When I think about paddleboarding I think open waters, the sound of the paddle breaking the top of a lake and generally just having quite a relaxed time. I’ve been paddleboarding now for a few years – I am by no means a professional but over the years with @StandUpPaddleUK I’ve tried, tested and reviewed various different board shapes and sizes, so I’d like to think I know a little bit about the subject, hence this post for @StandUpPaddleUK.
Firstly I’ll point out I use BluefinSup Boards, so yes, you’ll see them in some of the images in the post – this is not a ploy or plot directing people to specific brands, this is an honest post trying to help you find the right board. That aside, let’s get started..
In the industry there are many manufacturers of boards, obviously some are better than others – that’s a fact but you’ll be lured in by many peoples opinions. The StandUpPaddleUK managers are involved in many paddleboarding groups on Facebook & Instagram, there is a very common theme coming to the forefront every time we log into one of those apps. The want for ‘Cheap boards’ and a huge lack of information..
The current pandemic has really surged the interest in SUP. So much so all of the manufacturers that we are in communication with have has told us that they are struggling to keep up with demand, many out of stock. It’s very likely that most people will be having a staycation this year and the allure of a paddleboard seems like the perfect piece of kit for that trip in the UK.
I’ve always believed in the saying ‘buy nice or buy twice’. That is 100% the case when it comes to buying a Paddleboard, new or secondhand. I don’t want to get into a rant about one brand being better than another, so let’s discuss the key points you need to look out for when buying a Paddleboard;
- Sizing (Length, width, thickness)
- Board type (all-rounder, touring, race, surf, multiperson), yoga)
- Versatility (Hardboard or Inflatable)
- Quality of the Build (Drop Stitch, Chambers, Rails, Deck Pad)
- Accessories (Pump, leash, paddle)
- Manufacturers Eco-Credentials (are they working with any renewable technologies, do they provide a buyback system where they safely recycle old boards?) * this one is quite an important one for me personally*
Those are probably the key points to be looking out for when buying a board, let’s explain each one a little bit;
Sizing and Board Type
Finding what size is right for you is really the pinnacle when purchasing a board. Each type of board has its own set of characteristics so you really need to be choosy over what you select (ie are you a social, touring, racing paddler). A key point to note is most people will be OK with an All Rounder, but for those looking to cover more flat water may want to consider a longer board which will glide across the water better, and track straighter.
As with the characteristics, each board manufacturer will have a set maximum weight per board size & type, it’s always best to check with the manufacturer that the board you’re interested in will be able to hold your weight.
It will be very easy for me to put a chart here and say that a certain weight will work with a certain board, however it really does depend on the type of paddleboard you’re using. Do your homework with the specific brand you a considering buying – each brand will be able to help you with this.
For those in the beginners phase, here’s a rough guide for board width and thickness;
70 kg – 30″ wide > 80kg – 31″ + wide > 90kg – 32″ + wide > 100kg – 33″ + wide >110kg+ – 35″ + wide.
You will find the majority of boards run between 4-6″ thickness. 5″ is suitable for a beginner (and most people), with heavier paddlers opting for 6″. The thicker the board, the heavier the board. But again this will also differ with each manufacturer. Wider boards than you require can cause unnecessary instability and affect your paddle stroke (difficult to reach a vertical stroke pattern).. And a wider board is actually more board to control, bare that in mind.
All rounders in the 10’6-10’8 range are great boards for beginners in my opinion. A smaller paddler, 1.7m / 5.6 approx maybe opting for a smaller compact board like a 9’7 with a max width of approx 31-32″.
Remember, ROUGH GUIDE.
Note: I ride a 6.2inch thick tourer board, I’m 6ft, 88kg.. That’s a personal preference through trial of different boards, and for my usage type.
Quite a simple one really. Are you looking to have a hardboard or an inflatable? Obviously with a hardboard you will need the facility to be able to transport the board and and store it. iSups are by far the more popular option is easily packed away into a backpack. Generally anyone manufacturer providing a paddleboard package will be able to have the board, a paddle and the pump housed in the bag. If you’re planning on hiking to lakes or travelling abroad then an inflatable is for you.
Quality of the Build
Not all paddleboards are made equal.. What are the most important parts of a well constructed paddleboard? High Quality Drop Stitch (Single Layer, Stringer, Double layered or MSL Fusion (RedPaddleCO only), Double Chambers, Multi Layered Rails, Fin types…
Drop Stitch – there is quite a lot of different varieties of drop stitch patterns. For example my board has a double layer with around 11,200 stitches of 500 denier space yarn per m2 which makes up a very rigid board. Basically a woven drop stitch provides less stretch and higher strength. Again it’s very much manufacturing dependent because some brands are glue-free (laminated), others are using glued layers, but the key point to understand about drop stitch is it consists parallel sheets of material connected by thousands of 5 or 6 inch length threads. If a brand is promoting how good the drop stitches are then you’re on the right track to a good board.
