With the explosion of stand up paddle boarding, many brands of SUP have appeared in the market. You can buy online, at surf shops or sporting goods stores. You can even get them at Costco. Prices vary from as little as $500 to over $3000. There are a lot of options to choose from at a lot of different prices. If you’re thinking of buying a paddleboard, it helps to know what qualities make a superior SUP. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, it will be easier for you to separate the wheat from the chaff and make a great purchase decision.
A first rate stand up paddle board isn’t heavy. I know that heavy is a relative term, but if a SUP weighs 40 lbs and is 10 feet long, that is just way too heavy. Boards that weigh this much tend to be in the low price end of the market. Heavy boards are more difficult to carry and lift onto your roof rack, and they take more energy to push through the water. A superior paddle board should weigh less than 25 lbs for a 10’ board.
Even if you buy the cheapest SUP in the market, you are still spending several hundred dollars, so it’s important to get a unit that is going to last. Polyurethane shelled paddleboards are strong, tough and take a beating, but they are heavy. Even top brands like BIC produce 10’ boards that weigh 35 lbs. Fibreglass boards which make up the bulk of the market are much lighter then polyurethane ones, but they aren’t as durable.
Strength to Weight Ratio
This is the sweet spot SUP buyers should be looking for. You want a paddleboard that is as strong as possible while being as light as possible. Currently, the material with the best strength to weight ratio in the marketplace are carbon fiber boards. Carbon fiber isn’t the most durable material in the market, but SUPs made from it are stronger and lighter than fiberglass boards which is why you pay the big money for carbon fiber. In my opinion, if you can’t or won’t pay $2500+ for a carbon fiber board, get one made with real bamboo. Bamboo is a good middle ground between fiberglass SUPs and carbon fiber ones. It’s almost as strong as carbon fiber which adds strength, and it reduces weight because less fiberglass is used.
Superior Construction Methods
The manufacturing process plays an important role in both the weight and durability of your board. Before you buy a SUP, find out how it’s made. Assuming you are looking at fibreglass or bamboo paddle boards, look for manufacturing techniques such as sandwich construction and vacuum bagging. Learn about the different layers of fibreglass, and where they are laid. Just remember more layers of fibreglass means that while the SUP is stronger, it is also heavier, and you want that sweet spot of the strength to weight ratio.
High Caliber Materials
When Wappa began product testing, we tried paddle boards from eight different manufacturers. Despite having the boards made to the same basic specifications, the manufacturers used different materials to make their products. It didn’t take long for to quickly see that as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. Although all the boards looked great when they came out of the box, they didn’t perform as well in the long run. For example, a couple of boards discolored in the sun and others had bamboo paper applied instead of real bamboo (you can really tell the difference). Ask the salesperson what the boards are made of. Quality brands are happy to tell their stories.
Now that you have a little more knowledge about what to look for in a stand up paddle board, it’s time to start looking. Determine what you budget is, and then look for brands that have the traits of a first rate SUP. Once you have found a board in your price range that meets these traits, you have a winner!
If you have any questions about the qualities that make a superior stand up paddle board, feel free to give me a call at 8444-Go-Wappa (469-2772), and I will be happy to answer your questions. Until then, happy shopping!
“What should I wear”? I’ve heard this question so often from new students at my paddle boarding school that it occurred to me that I should write about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that many people just don’t know how to dress for stand up paddleboarding. I’ve had people show up for lessons in wetsuits, jeans, wool sweaters and bathing suits of all types.
So, what should you wear when paddle boarding? There is no single outfit for paddle boarding. Rather, you should decide what to wear based on the following tips.
Dress for the Environment
The physical environment really dictates what you should be wearing. If you live in Canada, the northern U.S. or Europe, board shorts, swimsuits and rash guards will be all you need in the summer months. In the spring or fall, shorts and a kayak jacket will work.
When it’s warm and sunny, a rash guard is a must. It keeps the sun off your back, and if you get hot, just jump in the water and your wet rash guard will keep you cool for the next 30 minutes of hard paddling.
Dress for Your Experience Level
Novice paddlers tend to fall into the water more often than experienced riders. Just because you are going for a paddle with an experienced friend, it doesn’t mean you should be dressing like her. She may anticipate having an easy paddle and may dress accordingly because she is confident she won’t be falling. You on the other hand, should plan on falling, and getting wet. Dress appropriately.
Dress to Get Wet
Can you paddle in jeans and a sweatshirt? Sure can, but if you have ever tried swimming in wet heavy clothing, you know it’s not fun. Wear synthetic fabrics that drain the water quickly and are thin. These fabric types are light, dry quickly and keep you from getting cold. Bathing suits, board shorts, athletic apparel all work well in the water.
Wear Non Constrictive Tops
Paddling requires your upper body to twist, bend and extend, don’t wear clothes that are constricting or bind in the armpits. I have had several female students over the years complain that they wore the wrong top and were uncomfortable.
Don’t Wear Anything You’re Not Prepared to Lose
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way several times over the years, so I encourage you to learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t matter how good of a paddler you are, at some point you will have an unexpected fall. If you are not prepared to have your sunglasses, hat or phone sink to the bottom of the lake, DON’T WEAR THEM PADDLE BOARDING. You might not lose them today or tomorrow, but you will lose them eventually.
Be Comfortable with Your Body
The most important thing is to be comfortable when your paddle boarding. If you would never wear a bathing suit, but are comfortable going into the water wearing a T Shirt and shorts. Do it! The simple fact is that you have enough to concentrate about just staying up and paddling. You don’t need to worry about being self conscious by the way you look.
I’ve developed these tips during my years of teaching. I’ve had students who were young and old, skinny and fat. I’ve learned that as long as people follow the tips I’ve listed above, they have had a good paddle boarding experience. If you keep what I wrote in mind, I’m sure you will have a great time too.
Enjoy your paddle!
Buying your first paddle board can be a challenge. Stand up paddle boards (SUP) aren’t cheap, and I know from experience that a first time buyer can quickly be overwhelmed by all of the options and variations that exist in the market place. Inflatable or hard board? What size should you get? Hull shape? Length? Materials? Price? The stuff one needs to learn seems to go on forever. Well, I hope to make your decision making process a little easier, by providing answers to the basic questions faced by every first time buyer.
Inflatable or Hardboard
Should you get an inflatable SUP, or hardboard? I have been asked this question at least 100 times over the years by my students, rental customers and even my niece. Personally, I think that if you have the space, and can afford it, your first board should be a hard board. Why?
Forget the 8’ board that looks wicked in the surf shop. If you are a first time buyer and weigh more than 100 lbs that's way too much board for you! Remember this rule: The smaller the board, the less stable it is. My first board was 11’6”, and I still use it today. I have smaller and longer boards now, but they are for specific purposes like paddle surfing or open ocean downwind paddling. You first board should be a good all around board. You will have it for years (like me), and it will be great for friends and family to use too.
Materials and construction method is what really determine the price of a stand up paddleboard. Better materials make a SUP stronger and lighter. A light board might not matter when you are renting from the beach and they guy carries it to the waterline for you, but when you are walking a few blocks from the parking lot to the beach, it makes a difference.
Only you can determine how much you can afford to pay. If you love paddle boarding and you are dying to get your own board, but your budget is limited, get an inflatable. If you need the best of the best, get a carbon fiber SUP. Otherwise, look for the lightest and best constructed board you can afford with the best materials possible.
I hope these insights will help you with your first stand up paddle board purchase. If you have any questions about purchasing a SUP, I will be glad to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 844-Go-Wappa (469-2772).
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
board performance explained
board care & maintenance
SUP for women
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