Everyone is out on the water these days talking about stand up paddle boarding or SUP. It is one of the fastest growing sports that just about anyone can do on most lakes, rivers or oceans. Stand up paddle gives a great full body work out and improves balance. This is great for cross training or just a fun way to get out on the water and enjoy a beautiful day.
There are many different types of riding you can do on an SUP board. As a result, there are many different types of SUP boards that work best for different applications. Here is a list of board types and the main characteristics that make each type unique.
These are the do everything boards. Good for flat water cruising but still capable of catching some smaller waves. A little more length usually than a full surf SUP for more speed in flat water.
These are designed for catching waves. You can use them in flat water but are on the shorter side so they will be a little slower. Surf SUP boards are more maneuverable so you can turn easily in waves.
These boards are defined by their displacement hull shape. This helps them cut through the water. A race board will be a little narrower while touring boards will be wider. The one thing you will not want to do on these is catch waves.
These you can get in any of the above types. These boards simply deflate and can be transported in a bag. Great if you have limited space or don’t have a car to get your SUP board to the water.
There is not a clear cut answer of what size board you need. The first thing to consider is your weight. Stand up paddle boards are designed to hold a maximum amount weight. If you go over the weight limit the board may start to take on too much water. To determine how much weight a board can hold the companies use the dimensions and volume of a board. Sometimes shorter boards may hold more weight than other longer ones since they are wider and have thicker side rails. This gives them more volume.
Next you would want to decide what you want to do with the board. Is your goal to surf, catch waves or race? This will help narrow down the type of board you want to consider. If you are looking to get into racing or touring then you would want to look at displacement hull boards. These come in varying lengths. Depending on personal preferences and weight you can then use that as a starting point. Longer boards will take more effort to turn but provide more speed while shorter boards are easier to maneuver but slower.
Width is a major driver in the stability of your stand up paddle board. The wider the board the more stable it will be. A wider board will make it a little less maneuverable though. More advanced riders that want a fast maneuverable board will generally go with a narrow shape. The narrow end is around 27 inches wide. The wider end of the spectrum will be around 32 inches or wider. While a few inches may not sound like a lot it can greatly change the stability of the board. If you are looking to get into other activities on your board such as yoga a wider board can also be nice for the added stability. If you are not sure something in the middle around 30 inches is a safe choice.
This refers to the thickness of the side rail. This is similar to width in how it changes the ride of your board. A thicker rail will provide more volume which in turn will provide more stability. A thinner rail reduces volume and stability but makes it easier to turn and increases performance in surf.
Stand up paddle boards volume is measured in liters. This helps give you an idea of how much weight a board can hold. The length and width will also have an effect on this though. Lower volume boards start at around 120L and they go all the way up to over 280L for 14 foot race or touring boards.
Board construction can vary greatly depending on brand and model. Most boards start with a foam EPS core. The quality of this foam can vary which will change the weight of the board. This provides resistance against potential water leakage. The core is then wrapped in fiberglass. After this some brands will add wood stringers. This can run the length of the board or simply be under the stance area. This helps create a more durable and rigid board. After that another layer of fiberglass is added to help maximize impact resistance. Finally a deck pad is added to the top of the board. This is a general standard for construction but exact design and construction will vary from brand to brand.
The fin is what is attached to the bottom of your stand up paddle board. You can think of this as a rudder for your board. It helps keep your board tracking. The larger the fin the more it will help it track straight. The smaller the fin the easier it will allow you turn the board. While the majority of boards come with a fin you can always try different fins for a different feel to your board.