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Stand Up Paddling 101: Which Board is Right for You?

Stand Up Paddling 101: Which Board is Right for You?

Thinking about buying a Stand Up Paddle Board this year? Let's get you started! Here are a few things you should consider before purchasing your new SUP Board.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What is your end goal for paddling on your SUP? (fitness, exploration, yoga, paddling trips, family fun)
  • Where would you like to paddle? The paddling conditions for someone who wants to paddle on Lake Ontario regularly may be  different for someone paddling flatwater in calm conditions.
  • Where are you planning to store your board? 
  • Are you buying for yourself or for multiple people to use?

Basic Principles to Consider

Board Length. The longer your board is, the better the tracking capabilities will be.
  • Tracking = your board’s ability to move forward in a straight line
  • Translation: The longer your board is, the less effort you will have to put into steering in a straight line.
  • A short board will be great for paddling in areas where you may need to turn quickly (for example a narrow channel or marsh).

Board Width. The width of your board has a direct relationship with the stability of your board.

  • Translation: The wider the board, the more stable it will be. 
  • For beginner paddlers, or individuals looking to do yoga on their SUP board, choose a wide board for more stability. 

Let’s narrow down your options. 

Where do you want to paddle? 

The shape of the board you choose will impact how it performs in different conditions. For example, a paddler who is looking to use their SUP Board mainly on Lake Ontario will often be paddling in windy or choppy conditions as compared to someone who might be paddling on a small secluded lake. 

Think about where you will want to paddle (the majority of the time) and the conditions that you would regularly find there. 

  • For paddling in an area with lots of wind and waves, look at Touring SUP boards. 
  • For paddling on calm, flat water, look at Recreational SUP boards

Where will you store your SUP board?

Apartment dwellers, or tiny house aficionados- have no fear! There are great inflatable board options that perform well and don’t take up much space in your home.

  • If storage is not a concern, explore our rigid SUP boards.
  • Worried about durability or performance in an inflatable SUP? Click here for more information about inflatable SUP boards.

Are you buying for just yourself, or for multiple people to use?

Consider weight capacity when you are buying your board. 

If you are looking to get a board that the whole family can use, consider getting a SUP with a weight capacity large enough for everyone to use the board without sinking into the water. A good rule of thumb is to look for a board that has a weight capacity for the heaviest person who will be using it. 

If you are buying a board for just yourself, look for a weight capacity just over your weight in order to be comfortable. 

  • A SUP Board that is too large for your weight range will be incredibly stable, and maybe a little slower than your ideal board capacity.
  • A SUP Board that is too small for you however will mean that your board is very close to the water level, and you will find it hard to stay balanced. A paddler heavier than the recommended weight capacity of the board will have a difficult time staying on the board and practicing efficient paddling. Just be prepared that you may end up swimming more often than you had planned for!

Construction of your SUP Board

Will the weight of my board affect it's performance?

Weight of the board is not a large factor in it's performance. Most boards (rigid or inflatable) are 28 to 32lbs. Once the board is on the water and set in motion, the board's performance is really determined more by the dimensions and shape than it's weight.

Read more about Planing hull (Recreational) boards vs. Displacement Hull (Touring) boards to learn about different SUP board shapes.

How durable will my SUP board be?

Most rigid SUP boards are constructed using a foam core for flotation, and then covered with Fiberglass or Kevlar laminates to provide structure. These laminates can vary with respect to their impact durability.

  • Be aware of the fragility of some materials to decide whether your board is strong enough to withstand scraping against a rocky shoreline when you land.
  • In general, well constructed boards will not be structurally damaged by landing on rocks, however you will likely put scratches or dents in your beautiful new SUP board!
  • We suggest you avoid buying plastic. It is simply too heavy and generally these boards have poor shape.

With Inflatable SUP boards, you get what you pay for. It goes without saying, but companies that have invested large amounts of money into research and development for their products will always be better than the 'No Name' brand in terms of durability. We love Red Paddle Co. and Boardworks SUP boards because of their excellent design and durability. 

  • No, your board will not spontaneously burst if you accidentally bump into a rock. You can feel confident in the strength of the materials both Red Paddle and Boardworks use.
  • The inflatable boards that we carry hold their shape for days or weeks at a time without issue. You may need to top up the air pressure every week or so to make sure that the board is rigid enough for optimal performance.

      Get Out There!

      We could talk to you all day about the ins and outs of Stand Up Paddle boards, but at the end of the day... you just need a way to get on the water!

      Don’t get to caught up on finding the perfect board. All of the SUP boards that we carry are great for different reasons. At Trailhead, we only support brands that we trust, and bring in products that have confidence in. 

      Get out there and have some fun!

      See you out there.

      - Your friendly neighborhood gear shop


      Image taken by the talented Rob Whelan Photography.