How Do I Choose a SUP? Answer Our 6 Questions
Shopping for a stand-up paddle board (SUP) can be a daunting experience for the first-time buyer. With dozens of brands, different technologies, materials, and large differences in price, choosing the right SUP can be difficult.
Prepare for a successful shopping experience by answering the following questions.
WHAT IS MY EXPERIENCE LEVEL?
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re considering purchasing your first paddle board. First time buyers range from the totally inexperienced, to people who’ve logged dozens of hours on a SUP at a resort or rental facilities. If you’re very new to the sport, you will want to choose a SUP that has more stability. This will help you maintain balance as you gain confidence and experience.
When evaluating your experience level, you should consider more than the number of hours you’ve spent on a SUP. Consider your general athletic ability as well. Do you generally have great balance? Does your body learn new skills quickly? If so, board size and stability become less of an issue.
While considering your experience level in choosing a SUP, remember not to get a SUP to large just for added stability. While it may seem like a great idea at first, you will quickly grow out of it. As you gain experience, the larger board will become a hindrance.
WHAT ARE MY PADDLE BOARDING GOALS?
There may be no more important question when choosing a SUP than determining your goals. What you visualize doing on a paddle board will lead you down the proper branch of the SUP tree.
Generally, stand up paddle boards can be divided into the following styles:
HOW WILL I TRANSPORT MY BOARD?
If you’re not leaving your SUP permanently at the cottage or cabin, then you will need to consider how it will be transported.
If you have a vehicle with a solid roof, then you’ll be able to get a roof rack and a rigid paddle board.
If you don’t own a vehicle or won’t spend the money for a rack, then you should be looking to choose an inflatable SUP. Inflatables are stored in a backpack, and can be taken on public transit.
WHERE WILL I STORE THE BOARD?
When choosing a SUP, you have to consider where it will be stored.
The average paddle board is at least 10’6” long. If you purchase a rigid paddle board, you will need a space long enough to store your board. Many people store their boards in a garage, basement, at the cabin, or hung on a wall.
Storage space isn’t an issue for inflatable boards. Rolled into its backpack, these boards can be stored in an apartment closet.
WHAT IS MY BUDGET?
Even the cheapest of paddle boards are several hundred dollars, and the most expensive ones cost several thousand dollars. Either way you cut it; paddle boards are not cheap.
Everyone wants to get the most bang for their buck, so knowing your budget will help you to choose a SUP which does that.
If you budget is less than $500 than you should only consider inflatable paddle boards. New rigid paddle boards at this price are poor quality. Simple as that.
Once your budget exceeds $1000, you should consider a rigid paddle board. Better quality boards are available at this price, and from a performance and durability perspective, rigid paddle boars are superior to inflatables. Top performing inflatable brands are also available in this price range.
WHO WILL RIDE THE SUP?
Who is going to be riding the new paddle board? When deciding to choose a SUP, you need to consider everyone involved.
Will this be a family board? If so, you’ll need to consider the size, experience level, etc… of the largest person in the house.
Choosing a SUP doesn’t have to be difficult. As a shopper, you simply need to determine both your current needs and long term goals. By answering the six questions, you will have a better understanding of your needs and which path to follow. Now answer those questions and start shopping!
Can You Be Too Heavy to Paddle Board?
Can a person be too heavy to paddle board? The short answer is no. The key for any paddle boarder is to get a board that can support the rider’s weight.
While its true that a person could submerge a paddle board if he is too heavy for the board’s design, that doesn’t mean that the rider is too heavy to paddle board. All it means is that he is too heavy for that paddle board. In other words, the paddle board he submerged simply didn’t have the volume to hold his size.
PADDLE BOARD VOLUME
To many people, stand up paddle boards look like overgrown surfboards. They have similar shapes, are watersports equipment, and both types of boards can be used for surfing. The biggest difference between paddle boards and surf boards is their size. Surfboards can be smaller than 6 feet in length, but most paddle boards are at least 10.5 feet long, and can be as long 16 feet.
Paddle boards are much larger than surf boards, which means they have greater volume or displacement. That’s why, people can stand on a SUP that isn’t moving, which is impossible to do on a surf board. A surfboard simply doesn’t have volume to support a rider’s full weight when it’s not moving.