– Laminated Double Layer construction makes for a more durable, stable, lightweight and more strong paddleboard. It’s the best performance construction being used by most brands. A Double Layer will be heavier (in comparison to a Single Layer) but it makes up for that by being longer lasting. There is a version of Double Layering which involves gluing – these types are much heavier and quite outdated in terms of technology. My understanding is this technology is still being used but the ‘big’ brands have phased it out.
– MSL stands for monocoque structural laminate. This has been developed by RedPaddle Co and only found on their boards. It’s lighter than other materials yet it maintains a stiffness and strength which is better than all the previous technologies RedPaddle have used.
– Some brands are using a Single Layer or Single Skin, these boards are generally cheaper due to the less intensive manufacture. Less material makes a more lightweight SUP. Single layer boards are generally less durable but much lighter than Double Layered.
– As above these are also brands using Single Skin with Stringer (Comes from a surfboard method of manufacture). The Stringer runs from nose to tail, it is a cheaper option on the spectrum. It provides a more rigid ride but still has some flex.
Rails – Generally a dual rail band is the most common set up, but you will see brands are still providing boards with a single rail with a taped seam. Personally I’d go for the dual rail as it makes a significant difference in the strength and durability of your board.
Double Chambered – having a double chamber paddleboard is another component of stiffness. As ever each manufacturer will have varying types of double chamber technology so once you’ve decided on the correct size board then you could look at the manufacturer and decide from there. In simple terms the chamber is what you pump air into. The advantages of a double chamber means the board will be very durable and more rigid. It also means that the air is evenly distributed across the board. On average Double chamber board is approx. 25-30% stiffer than a single chamber.
Fin Type – most boards come with a standard US Box fin. Arguably the most widely used. Some brands have their own take, for example a ‘Smart Lock’ Fin which is locked into place with a simple catch and lock system. Loads of different fin types, surf, touring, rivers.. That’s a different post though!
Accessories (in a Package)
Generally when you buy a paddleboard package it will include;
- Paddle (sometimes)
- Leash (likely coiled)
- Main Bag
That would be the minimum in a paddle boarding package, but as discussed previously there are manufacturers who only sell boards, no packages. On the face of it that’s a lot of kit in a bag and generally a manufacturers focus will be on the board as it is the main item.
A good indicator of a good package is the pump. If you pull out of pump and it’s very light weight, flimsy and cheap feeling piece of equipment then odds are that this manufacturer has focused on the board rather than the accessories. That’s my opinion but it is something I’ve found.
There are now so many different packages out there that it’s difficult to establish the difference but in my opinion any manufacturer providing a package set up should be charging you between £500 and £800 – that range should tick all the boxes.
Oh, the Leash, how could I forget you.. the foremost safety item of your SUP. All packages will be provided with a Leash, these come in various types (straight, coiled, QR, waist – post about specific uses to follow).
As a user of an inflatable paddleboard which came in a package I can safely say that there are manufacturers out there who provide a solid bundle deal.
As I said at the top this one is quite important one for me, and many SUP-ers, as you can imagine once your paddleboard is destroyed beyond use/badly punctured/ Non repairable; where does it go and how does it get recycled?
Many brands have their own initiatives, working with companies providing recycled materials to make boards. Others providing buy back services; when you upgrade they take your old board and recycle it / reuse materials. Others recycling boards in bulk safely. There is lots of good processes going on in the industry. Head over to any brands’ website and review their sustainability or environmental page for more info.
What you need to remember is that very cheaply manufactured boards are not going to recycled in a conventional way, if at all..
Now with all that being said. I’ve owned various different boards since I’ve started paddleboarding. I’ve purchased second-hand boards and I’ve had boards come straight from the brand.
Do your homework when buying your first board, often finding a good secondhand board is the sensible option until you are 100% confident you will be sticking with paddleboarding for the long term. Outlaying over £800-1000+ on the top of the range paddleboard isn’t really a requirement when you’re a beginner. I would advise going to your local lake or paddleboarding club and asking to use the boards/have a lesson (obviously this will be dependent on coronavirus/social distancing as some clubs aren’t allowing rentals – this may well have changed). It’s always a great idea to test out different manufacturers boards before you commit to buying one..
You’re going to find opinions on this absolutely everywhere online, dare I say snobbery too. There are many a paddler out there who are loyal to a brand and will push their specs. I’d advise speaking to the experts, people like supinflatables.co.uk/ – very knowledgable and a nice navigable site, with a ton of info. And of course the manufacturers themselves – most brands cover every size board and will be able to help you make an informed decision.
Well, that was a lot of information in one hit! As you can see once you start getting into the nitty-gritty of paddleboard construction you can really see why the best boards are expensive, and it is a minefield. They can be difficult to manufacture and the technologies used are not cheap so why would the board be? We want as many people as possible on the waterways, paddling safely and sustainably. This isn’t a post to push people away from the sport, far from it, more to make you consider what you are buying and where you’re buying it from..