The Complete Stand Up Paddle Board Guide

stand up paddleboadingStandup pad­dle board­ing (SUP­ing) has tak­en off, but there is a lot more to know than most peo­ple think. Here is a quick guide to some of the basics you’ll need to get into the sport.

Standup Paddle Board Styles

Stan­dard
Stan­dard boards pro­vide a bal­ance or sta­bil­i­ty and speed. They are per­fect for begin­ners and casu­al pad­dle board­ers and have the ver­sa­til­i­ty to ride on flat water or catch waves. You won’t be rac­ing on one of these, but if you are look­ing for a good all-around ride, this is a great place to start.

Yoga
Yoga boards focus on sta­bil­i­ty. They are large and flat with thick rails to help you remain steady with less effort. How­ev­er, this does not mean they will pro­vide com­plete sta­bil­i­ty. You must still engage your core mus­cles to keep your­self upright while prac­tic­ing your pos­es. What you gain in sta­bil­i­ty, you lose in speed. These boards are not intend­ed to cov­er long dis­tances with ease. They are more for pad­dling your way onto the water and engag­ing in yoga prac­tice near shore.

Tour­ing
Tour­ing boards are longer and more sleek than your tra­di­tion­al SUP. They are point­ed on both ends and have more of a keel in order to help with track­ing. How­ev­er, tour­ing boards are also much less wide than oth­er pad­dle boards. They sac­ri­fice sta­bil­i­ty for speed, allow­ing you to cov­er more area quick­er and with less effort, as long as you have good bal­ance.

Surf­ing
Just as there are with surf­boards, there are a wide vari­ety of options when it comes to pad­dle boards you can use for surf­ing. If you plan on catch­ing waves while stand­ing erect, you get to decide whether you want a more sta­ble board or a short­er per­for­mance board, a board with a point­ed tip and/or tail for bet­ter maneu­ver­abil­i­ty.

yoga paddleboard

Construction

Foam
Foam boards can be the cheap­est and often don’t need a grip pad, as the foam can be mold­ed to have more trac­tion. They take up as much space as a sol­id board but don’t track as well, and you won’t be able to find these in the tour­ing or rac­ing style. You will also look like a bit of a kook out on the water if you buy one of the cheap­est ver­sions.

Inflat­able
Anoth­er option is an inflat­able board, which pro­vides a more sol­id foot­ing than you would expect. Inflat­able boards can be very com­pact when deflat­ed, and con­sid­er­ing the lofty size of most pad­dle boards, this can over­come many obsta­cles involved in stor­age and trans­porta­tion, but you will require extra equip­ment to inflate your board, and this adds prep time to your ride. They are also often cheap­er than sol­id boards.

Sol­id
Sol­id boards are fiberglass/resin coat­ed and are more like your stan­dard surf­board, with an inner foam blank, and may include wood com­po­nents. They will also have a trac­tion pad on top so you don’t slide off. Sol­id boards are ready to go as soon as you are, with no prep time needed—and they pro­vide bet­ter track­ing and con­trol, par­tic­u­lar­ly in windy or chop­py con­di­tions. With a sol­id board, you will get over­all bet­ter per­for­mance, but they are the most expen­sive type you can buy.

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Accessories

Pad­dle
Also essen­tial to SUP­ing is the pad­dle. There is not too much vari­a­tion in pad­dles, as they all have a han­dle, shaft, and blade. There are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent mate­ri­als to choose from, from alu­minum and fiber glass to car­bon and Kevlar, if you real­ly want to spend the big bucks. The size of the blade can also vary, with larg­er blades pro­vid­ing more thrust, but also more resis­tance. You will want to use a short­er pad­dle for chop­pi­er con­di­tions and a longer pad­dle for speed.

Life Vest
Whether you are in a lake or in the ocean, per­son­al floata­tion devices (PFDs) are high­ly rec­om­mend­ed, and they may even be required depend­ing on where you are pad­dling. These can range from your cheap stan­dard foam life vests to more dis­creet, but expen­sive, self-inflat­ing vests.

Leash
Less essen­tial is the leash, which you will real­ly only need if you are pad­dle board­ing in the surf, so your board doesn’t get away from you. If you are riv­er pad­dling, do keep in mind that a leash can present more of a dan­ger than a help, as it can result in your get­ting snagged and stuck under­wa­ter. Whether pad­dling in a riv­er or ocean, nev­er use a leash in mov­ing water if there are rocks, logs, or reef in the water.