As a paddle board manufacturer, I love it when people ask “What is the best paddle board for beginners?” It tells me that the person is being smart and making an informed purchase decision.
Like any activity, having the proper equipment helps the participant learn faster, perform better and have more fun. Stand up paddle boarding is no different.
The best paddle board for a beginner is a rigid/hard board with an All Around shape. Let me explain why.
ALL AROUND STYLE
There are several different styles of paddle boards available in the marketplace. Some, like surf style boards look wicked and are eye catching in the store. Others are long, narrow and sleek looking like they will slice through water. While these paddle boards perform as awesome as they look, these styles aren’t the board for you as a beginner.
Beginners need an All Around shaped paddle board because this style of board is good at just about everything, but not great at any one thing. This style tends to be very stable which is what beginners need. To help with stability, look for boards that are at least 32” wide. The wider the board, the more stable it tends to be.
Because All Around boards are good at most things, you will get several years of use out of it before feeling the need to purchase something more specialized. As you gain experience, you may start to paddle surfing or long paddle sessions. Once you know what you love doing, then you can purchase your second, more specialized SUP.
RIGID IS BETTER
Despite the popularity of inflatable paddle boards, most inflatables are simply inferior to rigid paddle boards. The simple fact is that every inflatable paddle board strives to have the rigidity of a hard paddle board, but almost none come close to matching stiffness.
A rigid SUP offers better stability and balance. When standing on most inflatables, there is a slight bend in the board where the paddler stands making it more difficult to stand and maintain balance.
Rigid paddle boards tend to have better glide through the water. Once you’re up and going, do you really want to make it harder on yourself by using a less efficient SUP?
I have steered away from suggesting any particular brands as being “the best paddle board for beginners”. I will leave that to the various “Best of…” sites that direct readers to Amazon products.
Instead of suggesting any one brand of rigid All Around paddle board, I will simply say that quality boards start at $1000 USD. If you spend more than that, there are many quality brands that will meet a beginner’s needs. Have fun shopping!
Picking the Right Paddle Board Length
Picking the right paddle board length is imperative if you want to enjoy your SUP experience. Especially, if this is your first board. Anything to big or to small could lead to a negative experience and the end result could be a paddle board sitting unused in a garage collecting dust. I don’t want this to happen to you, so keep reading, gain some knowledge and go armed into your next paddle board shopping adventure.
Selecting Proper SUP Length
For most people, paddle board length shouldn’t be the primary shopping factor. In my opinion, all length does is provide guidance to the amount of displacement (volume) a board offers. Instead of shopping by length, try to find a paddle board that meets the following needs, and the length will take care of itself.
Factors That Shouldn’t be Considered
I chose to write about this topic because it’s a question that’s been asked to me many times. Not only by my students when I taught paddle boarding, but also by prospective customers. Below are some of the factors that customers think should be considered when determining SUP length, but in actuality, are not important at all.
So now that you know what to consider when selecting paddle board length, stop fixating it. Instead, consider what you want to do with your SUP, your weight and experience level. Once you have selected a board based on those needs, the length will take care of itself. Now, take this knowledge you just gained and go buy the paddle board that is right for you.
Stand up paddle boarding is quickly becoming a common hobby for lovers of water sports. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced veteran, all paddleboarders are bound to make mistakes. So, if you fall a bunch of times in the beginning, don’t worry about it. However, to make your life easier, try to avoid these common mistakes often made by beginners to paddle boarding.
Looking Down While Standing on the Board
If you are participating in paddle boarding for the very first time, do not look down while using the paddle board. Although you might be tempted so that you can get a view the board, it can actually make it harder to maintain your balance. If you want to feel more stable and balanced, you should relax, look forward and choose a spot off in the horizon to focus on instead. By looking forward, the wobbly surface you are viewing disappears, your brain becomes more comfortable and you instantly become more stable.
The Paddle Blade is Facing the Wrong Way
When you look at the profile of a paddle board paddle, you will notice that the blade is offset from the shaft. It’s positioned that way to maximize the amount of water you can pull through your stroke. When using a paddle, make sure that the blade is bent away from you, which will ensure a more powerful and efficient stroke. If you can’t visualize the way the blade should be oriented, think of an ice cream scoop being pulled through the ice cream. You have the offset curve facing away from you as you pull the scoop/blade towards yourself.
Using the Wrong Equipment
Contrary to popular belief, not all SUPs are created equal. Some are designed for choppy conditions while others are created specifically for use on flat water. If you are a beginner, you should make sure that you talk to your salesperson first and explain the conditions in which you plan to use the paddle board for the best pick. Generally, large boards are your best bet if you want a versatile paddle SUP because they make it easy for you to use your technique and they make it a lot easier to balance on. Purchase an All Around style for your first paddle board. They are capable of doing almost everything. Once you gain experience, you can get more specialized boards.
Maintaining the Wrong Posture
The way that you stand up on a paddleboard can be the difference between failure and success. Posture is the key to maintaining balance, which is essential to becoming a good stand up paddler. If you have never used a paddle board before, you should try and stand in a symmetrical position around the handle area, which is the middle. More advanced veterans usually know a range of advanced techniques that allow them to execute moves like the pivot turn.
