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Stand-up Paddling – finding the right SUP board

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Stand Up Paddleboarding is no longer a sport just for the sea. You see more and more people with Stand Up Paddle Boards at their local lake, too. And for good reason: Stand Up Paddling is fun and also an excellent full body workout. It also develops balance and endurance. It even trains deeper muscles.

In the beginning, stand-up paddleboarding requires a little practice. But the principle is very simple. You stand upright on a stand-up paddle board and move forwards with a paddle. The possibilities are endless. You can either paddle for distance, speed or even out in the sea. Experienced athletes can ever surf waves.

Choosing the right equipment is crucial especially at the beginning. As a beginner, you should choose a suitable board. But which board is right for you? What different types of board are there and how are they different? But it’s not just the board that has to be right, but also the paddle. You can find out more below.

What kinds of SUP are there?

Your choice of board will depend on what you want to focus on when SUPing. They differ in shape, length, width and volume. There is also a difference between inflatable and rigid boards.

All-round boards

The origin of the SUP board can be found in the all-round board. They are also known colloquially as longboards. The name comes from the fact that they are similar to a surfing longboard.

The all-round board is a good beginner board. It is a real all-rounder and, as well as providing sufficient volume, is also long enough to make fast progress in shallow water. But not only that – it is also suitable for surfing waves in the sea. It is similar to a Surf SUP, but is usually much longer and therefore easier to paddle than a Surf SUP. 

All-round boards are therefore perfect for anyone looking for their first SUP board.

Surf SUPs

Surf SUPer jumps into the waves
A Surf SUP is also suitable for surfing.

Are you planning to hit the waves on a SUP? Then a surf SUP is the board for you. If you want to paddle a wave with the SUP, the board must be stable and also have some volume.

As in surfing, there are different lengths and dimensions. As a beginner, you should always choose a board that offers plenty of stability. Surf SUPs are available as shortboards and longboards. Shortboards are usually between 6’ and 8’6” long and longboards between 8’6” and 10’6”.

To surf a wave, you have to be able to reach the same speed as it. Only then will the wave take you with it. The more volume the board has, the easier it is to paddle onto the wave. Therefore, a longboard is the most suitable board to start with.

Longboard surf SUPs are often similar to all-round boards. The volume and length of the board depends not only on skill, but also on the height and weight of the paddler.

Race boards

It didn’t take long after the first SUP board appeared for the first competitions to take place. It was therefore not only in the interest of the designers, but also of athletes to develop boards that can achieve high speeds.

In terms of race boards, the choice of board depends very much on where you are paddling. A race board for paddling on the sea must meet different requirements than a race board that is mainly used on flat water.

Race boards are usually much longer than other SUP boards. They are usually between 12’6” and 14’ in length. A race board can be recognised by its slim design. The boards are long but still have a narrow design so that they glide quickly through the water. They also have a pointed nose.

The stability of a race board does not depend on the volume, as is the case with the all-round board, but rather on the design of the underwater hull and the tail area. The dimensions of the board alone therefore do not indicate. much about how difficult or easy it is to paddle.

Race boards are suitable for more advanced paddlers. You need to have some experience and practice to have fun with a race board. A race board is therefore not a beginner board.

Touring SUPs

Touring SUPer on a lake.
Touring SUPs often have straps and nets to hold luggage.

The shape of a touring board is similar to a race board. However, a touring SUP is significantly wider than a race board. The additional width provides stability and is more suited to longer distances.

Unlike a race board, a touring SUP is also suitable for inexperienced paddlers. It is also ideal for longer journeys. Most touring SUPs have eyelets, nets or other attachment options to stow luggage on the board without getting in the way of the paddle.

Touring boards are very robust. This means they can withstand the demands of even long expeditions.

River boards

Riverboards, as the name suggests, are mainly suitable for use on rivers. They are usually inflatable and shorter than other SUP boards.

One of the main features of a river board is its wide tail. This is where a lot of volume is located. This provides a high level of stability and makes sure that tipping stability is not lost, especially in rough waters.

The boards are usually very robust. This significantly minimises the risk of damage caused by grounding.

Inflatable vs. hard stand-up paddleboards

As well as the individual board types, there is also a choice to be made between inflatable and hard SUP boards.

An inflatable SUP is probably a good choice for paddlers who don’t live near a lake or don’t have direct access to water.

SUP hard boards

SUP hard boards, also called hard or solid boards, are usually made of epoxy and fibreglass or plastic. Epoxy is very lightweight and therefore more buoyant than plastic. However, epoxy boards are usually much more expensive than plastic SUPs. Some stand-up paddle boards even have wooden parts and look especially good.

What are the benefits of a hard SUP board? While inflatable boards are now manufactured to the highest standards of technology, they are still no match for a solid board in terms of performance. Hard SUP boards are not only faster and glide more easily through the water, they are also much easier to paddle.

