Ultimate SUP Buying Guide
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is one of the fastest growing water sports worldwide. A combination of kayaking and surfing, the sport is essentially standing on a surfboard and using a paddle to propel yourself along. SUP boards are longer, wider and more buoyant than your traditional surfboards, which allows you to balance comfortably on them.
If you are looking at our SUP boards for sale, but are a little unsure about where to start, take a look below for tips from our buying guide.
What are the different types of paddleboards?
There are three basic types of paddleboards; surf, all-round and flatwater/race.
Surf stand-up paddleboards are typically shorter, with a narrow nose and more curve than the other boards. They are perfect for spending time in the surf, as the narrow shape makes it easy to navigate the waves. However, they are slower and less stable.
All-round boards are thicker, wider and longer than surf models. These versatile and multi-purpose boards are great for beginners to SUP, as they allow you to explore all aspects of the sport with just one board. An all-round board is wide enough to be stable, and they also have decent glide and tracking for flatwater paddling, but enough curve and sidecut for the surf.
Flatwater boards are optimised for flatwater, open ocean paddling and ‘downwinders’. They are typically longer than all-round boards, with a narrowed nose to help the board slice through the water, increasing the glide and getting the board to go straight. Flatwater boards are wide enough to be stable for beginners, though race boards are narrower to increase the speed.
Do I buy solid or inflatable SUP?
Solid stand-up paddleboards are built up of many different materials such as foam, fibreglass, Kevlar, plastics and wood. At Canoe & Kayak Direct, we have a range of solid boards, and if you need advice on choosing, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Inflatable boards are manufactured from layers of PVC plastic with woven fibres connecting the top and bottom inside of the board, which allows them to be rigid when inflated. Inflatable SUPs tend to be lighter than solid boards, and they can be stored easily as they can be deflated when not in use.
What size board do I need?
Board volume and length are factors to look into when selecting the right SUP board. Use a formula of your weight in kilograms, and times it by two, for beginners, 1.7 for intermediates or 1.3 for advanced, and this will estimate how much volume you should be looking at for your board.
Your weight will also help to determine the length of the board. Simply enough, the lighter you are, the smaller board you need, and in the opposite direction, the heavier you are, the longer the board will need to be.
What paddle do I need?
A paddle consists of three parts; handle, shaft and blade. The handles can either be ergonomically designed to fit the palm of your hand or just have a straight T-bar feel to them. An ergonomic design is more popular, but you may find yourself preferring the T-bar grip.
The shaft is considered the most important part of the paddle, and it can be made from either aluminium, glass fibre, carbon or sometimes Kevlar. The material affects the performance of the paddle. Carbon, the most common material, provides the paddle with stiffness and memory. Glass fibre can bend, which makes the paddle softer in the stroke. Aluminium is rigid and can be heavy, then Kevlar has a high impact resistance and performs similarly to carbon.
The paddle’s blade can vary in size, from large to small. A large blade displaces more water in the stroke, offering more power to the user. However, for beginners, the larger blade can be uncomfortable on the shoulder over time. As a rule of thumb, smaller blades are preferred in the surf, and gentler for all users, women especially. Larger blades are used more for distance or downwind paddling.
The height of the paddle is also something to consider too, as to maximise your performance and enjoyment when on the water, you need the correct paddle for your height. Paddles can range from being six to 12 inches above the paddler’s height, with surf SUP paddles on the smaller side and racing paddles being larger.
What accessories do I need?
After getting your SUP board and paddle, you may want to look at other accessories. A leash is not always required, but it is a good idea as it keeps you attached to the board if you fall off. SUP leashes are especially useful when paddling in choppy conditions or in the surf.
Buoyancy aid is important even for experienced paddlers. Conditions can change, and it is best to be prepared. In some places around the world, they are also a legal requirement, and you can be fined if you don’t have one. Buoyancy aids should always meet safety standards.
Wetsuits are a worthy investment for any water sport. A good wetsuit will allow you to extend the paddle season past the warm summer days and you could even take the board out in the winter. Add boots, gloves and a hood to get the most of the winter months too. The warmth of your wetsuit is measured by how thick it is, so you may want to invest in a couple; one for summer and one for winter.
How do I look after my SUP equipment?
Once you have all your stuff, from the SUP board to all the accessories, you need to store it properly so you can enjoy many months and years of stand-up paddleboarding. Store the equipment out of the sun in a dry and shaded area and transport the board and paddle in a protective bag to prevent any damage.
Be careful when taking the board in and out of the water. There may be rocks or other sharp objects when you put the board down. You will also need to be aware of rocks or other obstructions when out paddling to avoid damage to your board, paddle and fin.
If your board has a vent plug, open it when storing your solid SUP board, to stop pressure building up. When using the board, make sure the vent plug is closed so no water can get in and damage the foam core.
After being in salt water, wash your SUP equipment, and regularly check the board and paddle for dings and cracks. If you spot anything that could potentially let water in, get it fixed immediately.