choosing your first paddle board

Stand up paddle boarding is a sport that almost anyone can do, and it can be done anywhere there is a sizable body of water. Even if you live in the middle of the country, you can take a board to a lake, river, or a large pond and have fun. Use these tips to learn how to pick a paddle board that is right for you.

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Choosing a Paddle Board

There are several types of stand up paddle boards (SUPs) on the market, so the first thing that should be done is to determine how you will use it. Paddle boards can be used for fishing, surfing waves, riding whitewater, casual paddling, or some people do yoga on a paddle board.

There are four considerations for choosing the best SUP for your needs:

  • The type of hull.
  • Choosing a solid or inflatable SUP.
  • Volume and weight capacity.
  • The length of a SUP.

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Types of Hulls

There are two types of SUP hulls to choose from, a displacement or planing hull. Knowing this information will help you learn how to pick a stand up paddle board.

Displacement Hulls

It is easy to tell the difference between the two hull types. A displacement hull has a pointed nose and its shape of allows the board to easily move or slice through the water, displacing it on either side of the board.

This type of hull is more efficient and requires less effort to paddle the board, but it doesn’t maneuver as easily as a planing hull. However, you can go longer distances on this type of board, and it moves faster than a board with a planing hull.

A displacement hull is best suited for taking tours, racing competitions, or for fitness. If you’re a heavier person, then you should consider buying a board with a displacement hull because it will be more stable in the water.

Planing Hulls

A planing hull SUP has a rounded nose with a wide, flat hull much like a surfboard. It is a good all-around board which is easy to maneuver, and because it is made to move on top of the water’s surface. This type of SUP is often used for surfing, whitewater riding, yoga, fishing, or for relaxing rides.

Some SUPs combine the two hull designs so that people can enjoy all these activities. A novice paddle boarder can ride on any of the three hull types, but if you know you’ll be spending most of your time surfing waves or exercising, then you should pick a board with a hull designed for that activity.

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Inflatable or Solid?

solid or inflatable

After deciding on the hull design, you will next need to decide whether to purchase an inflatable or solid board.

Inflatable SUPs

An inflatable stand up paddle board is made from PVC on the outside of the board with a core comprised of air. A good quality inflatable SUP will hold about 12 to 20 pounds per square inch of air (psi), causing it the board to feel rigid after it is properly inflated. When you purchase an inflatable board, it will include a paddle, an air pump and storage bag.

Benefits of Inflatable SUPs

There are several reasons why you might want to buy an inflatable stand up paddle board.

  • They can be deflated and folded into a bag for convenient storage.
  • I-SUPs are less likely to be damaged if it bumps against hard objects in the water.
  • They cost less than most SUPs.
  • If you do yoga on your SUP, they are more comfortable.
  • It is easier to take it on vacation with you.

Solid SUPs

If you decide to buy a solid stand up paddle board, you have several options from which to choose. Reading about the different types of paddle board construction can help you determine how to pick a paddle board.

Sandwich Epoxy Boards

A sandwich epoxy board is made from a core that is sealed with epoxy on both sides of it. The board’s core may be expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XTR), fiberglass, or it may contain wood stringers.

There are no solvents used in a board’s epoxy, so a SUP may have a simple epoxy surface, which is paint, or a clear surface, which is a UV-resistant epoxy. For added beauty, some boards are covered by a lightweight wood like bamboo.

Carbon Boards

A carbon SUP usually has added layers of fiberglass on the board, which is reinforced with PVC. This type of board is lightweight, and its strength can help prevent damage to it.

Pop-Out Paddle Boards

Some SUPs are made with a pop-out construction, which produces a longer, thicker, wider board. While it can be more difficult to load onto a vehicle rack and carry to a lake or beach, they are easier to learn on because they are more stable. Some of them have “soft tops” made from a layer of rubber on the deck, which are often recommended for paddle board beginners.

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Sizing a Paddle Board

It is important to buy a SUP that is the right size because it will be more stable in the water. If you ask a dealer “what size paddle board should I get?” they will consider your weight and a board’s volume for selecting the right one for you.

SUP Volume

The volume of a SUP refers to its ability to float with weight on it. The higher a board’s volume, the more weight it can hold and stay afloat. When shopping for a paddle board, the volume will be expressed in liters.

Weight Capacity

Paddle boarding is a sport almost anyone can do, even if you’re heavy. When shopping for a board, you should not only consider your weight, but the weight of any gear, food, or water that you may put on the board with you.

If there is too much weight on a SUP, then it will sink down in the water, making it more difficult to paddle. Most boards with planing hulls are good choices because as long as you’re at or under the weight capacity, the board should maneuver well for you.

Displacement hulls are less forgiving in that if someone is too heavy for the board, it will ride lower in the water and cause it to drag. If you’re too light, then it will ride on top of the water, making it feel too heavy and will be difficult to maneuver.

Board Length

size of paddle board

When determining the right stand up paddle board size, you will need to choose one that is the right length. The length has a major role in how well the board handles. Longer boards are usually faster than shorter ones, but shorter ones will maneuver better. How you intend to use a SUP will help decide which length you should get.

Short Boards

SUPs under 10 feet long are great for kids or surfing waves and going into whitewater. They usually have a planing hull, but the tip is slightly pointed like a displacement hull, so it is more have a hybrid board. Shorter boards will be more maneuverable in the water.

Medium Boards

Medium SUPs are 10’ to 12’ long and can be used for SUP yoga and as an all-around board. Most of these boards have planing hulls.

Long Boards

The longer SUPs, which are 12’6” or longer, usually have displacement hulls and are good for long-distancing trips and fast paddling. This board is the fastest choice and moves straighter.

The longer a board is, the more volume and weight capacity it will have so that it will be more stable. However, when you learn this information, you will know how to choose the right paddle board by considering how to get it to the water, where you will store it, and the type of activities you will be doing on the board.

Board Fins

The fins on the back of a stand up paddle board help with the board’s stability and its ability to track straight. Most boards have removable fins, so you can swap them depending on what you plan to do on the SUP.

There are several fin configurations, including:

  • Single Fin – Many boards have a fin box that secures the fin with a nut and screw. The box allows the fin to be adjusted by sliding it up or down. This configuration is good for flat water paddling because the fin provides stability and less drag.
  • 3-Fin Configuration – The fins in this set-up are all the same size and provide the board with good control when surfing and the board tracks straighter on flat water.
  • 2 + 1 Set-up – The fins in this configuration consist of a longer middle fin with a shorter one on each side. It is a good set-up for surfing SUPs.
  • Inflatable SUPs have the same fin configurations as listed above, but the fins may be made from a flexible rubber and attached to the board, or they may be semi-rigid and detachable.

After learning how to pick a paddle board, you should be able to go shopping for one and select the best board for your size and needs.