So, you’ve decided you want to give Stand Up Paddlebording a try, but you don’t know where to begin. After all, there are countless SUP boards to choose from. Which one is best suited for your needs? Read on.
Types of Stand Up Paddleboards
The first thing you need to determine when buying a stand up paddleboard is the primary activity you will be using it for. For example, do you plan to paddle long distances on choppy water, or use the board for yoga? Paddleboards designed for one activity may not be as good at another activity, so making this decision can help narrow down your choices considerably. Here are the types of SUP boards:
- Surf--Primarily designed for use surfing, these boards tend to be smaller than the others and less stable.
- Touring--Great board for all-around use, though primarily designed for slower paddling to enjoy the scenery.
- Inflatable--Cheaper and easier to store than a solid board, but less sturdy in the water as well.
- Racing--Long and narrow boards designed to go straight distances as fast as possible.
- Yoga--Smaller boards designed to be sturdy enough to do yoga poses on.
Once you determine your primary use for the board, there are further variations between the types that you should consider.
The hull of the stand up paddleboard has a big effect on its maneuverability in the water. Depending on the type of hull you choose, you could end up with a paddleboard capable of big speed, or one that is easy to steer. There are two major types of hulls to consider.
The planing hull is your standard paddleboard bull. It is a wide, slightly rounded hull that faces into the water, similar to a surfboard. This is the most versatile hull you can choose and will be useful no matter what your purpose for it is. However, if you want speed, there are other options.
Some activities a planing hull is ideal for are:
- Normal paddling
A displacement hull is generally found on paddleboards build for speed. These boards have pointed noses, with a thinner hull compared to a planing hull. Under the board, the hull forms a raised “blade” of sorts that cuts through the water. This blade leads to a faster paddleboard on straight lines and they will go faster with less effort. However, they are not as easy to steer as a planing board.
A displacement hull is ideal for:
- Fitness paddling
- Recreational paddling
Inflatable vs. Solid
When it comes to choosing whether you want an inflatable or a solid paddleboard, your decision may come down to one thing. Space. If you don’t have the space to store a solid paddleboard inside, like if you live in an apartment or condo, then you may be forced to go with the inflatable simply so you can keep your board in good shape.
An inflatable paddleboard is made of PVC exterior with an inflatable air core. They will often come with a pump and a storage bag. However, they are not as sturdy as a solid paddleboard in the water, and if you are a heavier person, you may find them harder to stand on. However, they are far easier to both store and transport, because they can fold up into a bag. They can even be checked on an airplane or train easily!
They are great for:
- Hiking--If you have to hike to the lake or pond where you will be using the board, transporting an inflatable paddleboard is much easier than a solid one.
- Whitewater Paddling--Because it’s inflatable, these paddleboards do not break easily when bumped against large or sharp rocks.
- Yoga--While it may not be as sturdy as a solid board, the board itself is softer and may be more comfortable for yoga poses.
A solid paddleboard is made with a foam core wrapped in fiberglass. Because they are solid, they are more sturdy in the water than inflatables, but they are harder to store and transport.
Solid paddleboards are great for:
- Long Distance Paddling--Solid paddleboards have less drag than inflatables, meaning they can travel longer distances and go faster.
- Stability--They are more solid than inflatables, making for a smoother ride and are much easier to stand on.
Stand up paddleboards float by displacing water. The more water displaced, the more weight the board can hold. When choosing your board, make sure that the board is designed to support your weight. The bigger the board, the more weight it can support.
That does not necessarily mean that the board needs to be long. A short board can displace enough water to support a lot of weight if it is wide and thick. And similarly, a long board can displace little water if it is thin and narrow.
The length of the paddleboard can affect its stability in the water. The longer the board, the sturdier it is. However, if the board is longer, it can be harder to maneuver it is. In addition, the length of the board can affect how easy it is to store and transport the board. A 14 foot board on a tiny car will not make for safe driving.
- Short--Under nine feet long. Ideal for children or for surfing.
- Medium--Between nine feet and twelve feet. Ideal for all around use.
- Long--Over 12 feet long. Fastest boards available and easiest to go straight with. However, they are the hardest to steer.
Lastly, stand up paddleboards come with fins on the back to help the board move through water. However, there are many different styles of fins, each suited to different tasks. Here are the types of fins available:
- Single--One fin on the back of the board, able to slide forward and back on a track as needed. Ideal for paddling in flat or freshwater.
- Three Fin--Each fin is about the same size. Ideal for surfing or going straight in flatwater.
- 2+1 Setup--One large fin in the middle and two smaller fins on either side. Ideal for surfing.
- Race Fins--Straight, stiff fins best suited for downward paddling.
That’s it! Once you decide what you will use the paddleboard for, deciding what type and parts to get is easy. You’ll be paddling in no time!