing hull. This flat and wide hull is best for surfing, yoga, workouts, whitewater, and easy, relaxing paddling. As long as you are within the weight limit, your planing hull will carry you to your next adventure.