Maybe you’ve rented a few times or borrowed a friend’s stand up paddle board. Or maybe you know you’ll love the sport and are ready to dive right in to new gear. Regardless, it’s always a wise idea to do a little research to pin point the board that’s best for you. With a properly sized board constructed for your ability, you will be more likely to enjoy the sport and to get outside to paddle more often. Our suggestions below will give you the confidence you need to select a board that’s right for you.
Before getting into the logistics of board lengths and widths, stew on these thoughts…
Next, ask yourself these next few questions…
Stand up paddle boards can be broken down into three simple categories. Like snowboards and bikes, different paddle boards will perform best in specific conditions. Check it out…
Above all, your size in relation to the board is one of the most important aspects to consider. Volume is a great way to think about board size. The volume is what floats you, so it’s important to have the correct amount of volume for stability. Be sure to review the manufacture’s size recommendation before making a purchase.
Still confused? Chances are that you’ll be best matched up with a all-round board. You can’t go wrong with a board that will perform in all conditions and types of water. Whether it’s the beach or the lake house, you’ll be psyched with an all-round board. If you’re strictly looking to perfect your paddle surfing skills, then a surf specific board will keep you happy for years to come. And if racing and long distance paddling is your thing, go for a touring paddle board. For SUP beginners, more resources can be found in our Paddle Boarding for Beginners article.
Stand up paddle boarding or SUP has exploded in popularity the past couple of years. And for good reason! It’s a fun and easy way to enjoy beautiful scenery, soak in some vitamin D and experience that peaceful bliss of being on water. It offers a great full body workout and skiers and snowboarders enjoy cross training on paddle boards during the summer months. Choosing the best SUP gear for your needs and budget will depend on your level of experience and what you hope to get out of paddle boarding. Regardless of whether you’re an expert or just starting out, there are a few things everyone must have.
First things first – the board! Stand-up paddle boards come in an array of shapes and styles, each best suited for a different style of paddling – surfing, cruising, or racing. Sizes are based on the paddler’s weight and experience. The general rule is that once you’re up to paddling speed you don’t want the tail to drag. The flotation is a combination of the length, width and thickness of the board. More experienced and lighter paddlers can choose narrower boards. They are tricky to navigate for beginners, so we don’t recommend narrow boards for beginners. Novice paddlers should choose wider, flatter boards, which offer more stability.
Next, you’ll want to choose a paddle. It should be between 8″ and 12″ longer than your height when standing barefoot. If you’re on the fence, remember that a slightly longer paddle is better for flat water where longer strokes are used, while a shorter paddle is better for more challenging water where shorter, high cadence strokes are necessary.
Paddles come in a few different materials which impact their weight and performance. The least expensive paddles have an aluminum shaft with a plastic blade and handle. They are most often considered a beginner’s paddle because of it’s relatively inexpensive cost and high durability. More experienced paddlers should steer toward higher end paddles with fiberglass shafts and carbon fiber paddles. Such paddles are much lighter weight than plastic and allow for more efficient strokes with less shoulder and arm fatigue. Distance paddlers will be far happier with a more expensive, performance paddle. Check out The House’s diverse selection of paddles for every budget and experience level.
Paddle Boarding Regulations
Depending on where you plan to paddle, you might need to invest in a few more pieces of gear. Stand up paddle boards are nowclassified as vessels by the US coast guard, which means that paddle boards must comply with the same rules as kayaks and canoes when outside the surf zone. So, a personal floatation device (life jacket) must be worn or attached to the boat. Since there really isn’t a great place to put your PDF on a paddle board, most people prefer to wear their life jacket at all times. Many life jackets are now constructed in a way that they can be worn without limiting your movement. When paddling in the ocean beyond the surf zone, the Coast Guard also requires a sound producing device (whistle) and a light (headlamp or flashlight) if you’re paddling before sunrise or after dusk.
Clothing Yup, you should probably wear clothing when paddle boarding. Depending on the temperature and time of day, a bikini for the gals and board shorts for guys is perfect. Many girls will wear board shorts over their suit. For chillier days, a rash guard will provide a little extra warmth. Even in warmer climates, it can be chilly on the ocean certain times of the year, so a wet suit will make for a more comfortable (and longer!) experience on the water. Sunglasses are a must, even on overcast days. The sun’s rays will be stronger on the water due to the reflection. A hat is also a good idea to shield the sun from your face. Sure, you might fall in the water or might want to take a dip mid paddle, so wear a strap with your sunglasses and leave your favorite baseball hat on shore if you’re worried about it getting wet!
While not absolutely essential for paddle boarding, a few accessories will make life a little easier, especially if you plan to hit the water on the regular or travel with your board. For choppy waters or peace of mind, a leash will keep your board from floating away should you fall or or take a dip. A board bag will protect your investment during the winter months when it’s stashed in your basement. It’s also nice for traveling if you have a packed SUV or truck. You don’t want that baby banging on the walls of a flat bed! Some people enjoy traction pads on their boards. Again, it’s not essential, but they’re helpful for more aggressive paddling and also serve as a sturdy place for your pooch to sit. Yup. Your dog can sit on your board while you paddle away! The House carries all of these accessories, so check them out!
Oceans, lakes and rivers have all seen a recent explosion in stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Due to it’s increased popularity, the US Coast Guard classified SUPs as vessels in 2008, which means they have to adhere to the same regulations as canoes and kayaks when operated outside of surfing areas. Such regulations should always be followed not only for safety reasons and respect to others in the water, but also to avoid fines!
US CGA Inflatable Life Jacket
Personal Floatation Device Coast Guard Approved (CGA) life jackets must be worn or carried in an easily accessible position when paddle boarding outside designated surf areas. While a ring buoy attached to the cord or a floating seat cushion are acceptable, wearing a comfortable life jacket is preferred by most paddle boarders. If you’re surfing waves on your paddle board, hence inside the surf zone, a life vest is not required.
Sound Producing Device The most basic and commonly used sound producing device is a police-style whistle. It’s a convenient solution for SUPs to comply with the requirement to carry a sound producing device and can be worn around the neck or attached to a life jacket. A whistle will facilitate hands-free auditory signals when help is needed. The whistle can also be used to signal to other vessels when changing direction and passing another vessel.
Visual Signaling Device If you’re heading out after sunset or before sunrise, a waterproof flashlight or headlamp is recommended by the coast guard. A headlamp offers hands-free signaling while a flashlight can be attached to shorts or a life jacket. Either way, the light will warn other vessels of your presence.
Other Restrictions State governments may have additional requirements so it is important to check local regulations. Even some lakes and inland waterways have their own regulations, so it’s best to do a little research to avoid fines and potential harm to yourself or others in the water. Adhering to all regulations will ensure an enjoyable time in the water! Effective 1/1/13 all non motorized watercraft (including Stand Up Paddle boards) over 10 feet in length are required to be licensed by the Department Of Natural Resources.
The Future of SUP Regulations Since the paddle board itself might be classified as a PFD, there are some talks that the Coast Guard will revise their paddle boarding regulations to remove the PFD/life jacket requirement. Currently windsurfers aren’t required to wear a PFD since their boards are considered to be “sea-anchors.” Stand up paddle boards could essentially fall under that same category. In the meantime, don’t get caught outside of the surf zone without your life jacket!
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