SUP Boards Buying Guide
SUP has well and truly arrived! If you’re just joining the party and looking for your first board or if you’re upgrading to something more technical, then look no further, the SUP buying guide is here!
Just starting out – your first SUP:
The key things to think about here are volume and shape. Volume gives you buoyancy, which provides stability. Stability is good when you’re to get going in the water, because it means you can concentrate on your paddling technique without worrying so much about losing you balance.
Shape is also pretty critical; a nice wide board will be stable, and a big rounded nose will add to that stability and help you glide over the lumps and bumps on the water’s surface. So a board that’s wide (anything above 30” is good) and curvy is perfect to get going with plenty of volume.
To start out with, anything between 9’ to 11’ is best, depending on your size; remember you will have to carry your board!
Key board features:
The deck and the grip are two key features of your board; the top of the board is called the deck, and most boards will have a soft rubber top which is great for your feet to grip onto.
The carry-handle – you’ll find this on the deck and in the centre of the board; as you won’t be able to get your arm all the way around the board, you use the handle to carry it to the water edge. The handle is also a good indication for where you need to stand as it’s located in the centre of the board.
The fin – this is on the bottom of the board at the tail, and it’s there to keep you flowing in the general forward motion; without it you’d be paddling around in circles! The fin is generally removable to make your SUP easier to transport.
Buying your first SUP is pretty simple, as the boards you want to go for are generally called ”all rounder” or even “beginner SUPs”. The only decisions you need to make are what size board you want, and whether you want a solid board or inflatable. So here are a few hints to help you make your decision:
Board length: 9’6” – suitable if you weigh up to 65kg 10’6” – up to 90kg 11’6” – up to 110kg 12’6” – Anyone above 110kg Note: Remember, you have to carry your board, so although the bigger the board the easier it will be to get going, the bigger it is the harder it will be to carry.
Inflatable or solid construction?
If you’re short on space, or you want to travel with your SUP and you’ve got a small vehicle, then an inflatable SUP is a good option – essentially it will pack down in to a rucksack so will easily fit in a boot of a car or can be checked in as luggage on a plane. Inflatable SUP’s can be a little more forgiving as they are soft, and they tend to accelerate and stop very quickly on the water. The down side is that they are a little less durable, they are affected a little more by any wind; and of course you have to spend time and energy pumping them up!
A solid construction board will be more expensive but they are more durable and from a performance perspective they have more glide, can be faster and will be less affected by any wind.
Then of course you will need a paddle, so check out our guide below
Buying a specific SUP
So now you’re pretty confident and you want to take your SUP’ing to the next level, and there are heaps of ways you can take your new-found passion – racing touring, distance, SUP yoga, Surf SUP or even river SUP. Each of these will require variations in your SUP board.
Racing, touring or distance SUPs
You will need to up the length of your SUP, refine the width and opt for a displacement hull (a pointy one!) These are the options you’ve got:
This can be quite straight forward – you either choose a length between a 12’6” or a 14, so your choice maybe based on the space you have to store your SUP, or it may depend on what size board you can transport..
The length you choose may also depend on which division you might wish to compete in should you decide to race.
The longer the board the faster it will go, as there will generally be more float which will keep you higher on the water, and therefore faster.
This will depend on how experienced you are; the narrower the board the faster it will be, but also the less stable it’ll be. You can go as narrow as under 25, but you must bear in mind what conditions you wish to take your board out in. If you’re paddling on flat water you can afford to go narrower, on open water (which is rougher) you’ll need the extra width for stability.
You are going to need a sharper nosed board that will cut through the water with less effort helping you maintain a good pace over greater distances. These types of boards are much narrower and straighter, and they’re not designed for manoeuvrability, more to go in a straight line for speed.
Inflatable or solid construction:
The bottom line is that a solid construction board is better in this category, as it will gain more power and speed than an inflatable. An inflatable will flex which will absorb some of your energy, instead of transferring it into forward motion, so will be slower.
However, if you plan to travel with your SUP the inflatable is a great option as you can pack it down into a rucksack!
To transition between your stretches and positions you’ll need a nice wide, high-volume board for stability, so in fact the ‘All rounder’ selection is your best option. Let’s take a look at the options you have:
This will depend on your size, here’s a quick guide Board length: 9’6” – suitable if you weigh up to 65kg 10’6” – up to 90kg 11’6” – up to 110kg 12’6” – Anyone above 110kg
You will need to keep it pretty wide for stability, so nothing under 30”.
Shape: Nice and wide, broad and rounded through the nose for stability
Inflatable or solid construction:
Either will work well for SUP yoga, so again this depends on your ability to transport your SUP. An inflatable SUP can be packed down into a rucksack. Also, if you are planning to take on warrior two pose and take a fall, an inflatable SUP will be much friendlier to whichever parts of your body hits the board!
These boards are specifically designed to surf on, but still have enough volume that you can stand up on them when you’re not moving. As the sport evolves these are becoming more and more refined. The type and size will in part depend on your ability and also size.
Surf SUPs generally start at around 7’ but you’ll have to be pretty experienced to get on well with a board so small, so if you are starting out it would be best to stick around the 9’ mark. This will mean you can stroke into waves earlier, you’ll also have more speed to beat sections, and you will have more stability in critical areas. You can then work your way down in length, as the shorter the board, the more manoeuvrable it is.
You can make up the volume you need through the width of the board. A greater width can make the board curvier, therefore easier to turn. If you need more down-the-line drive and speed for bigger more powerful waves, then a narrower board is better.
The shorter and more rounded a board is, the easier it is to turn, and the more manoeuvrable it will be. The more parallel and straight a board is, the more directional it will be, with drive and hold down-the-line on more powerful waves.
The tail shape can have a bearing on how the board will ride; tight narrow tails will provide direction and control under speed, wider tails will offer more manoeuvrability and drive at low speed.
Most Surf SUP’s come with a thruster set up of three fins, which will provide drive and control, but you can also opt for quad which will provide more drive down-the-line in powerful surf. A single fin will mean you have more glide as you use the rails to make subtle turns
The paddle is a critical element of SUP; without one, you aren’t going anywhere! You can opt for a fixed length or an adaptable, and you can select a variety of paddle blade sizes and different construction types. Let’s break down the options:
Fixed or adaptable:
Your paddle length should be the height of your arm stretched as high as you can reach. However this can vary depending on what type of SUP you plan to do – Surf SUP requires a shorter paddle, and racing requires a longer paddle
You can opt for a fixed-length paddle, which can be cut to your exact required length. These tend to be lighter and will become specific to you and your height. The adaptable option means you can vary the length through a simple clip system, which is great if you share your paddle with other people, or if you want to adapt the length to the type of SUP’ing you are doing. But bear in mind, due to the clip system, they can be heavier.
Blade size and shape:
Larger blades will have more resistance through the water so are generally used by more experienced SUP’ers and for longer distances; smaller blades are better for beginners as they are less taxing on your shoulders. Surf SUP’ers also prefer smaller blades as these offer the ability to put in short, sharp strokes to get into waves.
Paddle construction types:
This is mostly about durability, weight and price. The most basic, cheapest and durable paddle is the plastic composite which is the heaviest. They generally offer the adjustable option.
The next step up is a fibreglass option; this is lighter but less durable and mostly comes in fixed-length options. The lightest and most expensive paddle is the carbon fibre type; these are so light they use the least effort to lift out of the water, so saving energy for your next stroke.