If performance and stability are your main criteria, you should choose a SUP hardboard. There are also a wider range of dimensions availableSolid boards sit lower in the water than inflatable SUP boards. The lower water position provides greater stability. They are similar to the design of a classic surfboard and can therefore also be used for SUPing in waves.

The big downside of a hard board are, however, storage and transport. Unlike inflatable SUPs, which don’t take up much space, SUP hardboards take up a lot more space. The same applies to transport. If you have no storage space and no means of transport, you should choose an inflatable SUP board.

Inflatable stand-up paddle boards

Yoga on a stand-up paddle board (SUP)
Inflatable SUPs are soft and great for doing yoga calmly on a lake.

Inflatable SUPs are also called inflatable SUP or iSup. They are made of an air core and a PVC exterior and can be inflated and then stored away.

One of the big plus points of the inflatable SUP is definitely storage. They are usually supplied with a compatible bag or backpack and pump. This means that the SUP can be easily stored even in a small flat. It can also be easily taken on any holiday or road trip. It can even be taken on planes.

Once inflated, the SUP feels stiff. Most air pumps are fitted with an air pressure gauge. The SUP should be inflated to between 10 and 15 PSI Inflating the board can be an excellent warm-up before paddling. But don’t worry! Inflatable SUP boards are very easy to inflate.

An inflatable SUP is also an excellent choice for people who like to combine several sports. Unlike hard SUP boards, inflatable boards are much softer and are therefore great for doing yoga or Pilates on a lake, for example.

What is the right SUP for beginners?

There is an almost limitless choice of SUP boards. There are many different shapes, lengths and volumes, but also manufacturers. Popular brands are Indiana and Fanatic. But which board is the perfect beginner SUP board?

The all-round board is ideal as a beginner’s board. It offers fun in the sea as well as in shallow water.

A 10’6” board is ideal for families and beginners. If you want to take your SUP for a more sporty ride or paddle for 5 kilometres, you should go for an 11’ SUP or longer.

What size should my SUP be?

Below you will find a table that you can use as a guide. 

Body weightSUP widthSUP thicknessSUP length
< 56 kg31-32’5’9’6”-10’9”
56-68 kg31-32’5’9’6”-10’9”
68-79 kg31-33’5’10’0”-12’6”
79-90 kg32-34’5’10’0”-12’6”
90-102 kg32-34’5-6’10’0”-12’6”
> 102 kg32-34’6’10’0”-12’6”

As you can see, there is a wide range of weights. This means that a SUP board can be used by several family members.

What equipment do you need for paddleboarding?

When you’ve found the right SUP board, you’ll start thinking about the perfect accessories.

The right paddle is crucial. And there are huge price differences. They start with adjustable aluminium paddles for about 50 euros up to glass fibre and carbon paddles which can cost up to 300 euros. More expensive paddles are generally more stable and lighter than cheaper aluminium paddles.

Power transfer and stability is much higher with carbon or glass fibre than with aluminium. The paddle should be easy to hold. If other people will also be using the same paddle, it might be worth considering an adjustable paddle. 

In the end, the SUP board you choose depends on your ability, but also on your body weight

Two SUPs from a birds-eye view
For relaxed paddling, a board with three fins is best.

Which fin fits my board?

As well as a paddle, you also need fins for your SUP board. Choosing the right fins starts with selecting the right board. SUP boards are available with different fin setups. This is not an easy decision, especially for beginners. 

With an all-round board, for example, you can often choose between a 1-fin or 3-fin setup. But what’s the difference? 

The fins provide stability in water and also impact the speed of your SUP board. Water resistance plays a significant role in these factors. The more fins your board has, the greater the water resistance. A SUP board with just one fin glides easier and faster through the water than a board with a 3-fin setup.

Which fin set-up is more suitable for beginners? 

Generally, both a 1-fin and a 3-fin set-up are suitable for beginners. A board with just one fin is easier to steer and goes straight more easily. This means that you can paddle more strokes on one side before you have to switch to keep heading in the right direction. A board with a 3 fin setup, however, has greater tilt stability and more manoeuvrability.

If your balance is not so good when you start, a 3-fin setup can help you to stand on the board more easily. 

Which accessories are also needed?

A distinction must be made between inflatable and SUP hardboards. For an inflatable SUP board, you need a SUP pump. You don’t need one for a hard SUP.

For an inflatable SUP, as well as a suitable SUP pump, it may also be useful to have a backpack that it can fit into. You’ll be grateful for a backpack that’s comfortable to carry, especially if you plan to take your SUP with you on hiking trips.

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Alpinetrek-Expert Daniela

Alpinetrek-Expert Daniela

Although I grew up in Germany, I have always had a great longing for the seas of this world. As a child on summer holiday, it was always hard to say goodbye to the sea. On a trip through California, I discovered not only my love of the sea, but also my love of the waves. That’s why I’ve been packing my board bag more often than my suitcase for the past 8 years. For me, there is no better feeling than standing with both feet on my surfboard and surfing the perfect wave.

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