How to Choose Your First Paddleboard: A Beginners' Guide
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When you decide to purchase a paddle board, you are also deciding to change your lifestyle while increasing your physical health. The tranquil, yet exhilarating sport of paddleboarding holds a variety of categories that offer specialized and custom designed board shapes that fit the specific needs of the rider’s preferred areas of paddling expertise.
The most popular genres of stand-up paddling consist of SUP yoga, SUP racing, SUP surfing, and river rapid SUP, all of which provide an exciting on-water experience. Paddleboard models are made from ceramic, fiberglass and foam-tops. They all provide riders with a stable and smooth cruise, a solid surface area for performing yoga, and in most cases, a sufficient rocker for surfing waves.
The key to buying your first paddleboard is knowing how and where you will spend most of your time stand-up paddle boarding. Once you find the SUP style that fits your personality and fitness level best, you’ll know which board shape and length is right for you. Here’s what to look for when you buy your first paddleboard:
The size of your paddleboard
The most important factor when it comes to shopping for a paddleboard is the size of the board compared to your height and weight.
If you’re of a smaller stature, and under 125-pounds (56 kg), your best bet is to purchase a smaller size paddleboard. Anything under 9-feet (2.7 m) will be easy to control and maneuver, but once you find your balance and become more familiar with your paddling technique, a larger board won’t be as complicated to manage. Smaller size paddleboards are still capable of sustaining a heavier rider but are primarily used for paddleboard surfing. Depending on your preference for surface texture, both fiberglass and foam paddleboards are reliable, and both offer quality longevity.
For riders weighing 150-pounds (68 kg) or more, finding an all-around paddleboard that ranges from 10’6 (3.2 m) to 12’6 (3.8 m) is ideal for a smooth and comfortable ride. Most paddleboard shapes have a cross-width that ranges from 30-inches (76 cm) to 34-inches (86 cm), and a base width that is typically between 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
The wider and thicker the board, the more stability you have on the water. The all-around paddleboard shape is great for yoga enthusiasts who are looking to jump into the sport of SUP, and weekend warriors who like to strap a cooler to the board and hit their favorite beach or lake hangout. Thickness is always a factor to look out for if you want a solid and stable ride.
The type of paddleboard
Keep in mind that the majority of the affordable and common paddleboards on today’s market are all-around paddle boards. If you’re a rider who wants to explore the versatility of stand-up paddling, this board type is the perfect option. The all-around shape is ideal for beginner or intermediate riders
SUP touring boards
If you are the athletic paddle boarder type who plans to get into SUP racing, primarily you want to lean more toward the touring style paddleboards. If you’re looking to build endurance, give your core a strenuous workout and you love to compete against other workout fanatics, you’ll love the touring option. It is the ideal model for SUP racing competitions or making the long haul down the coast or across the lake. They range in size from 12 to 14 ft (3.6-4.5 m), and there are multiple variations of materials that offer different buoyancy and factors for durability.
There are a few things to look for in a touring paddleboard, and here are the basics:
- The touring shape is also known as a displacement-hull paddleboard. Not all touring boards have a displacement hull, and they are typically priced higher than regular shapes.
- Touring boards in many cases are long, sleek, and hold a pointed design.
- The displacement hull in the front is a V-shaped nose design allows riders to cut through surface chop with ease, so you go faster than a regular shape and use half the effort.
Because of the elongated shape, the touring paddleboard tends to be slightly heavier and more difficult to carry. If you’re looking to buy a touring paddleboard and you’ve never used or handled this type of board, a great tip to keep in mind is to park as closely as possible to your desired drop-in location. This will make for a quick and simple carry while reducing any chances of dropping and eventually cracking your board if you are unfamiliar with transporting this board size on your own.
SUP surfing boards
If you’re a rider who is searching for a paddleboard for surfing, there are a variety of options you can consider. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or you’re just starting out, a fiberglass or foam-top paddle board between 9 to 12 ft (2.7-3.6 m) is perfect for small to medium size waves. This range of size makes it simple to learn to ride on and offers plenty fun for beginners to intermediate paddleboarding surfers. A round-nose or pointed-nose shape with either a pintail or square tail is ideal for stability and offers a smooth ride.
Another important tip to look for in a SUP surfing board is the rocker. The rocker is the curvature of the board’s rail that connects to the nose. A rocker for surfing should move in an upward direction, instead of a flat and straight rocker design that are more commonly found in touring and a few all-around style paddle boards. A solid rocker for surfing allows for a smoother ride down the face of the wave while reducing the chances for nose dive or catching chop over the nose when paddling to catch a wave.
Other gear to consider when going SUP surfing is a surfboard leash, which attaches you to the board, a personal floatation device, and if you want extra stability during your ride, find a paddleboard with triple fin inserts for added versatility.
Photo by Hairi
The all-around paddleboard shape is ideal for beginner riders and is an excellent choice if you are a casual paddler. This versatile shape is available in a variety of sizes and widths and is stable enough for all rider sizes. It is recommended to choose an all-around stand-up paddle board if you are just entering the SUP world and plan on sharing your board with friends. Once you get a feel for your style and area of preference, then upgrading to a touring model, a specialized yoga shape, or an inflatable stand-up paddleboard design for the river or lake becomes an easy option.
Check the paddleboard
Whether you buy new or used, make sure to check your future paddleboard for pressure dings and spider web cracks on the surface and bottom. You want to make sure the grip pad is secure tightly to the board and isn’t being peeled or lifted on the corners. If you are buying a used model, make sure that there isn't any serious sun damage, this can cause de-lamination. Also, check for any major cuts or dings on the rails that could cause water logging on the interior, which makes for a heavy and sluggish board.
If you're prospecting a used paddleboard, see if you can try it out first, or inspect it closely for damage. Also, take a close look at the fin or tri-fin system to make sure there aren’t any cracks or chips where the base of the fin connects to the board.
No matter which genre of paddleboarding you end up choosing, finding the right board is easy when you take your height and weight into consideration. Choose a board that you feel comfortable with and that fits your style and abilities. Keep these tips in mind when buying your first paddleboard and you'll enjoy a pleasurable time spent on the water with an investment that changes your life for the better!
Are you looking for the latest information about the best SUP boards and accessories? Go to StandUpPaddleBoardsReview.com and read Laura’s reviews!
Ready to take your paddleboard on your first SUP adventure? Go to BookSurfCamps.com and choose a fun-filled stand-up paddling camp!