WHAT IS VOLUME?
A stand up paddle board’s volume is measured in Liters and it signifies how much water is displaced by the board when it enters the water.
Paddle board manufacturers create boards of different volumes to enable a better match between rider weight and the board’s function. A perfect example of this is the Wappa Classic and Nova. Both boards have similar All-Around shapes, and are designed to do the same things. The biggest difference between them is their size. The Nova is 10 inches longer and has 25 more liters in volume (190L Classic, 215L Nova). This means, that a heavier person can ride the Nova and experience the same ride as a lighter person on the Classic.
THE PURPOSE OF VOLUME
A paddle board’s volume is determined by the size of the board. Generally, the longer and wider the board, the greater the volume.
Volume brings two things to a paddle board. Stability, and how much weight it can support before submerging. The greater the volume, the more stable the board and the greater the rider weight that can be supported.
However, as rider weight increases, a boards stability may decrease if the rider is close to the board’s maximum rider weight.
SIGNS THAT YOU’RE TOO HEAVY FOR THE SUP
If you’re reading this article, I am going to assume that you are a beginner to the sport and have limited experience on the board.
If you get on a board, and it’s extremely unstable for you, it might not be your balance, rather, the board is just too small for your experience level and weight. If lighter people can get on the board and find balance, but you can’t, then the board is volume than it should for someone your size. Ask about the volume of the board. If the volume is within 15 Liters of your weight, it will provide good beginner stability.
If you stand on the board, and it becomes submerged more than 50%, then the board is too small for a beginner.
A person can never be too heavy to paddle board. All heavier people need to do is find the proper size board. By determining the board’s volume and matching it to your weight and experience level, a great day on the water is guaranteed. Don’t be discouraged when you see slimmer people paddling. There are boards made for you too. Just get one the right size and have a great time!
What Size SUP Do I Need for My Weight?
“What size SUP do I need for my weight?” This is an excellent question that should be asked by every first time SUP shopper. An even better question would be “what size SUP do I need for my weight and experience level?”
A paddle board should never be sold based on a person’s height. Your height is irrelevant to paddle board performance. Your weight, experience level and paddling goals are what matters.
While paddle boards vary in shape, width, length and thickness, the most important measurement when purchasing your first SUP is volume. A paddle board’s volume which is measured in liters is the best variable in determining what size board is best for you. A board’s volume tells you how much water the board displaces when it’s placed in the water. The higher the volume, the more weight a board can handle before performance diminishes.
Below are some examples of different Wappa paddle boards, their volume, and maximum rider weight the boards can handle.
As a general rule, the larger a paddle board’s volume, the more stable it will be. The heavier the person, the greater a SUP’s volume has to be to maintain an equal level of stability.
A common mistake many first-time buyers make is purchasing a larger board than they need because they want something that’s very stable. While getting a larger board then you need will be very stable, you may quickly become frustrated with your new toy as you gain experience. After a few sessions, your balance will improve and by the end of your first summer paddling, you will feel very comfortable on your board
However, as you gain experience, the big, stable SUP you initially loved may start feeling like an aircraft carrier as you paddle longer distances, or try to take some waves.
The key to selecting the right SUP is getting one with the proper volume to give you the stability that is needed at the beginning without it being too big that your skills advance past it in a few months. A good measuring stick for a first-time buyer is to compare your weight to the board’s volume. If you weigh 25 lbs. less than the boards volume, you will not be getting a board that is too big for you. In fact, you will be pretty much in its sweet spot.
If your weight is close to the volume of the board, it will be nice and stable. If your weight is over the volume of the board, but below the maximum weight, it will still be a great board for the long term, but it will be a little less stable for you as a beginner.
As the above chart illustrates, longer SUPs have more volume and can carry more weight. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 250 lbs. you should be getting a Wappa Scout just because you “fit it”. That board is big and long because it’s deigned to easily cut through water. It’s also 2”- 4” narrower than the other Wappa boards. When shopping, you will need to pay attention to the board’s function as well.
As you shop for paddle boards, don’t use your height as a measuring stick. Instead, use your weight. Select a SUP that will put you in the “body weight/board volume” sweet spot. Once you do that, you’ll be on the right track to selecting the properly sized paddle board.
