SUP Buyers Guide
Seven things to consider when buying a Stand Up Paddle Board
In this SUP Buyers Guide you will find everything you need to know to find the perfect Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) for you. Because it is worth knowing a few things to buy a suitable SUP and enjoy it.
- What is Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)?
- Which Stand Up Paddleboard is best for me?
- What types of Stand Up Paddleboards are there?
- Should I go for a solid or an inflatable SUP?
- What size (volume, width, length) of the board do I need?
- Which finn system is recommended?
- Which paddle do I need?
1. What is a Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) and what is Stand Up Paddling?
SUP stands for "Stand Up Paddling" and is one of the fastest growing water sports. This sport is a combination of kayaking and surfing. Stand Up Paddle Boards are longer, wider and more buoyant than traditional surfboards, allowing you to balance comfortably on them.
Stand Up Paddling offers something for everyone. You can paddle relaxed on a calm lake or surf waves in the sea. Or maybe you would like to challenge your balance with SUP-Yoga or you like to work out paddling a fast paddleboard. Whatever your ambitions, the right board is the key to fun.
2. Which Stand Up Paddleboard suits me best?
In order to find the right SUP, please note the following:
- - Board type: There are three basic types of Stand Up paddleboards: Surf, Allround and Flatwater/Race.
- - Solid board or inflatable SUP: This question is primarily one of storage space and comfort, but also board performance.
- - Volume and weight capacity: The volume and weight capacity of the SUP should match your size and weight to ensure good stability and paddling performance.
- - Length and width: The dimensions of a SUP play a major role in the ability to manoeuvre on water.
3. What types of Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs) are there?
There are three basic types of Stand Up paddleboards: Surf, Allround und Flatwater/Race.
Surfing specific SUPs are typically shorter, have a narrower nose and tail and more rocker than Allround and Flatwater/Racing boards. Surf SUPs are perfect if you spend a lot of time at the sea. The narrow shape makes the board much more manoeuvrable on a wave, but the compromise is that they are slower and do not run in a straight line on shallow water and are often less stable.
Good choice for:
- - surfing
- - sea
Allround boards are typically thicker, wider and longer than surfing specific models. These versatile boards are great beginner boards, as they can be used to do everything from the SUP - Sport spectrum. Allround boards are wide enough to be very stable, are good for gliding in shallow water (on a lake, river etc.) or open ocean touring, but also come with enough rocker and sidecut for decent surfing performance. On some Allround boards there is a Windsurfing option. A mast foot fitting is included on the deck of the board so that a windsurf sail rig can be mounted, which makes these boards extraordinarily versatile.
Good choice for:
- - leisure paddling
- - surfing
- - SUP Yoga
- - shallow/whitewater, also sea to some extent
- - SUP Touring/Camping
Flatwater boards are optimized for shallow water, open ocean paddling and downwinders (from point A to B with tailwind). They are usually longer than Allround boards and often have a displacement hull, which increases the gliding ability similar to a canoe or kayak and enables a straighter, faster ride. The sides are usually rounded off for more gliding ability and speed. Most shallow water boards are wide enough to be stable for beginners, but race boards that are in the same family are narrower to increase the speed of the board. This makes Race Boards a challenge for beginner paddlers and is not recommended unless you have a very good balance. They are generally less manoeuvrable than Allround boards.
A good choice for:
- - fitness padding
- - SUP tours / camping (if the equipment fits on the board)
- - racing
4. Should I go for a solid or an inflatable SUP?
In addition to the hard boards, such as surfboards, SUPs are also available in an inflatable version, which makes them a great companion if you don't have a storage space or a car, or if you already packed your storage with have a lot of sports/leisure equipment (We speak from experience...).
Solid Stand Up Paddleboards (Hard/ Solid Boards)
Most solid SUPs are coated with fibreglass and epoxy. This is a relatively light, durable and affordable construction. Carbon fibre is a lighter and stiffer version, but also more expensive. Plastic SUPs are cheaper, but they are very heavy and do not have the performance of other materials. Some SUPs contain light wood for a nice look.
Why a solid SUP:
- - Performance: They offer the best performance on the water. They are faster, smoother and can be paddled with less effort. If fast and wide paddling is your priority, a solid SUP is the right thing for you.
- - Perfect fit: Solid SUPs are available in a wider range of sizes and finely tuned shapes than inflatable SUPs, just like other surfboards
- - Stability: A solid board is a bit stiffer than an inflatable board, which can give a more stable feeling, especially when surfing. Solid boards also tend to lie deeper in the water, which can also lead to a more stable feeling.
- - Storage: Solid SUPs can take up a lot of space. If you have enough space and a vehicle that can transport it, a solid SUP is a good choice.
Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards (called inflatable SUP or iSUP)
Inflatable SUPs have PVC outer sides with drop-seam construction forming an air core. They are usually available as a set with a pump to inflate the board and a backpack or storage bag. SUPs should be inflated between 10 and 15 bar and feel very stiff when fully inflated. The set air pumps have an integrated air pressure gauge, inflating is child's play and a good warm-up before paddling.
Why an inflatable SUP:
- - lack of space: Inflatable SUPs are compact when not inflated and can easily be stowed in the cupboard or trunk.
- - Vacation: You can take the SUP with you on any road trip or by plane. Most storage bags have backpack straps for easy carrying.
- - Tour: Hike a bit, then unpack the SUP at an alpine lake and continue your journey on the water? This works quite well with the carrying rucksack!
- - paddle whitewater: Like a raft or an inflatable kayak, an inflatable SUP is better suited to dealing with shocks from rocks and tree trunks than a solid board.
- - SUP-Yoga: Inflatable SUPs are slightly softer than firm boards, which makes them more comfortable for yoga poses.
