What kind of SUP should I buy? What are the differences between SUPs?

I often get asked what kind of SUP (stand up paddleboard) someone should purchase. It’s not always a straight-forward answer, really, it just depends. I’ve outlined what I know, and my experience below. Buying a SUP is a big purchase (check out the bottom of this blog for a way to save some money on it) and although you can always change your mind and sell your board, it’s helpful to have some basic info to help you make an informed decision the first time:

Do you want:

  1. To take your SUP in the ocean or surf

    This SUP depends on your surfing ability and style: a short board or long board and a lot of the same questions as below (sharing with others, yoga, short on space, etc.).

  1. To share your SUP with your kids, family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.

    you want a SUP that is designed to withstand rigorous use, foam, inflatable, or vinyl covered. With this much usage you most likely don’t want a fiberglass SUP as they get damaged pretty easily.

  1. To take your SUP on whitewater or the river

    You want a SUP designed for rigorous use: one that won’t get dings, gouges, or cracks easily. Fiberglass is not going to be your board, nor would I advise plastic.

  1. To take SUP Yoga classes

    You want a SUP that is either at least 32 inches wide or designed specifically for yoga. (see my choice for boards, and why, at the end.)

  1. To race with your SUP

    you are looking for a long, skinny board. Check with your local SUP shop, SUP race, or even board manufacturer for how long and which is best for you. Fiberglass most likely will be what your board is made of or some other really light and slick material.

  1. A SUP but don’t have a lot of space for storage or transport

    there have been some great developments recently with the inflatable SUPs. Check the reviews on the particular board and brand you are eyeing. Older and cheaper inflatables tend to “taco” a lot (causing a large indent where you stand and stick up in the front and back), aren’t easy to pump, lose their air, and/or get holes easily.

  1. Not sure and just want a general SUP

    I’d suggest one that is at least 32 inches wide in case you want to try yoga and it will provide some more stability and room for extra people or animals or a cooler or fishing gear….

FOR ALL SUPS

Check the manufacturers details on the board: most boards have a weight limit and will sink a bit if you exceed it and then, not be fun. Know also, that you get what you pay for. The really cheap SUPs can crack and ding much easier than the others filling with water and sinking, and most repair shops won’t repair them because the problem will spread quickly and they don’t want to be held liable for the inevitable damages, plus they are still quite expensive and the cheaper boards are hard to resell.

What are the differences of each SUP type:

FOAM SUPs

are typically less expensive and can be great for multiple users or if you just don’t know what you want. They don’t glide as well through the water but will last a long time, although they could get heavier over time as they tend to soak up water that you can’t get out. These may not look that pretty even after your first use because they get gouges very easily.

PATENTED SUPs DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND RIGOROUS USE

are usually pretty great. Read reviews or talk to your local shop though, some boards marketed as indestructible, aren’t.

INFLATABLE SUP

Test the inflatable you want to purchase! If you can’t test it, watch a video of someone using the one you want to purchase and watch the feet. If water puddles, pools, or sneaks in from the sides at the feet, don’t buy it; this is an indication of the “taco” effect and the board won’t glide smoothly and be quite a lot more effort when you paddle, and when you practice yoga, you’ll be sitting in water. Not fun in my opinion.

VINYL COVERED SUP

Like any quality SUP, it has chambers on the inside in case you get a crack or ding and the board takes on water: the water stays contained in just that one chamber so you stay afloat. Easy to repair if the vinyl tears with just a small sticky patch over the tear.

FIBERGLASS SUPs

This kind was my first SUP purchase. That board got 6 dings and cracks during the 1st year I owned it. I took it to be professionally repaired several times and each ding cost $45. I eventually bought a small repair kit and used it to repair the other dings (caused by pressure from my roof rack. Lesson learned: BUY FOAM BLOCKS!) but it didn’t look as nice, wasn’t smooth, and I had to redo some of the dings multiple times because the repair wouldn’t hold. Good boards for the person who is very, very careful and wants a smooth, sleek, fast finish.

PLASTIC SUPs

Can be really great! They can still get scuffed, dent and get holes, but are much more resilient than fiberglass.

What I have and use:

For my On Water Yoga classes I use the Glide Lotus SUPs and have 6 hard boards and 1 inflatable (see below for a discount to purchase your own!). I hold SUP Yoga classes year-round and love my inflatable for the winter and colder months; it’s even more buoyant and because it sits so hight off the water I don’t get wet at all! I have the room and transporting ability, so I don’t deflate it unless I’m traveling or hiking to some remote waterfall or lagoon, and it keeps it’s rigidity nicely. I chose the Glide brand and the Lotus SUPs in particular, for my On Water Yoga fleet because they are so stable and durable. I can provide a higher quality experience for my students because these boards not only look great, are super stable, and I don’t have to worry about the boards being damaged: I can keep my prices lower since I don’t have to repair and buy new boards each season or put them out of commission during the season while repairs are being made. It’s also super rad that they are made in the U.S.A. and are eco-friendly (they are made from recycled foam & non-VOC bio resin and polymers). I like to practice yoga on and off the mat and partner with companies that share the same yogic philosophy as I do; ahimsa: doing no harm to the waterways/earth we play on, call home, and share with other animal and plant life.

