A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Your First SUP
Buying your first paddleboard can be intimidating. They don’t come cheap and there are so many options out there, making it difficult to determine which is right for you. When selecting a board, there are a few important things to consider. Does it fit within your price range? Do you have ample storage space and a safe way to transport it? How do you plan on using the board? While there isn’t a simple one size fits all answer, if you dial in what you’re looking for it will help streamline the process. Here, we’ve rounded up some popular paddling jurisdictions and the type of board best suited for each.
If you plan on doing some racing, you’ll want to look for a raceboard. Raceboards are typically long and narrow, allowing them to be more hydrodynamic. Typically races have three different categories: 12’6”, 14”, and Unlimited. Longer boards are faster and track a straight line more efficiently while shorter boards are more maneuverable and tend to perform better in beach races. The most popular race category is 14” so that may be your best bet, but do a little research to decide what is best for you. In regard to width, narrower boards are faster, but most beginners will want something in the 24.5”-28” range to start off with. Unless you plan on doing a lot of traveling, a composite (hard board) is preferable to an inflatable as they are much quicker on the water.
Almost any standup paddleboard can be surfed but for the best performance, you’ll want to get a surf specific SUP. Surf SUPs are generally shorter, have less volume, reduced thickness, and a narrow tail in comparison to all around models. Ideal length and width are dependent on your skill set but the better you are, the smaller board you’ll want as it will be more maneuverable in the surf. Another factor to consider is what type of waves you’ll typically be riding. If you plan on surfing small, slow waves a longer board is ideal but if you’re surfing big, barreling waves a small, low volume board is your best bet. If you’re in search of a board that will be good for both surfing and cruising, consider purchasing an all around model.
If you plan to do most of your paddling on flatwater, there are a couple of options. All around models work well for most conditions, including flatwater. If you want something super stable, opt for a wide, high-volume board. If your goal is to cover more ground at a faster pace, then a touring board is your best bet. Touring boards typically have a pointed nose and a displacement hull, which allows them to cut more efficiently through the water. Additionally, touring boards often come with tie down straps on the nose, so you can pack the cooler and make a day of it.
While composite boards tend to be best for most types of paddling, your best bet for river runs is an inflatable board. If you plan on doing whitewater runs, you’ll want something in the ballpark of 36” with a wide tail, lots of rocker, and 2-4 flexible fins—make sure you pick something that is super durable. If you’re planning to paddle on a calm river, then an all around model or a fishing style SUP should get the job done. If you’re new to standup paddling, it’s best to start on a calm river as whitewater can be extremely dangerous.
For SUP yoga, you can use either a hard or inflatable board, but inflatables tend to be more popular as they are gentler on the knees. One of the most important factors for SUP yoga is stability, so you’ll want a wide board—something in the 34”-36” range is ideal. Length isn’t as crucial as width, so opt for a length that you’re comfortable with—a board in the 10’-11’ range should do the trick. Another important feature of a SUP yoga board is a deck pad that covers ¾ to the entire length of the board and a center handle that flattens down.
Whatever board you end up going with, make sure to check out all of our SUP storage options. Whether you want to store your board indoors, outdoors, on the ceiling or wall, we have you covered!