As paddleboarding grows in popularity, so too does the ever expanding range of paddleboards that are available to buy. With new manufacturers appearing all the time, it’s important to be able to look out for the key features that are going to ensure you get the most out of your purchase.
The first thing you need to focus on is what do you intend on using your board for? This will have a major impact on all aspects of the board type you go for. Below we have focused on beginners as this is the most common area we get asked about.
What to look for in a beginner board?
At this stage we’re looking for a compromise between speed and manoeuvrability. This usually means a board around 10’6 to 11ft. You’re looking for a board that’s stable, but not so wide that you have to sacrifice a nice vertical stroke along the edge of the board (avoid super wide yoga boards for this reason). Your weight will have an effect too – the heavier you are the more volume you’ll need. Generally an 80-100kg paddler will want something around 10’6 long and 32″ wide. There are hundreds of models to chose from! Thickness is also important and either 4.75″ or 6″ is a good bet – any narrower and you’ll sacrifice rigidity.
If you are intending to spend a lot of time on the water going on longer paddles you may want a board better suited for this. Touring boards start at around 11’3 up to 13’ or longer. Most touring boards have one or sometimes two long fins which aid with tracking but it is worth bearing in mind that long fins can become damaged on shallow rivers as well as risking can get caught and you fall off. The solution here is to ensure the fin box (where the fin sits if it is removable) is a common design such as a US Fin Box. This means you can buy replacement fins or different length ones fairly easily. Longer boards tend to carry speed better than shorter ones. Over time, it is far less tiring to paddle as they can require less effort but be careful as if you are new to paddleboarding you may find a longer board harder to turn and control.
As you progress, you may wish to consider a narrow SUP around 29”-31” wide. Although a narrower SUP is a little less stable they are faster. Some people also find narrower boards to be more comfortable to paddle as you aren’t having to reach so wide to get the paddle in the water.
Inflatable or hardboard?
Inflatable SUPs or iSUPs are a great option for a first board. They pack down well for easy storage, are generally very stable and can be more comfortable to paddle especially whilst kneeling (compared to a hard board). Whilst hard boards have a smoother ride and are great for racing or surfing they are bulkier to store and very fragile – not to mention expensive. Usually they’re a considered purchase a little way down the line.
Consider safety features
Safety is key when choosing any board. Features to look for are a solid central handle for carrying the board as well as for self rescues; nose and tail handles are useful for towing and helping to rescue others but also handy for carrying one board between two if you’re tired or wind is making it difficult to carry solo; a D-ring at the front incase you need to be or your board needs towing and bungee straps to carry a drybag of kit.
Does it come with a warranty?
A manufacturer who offers a long warranty is indicating they back their products. We always look for long warranties in our school equipment. That’s why we work with Red Paddle Co (5-years) and Gladiator (3-years) here. Both companies fully guarantee boards for workmanship – an indication that they’re unlikely to go wrong. We don’t suggest buying anything with a one year warranty. In that time you may have only used it a handful of times. If it goes pop the following season you’ve got no comeback. Buy well, buy once is our top tip.
We stock a selection of Red Paddle Co and Gladiator boards for you to choose from on our sessions. We also retail both boards both new and second hand. New boards come with the enormous warranties above, and we warranty our second hand Red Paddle boards ourselves for 1 year. We’ve never had one back – they last forever!