> get 10% off all SUPs and gear at Headwaters Adventure Company

when you tell them Audrey sent you! <

headwatersadventureco-logo

As with so many things, the kind of SUP you buy depends on why you want to use it and sometimes you just buy one and go from there. Remember, though, you get what you pay for! Your local SUP shop should have a variety of SUPs to check out and a good shop will let you test them before you purchase, possibly for a small fee, but worth it for this kind of expense. Whether you are in the NorCal area, or far away, check out Headwaters Adventure Co and get 10% off all SUPs and gear (on the same day of purchase), when you tell them I sent you: they can ship to you! I’ve been working with Headwaters Adventure Co. since I first began paddling in 2010 and they have been helpful in so many aspects: I purchased waterproof socks and a dry bag backpack for my winter paddling and used them this past winter season, wow(!), I don’t know why I didn’t get those socks sooner! Headwaters also has lifejackets (legally required on lakes and rivers), paddles, clothing, car roof racks, trailers, and kayaks (if you’re in to such things :), check it out here.

A few of the SUPs friends and clients of mine have bought from Headwaters and liked are:

  • Pau Hana Lotus: for paddling flat water and SUP Yoga
  • Pau Hana Malibu:all around entry level SUP, very inexpensive, and includes a paddle!
  • NRS inflatables
  • Pau Hana Moon Mist: a surf board style yoga board good for paddling flat water, riding ocean waves, with an extra challenge for yoga because it’s so narrow (29 inches)
  • Glide Retro SUP: versatile and broad use SUP good for yoga, surf, flat water, river, also comes in an inflatable version

Let me know if this helps! There are always specials, sales, and the occasional person who wants to get rid of their amazing board and you score. If you buy from Headwaters Adventure Co., tell them I sent you and they’ll be extra good to you with 10% off your SUPs and gear (within the same day of purchase) when you mention my name. Have fun paddling and I’ll see you on the water, maybe even, near you! (Check out my special event schedule here.)

Namaste!

3 thoughts on “What kind of SUP should I buy? What are the differences between SUPs?

  1. HA, NOW you post a buyers guide!! LOL, not too late because so far my new SUP is perfect! Great post on things to look for because I spent quite a bit of research time, and even bought this SUP (gasp!) sight unseen and never tried it.

    Length: I went for a 12′ board; plenty of room to sprawl out for a picnic if I want, fit a pet or child on, etc. Also wanted a board I could jump off of and go swimming and have a great big board to climb back on

    Width: Mine is 34″ wide, very stable, feels great

    Weight: 28 pounds. Not mentioned, but my research showed some that were heavier than my kayak. For the average user I would look for under 35 pounds.

    Mine is an EPS Foam, Single Stringer, Gel Coat Surface with their proprietary Lavaguard coating that claims is great for rental fleets or heavy use. Not sure what all those mean, but seems super durable to me and keeps the ‘surfboard’ feel to the SUP surface. Love the die-cut deck padding that covers almost 3/4 of the board, great for yoga or laying around.

    My handle is an ergonomic, inset one. Another purchase factor for me and yoga so I never have to worry about a handle getting in the way of yoga or anything.

    Extras: I have a yoga anchor attached to the standard (on most boards) leash lash point, works fantastic. I also have deck rigging (those bungee-type cords that you see on kayaks) attachments. LOVE this as I have a place to put my PFD, place to stick my paddle when yogaing, and also holds my water (and those picnic items!). Mine also came with 3 fins, 2 small ones and 1 large. So far I have been paddling with only the 1 one one attached

    Of course, picky shoppers can find some great deals if they look hard. I found mine online as a 2013 closeout, with a cut-to-size carbon paddle, and delivery for a grand total of $800! Most SUPs alone average $1000.

    I absolutely love it so far, with 2 paddles under my belt, one with some awkward, ignorant yoga.

    Note: this is not a race SUP, river or wave SUP. Like the seller described to me “Its that beach cruiser”. Still paddles and tracks nicely, but isn’t a racer.

    Meant to post a semi-review like this on my blog but feel like I just did, except didn’t mention the brand. Will probably still write one up with some pictures.

    LOVE this post, great advice! Come on folks, get yourself a SUP, they rock.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: What to wear for winter SUP and SUP Yoga – Audrey DeLong Yoga

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