Surf? all-rounder? Flat water or race? Inflatable or composite? With so many variables, choosing the right paddle board can be daunting. So we have made an easy to follow guide that will help you choose the perfect board.
Choosing the perfect stand-up paddle board (SUP) to suit you and your lifestyle can be a daunting task. Whether you want to surf the waves, go fishing or just explore the ocean, a SUP board is going to allow you to experience the water like never before. There is an enormous, sometimes confusing and ever-growing number of options to choose from - so how do you choose which one is right for you?
Types of Paddle Boards
While there are many types of paddleboards, SUP boards generally fall into one of four categories: Surf, All-rounder, Flatwater/Touring and Racing. And these are available as either SUPs (hardboard) or iSUPs (inflatable). There are also several hybrid boards which can straddle a category offering features from both categories.
Each of these categories are designed to perform in specific conditions. So when choosing which board is right for you, consider:
- How you will be using your paddleboard?
- What type of water you will be accessing the most?
- Your level of experience
- How you will store and transport your board?
All of these factors play a part in choosing the perfect board - because there is a board that will suit everyone!
Ideal for riding the waves
As the name suggests, these boards are for you if you want to spend most of your time in the surf. These boards are shorter, have a narrower nose and tail with more rocker (curve) than the other types. The shape makes the board much easier to control on a wave, but this also means that they are slower and sluggish in flat water and don’t track well in a straight line. They are also less stable so less suited for beginners, yoga or taking your pooch or young ones for a paddle.
Whitewater boards also fit into this category, as they are manoeuvrable in river rapids and waves as well.
These boards are quick, efficient and fun in the surf.
Versatile, multi-purpose boards.
All-rounders SUPs are wider, longer and have more volume than surf models. These boards are great as a first board because they allow you to use it across an array of conditions. They are wide enough to be stable, have decent glide and tracking for flat water paddling or open ocean touring. They also have enough rocker for decent surf performance making them ideal for first time riders who want to try a little bit of everything and the more experienced rider who varies where they paddle. Especially suited to families where more than one rider uses the same board. Given their versatility, they are only suitable for small to medium surf and with their size, they can be bulky to move around and store.
Hybrids - Surf/All-rounders
Hybrid boards offer the best of both worlds with the ability to handle bigger surf than a typical all-rounder board.
They are also available as iSUPs making them incredibly versatile and a fun board that is super easy to transport and store as well as enabling you to take them whilst hiking and camping.
Lakes, open ocean paddling and fishing
Flat water boards are made for flat water and open ocean paddling. They are typically longer than all-round boards and have a pointed nose to help the board glide through the water smoothly and track in a straight line. The sides are usually rounded to help with the glide and speed. Most flatwater boards are wide enough to be stable and designed with parallel rails through the centre to help them paddle straight.
As their name suggests, these boards are not suitable for surf but are ideal for those wishing to go on a journey.
Touring and competitions
Paddle-board racing is one the fastest growing areas of the sport. Even within the world of racing, the style can vary from quick fun races to endurance trials to punishing downwinders. If you’re keen to enter into competitive or endurance racing, then you definitely want to have a decent race board.
Race boards tend to be made from carbon, so they are light and have a pointy nose to cut through the waves as fast as possible, however there is an ever increasing range of iSUP's also in the category. The shape is also thin with a balanced rocker, so you can conserve your energy while you fly ahead of the competition. Additional features, such as extra handles for race starts, or removable cargo bungee chords help transform boards from touring to racing machines quickly.
Lighter, more compact option for many purposes
Inflatable stand up paddleboards (iSUPs) are made from PVC with woven fibers connecting to the top and bottom inside the board and are quite rigid once inflated.
Inflatable SUPs tend to be lighter than solid boards because they are composed mostly of air. They also fit into a backpack, so you can bring them on hikes or airplanes.
While for some people, there is a fear that they might spring leaks easily and so be unreliable. But the fact is that high quality, double layer boards are more durable than composite boards and stand up to much harsher treatment. Like most things, the price and quality variation available is large. For many, the quality isn't obvious, so it is essential to choose a reputable brand that stands by their product with a solid warranty.
Inflatable SUP’s now make up the largest part of the market and with a huge range now available.
What Size SUP Should I Get ?
Board size can vary depending on your ability and confidence on the board. In general, the larger the board, the more stable it will be but harder to manoeuvre. That's the trade-off. But when in doubt go larger. For a full range of board size recommendations; download our complete SUP Guide below.
If you are looking for more comprehensive information; we have developed a guide for each style of paddle boarder out there.
But... what is your style ?