What do you need for paddle boarding? As a former instructor who has taught 200+ first time students, this is a question that I was regularly asked. To have a great experience, you will need a few things. However, I won’t simply list what you’ll need, I will also explain the reasoning why.
A GREAT ATTITUDE
A great attitude is important when learning any new skill. With proper instruction learning to paddle board is very easy. Without it, the learning curve can be quite difficult.
Every paddle boarder falls into the water. Beginners will fall more often as they learn balance and practice their skills. Often, people will stand up and immediately fall back into the water. This experience can be very frustrating. Keep a great attitude. Keep smiling and having fun. Soon you will be up and going!
You need to dressed properly for a great paddle boarding session. Dress for the weather and dress for the water.
If you’re in warm sunny destinations, make sure you wear a rash guard. It will keep the sun off your back to keep you cool and prevent sunburn.
If you’re in cold water, you may want to wear a wetsuit or booties.
When students would ask me what they should wear, I would always suggest they wear whatever they are comfortable wearing to the beach. You need to be comfortable in your skin as people on the beach will be watching you. Just don’t wear any heavy materials that soak up water, like sweatshirts or denim. They become very heavy and when you’re pulling yourself onto the board after a fall, they can hinder a beginner.
Normally, I recommend going barefoot while paddle boarding. The deck pad will have plenty of grip, and you don’t want to lose a shoe to the bottom of the ocean. Only wear footwear, if it is very rocky and shallow where you’ll be paddling. If you have to walk your board out 100 feet over rocks, some lightweight footwear would be nice.
PADDLE BOARD EQUIPMENT
As a first time paddle boarder, you’re probably renting or borrowing equipment, so you should have everything you need. However, you may have to figure it out on your own. In this case you will need the following items to paddle board effectively and safely:
It’s obvious why you need a board and paddle to perform this activity so I will only discuss the remaining three items. A center fin is required to keep your boarding travelling in the direction you want. A SUP will perform without the smaller thruster fins, but without the center fin, a paddler will have her work cut out for her.
A leash is more important than a life jacket for paddle board safety. It keeps you tethered to the board when you fall. Typically, when a person falls, the board is pushed in the opposite direction of the fall. Without being attached to the leash, you may have to chase your board for hundreds of feet. If it catches a current or wave, it could be gone leaving you stranded in the water without anything solid to climb upon. Staying connected to your board is VERY important. The board offers safety, stability and a place to rest.
Life jackets should be worn if you’re not a good swimmer and in some jurisdictions they are mandatory. However, I am not a fan of life jackets as I find them warm and bulky. It may also be the culture I grew up in as a paddle boarder. No one ever wore life jackets, but we also wore leashes.
At least 2 liters of water will be needed for a paddle boarding session. I suggest drinking a litre immediately before the session and then a litre after your done. Paddle boarding is hard work and you’re going to sweat. While living in Mexico, I would guzzle 1.5 litres of water before a session and I never became dehydrated.
If it’s going to be sunny, you will need sunblock. The water is highly reflective and you will become red as a cooked lobster if you’re not protected.
Don’t wear sunglasses unless they are strapped to your head, or you have them connected to a flotation device. The simple fact is, everyone falls into the water at some point. Unless you want your glasses to spend some time on the bottom of the lake, don’t do it.
What you might need for paddle boarding will depend on the person and the environment where you’re paddling. There may be more or less items on your list. Use this list as a guideline. I developed it from practical experience, and used it effectively to teach more then 200 SUP newbies.
Have a great paddle boarding experience. I hope you love it!
How Much Does a Good Paddle Board Cost? As a paddle board manufacturer, Wappa knows all about the costs that go into a paddle board, and why good paddle boards cost more.
To answer the question, the starting price for good paddle boards is about $1200 USD.
While the term “good” is subjective, let me explain what we at Wappa consider to be a good paddle board. This will enable you as a shopper to have greater insight to the qualities of a “good” SUP.
Good paddle boards cost more than cheap ones for several reasons.
The better the materials that go into a paddle board, the stronger and lighter the paddle board will be.