Using Bad Technique.
When using your stand up paddle board, you should try and avoid:
Now that you’ve read about many of the common mistakes beginners to stand up paddle boarding make, it’s time to get away from the screen go to the beach and get out on the water. Don’t worry about falling or looking stupid. You’re out there doing it, so be proud of yourself.
Have a great paddle!
Which Paddle Board is Right For You?
Now that spring has come in North America, people are buying paddle boards. A regular question I get from customers is “What type of paddle board should I get?”. Paddle boards vary in length, materials, shape and width. With all these variables to be considered during the shopping process, no wonder customers aren’t sure what to get. Well, let’s consider these variables, compare them with your needs and try to answer the question.
Stand up paddle boards can range from 7-21 feet long. That’s a huge variance, and the reason for it is the function the board was designed for. For adults, any paddle board shorter than 10’ tend to be paddle surf oriented. Boards 10-12 feet long tend to fall into the All Round category. 12-14 foot long boards are often oriented towards touring or racing. Paddle boards greater than fourteen feet are designed for open ocean downwind paddling.
The largest segment of the paddle board market is the “All Round” segment. All round paddle boards are very stable, can be used in flat water, chop and even small surf. It is the perfect style of paddle board for people looking for their first SUP.
There is at least two feet of length variance in each function segment. This is your opportunity to get the right size for you. The longer a paddle board is, the greater its volume. The greater the volume the more weight can be supported by the board without losing stability. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs, will find at 10’6” board with 190L of volume will find the board more stable than a person who weighs 250 lbs. The heavier you are, the longer the board should be in its function class.
As a general rule, the wider the paddle board, the more stable it will be. That’s why All Round boards tend to be the widest. Most are 32” wide, but they vary from 3o”-36” depending on the manufacturer and model.
Surf oriented paddle boards tend to be 28”-31” wide. Touring boards 29”-30” wide. Racing boards are the narrowest at 26”-28” wide. These boards are narrow in order to reduce drag so they can slice through the water like missiles.
Clearly, a stand up paddle board’s general length and width is related to its function. It only makes sense that the shape of the board should vary as well.
Touring and racing paddle boards have noses to cut through the water, and hull shapes to help lift the board out of the water to reduce drag and increase speed and efficiency. However, the trade off for speed is instability.
Surf oriented paddle boards look awesome. With a sharp pointed nose and short length, these boards look awesome and are tempting to the novice paddler. However due to their small size, low volume and design, they are unstable on flat water, and require the power of the wave to create lift.
All Round boards tend to have a curved nose and may look like a traditional long board surfboard. They are not the fastest paddle boards on the water, but you can do everything with them. Paddle 10K’s, surf waves up to 6 feet in height or teach grandma SUP basics at the lake. All Round boards can do it all.
What a paddle board is made from affects its price. Inflatable paddle boards are easy to manufacture, made from inexpensive materials and are generally the least expensive boards in the marketplace. Carbon fiber boards on the other hand use advanced materials and complex technology which is directly reflected in its more expensive price.
Before you pull the trigger and make that purchase, you need to ask yourself what you do want from your new SUP? Envision what you would like to do with it, and then look at boards with the appropriate shape. If you don’t see yourself surfing all the time, there really isn’t much point in getting the awesome looking board from a brand’s surf series.
Do you need the 18 lb. carbon fiber board that costs $2500 or will a 24 lb bamboo stand up paddle board that costs half the price with close to the same strength to weight ratio work just as well?
If this is your first board, you probably need stability. An all round SUP would be better for you then one of the sleek racing designs. However, if you see yourself, getting into racing or long distancing paddling ASAP, then you may want to consider a touring or racing design and deal with the steeper learning curve.
Determine your needs before you go shopping for a new paddle board. This will help guide you through the proverbial SUP forest to find the one that is right for you.
When you know your needs, look for paddle boards that have the variables to meet them. Make sure the volume is correct for your weight and experience level, and the SUP is built from the best materials you can afford. Once you have done this, you will have found the stand up paddle board that is right for you.
Why do stand up paddle boards have air vents? That question has been asked by many a new SUP buyer. After reading this blog, you will know the answer to this question and just about everything else there is to know about stand up paddle board air vents.
The Question Answered
So, why do paddle boards have air vents? Air vents release the gases that are created from the foam core that is the base of most hard paddle boards. If the gas pressure isn’t released, it may cause the board to expand which may cause material to de-laminate and the SUP fall apart.
The air vent also helps your SUP to regulate its internal pressure in environments that will cause the board’s pressure to fluctuate. Travelling through areas of with dramatic changes in altitude (mountains), or high heat (full sun on your SUP for hours on end) are perfect examples of such environments.
Types of Air Vents
Typically, there are two types of air vents that you’ll likely encounter. Self regulating air vents are hassle free. The vent comes with a fabric membrane that allows gas to escape from one direction while not allowing water to enter from the other direction. These are often described as maintenance free or hassle free air vents (which how Wappa Paddle Boards describes our vents). This is the superior of the two vent options.
