THE REALLY USEFUL GUIDE TO BUYING A PADDLE BOARD
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
So, you have sat on the beach and watched the paddle boarders gracefully gliding along the ocean. You have walked down the rivers and canals and watched in wonder as a SUP tour heads up stream and you have decided to take the plunge!
Having decided paddle boarding is for you, there are some big decisions for you to make! Where to begin? Hard board or ISUP? What length? What brand? Whats your budget? Whats your aspiration?
No need to panic! Red Snapper Sports is on hand to help you make that decision. We have created our very own "Buyers Guide To Stand Up Paddle Boarding". We will assume if you are reading this, that you are a beginner looking for some genuine well balanced, unbiased advice. If you own a board and have been paddling for a while now then you will more than likely know what we are talking about! Either way, we hope that you will find this an interesting and useful read.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
When kick starting any new hobby, research is key! Whether it be mountain biking, hula hooping, running, or indeed supping, having a keen interest and wanting to try something new is only the beginning of the journey.
There are so many considerations to take in to account when looking to purchase your first paddle board and there is no real fixed rule. So lets break it down in to bite sized chunks and look at every aspect of the purchasing decision.
THE PADDLER PROFILE
Why do you want to buy a paddle board? Once you understand a little more about where you fit in to the market, then you can start making more informed decisions. Lets take a look. The chances are you will fit in to on of the following categories:
An absolute beginner. New to board sports, new to paddling. You like the idea of being on the water and love the sea. You have always fancied trying the sport but never got round to it. But now the time is right for you. You don't have much disposable income, so options may be limited.
Minimum experience. You have tried paddle boarding on holiday a couple of times, rented a board, got the basic instruction from the SUP school and had you hour of fun on the water. You consider yourself to be a fit and want to enjoy paddle boarding as an occasional weekend hobby - as long as the sun is out and the water is flat! You don't mind throwing a bit of your hard earned cash at your new hobby, but you have to way up the pro's and con's about spending money on this. After all, its quite an investment and you do have other financial commitments i.e mortgage, family, holidays etc
Keen water user. You love the ocean and you are confident in or on the water. You like to consider yourself as an adventurer who will give anything a go once! Your have tried your hand at a range of different water sports. Surfing, windsurfing, waterskiing and every time you go on holiday you end up hiring a SUP or a kayak because its more fun than lying on the beach. You want to make this more than just an occasional hobby and integrate it in to your life. You got some money burning a hole in your pocket and you have aspirations of buying a top of the range board! After all - you can buy one second hand at a push! You have also looked at the lower to middle priced market, but what if someone see's you on a beach with anything less than the "top brand"?
Intermediate experience. You are a member of the local SUP club, you head out to the ocean, or find a nice river or canal pretty much every weekend - evenings and early mornings as well if time allows! You are confident and at one with your board. You take your kids and your dog out when you can. You have had "old faithful" for a couple of years now. You are brand loyal and wouldn't dream of upgrading to anything else other than your current brand. You know what you like and you like what you know!
Experienced. If its a water sport then you have been there, done it and got the t-shirt! Its not a hobby for you .... Its a way of life. Your garage is full of kit - surfboards paddle boards, wake boards etc and your camper van is sat on the drive - ready to take off at any given opportunity. Money is no object as long as you have the best kit out there on the market. Lets face it "brand is everything!"
There are many reasons you may want to purchase a paddle board. We have listed the main ones here:
- Occasional weekend paddler (rivers, lakes, seas if weather conditions permit)
- Regular paddler on rivers, lakes, seas, taking your SUP abroad
- Touring long distances / SUP safaris
- Racing (short and long distance)
- SUP Surfing
- SUP Yoga
- White water supping
INFLATABLE OR HARD BOARD
This is the first big decision you will have to make and factoring in the "Paddler Profile", will make this an easier decision. So lets look at the usage, pro's and con's. with our "Quick Glance" chart.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD I GET?
So you have worked out what kind of paddles you are, you have worked out what you want to use your board for and you have established if you want an inflatable or a hard board. The next decision is the size and type of board. With such a variety of boards, in different lengths, shapes and sizes this can be the most confusing part of the process.
Firstly, weight plays a very big part in the decision. Whether it is just your weight or the combined weight (you plus paddling partner, child or dog) it will affect the overall performance. Here's the science. The more weight on the board, the lower it will sit in the water. The lower it sits in the water - the more drag, meaning it will go slower and be less efficient on the tracking (the direction your board goes).
So put simply, the bigger the board (length) and the greater thickness of board - the more volume .... the more volume, the greater the weight a board can hold. Board retailers will all have their own guide to weight capacity, so it is important for you to compare like for like and see what the different companies advise.
Now you have an idea of the size of board you need, lets look at the varying shapes:
SUP surfing boards - these will be shorter, with a narrower tail section to enable the paddler to manoeuvre better in the water when catching the waves . These boards are for the more experienced paddler and usually range in size starting from 8'10" going up to a maximum of 10'.
All-round performance / beginner boards - These are the most versatile of the boards, making them great boards to learn on and progress on. Starting at around 10'6" these can go up in size to as much as 14', but the most popular choice in our experience is in the size range 10'6 to 11'8'. With a rounded nose and tail section and a middle section measuring between 30" and 34" they offer great stability for those who are starting out.
Touring Boards - Starting at around 12'6" these boards are traditionally longer and more narrow. This means that there is reduced drag and they maintain their course better, making them ideal for long distance paddles. Their shape is designed to displace the water rather than sitting on top of the surface. You could normally expect the width of the board to be around between 28" and 32".
SUP Yoga - These boards are designed with the purpose in mind. They are wider and thicker giving much greater stability for practising your yoga and pilates moves. The EVA deck pad will usually cover most of the board to enable the use to move around the board in safety, with maximum grip.
If you are starting out on you SUP adventure, one of the aspects you may have come across when looking at the wide variety of boards, is the "PSI" number. Firstly, its good to know what PSI stands for. This indicates the "POUNDS PER SQUARE INCH" - in laymen's terms, how much air you can put in to your board for it to perform at its its best.
This will vary from board to board. But the rule of thumb is, the higher the PSI - the harder the board will be. This is essential down to a clever design feature called the drop stitch, which is the process used to not only hold the top and bottom of the board together - bit also gives it it's rigidity. Put simply - the higher the drop stitch density the greater the air pressure:
The PSI for inflatable SUP’s can vary from 10 – 25 PSI. Every brand and board will advise on what their maximum is. It is also a good indicator of the the quality of the board. Basically the higher the PSI number, the harder the board is going to be.
Making sure your paddle board is inflated to the proper air pressure will ensure:
- that it performs well
- that it is as stable
- that it will not flex in the middle
- that it can hold the proper amount of weight for its size
In order to get the best performance possible out of your board, it is very important that it is inflated to its proper PSI. Under inflation will cause issues for you, as the board will flex in the middle, creating drag and causing instability. Over inflation will potentially lead to your board popping, if left out in the heat of the day. When inflated, they should never be left in direct sunlight, as this can increase the air pressure. As a precaution, and if you are ever in doubt, re-connect the pump and it will immediately tell you the PSI on the pressure gauge.