With rigid paddle boards, stringerless cores are stronger and superior to cores that use stringers. Unfortunately, you can’t tell if your board is stringerless by visual inspection.
Carbon fiber is more expensive and stronger than bamboo. Bamboo is more expensive and stronger than simple fiberglass. Stronger and lighter is more expensive. That’s why a carbon fiber paddle board will cost more than a bamboo board, and a real bamboo paddle board will cost more than a pressed composite board.
Quality of workmanship needs to be considered when purchasing a paddle board.
Some paddle board brands build their boards using inexperienced labor. Experience and talented people cost money. This means it costs more to manufacture a board with an experienced craftsperson, and there are also less quality control issues and happier customers. At Wappa, our average builder has 10.5 years experience building paddle boards. Experience costs more, but it’s worth it.
Some companies may also use machines more than people to build their boards. Machines increase manufacturing speed and decrease labor cost. Boards made by machines will cost less, but the brand is limited as to how their products can be manufactured.
Another major factor that determines a paddle boards cost is how it’s made.
One of the reasons why inflatable paddle boards are so cheap is due to how they are made. All inflatable boards are essentially sewn and glued together. An inflatable paddle board takes hours to build.
Rigid paddle boards can be made by a variety of techniques that can affect a paddle board’s cost and quality.
Rotomolded paddle boards have foam injected into a plastic shell. These rigid paddle boards are fairly inexpensive, but they are very heavy.
Foam boards are rigid and cheap, but they probably won’t last more than a couple of seasons.
Rotomolded and foam boards can be produced in an assembly line environment. Both of these boards are cheap paddle boards.
Layered paddle boards are much more expensive and much better quality. Brands like Wappa are made by the layering process. Starting with a foam core, layers of different materials such as bamboo or carbon fiber or fiberglass are applied to make the board stronger, stiffer, and lighter. Layered paddle boards take longer to build and are more labor intensive. For example, it takes 29 days to build a Wappa.
When purchasing a paddle board, it’s difficult to determine visually if a board is high quality and if you’re getting good value with your purchase. When looking at boards in the store or online, they all pretty much look the same. Graphics and color may make them look different, but ask yourself the following questions when making your purchase decision:
Once you have the answers to these questions, you will have a better idea if the sticker price on the board you’re thinking of buying is a good paddle board that’s worth the cost.
How to Stand Up Paddle Board - 5 Tips for Beginners
You’ve watched people on the beach do it, and maybe you’ve even watched a few YouTube videos about how to stand up paddle board. However, watching something and doing it are two different things. For those of you who would enjoy a little text to assist with your learning curve, here are five tips I’ve used to teach hundreds of beginning paddle boarding students over the years.
BE LIKE SUPERMAN
When you’re getting onto a paddle board in shallow water, create forward momentum for the paddle board by launching yourself onto it like you’re Superman.
Here’s how you do it
MOMENTUM EQUALS BALANCE
Never try to stand on the paddle board if it’s just floating in the water. The key to standing easily on a paddle board is forward momentum. As soon as your paddle board begins to move forward, it becomes more stable. That’s why I like the Superman launch so much. It gives your board enough speed, that you’re able to stand before the board slows down and becomes less stable.
When you fall in deep water, you won’t be able to use the Superman launch technique to create forward momentum. Instead, take several strokes while positioned upright on your knees to create the speed and balance you need.
Moving from laying prone on your paddle board in the Superman position to standing and paddling can often be the most challenging part of the sport for many beginners. However, with the proper technique, it becomes easy.
You’re up on the board and you’ve taken a few strokes. Your feet are getting sore because your toes are clenched trying to grab the SUP for balance. How do other people make it look so easy? Here’s How:
Even on your first day of paddle boarding, you will take dozens if not hundreds of strokes. As you become more proficient in the sport, you may take thousands of strokes in a day. As a result, it’s important to learn a few proper techniques in the beginning. These ideas will set you down the right path for your stroke development.
These five tips will certainly get you going and will provide some good fundamentals on how to stand up paddle board. However, there are several things left out in this article due to space. Topics such as water safety, turning, stopping have not been covered. If you’ve had success with the techniques in this article and want to do more, I suggest that you take a lesson with a qualified paddle board instructor.
