Choosing a Stand Up Paddleboard
With a dizzying array of choice finding your perfect SUP can be an intimidating and exhausting process. The objective of this article is to help you simplify the procedure by explaining the different types of boards available and their purposes. Stand Up Paddleboarding is a fun and exciting sport – there’s no reason why buying one shouldn’t be the same! Here are some tips in choosing a standup paddleboard.
3- Different Types of SUP
Similar to kayaks and canoes, stand up paddleboards are designed with a particular function in mind. Although manufacturers’ boards will differ from each other, three main types of SUP boards exist: Surf/Wave Riding Boards, Hybrid/Family Boards, and Touring/Racing Boards.
Due to the advancement of SUP boarding, SUPs have experienced change over the years and are now offered in a variety of shapes and sizes. Below we will explain the differences between the three main types of boards and the pros and cons associated with each:
Surf/Wave Riding Boards
These types of boards are essentially the first evolution in the stand up paddleboarding. Surf SUPs, or boards designed for riding waves, are easily identified by their short length (6’-10’), low volume, and high degree of rocker (curvature front to back). These types of paddleboards also feature a wide, rounded, upswept nose to help lift the board over waves.
Combining lots of rocker with a raised nose allows surf/wave riding SUPs to pivot easily for excellent maneuverability. Due to their short length, these types of boards tend to be wide (30” – 34”) in order to provide good stability and will feature a centre fin plus thruster fins.
Note: Thruster fins are smaller fins installed towards to outer edges of the board at the tail. These fins help ‘keep you in the pocket’ of the wave when riding surf.
Accordingly, surf/wave riding paddleboards sacrifice speed and efficiency for playfulness and stability. Shorter boards will not track (go straight) very well, and as such, it takes longer to get from point A to point B. Although due to their wide, stable platform, these types of SUP boards can be good intro boards for beginners.
The next progression to stand up paddleboards is the Hybrid/Family SUP. These boards include a moderate amount of rocker and are slightly longer than a surf/wave riding SUP (10’ – 12’). The width averages around 30” and the nose tends to be rounded.
Hybrid/Family paddleboards are easily summed up as a board that does everything well but nothing perfect. For instance, they will track better than a surf/wave riding board but not as well as a touring/racing board; maneuverability is greater than a touring/racing SUP but poorer than surf/wave riding SUP. Stability and speed also fall in the middle ground.
With that being said, hybrid stand up paddleboards are a great choice for beginners and skilled paddlers alike. The versatility of a hybrid board appeals to an intermediate rider as it allows them to go for a day’s paddle or go out in the waves and play. Conversely, novice riders or those new to stand up paddleboarding will appreciate the board’s stability and user-friendliness.
Note: Hybrid/Family Boards are ideal for around the cottage as they are a good fit for the whole family and can be paddled for a variety of uses.
The most current trend in stand up paddleboards is Touring/Racing boards. This type of SUP is designed opposite to a surf or wave riding board. They are longer (12’ – 14’) and narrower (28” – 30”) with minimal rocker. The nose of the board is pointed as opposed to rounded with the tail being more streamlined than wide.
Note: Racing SUPs are almost always 14’ long with a very narrow width. This type of board is geared towards an experienced rider or competitive paddler.
The long, sleek shape of a touring or racing SUP board enables them to paddle faster and more efficiently through the water. They will track much better than a short, wide board, and the nose will slice through the waves allowing paddlers to travel a greater distance with less effort.
Consequently, this type of paddleboard is slightly less stable initially and will be harder to maneuver. As such, their performance suffers when trying to ride waves or play in surf. Therefore, a touring or racing SUP is ideal for those who wish to travel distances or go for a day-long paddle.
Note: Touring boards generally feature tie-down points at the nose to secure a dry bag to. This storage space allows paddlers to bring the necessary gear needed for a day-tour or short camping trip.
What’s Right for Me?
Now that we’ve described the different types of SUP boards, the next step is to identify what type is right for you. In choosing a standup paddleboard , it’s important to determine what your needs are based on a few simple parameters.
Where will you be paddling the board most often?
Those who plan to paddle flat-water lakes or rivers have little need for something that can ride waves or surf. Those who live near coastal waters or big, open lakes require a board that is designed for surf-type conditions. If you have access to both the above types of water, then perhaps a hybrid/family board is ideal for you.
Short-Term & Long-Term Goals
What do you plan on getting out of your SUP experience?
If you’re content with a short, leisurely paddle at the cottage and nothing more, a short, wide board may be just the ticket. Due to their great stability, surf/wave riding SUPs are easy for anybody to get out for a short paddle; however, its quick handling may be frustrating for this type of outing as you will struggle to keep yourself going straight. Therefore, a hybrid board may be good choice for a recreational paddler.
For those who wish to start out small but have aspirations to go big may want to consider ahybrid board or a touring/racing board. The hybrid SUP will enable you to get out on the water easily with a high degree of comfort and will take you from short, recreational outings to longer day-trips. On the other hand, a touring/racing SUP may take longer to become accustomed to but will allow you to go out on longer trips and learn more advanced paddling techniques.
Paddlers looking for a more ‘thrilling’ SUP experience are certainly a good fit for a surf/wave riding SUP. Beginners will appreciate the stability as it easily allows them to become comfortable with the board and gets them out on the waves quicker.
Lastly, if you’re interested in a ‘little of this’ and a ‘little of that’, then a hybrid stand up paddleboard is a good choice for you. The unique design of a hybrid SUP allow you to play in the waves, tour a sheltered lake with ease, or just go out for a short paddle with the kids.
Note: Although the different types of boards are designed with certain functions in mind, experienced riders with advanced paddling skills will be able to utilize one board for a variety of uses. For example, a touring/racing board can be used to ride smaller waves and a surf/wave riding SUP can be paddled on flat-water.
Who will be riding the SUP?
If the board is going to be used by just you, then it is important to purchase a SUP that meets ALL of YOUR needs. However, if your partner or kids will be using the board also, it’s important to consider their needs as well.
For example, parents will always put their children’s safety first and foremost; therefore, a board with good stability is likely going to be at the top of their list. As such, a short, wide SUP will be a good choice. Although if one parent is determined to paddle long distances and the other requires something to hit the waves with, choosing one type over the other can become difficult. With that being said, a hybrid SUP might be the best choice in this scenario.
Note: Any one of the three types of SUPs can be used by those who are interested in doing yoga or fitness training. Simply find a board that has the proper amount of stability required.
Paddle Before You Buy
Despite the fact that you now know the different types of boards and the factors you should consider before buying, nothing will dictate which SUP suits you better than by paddling one or two… or six! Trying a variety of boards in succession is by far the best way to determine what you feel most comfortable with and what SUP will perform to your expectations. And it makes for a more enjoyable purchasing experience too!
Come visit us at Frontenac Outfitters to demo our selection of stand up paddleboards. We offer free test paddling six days a week, and our experienced staff are happy to educate you about the boards on the water! And did we mention we offer an Intro to SUP Boarding Course as well as free SUP days? Contact Us to learn more! Not only that, but we provide a free night’s stay at one of our campsites to those who buy a board or take a course from us?
Click Here to learn about the different materials used to manufacture a stand up paddleboard!
Click Here to learn about the history and evolution of stand up paddleboarding!
Click Here for ten tips on stand up paddleboarding!
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