What is Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)?
Stand up paddling (SUP) is one of the fastest-growing water sport activity around the world. It combines kayaking and surfing where the rider stands on a board and propel using a paddle. Most SUP boards are longer, wider and buoyant than traditional surfboards to offer more stability to the rider.
What are the different types of stand up paddleboard?
There are various types of SUP boards, but the most common are surf, all-around and flatwater boards.
- Surf SUP boards
These boards are shorter with a narrower nose and tail. Also, they are more curved than other board types. Surf SUP boards are the best option if you always spend your time in the surf. The narrower nose enables the rider to maneuver easily on the waves. However, the board is less stable, slower and does not track in a straight line on flat water.
- All-around SUP boards
All-around SUP boards are longer, wider and thicker than some most surfing boards. As a result, they are perfect for beginners because they allow them to explore various paddling techniques and water conditions with only one board. These boards are wide enough to offer maximum stability. In addition, they have a decent glide and tracking on both flatwater and in the surf. However, for better surf performance, the board must have enough curve and sidecut.
Some all-around boats come with a windsurf option. They feature a mast foot fitting attached to the deck of the board to mount sailing rig making the boards extremely versatile.
- Flatwater SUP boards
These types of boards are specifically designed for use on flat water and therefore ideal for lake and open ocean paddling. They are longer than all-around boards with a pointed nose to slice through the water smoothly. The shape also offers a decent glide and tracking on a straight line. In fact, most boards have rounded sides for more speed.
Flatwater SUP boards are ideal for beginners because they are wide enough to be stable. However, race boards which are grouped under this category are narrower to increase the speed. The narrowness makes them unsuitable for beginners because of less stability.
Common types of SUP boards
- All-around SUP boards
- Flatwater boards
- Race SUP boards
- Surf SUP Boards
- Whitewater SUP boards
- Windsurf SUP boards
Should I buy a solid or inflatable SUP?
i. Solid SUP Boards
Solid SUPs boards are made with different types of materials from plastic, foam, fibreglass, Kevlar and wood. Some manufacturers use a combination of more than one material to make the boards stronger and rigid.
- There is no inflation required
- Extremely stable in the surf and calm water conditions
- Ultimate performance in terms of speed and agility
ii. Inflatable SUP boards
Inflatable SUP boards are made with various layers of PVC plastic with woven fibres on the bottom and top inside. When fully inflated, these boards are surprisingly rigid and sturdy. In most cases, they are lighter than solid SUPs since they are inflated with air.
- They require minimal storage space
- Extremely portable
- Ideal for paddling locations that cannot be accessed by car
- Affordable compared to solid SUPs
What size of board do I need?
The volume and length of the board are critical factors to consider when selecting the right size for your needs.
i. SUP Volume
The formula below estimate the amount of volume you should consider in your board
- Beginners- Multiply your weight by two (e.g. 70kgsx2=140 litres)
- Intermediate- Multiply your weight by 1.7
- Advanced- Multiply your weight by 1.3
ii. SUP length
The below SUP board length size guide will help you find the best suited paddleboard
Surf SUP board size guide
|Paddlers’ weight||SUP board Length|
All-around SUP board size guide
|Paddlers weight||SUP Board length|
Flatwater SUP size guide
|Paddlers weight||SUP Board length|
What paddle do I need?
Components of a paddle
A stand-up paddling paddle has three main parts that include:
Most SUP paddles have an ergonomically design handle that perfectly fit in the arm.
ii. The shaft
This is perhaps the most important part of the paddle, and it can be made from various materials such as Kevlar, carbon, glass fibre and aluminium. The material used influences the performance of the paddle.
- Carbon- The most commonly used because it provides sturdiness
- Glass fibre- Budget-friendly and can bend slightly to make softer strokes
- Aluminium- Sturdy and heavy material
Kevlar- Performs similar to carbon and has high impact resistance
There are different types of blades ranging from small to large. Obviously, a large blade will displace more water in a single stroke and will demand more power. As a result, it may not be suitable for a beginner. Smaller blades are recommended for all users because they are gentler to use, especially to women.
- Height of paddle
In order to enjoy stand-up paddling without straining, you will need to use the correct height of the paddle for each type of paddling.
Surf SUP paddles should be about 6-7 inches above the paddlers head for the lower stance involved in surfing
Flatwater SUP paddles should be 8-10 inches above the paddlers head to get maximum power in each stroke
Racing SUP paddles are 10-12 inches to reach the water and get maximum power for increased speed.
Nonetheless, if you want a paddle that can be used in various types of paddling, you can buy an adjustable paddle. This type of paddle will enable you to adjust the paddle to the desired height.
- Size of the paddle
The size of the blade can significantly affect the performance of the blade. A smaller blade offers decent performance, and it requires less effort and power.
What brand should I choose?
Currently, there is a wide range of brands in the SUP industry. Choosing the best brand is a challenge, especially to beginners. Here are some of the most popular brands.
- BIC SUP
- Fanatic SUP
- JP Australia
- Naish SUP
- Osher SUP
What accessories do I need?
Even though it is not a must, a leash is a good accessory to keep the paddler attached to the board even when they fall off. They are useful in choppy water conditions or in the surf.
There are two main types of leashes
Coil leash- It stretches out when under tension and coils up compactly when paddling. Thus, it does not drag in the water
Standard leash- This is the most common leash type that looks similar to surfboard leashes. Although they drag in the water, they are lighter than coil leash.
- Leash length
A thumb rule is to have a leash that is as long as your board. However, the length can vary depending on the skill level and paddling style.
Long leash- Helps to keep the board further away when you fall to avoiding getting hit. It is ideal for choppy water conditions and in the surf.
Short leash- Keep the board close to you when you fall off. Mostly preferred on flat water since there are no waves to push the board.
ii. Buoyancy aids
A buoyancy gear is essential for both beginners and experienced paddlers. This is because water condition can change unexpectedly at any time while paddling, and it is good to stay safe always. In fact, in some areas, it is illegal to paddle without a buoyancy aid. However, ensure the buoyancy aid is approved and meet all the necessary safety standards.
A good wetsuit will allow you to extend your paddle season beyond the summer and into the winter. You will only need to add gloves, boots and a hood to enjoy paddling even in winter conditions.
However, the warmth of the suit will depend on its thickness and the material used. It is good to choose a thick suit with warm material on the inside and waterproof material on the outside.
How do I look after my new SUP equipment?
- Avoid leaving your board out in the sun. Instead, keep it in a dry and shaded area.
- Always carry the board and the paddle in a protective bag
- When placing the board in the water, look out for rocks or sharp objects.
- Place the board on the water with an adequate depth to avoid damaging the fins
- If you are using a solid board with a vent plug, ensure it is closed before setting the board on the water. This will prevent water from getting into the board
- Wash your board after every use, whether on saltwater or freshwater. Avoid harsh cleaning chemicals and only wash it with soap and plain water.
Every time before you set out to paddle, check for dings and cracks on both the paddle and the board. Focus on the nose and tail because they get damaged a lot.