Are inflatable paddle boards any good for beginners? As a hard board brand, our gut reaction is to say that inflatable paddle boards are terrible. However, that would be dishonest. A better answer would be “it depends”.
Like every product, inflatable paddle boards can be of poor or high quality. Inflatable boards have a wide price range. You can purchase an inflatable for as little as $250 or as much as $2500. The boards at the lower end of the price spectrum should be avoided.
STIFFNESS IS IMPORTANT
When inflatable paddle boards are designed, a key objective of the builder is to make the inflatable as stiff and rigid as a hard board.
A paddle board’s rigidity is its key to success. A hard, rigid board glides through the water with ease, and is easy to paddle. For beginners, stability is more important than glide, and rigid paddle boards offer better stability than a soft paddle board.
As a beginner, you should look for a paddle board that is very rigid and stiff. You will be able to stand easier, and you will be able to move forward and gain speed more efficiently.
DO INFLATABLES PROVIDE GOOD RIGIDITY?
All inflatables try to be as rigid as a hard board like a Wappa. Unfortunately, unless you are spending more than $1500, it’s unlikely that you will experience stiffness similar to a hard board. Cheaper inflatables are less expensive because they don’t have the same number of channels and baffles that give the board the stiffness it needs to be beneficial for a beginner paddler.
Inexpensive inflatables can lead to a frustrating afternoon on the water. Without stiffness, the board may start to bend a little under the paddler. This creates board instability and all but eliminates glide. A beginner on such a board, can quickly become frustrated. Balance is difficult to obtain, and the paddling experience is suboptimal.
If you are learning to paddle board, try to learn on a hard paddle board. Hard paddle boards have the rigidity required for excellent beginner stability, and they glide easier through the water. Better stability and better glide equate to a better experience, and more fun on the water.
So, to answer the original question, “Are inflatable paddle boards any good for beginners?” Yes, they can be. Just make sure you spend the money and get the stiffest inflatable available. If you cheapen out and get an inexpensive brand, you’ll likely experience much more frustration than you would on a better-quality inflatable or hard board. If you can’t afford the best inflatables, it’s best to stay away, and purchase a hard paddle board instead. It’s just a better experience.
“What size paddle board do I need for my height?” That is a question that should never be asked when shopping for a paddle board. A better question would be “what size paddle board do I need for my weight and experience level?”
Stand up paddle boards should never be sold based on a person’s height. Your height is irrelevant to paddle board performance. Your weight is what matters.
While paddle boards vary in shape, width, length and thickness, the most important measurement when purchasing your first paddle board is volume. A paddle board’s volume which is measured in liters is the best variable in determining what size board is best for you. A board’s volume tells you how much water the board displaces when it’s placed in the water. The higher the volume, the more weight a board can handle before performance diminishes.
Below are some examples of different Wappa paddle boards, their volume, and maximum weight the boards can handle.
As a general rule, the larger a paddle board’s volume, the more stability it will be. A common mistake many first-time buyers make is purchasing a larger board than they need because they want something that’s very stable. While getting a larger board then you need will be very stable, you may quickly become frustrated with your new toy as you gain experience. After a few sessions, your balance will improve and by the end of your first summer paddling, you will feel very comfortable on your board.
Now that you’re comfortable and have good balance, the extra stability a large board initially provides can start to feel like an anchor. With every paddle stroke you make, you will be pushing now needless volume through the water. The big, stable board you initially loved may start feeling like an aircraft carrier as you paddle longer distances, or try to take some waves.
The key to selecting the right paddle board is getting one with the proper volume to give you the stability that is needed at the beginning without it being too big that your skills advance past it in a few months. A good measuring stick for a first-time buyer is to compare your weight to the board’s volume. If you weigh 25 lbs. less than the boards volume, you will not be getting a board that is too big for you. In fact, you will be pretty much in its sweet spot.
If your weight is close to the volume of the board, it will be nice and stable. If your weight is over the volume of the board, but below the maximum weight, it will still be a great board for the long term, but it will be a little less stable for you as a beginner.
