Paddle Boarding for Beginners: Boards and Equipment (Part 1)
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Stand Up PaddleBoarding (SUP) has grown in popularity over the years as a wonderful outdoor activity to enjoy nature on the water while providing a full body workout. Since you don't need to live near a coastal community, you can enjoy PaddleBoarding on rivers, lakes, coves, bays and of course the ocean. It's great for all ages, body types, fitness levels and skill. You can paddle board with a friend, child, significant other and even a dog!
Types of SUPs
SUPs comes in different shapes and sizes. They range in size from 8 to 12' with a length from 28" to 32' and 4-5 inches thick. The right size board for you will also depend on your height and weight. Many boards can hold up to 300lbs. A longer , wider and thicker board will offer greater stability for beginners learning to paddle board. As your skill level and experience grows, you can progress to a smaller board if you desire. The most common shape for a SUP beginner is an All Around Paddle board. However it's not the only one to consider.
All Around SUPS
They are ideal for SUP beginners and provides better stability. They can be used on different waterways from oceans to lakes. Their versatility contributes to its popularity for activities like SUP Yoga, SUP fishing , SUP Touring and SUP Surfing.
The most common type of Paddleboard is a hard paddle board also known as an epoxy paddle board. A hard paddle board is made of an EPS foam core wrapped in materials like fiberglass, wood, carbon fiber or plastic with one or more fins to help the board track in the water. They tend to be heavier and slightly faster than iSUPs and better for surfing. But they are harder to store since they're so big and tough to lug around. If you plan to buy one vs rent one be prepared to transport it on a roof rack on your vehicle due to its large size.
Inflatable paddleboards (iSUPs) have become increasing popular since their introduction in 2014. They offer additional benefits that traditional hard paddle boards do not. One of my favorite features about iSUPs is you can carry them in a large bag about the size of a sleeping bad, easy to transport in a car and inflate them when you're ready to use them. It makes it easy to store after use as well ... just deflate them. Inflatable iSUPs have another advantage that hard boards don't have. They are thicker at ~6 inches which allows them to float higher in the water, easy to paddle and great for activities like SUP Yoga. Check out some great Inflatable SUPs here.
Fishing SUPs tend to be wider which allows space for your fishing gear.
Some may include Scott Mounts attachments for fishing rod polls, bait trays etc.
Also a good board for beginners.
Yoga SUPs tend to be thicker at ~ 6 inches. Inflatable SUPs tend to be better for SUP yoga due to their 6 inch thickness because you sit up higher on the water which provides more stability. Also good for beginners.
Touring SUPs are most ideal for long distance paddling on waterways and race competitions. They tend to be longer , less wide than traditional SUP with a pointed nose. They usually have a displacement hull for better tracking vs fins. Ideal for an experienced paddle boarder or a beginner who is up to the challenge.
As the name indicates, Surf SUPs are great for surfing waves in the ocean. They are more maneuverable and responsive in the waves but least stable on the water. A more experienced paddle boarder would love this challenge.
Basic Paddle board Equipment
Once you've chosen a board, now you need to choose your paddle. Stand up Paddles come in a variety of materials with different handles, blades and shaft shapes. A general rule to follow is your paddle should be 6-10" above the height of the paddle boarder. However, you may want it shorter for using in the surf. A SUP leash helps keep you attached to your board with a velcro strap around your ankle or calf. It should be the same size or smaller than your board. In the case of a fall, you could lose your board quickly with the currents and wind especially in the ocean if you don't have the leash attached to you. A SUP board bag helps protect your board during transportation and storage when most dings and scrapes occur. The strap helps to carry it as well. Inflatable SUPs usually come with a board bag. A Paddle board Life Vest or Personal Flotation Device is required on most waterways. Check with your local community or learn more at World Paddle Association.
How to size your SUP Paddle
The length of your paddle will depend on how tall you are, your arm length, your paddle boards height above the water and the type of paddle boarding you plan on doing (recreational, surfing, touring etc). The pioneer of paddle boarding ( Laird Hamilton), has recommended a paddle length about 3-4 inches above your head as a starting point. Then you can adjust from there based on your height and needs.
Now that you have all your gear it's time to Paddle board! Click here to find out how to Stand up on your Paddle Board and Paddling techniques.