A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Part 1: How to Choose the Right Board

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If you’ve ever thought about getting a Stand Up Paddle Board, or are interested in how to ride one, we’ve created a guide that will help you from the start. These posts will walk you through picking out the right board, getting your balance on the board, paddle techniques, wave riding and more. Watch the bottom of this post for future parts.

So you want to SUP?

If you live close to water and obsessed with stand-up paddleboarding like we all are, then you’ll want your own paddleboard. Nothing beats the feeling of walking down to the water, carrying your own board, while others who are either too timid to try, or can only rent boards, watch in awe as you get on and paddle away.

Finding the right board for you (and your family) is essential to a good, long-term paddleboarding experience. You don’t want to just buy the first one you find and realize later that it doesn’t match your needs.
You must consider the board’s weight, how much it can carry, what accessories come with it, and overall what size you want. And then don’t forget about color!

3 Types of Boards

paddleboardingThere are essentially three types of stand-up paddleboards: racing/touring, ‘all arounders’ and hybrids.
All Arounders are your most commonly seen paddleboards. They’re easy to stand on, have a more rounded front, and great for calm lakes, oceans and rivers. They normally range from 10-12′ long and up to 36″ wide. The All Arounder style is the best type for a beginner.
Race/Touring boards are longer, at about 12-14′ in length, and normally have a pointed front, closer to the shape of a kayak. They are made for racing and for longer trips, as the pointed nose cuts through the water better, but are less stable.
Hybrids are almost a combination of kayak and paddleboard, as they sit higher in the water, and can be paddled either while sitting or standing. Some even have small storage spaces built in.
There are variations of these three types, with smaller versions for kids, lightweight boards, and surfing paddleboards.

Board Size

The size of the board you choose should depend on a few factors: are you planning to do long trips/touring, do you want to surf on it, how much storage space do you have, and how much will the average person using it weigh? If you’re buying from a retail store or manufacturer, they’ll have a guide/chart that should show the volume/displacement of each of their boards, which should also reflect the maximum weight that a rider can be.

Width
The width of your board is probably the most important factor, as it is what keeps it more or less stable. When choosing a paddleboard, consider who will be using it to determine the width. The wider boards (30″+) are great for beginners or taller people, or if you plan to have more than one person on the board at a time. The wider boards give you more surface to stand on and less chance of tipping. Narrower boards are great for those wanting to go faster and catch some waves, but you lose stability in return.
Length
The length of your board should be determined by a number of factors. First, the longer boards can go faster and are normally for touring or racing, so if you plan on long trips, aim for a longer board, but if you want maneuverability in the water, a shorter board would work for you. You should also consider your storage area. Would a 11′ board work better in your garage, or can a 14′ fit smoothly.
Also consider your transportation. Do you have to walk a long way from the beach with your board? Longer and wider boards are heavier normally, and can catch wind if you have to cross streets.

Board Materials

Boards are made from a wide range of materials, normally with a foam core, then wrapped in plastic, carbon fiber or fiberglass, or inflatable.
 
Plastic
Plastic is the most common type of board material for the allaround board, since its rigid, durable and cheap. Most starter boards will be plastic, and they work great for families with kids who may drag the board on the ground.
Carbon Fiber/Fiberglass
Fiberglass paddleboards are much lighter, normally have a better shape and are more widely used for racing and surfing since they can glide on the water better. But you do lose the durability with these, so keep that in mind. Fiberglass scratches and cracks easier than plastic.
Inflatable
Becoming more common, inflatable paddleboards are much lighter than their plastic counterparts, and have the ability to deflate for storage. Normally made out of PVC, the inflatable boards float higher in the water, and are fairly durable.

Board Add-ons

All boards are different, and with that comes a choice you must make to choose the right one for your needs. Fins, luggage straps and a leash are common add-ons that can be found already included with a board.
Fins
21hP84gI3tL._SL160_Some boards come with a single fin on the bottom, while others have three in a row, and still others will let you add or remove fins to your liking. They can differ in size and shape as well. Some are also built with a sort of ‘razor edge’ on the front that is meant to cut through seaweed and kelp.
The single fin type are great for simply keeping you going straight in normal water conditions. These will be about 8″ long and normally fit into a groove built into the board.
Two or three fins are used for when the board is used in surf conditions. The extra fins help the board remain on course when in waves. The 2- or 3-fin setup can also be used in calm conditions, but does cause more drag on the board.
Inflatable SUPs normally have two types of fins: a flexible rubber fin or a detachable semi-rigid fin. This is due to the fact that these boards can be deflated and packed up tightly.
Luggage Straps
While these can be (carefully) added later, you may want to consider looking for a SUP board that has these elastic straps across the front of it. These are there to bungee over things that you want to carry with you while paddleboarding. If you’re looking to do some longer trips, these come in handy to hold onto packs with water bottles, mobile phones (in water-tight carriers), snacks and more.
Ankle Leash
As a safety feature, especially for longer trips or when you’re out deeper in the water, an ankle leash is essential. Most boards will at least come with a built-in hook for a leash, so its not 100% necessary to get a board that comes with one, but make sure you have it in mind. The leash straps to your ankle and makes sure that if you fall off the board, it won’t float away.

Board Cost

On average, a brand new starter stand up paddleboard will cost you anywhere from $600-$2000. There are cheaper ones, made of cheaper plastic, and may be good for a summer, but can be damaged easily, and won’t give you the best floating and paddling experience. Once you get into the fiberglass boards, the price does go up, but so does the quality.
Also, for your budget, keep in mind the extras you’ll need, like a paddle (if it doesn’t come with the board), life vest, carrier, etc.

Where to buy

There is a growing number of retailers, within driving distance of any kind of water, who are now stocking stand-up paddle boards, including many online stores. With more and more people buying the boards, there is a greater variety available if you look around.

 

Some of the more common stores to stock (good) boards (outside of any local ‘board shops’), include:
Canada/US:

Amazon also has a growing number of boards available, and its great fun to pick up a board from your local post office or UPS store!

Some of their recent selection:

41TD8gVZmDL._SL250_
Inflatable 10′ 10″ SUP Stand Up Paddle Board w/ 3PC Paddle
319T26FnqQL._SL250_
BIC Sport ACE-TEC Stand-Up Paddleboard (11-Feet 6-Inch, White/Red)

Along with retailers, the growing trend in paddleboarding is causing a good number of used boards to be available as people upgrade or move away from water. Watching your local ebay, kijiji or craigslist could result in a great deal on a lightly used paddleboard. Going for a used board could be a good start for beginners who don’t want to spend full price to get into the sport.

Found your perfect board? Well let’s get onto the next articles:

A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Part 2: What Else You’ll Need at the Beginning
A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Part 3: Getting on the Board

A Beginner’s Guide to Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Part 4: Paddling Techniques

 

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