As the above chart illustrates, longer paddle boards have more volume and can carry more weight. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 250 lbs. you should be getting a Wappa Scout just because you “fit it”. That board is big and long because it’s deigned to easily cut through water. It’s also 2”- 4” narrower than the other Wappa boards. When shopping, you will need to pay attention to the board’s function as well.
When you decide to buy paddle board, don’t use your height as a measuring stick. Instead, use your weight. Select a SUP that will put you in the “body weight/board volume” sweet spot. Once you do that, you’ll be on the right track to selecting the properly sized paddle board.
What Kind of Paddle Board Do I Need?
What kind of paddle board do I need? Now that is a loaded question. Answers will vary depending on the questioner’s paddling skill level, the paddling environment and whether or not you are buying or renting. For purposes of this article, the assumption will be that the questioner is a first-time buyer.
Several different styles of paddle boards are available in the marketplace. Most styles are designed to perform a specific function. There are touring paddle boards which are long and narrow. They are designed to cut easily through water and to be paddled for several miles. Wave style paddle boards were created to maximize the surf experience. Race paddle boards, even more narrow than touring boards are designed for racing.
If you’re a first-time buyer and you’re asking the question “What kind of paddle board do I need?”, the answer is an All-Around paddle board.
Stable and maneuverable, All Around paddle board shapes are a great first board. All Around boards are designed to be versatile. They function well in most water conditions including small waves.
You will use an All-Around paddle board for years. Even as your skills progress and you purchase more specialized boards, you will still paddle your All Around. Plus, it’s the perfect board for family or friends. When people close to you want to try the sport, they will be able to use your stable All Around, while you use one of your specialized boards.
INFLATABLE OR HARD BOARD
Now that you know what style of paddle board you need; they next decision is determining if you need an inflatable or rigid paddle board. As long as you don’t live in a high-rise or have limited storage capability, you’ll want to get a hard board.
Without going into details, hard paddle boards are simply better than inflatables. Their rigidity makes it easier for the board to glide, and rigid boards also enable more power transfer from the body through the stroke. If you would like to learn more about the difference between hard and inflatable paddle boards, check out this article.
If you have to take an elevator to get to your apartment or condo, or if you don’t have a vehicle, then you should be getting an inflatable paddle board. It will just make your paddling life easier.
To sum everything up, a first-time buyer needs to purchase an All-Around style of paddle board. Whether you get an inflatable or rigid paddle board is up to you. If you have the storage space and ability to transport a hard board, get it.
Are cheap paddle boards any good? No, cheap paddle boards are not any good.
QUALITY ISN’T CHEAP
Simply put, a quality product can’t be built cheaply. A product’s retail price is based upon all the costs involved into getting it to the consumer. Everything from research and development, to manufacturing, marketing, distribution and profit are included in any product’s MSRP. Often, the largest aspect that affects MSRP is the manufacturing cost.
Considering that the cheapest of cheap paddle boards sell for approximately $300, how good were the materials and craftsmanship that went into that board? As a manufacturer, I know that to make a profit at that sales price, not much money was spent on building a quality product.
BETTER QUALITY MATERIALS COST MORE
The simple fact is more expensive brands charge more because they have spent more to produce their products.
Components such as cores and epoxies for hard boards or stitching levels and number of baffles for inflatables will affect a paddle board’s cost. As will the technology that is involved in making the board. Cheaper paddle boards don’t use the superior sandwich technology or vacuum bagging. While the cheaper boards may look similar, they will not be as strong or as light as the more expensive board made with advanced technology.
Wappa could reduce it’s manufacturing costs by almost 50% if we followed some of the manufacturing practices and used the same materials to build our boards that cheaper brands use. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to maintain 100% customer satisfaction and have our owners repeatedly tell us how great their board looks, and how much they love it.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
While the previous paragraph sounds like a marketing spiel, it isn’t. At Wappa, we’ve realized, that you get what you pay for. We’ve tried the cheaper materials and production methods. They just don’t look as good or perform as well over time. After building cheap prototypes, and letting our testers use them day in and out for two years, it was clear that over time, the cheaper boards didn’t perform as well as the better quality Wappas.
At the end of the day, any paddle board is better than no paddle board. If all you can afford is a cheap paddle board, do it! However, if you can save a little longer spend the money and get a quality board. It will be worth the wait.
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.
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