Choosing the right stand-up paddle-board

The stand-up paddle-board (SUP) is practiced standing with a single paddle. It is longer than a surfboard and generally rather wide to provide maximum stability.  It also usually has a non-slip grip surface. Some stand-up paddle-boards are sold with a seat attachment so the user can transform it into a kayak-style board. In this guide, we will discuss the various criteria for choosing the right paddle-board for you.

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  • How to choose the best stand-up paddle-board for you?

    To choose the best SUP board for your needs, there are a number of key criteria to consider. The starting point is knowing whether you’d like an inflatable or a rigid board. You’ll also need to take into account what size you’ll need the board to be, along with its volume, weight capacity and shape.

    We will discuss the following criteria in this guide:

  • Should you choose an inflatable or a rigid paddle-board?

    Oxbow stand-up paddle-board

    The type that will be right for you depends on your needs and lifestyle. When deciding between inflatable and hard paddle-boards, it is important to consider how much storage space your home has.

    If you live in an apartment or house with minimal storage space, an inflatable SUP board is the best option. Inflatable paddle-boards are the easiest type to transport. The inflatable board can roll up to the size of a sleeping bag. It’s great for travel as you can put it in a travel bag and check it on a plane.

    When it comes to paddle-board performance, hard paddle-boards offer optimum performance compared to inflatable ones. In other words, a hard paddle-board is the best option if you want to use it for SUP surfing, SUP racing and long-distance expeditions. The hard paddle-board has been measured at 5% faster than the inflatable one. You will have to be more agile to be able to use a non-inflatable paddlepboard. They allow you to glide better and catch lighter waves when SUP surfing. If you want a hassle-free board, an inflatable one is your best option.

    Inflatable boards are durable, and are perfect board for paddling in whitewater or on rocky rivers. If you drop your hard paddle-board, there is a risk that it will get damaged and need repairing. Inflatable ones are much more durable than hard paddle-boards.

    Advantages of inflatable boards:

    • Popular with beginners
    • Generally less expensive
    • More convenient for storage but require a pump for inflation
    • Robust and easy to handle

    Advantages for rigid boards:

    • More versatile, depending on the use
    • Better quality of glide, better control
    • More options for changing the fins
    • Better stability
  • What size of paddle-board should you choose?

    Gili stand-up paddle-board

    The size of the paddle-board is determined by its length, width and thickness.  In general, longer boards are faster than shorter boards, but shorter boards are more maneuverable. For children, short boards are ideal.

    Medium boards (10’-12’ / 3-3.6m) are ideal for all-around use and SUP yoga. Most of these boards have a planer hull. Longer boards (12.6’ / 3.8m and longer) are ideal for fast paddling and long-distance tours. Most boards like this have displacement hulls. These boards are generally faster than shorter boards because they tend to track better.

    When choosing a length, it is helpful to understand how it relates to volume and weight capacity. If you are interested in paddling for tours or long distances, you will want a longer board. A longer and wider board means more volume and weight capacity.

    • Short boards under 10’ (3m) are good for children.
    • Medium boards (10’ to 12’ / 3-3.6m) are ideal for all-around use and for SUP yoga. Most of these boards have planing hulls.
    • Long boards (12.6’ / 3.8m and longer) are great for fast paddling and long-distance touring. The majority are displacement-hull SUPs. They’re faster than short and medium boards and they tend to track straighter.  They provide more comfort when rowing, especially when launching into the waves, and allow a more fluid and comfortable glide.

    Width is also an important factor that influences how manageable a board is. SUPs are manufactured with widths from 30 inches / 76cm to 35 inches /89cm to meet a variety of needs.

    If you need to take extra equipment, coolers, food or tents on a long trip, choose a wider board to have more storage space. Wide boards are more stable than thin boards, but remember that they are slower, and if they are too wide, it will be more difficult for you to paddle. Narrow boards, on the other hand, are faster and more manoeuvrable, making them a choice for racers and surfers.

    • A wider board will always be more stable than a narrow one
    • Wide boards can be slower and, if the board is too wide for the user, it can be difficult to paddle.

    The main reason to consider the thickness of a standing paddle-board is that it affects the overall volume, weight and capacity. If you look at two boards of the same length and width but varying thickness, the thicker board has more volume than the thinner board and the higher the volume the more weight it will carry.

    • A thicker board is bulkier and heavier, but will float better and therefore be higher in the water. It can be reassuring for beginners (or for yoga, touring, etc.) on calm water.
    • A thin board is lighter, less bulky, and inflates faster if it is an inflatable model. It is more maneuverable.
  • What volume and weight capacity should you choose for your paddle-board?

    Starboard stand-up paddle-board

    The volume and weight of the paddle-board are important to understand when making your choice. A paddle-board’s volume, expressed in liters, gives an indication of the board’s ability to float with weight on it. The higher the volume, the more weight the board can support. Weight capacity is crucial because if you’re too heavy for a board, it will ride lower in the water and be inefficient to paddle. When thinking about weight capacity, consider the total amount of weight you will put on the board, including your body weight and the weight of any gear, food and drinking water that you’ll be taking with you.

  • Which board shape should you choose?

    There are different types of paddle-boards including surf, all-around, touring, flatwater, for yoga, windsurfing and racing, all of which have their own shape and size. A surf-style board is good for stand-up paddling in the waves as its short length makes it more manageable. Versatile boards allow you to glide along in calm and agitated waters. Touring boards are made for long distances. Racing boards are dedicated to speed and competition rather than leisure.

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