Judging Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved getting out in the water, so when I discovered Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) it was love at first sight. Whenever I get a chance, you’ll find me out on a board and I love travelling around to new places to take a board out and enjoy the water, sun, surf and sand.

Here I thought I’d write some of my thoughts and experiences to help you choose a board that will work for you and get as much enjoyment out of it as I do.

What’s the difference?

One of the first and most obvious differences you’ll come across when comparing Stand-Up Paddle Boards is Inflatable versus Hard/Rigid Paddle Boards. My preference is Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards(iSUP) as they are so much more versatile and convenient to chuck in the back of the car when packing for a trip or to carry down to the water in one hand, leaving the other one free to carry other things.

Sure Hard-boards have their benefits too, but for me the ease of taking my inflatable SUP with me anywhere I go and in only minutes being able to inflate to a full-size board ready for action far outweighs the downside of needing roof racks to transport a large, cumbersome board.

The next thing to consider is the size of your Stand Up paddle Board. Boards can vary from around 9 foot (274cm) to around 14 foot (427cm) for a long board. As a general rule the longer the board the more stable they are and the more weight they can carry. If you’re an experience paddle boarder or surfer or are a larger build then a longer board may be a more suitable option. Long boards are also popular for surfing the waves due to the added stability however a shorter board will give you more manoeuvrability.

If you’re just starting out or if you plan on using it on still waters such as lakes and rivers then a shorter board may suit you better. A great board for beginners is one which is both affordable, versatile and durable.

So you’ve decided you want to give Stand Up Paddle Boarding a go but where do you start?

If you live anywhere near water then you’ll probably be able to find classes or tours for beginners so you can try it out. But if you’re like me you’ll just want to dive right in and get your own board.

Buying a second hand board can seam appealing to save some cash however make sure you check out the board thoroughly. In particular check out the sides, bottom and fins for wear and tear and more serious damage. If the fins are damaged you may be able to replace them but it’s going to cost you, so you might be better of just buying new and saving yourself the drama.

When you are shopping and comparing boards be sure to not only check out the specifications but also what’s included. You can purchase the SUP alone or in a package that includes things like a hand pump, carry bag, repair kit paddle and ankle strap(leash/legrope).

It’s important to shop around for prices, but price shouldn’t be your only consideration. Ensure you’re purchasing from a trusted seller and read reviews (like mine) to get a feel for which board is right for you.

Stand Up Paddle Boards can be used for a number of different uses and have different design features accordingly.

All-rounders are available for families who just want to take the board out where ever they end up vacationing. An all-purpose board that can be used in the ocean, on a river on in a lake with no real special attributes other than perhaps durability.
Surfing Stand Up Paddle Boards are generally shorter (less than 10 foot or 3 metres in length) as this gives them better manoeuvrability for catching waves and doing tricks, however you can also get long-boards for surfing which offer greater stability.
Flat water Boards are designed for beginners as they are generally wider (between 30-34 inches or 76- 86cm) which offers maximum stability. They’re also great for kids and for using on flat water as the name suggests such at lakes and rivers.
Racing Paddle Boards are designed for speed. Narrower and sleeker than an all-rounder board they can slice through the water at great speed.

Getting started and getting wet.
If it’s your first time on a board you’re probably a bit hesitant about falling in. Don’t worry, I’m here to assure you that you most certainly will fall in and get wet. To get onto the board for the first time float the water in knee-deep water and then carefully climb up onto the board in a kneeling position. Once you’re on board you can then practice moving into a standing position. If you’ve surfed before you’ll find this a bit easier than others. They key to staying on board is balance, Stand Up Paddle Boards are great for toning your abdominal muscles.
If you do happen to fall off in deeper water you’ll need to get back on from the side of the board. Particularly for beginners and children you may want to wear a personal flotation device for safety for when you do end up in the water. An ankle strap is also advisable so that the board doesn’t get away from you if there are waves or a current. Once you get the hang of it though, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

As new SUP’s come onto the market I’ll try them out and post some reviews to help you choose which board may be right for you.

Happy Paddling, The Judge