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 below, having worked in this industry since 2011, and I update this blog several times a year based on changes, trends, and new experiences.
Buying a SUP is a big purchase 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:
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.).
To share your SUP with your kids, family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.
- You’ll want a SUP that is designed to withstand rigorous use, foam, inflatable, ultra-durable, vinyl covered, etc. With this much usage you most likely don’t want a fiberglass SUP as they get damaged pretty easily.
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.
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 this, and why, at the end.)
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.
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/or 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.
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 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.
What are the differences of each SUP type:
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.
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 when you paddle, and when you practice yoga, you’ll be sitting in water. Not fun in my opinion.
VINYL COVERED SUP
This SUP 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.
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 multiple times because the repair wouldn’t hold.
I’ve seen a few of these in stores and I’ve used one for a SUP Yoga and paddling time once, but honestly, I don’t have a lot of experience with them. Several complaints I’ve heard is that they still ding and dent and get holes.
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 high 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 do also have some hard boards because I like the versatility of options.
As with so many things, it 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. If you are in the Redding or NorCal area, check out any of these places, although some of these also ship: Inland Board Sports and Headwaters Adventure Co.
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 (I might be willing to part with a hardtop Glide Lotus…. Let me know if you’re interested!) If you buy in Redding, tell them I sent you and they’ll be extra good to you. Have fun paddling and I’ll see you on the water, maybe even, near you! (Check out my special event schedule here.)