Choosing the right stand up paddleboard is beginning to get as complicated as selecting the right pair of socks in that 200 pair drawer for your 6am bootcamp! There are too many options and they all look the same! Dig a little deeper in that drawer and you’ll find that there are so many factors that matter when making the right decision. Are you interested in the sport for the fitness aspect? Are you looking to spend time with the entire family and just cruise the local harbors and flat-water explorations? Are you a surfer ready to take your schralping skills to the next level; or perhaps get a chance to catch some smaller waves when the swell isn’t quite up? Or are you ready to bring that competitive streak from back from your collegiate tennis pro days and get involved in the rapidly growing race scene that has taken the nation by storm? These factors really need to be taken into account when considering an important purchase such as your first SUP board (or maybe you are adding a second or third SUP to your quiver). Fortunately, the crew at Stand UP Paddle Company has done our research and has come up with some easy ways for you to decide on the perfect board and paddle. Following are some tips from the Pros:
1. Volume = Stability. Width, length and thickness are all of utmost importance. Your Stand Up Paddle professional should be able to dial you into the right size board while considering your weight, height, skill level and goals. Longer boards will typically feel more stable while paddling straight, however, will be harder to turn. Paddlers with past ocean craft experience will most likely chose smaller, lower volume boards; novices planning on spending more time in flat-water conditions prefer wider, longer boards with additional volume.
2. SUP Surfing. If wave riding is going to be where you’ll be spending most of your time, consider a more high performance board around 10 feet and under. The compromise in length/width and displacement is a trade between paddling out through the surf and actually riding waves. Remember, you have to paddle out through the whitewater before catching that waves and cruising down the line so don’t go too small too fast! SUP companies offer great SUP surf boards from brands like SUPCO, Kings, Naish and Paddle Surf Hawaii created just for surfing!
3. Flat Water Paddling/Touring. If you live near a lake, calm rivers, paddle the harbor or just want to do some open ocean touring and adventure, a flat- water or touring style board is right for you. Flat-water boards are great for all ages and abilities, and are a great choice when there are many people in the same family and can only afford one SUP. High volume and minimal rocker are a must when stand up paddling flat water. Flat water boards can range from the 10’6″ range for the more petite frame or children, all the way to 14′ touring boards.
4. Race boards. Stand Up Paddle racing is the fastest growing competitive water sport today. From the calm waters of Lake Tahoe to the trade wind downwinders in South Florida, all ages and abilities are jumping on the competition bandwagon. With the WPA (World Paddle Association) as the flourishing governing body of SUP racing (and instruction), SUP is a hopeful Olympic Sport for 2016. Even for raceboards there are options. Generally, race classes are the following: 12’6″ Stock, 14′ or 18′ and above Unlimited. Most women chose the 12’6″ stock size due to their bodyweight; men over 185 tend to ride 14′ stand up paddle raceboards and those willing to paddle longer distances or fly at the speed of lightning try their chances at the Unlimited Class boards. With raceboards, it’s really a matter of personal preference. There are different shaped displacement hulls, and tails- square tails for more stability racing in the surf and pintails for flat-water. My advice is the “try before you buy” concept- many SUP companies have demos galore to choose from. If they don’t find someone else.