Screw cap air vents, aka standard air vents are exactly as it sounds. Internal gas pressure can only be adjusted when the screw cap is loosened or removed. While the simple system is effective, the downside is in the practice. You have to remember to remove the cap when transporting or storing your SUP, and more importantly, you have to ensure that it’s screwed snugly when you’re on the water to prevent water from entering your board’s core.
Personally, I will take a self regulating air vent every day of the week. You don’t have to worry about anything with this type of vent. It truly is hassle free.
Does Every SUP Have an Air Vent?
No, every SUP doesn’t come with an air vent. Inflatable paddle boards do not have a foam core, so it isn’t needed. Paddle boards with a polyurethane outer layer also don’t use air vents. Polyurethane boards are constructed differently than traditional hard boards. Foam is injected into a polyurethane shell of poly boards. This construction method eliminates material layers so the possibility of de-lamination disappears. There are also a couple of fiberglass manufacturers out there that simply don’t use air vents. They simply believe their products may not de-laminate.
Care and Maintenance
There is really very little you have to do about the air vent in your stand up paddle board. This is especially true for self regulating vents. A best practice is to always rinse your SUP with fresh water after a day of use. Running water over your vent will help keep it clean and breathing. You don’t have to worry about removing a self regulating vent. Just keep it clean and forget about it.
Don’t get bent out of shape about air vents when shopping for your stand up paddle board. Most manufacturers shave not gone to the self regulating type of vent, but if you do see the screw cap, you should be aware of the differences. If you are comparing two boards that are equal in all ways except for the type of air vent, select the self regulating vent. As we say at Wappa, “it’s hassle free”.
Should you purchase an inflatable or hardboard stand up paddle board? If you are in the market for your first SUP, no doubt you have asked yourself that question. I know that I’ve been asked it dozens of times over the years by my paddle boarding students, friends, and even family members. I’m going to tell you what I tell them. Hardboards are better!
Yes, I know that this isn’t surprising coming from a guy who manufacturers hardboards, but give me a chance to explain. My belief of hardboard superiority was developed through personal experience with both platforms and from the experiences of others.
The goal of every inflatable stand up paddleboard is to be as rigid as a traditional hardboard. Why? A rigid board provides better power transfer. When you paddle, you extend energy through your body into the board. A softer platform absorbs some of this energy and decreases stroke efficiency. When your paddling around the shore, this doesn’t matter. However, if you want to paddle for 45 minutes or longer, it makes a big difference.
No matter how inflatable brands try to market their products, they are essentially selling you a big balloon. That’s why every inflatable SUP comes with a patch kit. At some point, the manufacturer anticipates that you will spring a leak.
Hardboards can be damaged too. They can sustain punctures but it takes more to puncture materials like fiberglass, bamboo, polyurethane or carbon fiber. Most often, these boards are affected by cosmetic damage like scratches and scrapes.
I’ve often had paddle boarding students claimed after a lesson on hardboard that they found the hardboard to be more stable than an inflatable they had previously tried. Initially, I discounted these statements as the result of a successful lesson, but I heard it too often to ignore. Besides, it makes sense. Hardboards are more stable because they offer better rigidity.
Ease of Use
How easy is it to use your SUP? Think about it. You have driven to the beach, the weather is great and you’re anxious to get on the water and go for a rip! If you own hardboard all you have to do is remove it from your vehicle’s roof, put the straps in your trunk, walk to the beach, strap on your leash and go. When your day is over, you carry the board back to your car, get your straps, attach your board to the roof, and off you go.
Now, if you have an inflatable, you have to take it out of the bag, unroll it, connect the pump, inflate the SUP, store the pump and storage pack, strap on your leash and go. At the end of the day, you have to, let the SUP dry, deflate it, roll it up, repack it, and go to the car. No thank you!
Transporting several stand up paddle boards on a vehicle’s roof is really quite easy once you learn how. However, you do need to purchase a rack, pads and straps. Quality equipment will likely cost $200+. Never mind the fact that you need to own a vehicle in the first place just to transport a hardboard.
Inflatable paddle boards fit into a large backpack. If you don’t own a vehicle, or like to take a SUP with you when you travel, inflatable paddle boards are the way to go.
Hardboard owners have to have a storage space that is at least as long as the board. Most first time paddle board owners purchase SUP’s between 10 – 12 feet in length. Does you residence have a storage space suitable for something that long?
On the other hand, if you have space in your bachelor apt for a large duffel bag and a paddle, an inflatable SUP will fit in nicely.
No doubt about it. As a general rule, inflatable stand up paddle boards can be purchase at substantially lower prices than hardboards. The cost to manufacture inflatable boards is much less than hard boards. Inflatables enable buyers on a limited budget to own their own board.
Overall, owning a traditional stand up paddle board is the right decision in my opinion. This platform offers better stability and durability than inflatable boards, and they are easier to use day in and day out. However, for people who live in an apartment, don’t own a vehicle, or have a limited budget the inflatable option is the way to go. If those factors aren’t a concern for you, stick to the hardboard. You won’t regret it.
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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