5. What size (volume, width, length) of the Stand Up Paddleboard do I need?
SUP Volume and weight capacity
The SUP should match your size. Board volume and weight capacity are two factors that influence how stable you feel and how well the board glides.
Volume and weight capacity are determined by the length, width and thickness of the board.
- - Volume: The higher the volume, the more weight the board can carry.
- - Weight capacity: Knowing the weight capacity is important because if you are too heavy for a board, it will lie deeper in the water and it is inefficient to paddle. Think of the total amount of weight you will carry on the board: body weight, weight of your luggage or bicycle trailer or whatever else you want to carry.
- - Volume and weight capacity in relation to the board type: Most Allrounders are very forgiving, as long as you are under the weight capacity, the board will perform well for you. However, in SUPs with displacement hulls such as race boards, volume and weight capacity are more important. If you overload a race board and let it sink too low, it will drag and feel slow. If you are too light for a board, you won't sink it enough and the board feels heavy and difficult to control.
Generally, longer boards are faster than shorter boards, but shorter boards are more manoeuvrable.
- - Short boards (less than 10' = 250cm): Ideal for surfing and/or children. These boards almost always have a planning hull. Short boards are more manoeuvrable than long boards and are therefore ideal for surfing. Boards designed specifically for children are usually about 8' long.
- - Medium boards (10' to 12' = 250- 300 cm): Ideal for Allround use and for SUP yoga. Most of these boards have a planning hull.
- - Longboards (12'6" and higher = from 300 cm): Ideal for fast paddling and long distance tours. The majority of the boards in this size range are race boards and have a displacement hull. They are faster than short and medium boards and tend to drive straight ahead. If you are interested in fast paddling or long distances, a longboard is the right choice.
Consider the length of the board and your transport and storage possibilities.
Recommended length according to SUP board type and paddler weight
Flatwater/ Race SUP
A wider board is always more stable than a thin board, but a wide board can be slower. If the board is too wide for you, it is difficult to paddle. SUPs are manufactured in widths from approx. 25 "to 36" (64 to 91 cm).
When choosing the width you can consider the type of paddling, your body type and ability level:
- - For long tours where you take additional equipment, such as a bag and a tent, you can take a wider board with more storage space.
- - For SUP Yoga; a board that is 31 inches (78cm) wide or more gives you space and stability for the asanas. Narrower boards are faster and more manoeuvrable, making them the first choice for racers and surfers.
- - Body: Try to adjust the width of the SUP to your body type. If you are a small person, you should use a narrower board, if you are a taller person, you should use a wider board. This is because a smaller person can usually find his or her balance on a narrow board, whereas a larger person can find it difficult to find his or her balance. Even if you, as a smaller person, are placed on a board that is too big for you, you have to swerve to the side to keep the paddle in the water, resulting in an inefficient stroke.
- - Weight: from 100 kilos upwards, you should consider a SUP from 34 inches upwards.
- - Skill: If you are experienced in paddling, you will have more fun on a narrower, faster SUP. As a beginner you probably feel better on a more stable, wider board.
6. Which finn system is recommended?
Finns give a SUP tracking and stability. Larger fins lead the board straighter and offer more stability than smaller fins. On the other hand, a smaller fin ensures better manoeuvrability. Most of the fins are removable so you can replace them and remove them for storage.
With inflatable SUPs, a finset is usually part of the set.
There are many different options for configuring the fins on the SUP. Some popular SUP fin configurations are, among others:
- - Single fin: Many SUPs come with a single fin placed in a fin box and secured with nut and screw. The fin box has a channel in which the fin can slide back and forth. The single fin offers good directional stability and minimal water resistance, making it a good choice for shallow water paddling.
- - 3-Fin-Setup: Also known as a thruster, this setup encourages you to go straight ahead on shallow water and gives you good control while surfing. All three fins are usually about the same size.
- - 2+1 Setup: This configuration includes a larger mid fin with a smaller fin on each side. This is a common setting for SUPs designed for surfing.
- - Finns for inflatable SUPs: Inflatable SUPs can have any of the already listed fin configurations. They are equipped either with flexible rubber fins attached to the board or with removable, semi-rigid fins.
7. Which paddle do I need?
A Stand Up Paddle consists of three parts:
- - handle
- - shaft
- - paddle blade
Handles have either an ergonomic design that adapts to the palm of the hand or a straighter "T-Bar" design. The ergonomic handle design is more popular, but some people prefer the traditional T-bar handle.
The shaft is considered to be the most important part of the paddle and can consist of aluminium, glass fibre and carbon.
The material of a paddle makes a big difference in performance.
- - Carbon - The most commonly used material is light and stiff at the same time.
- - Fiberglass - budget material that can bend more, making a paddle softer in the stroke.
- - Aluminium - rigid material that can be heavy.
Stand Up Paddle blades can vary from large to small. A large paddle blade displaces more water in the stroke and provides more power when needed. But they are also more strenuous to use because you have to use more power.
As a rule of thumb, smaller paddle blades are generally preferred in the sea and are gentler for all users. Larger blades are more commonly used for distance paddling.
- - Surf SUP paddles are usually between 6-8 inches (15-20cm) above the paddler size due to the lower position when surfing.
- - Flatwater SUP paddles are usually between 8-10 inches (20-25cm) larger than the paddler size for better range and performance at each stroke.
- - Racing SUP paddles are usually between 10-12 inches (25-30cm) above the paddler size for maximum range and performance in each paddle stroke for speed.
If you want to use the paddle both in the surf and on the shallow water, you can buy either two paddles or an adjustable paddle. The adjustable paddle is definitely the Allround variant.
What we often see with beginners is that the paddle is held incorrectly. Here is a graphic showing how it should look like: