Enjoying the Open Water: How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board

July 11, 2019

Stand up paddle board and boarding has a storied history and continues to make inroads in the watersports arena today. Where did it all start? The answer is complicated. Ancient cultures around the globe, from South America to Africa, have used standup-style watercraft for millennia.

But Peru claims one of the oldest traditions, dating back 3,000 years to fishermen who stood atop “Caballitos de Totoras,” small vessels made of reed.

Of course, the modern sport dates back to 1940s Hawaii and surf instructors such as Duke Kahanamoku and Leroy and Bobby AhChoy. Despite this vaunted history, SUP is a cutting-edge industry with the boards to prove it.

Where do you start when it comes to finding the right stand up paddle board? Read on for the tips you need to choose the perfect equipment for your experience level and setup.

Know Your SUP Boards

First, you need to know what types of paddle board options are out there. When you visit a SUP store, you’ll likely see a variety of categories, including:

  • Race and touring SUPs
  • All arounders
  • Boards specifically designed for yoga and family (including the dog)
  • Youth and women’s SUP
  • Fishing boards

Let’s dive into each type of SUP to give you a better concept of what to look for to suit your unique needs.

  • Race and Touring SUPs

You’ll recognize race and touring SUPs by their pointed noses and kayak-like rounded displacement hulls. They measure between 12 feet six inches and 14 feet long and are narrow in width.

Designed for long distances, they build greater efficiency into every stroke to minimize your effort. The trick with these boards remains finding one that makes you feel stable despite the narrow width.

  • All Arounders

All arounders are very similar to traditional surf long boards when it comes to their planing, and they work best for beginners. They measure between 10 feet and 12 feet six inches long. Width-wise they run between 29 and 33 inches.

Besides working well for people learning how to SUP, all arounders also work well for those who like to paddle calm coastal waters and lakes. Finally, they offer the right amount of stability.

  • Boards for Women and Kids

To respond to the needs of women and smaller adults, SUP manufacturers have also created a line of boards that feel light, are easy to carry and have less volume.

  • Family Boards

Finally, for families on the go and yoga enthusiasts, there are soft-top family paddle boards. They combine a longboard design with a wide planing nose and stable squash tail. The pad will cover the entire top of the board.

The result? A worry-free user friendly that’s suitable for a variety of paddlers.

  • Fishing Boards

Fishing from a paddle board has become extremely popular. SUPs designed for fishing will be very stable and equipped to carry rods, coolers and gear.

They are excellent for stealth fishing in skinny water.

Your Ideal Stand Up Paddle Board

Besides finding a board that’s tailor-made to your skill level and size, you should also consider the construction material of your SUP before buying one.

From an inflatable SUP to a fiberglass one, each material boasts its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You’ll also want to talk with a salesperson to make sure you get the optimal board volume and length based on your measurements. Width, length and thickness are all important variables that come into play.

Ready to buy a new stand up paddle board and get it in the water? If so, read on for handy tips to get started.