Buying a paddle board – Top Things To Consider
Paddleboarding is a fantastic sport that attracts people of all ages and abilities. It suits people looking for all sorts of things, relaxation, exercise, adventure, and family time. But getting started can be confusing, thanks to all the different equipment and information out there.
If you’re looking to begin your paddling journey but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this guide to the top things to consider when buying a paddleboard. We look at the different boards, how to choose the right size for you, the extra equipment you’ll need and how to transport and store your board. So read on for everything you need to know before going SUP shopping.
What type of board do you need?
Paddle boards come in various shapes and sizes, and you want to make sure you choose one that’s right for your abilities and your paddling style.
All-around boards: stable, sturdy boards, ideal for all levels of ability. They suit beginners, casual paddlers, people wanting to take the kids (and dogs) out, and advanced paddlers who want a good all-purpose board. They can be converted to kayaks and are great for fishing and SUP yoga. The boards are wide and thick, with a rounded nose and a flat hull.
SUP Surfboards: designed for wave riders, these shorter, narrower boards have a pointed nose and are less stable but more manoeuvrable than all-around boards. They’re suited to more advanced paddlers.
Touring SUPs: perfect for serious paddlers who want to cover long distances and go for endurance workouts. They are longer than an all-around board, with a tapered nose and hull to help the board slice through the water. They are still wide, however, so are stable enough for beginners to handle well.
Racing SUPs: these specialised paddleboards are designed for maximum speed and manoeuvrability. They’re long like touring boards with the same pointed nose and tapered hull but are narrower, less stable and not great for beginners.
One of the main choices you’ll make when choosing your paddle board is whether to go for a hardboard or an inflatable one.
Hardboards were the original paddle boards and still offer the best overall performance. They are more rigid than inflatable boards, so they feel more stable and cut through the water more efficiently. And, although you can get highly specialised inflatable boards these days, you can’t beat a hardboard for a high-quality racing, surfing or touring SUP.
On the downside, they tend to be heavier and more expensive than inflatable boards, are trickier to store and transport, and get scratched and damaged more easily.
Inflatable boards are more lightweight, cheaper, easier to store and carry than hardboards and can be more durable too. They are ideal for beginners, all-around paddlers, families, SUP yogis, and anyone who likes to travel or hike with their paddleboard.
The downside is they don’t look quite as cool, are lacking in the high-performance stakes, and must be pumped up before you can use them.
Choosing the right size board can be bewildering due to the vast range available, but don’t worry. Here are a few simple guidelines to help you out:
Length: as a general rule, boards under 10ft tend to be for surfing and juniors, 10 – 12 ft for all-arounders and over 12 ft for touring and racing.
Width: the wider a board is, the more stable it is but the less manoeuvrable. Generally, an all-around board will be 30-35 inches wide. A touring board will be similar, but racing and surfing boards will be narrower.
Thickness: SUP boards range from 4 – 6″ thick, and the thicker the board, the more buoyant and the higher it will sit in the water. Beginners should opt for thicker boards. Then, as you progress, switch to a thinner board which rides lower in the water.
Volume: the higher a board’s volume, the more weight it can hold. You can work out what volume board will suit you by multiplying your weight (plus the weight of any gear you’ll be carrying) by 1, and then by 1.4. Those two numbers will give you the volume range to look for.
So if you weigh 140 pounds and will be carrying 10 pounds of gear, look for a board with a volume of 140L – 210L.
Or, for a more straightforward method, check the board’s weight capacity.
Weight Capacity: paddle boards come with a manufacturer’s recommended weight capacity. Remember to factor in the weight of any gear you’ll have with you, plus any children or dogs that might paddle with you.
Once you’ve picked what style and size board you need, you can start comparing models and looking at their different features. These are a few things to look for:
Carry handle: paddle boards are too wide to get your arm all the way around, so many manufacturers build a grab handle into the centre of the board to make life easier.
Weight: an important consideration, especially if you’re planning to hike to your paddling spots.
Deck pad: look for a board with a thick, soft deck pad that offers plenty of grip. It’ll improve your comfort and stability, especially if you’re doing SUP yoga.
Tie-down attachments: most boards come with some arrangement of loops and bungee cords to allow you to strap a bag to your board’s nose or attach a fishing rig or kayak seat to the rear. Make sure the board you choose has the right rigging for what you want to do.
Fin system – paddleboards can come with various fin setups designed for different paddling styles. Make sure you’re purchasing a board that’s set up for your ability and needs. The most common choice for a beginner board is a large central fin with two smaller side fins.
If you want the flexibility to change your setup as your skills evolve, opt for a board with removable and adjustable fins rather than fixed ones.
There are a few accessories you’ll need, besides the board, to get out on the water. Such as:
Paddle: beginner paddles are generally made of aluminium, have a teardrop-shaped blade and are adjustable, which is ideal if you’re sharing your board with a partner or family member. As you progress, you can look at paddles that are: fixed to the perfect height (8-10″ taller than you), lighter (made of carbon or fibreglass) and with blades specially shaped for racing or touring.
Leash: an essential part of your kit as it will help to keep you and your board safe on the water. They attach to a ring at the rear of the board and your ankle with a soft velcro cuff. All-around paddlers should use a coiled leash, while SUP surfers will need a straight one. If you start whitewater or river SUPing, look for a quick-release waist belt leash in case you get tangled around submerged hazards.
Pump: essential for inflatable paddle boards, which must be pumped up before they can be used. Choose between a manual pump or an electric one.
When buying your first paddle board, it’s worth looking at bundles which have all of these elements included. It’ll save you time and is often cheaper than buying all the parts individually.
As with any water sport, safety is of paramount concern, so make sure you consider your safety before starting paddleboarding. Make sure you have a leash on your board, and don’t paddle without a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or lifejacket. Always check the weather and conditions before heading out, and always be aware of hazards on the water – these can be anything from boats to rapids to submerged rocks to unsafe water quality.
Transportation and storage
Paddleboards are not small, so before you purchase one, you need to consider whether you’ll have the ability to transport it and store it securely.
With rigid boards, transporting your board might require adding a roof rack to your car and maybe a cart, trolley or carry strap to help you get to the water’s edge. If you’re planning on hiking to your paddle sites rather than driving, you might want to consider an inflatable board because they’re lighter, can roll up into a backpack and be carried much easier.
To store your board securely, it needs to be indoors, away from the elements and direct sunlight. So you need to consider if you have the space in a garage or inside your home to keep a 9 – 14 foot board. Ideally, on a secure rack where it’s not going to get knocked about. If you don’t have that kind of space, then an inflatable board might be a better option for you as it can fold away into a bag and go in a cupboard.
However you transport and store your board, be sure to do so in a protective bag or soft covering to protect it from getting scratched, banged or damaged.
Once you have all the gear, paddle boarding is a very cheap hobby, but it can cost a lot to get all the gear together in the beginning. The good news is that it doesn’t have to.
Yes, there are high-end boards that cost thousands of pounds, but there are also discount bundles with an all-around inflatable board, paddle, leash and pump for less than £150. There is equipment for all styles, skills and budgets out there. That’s why it’s important to do your research and decide what you really want and need before you start shopping.