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Different shapes work well for different applications.
Different shapes work well for different applications.

Selecting The Right Stand Up Paddleboard

So you didn’t get that SUP you wanted for the holidays and you made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape and have more fun? What better way to get what you want and  get in shape than on a shiny new stand-up paddleboard, enjoying the waters near your home?

There are so many boards to choose from so how do you know which one is right for you?

Jim Birney of Upper Tampa Bay Paddle Sports has some good advice for first time SUP buyers. Surprisingly he says, “People getting into the sport should wait to get a board.

He explains that the board you use for your first paddle session is not necessarily the one you are going to want to use as you gain experience and balance. “The learning curve is not so steep that you will need a beginner board for an indefinite period of time.

Usually within the first couple of months of paddling people have picked up enough skills that they are ready to make a purchase.” He recommends renting a board and working with an instructor for the first couple of months and then once you have an understanding of what is it you want to do within the sport and you have built up a basic skill set of balance and technique, then you are ready to purchase a board that will serve you well and can satisfy the more experienced paddler you will become. At that point your instructor or SUP outfitter can get you set up with the right equipment that will make your time on the water all the more enjoyable.

Factors such as your reach, height and weight all play into what board will be right for you.

The size (length and width), shape of the board and type of ‘hull’ will also determine if it’s the right board for what you want to do on the water.

According to Birney, selecting SUP boards is like picking out a bicycle. You can take something off the rack and it will work fine for you but once you find that bike that is sized perfectly to your frame and legs the more comfortable and enjoyable that bike will be.

It is the same with stand-up paddleboards, the more time you intend to spend in the sport the more important it is to have a board that fits your body’s mechanics. He goes on to explain that there are some generic guidelines out there to fit a board and a paddle – you can have two people of the same height but they can be a completely different weight and one’s torso can be longer than the other person’s with shorter arms. These differences will affect their paddle stroke, and generic guidelines do not take any of this into account. Even the thickness of the board will determine how far out of the water they will stand and may affect how long the paddle should be. Despite some physical similarities chances are that the same board would not work equally well for both. “Its really a matter of working with someone who has an eye for those kinds of things and puts them on a board that is right for them.” He says there is always an element of custom fit when selecting paddles and boards that will ensure maximum comfort and fun.

Your size and weight will determine the volume of board you require. If you are heavy you will need a board that has a higher volume and will keep you out of the water. The longer, wider and thicker the board the more volume it will have. If you are lighter and want to take a child or pet along with you then a high volume board may be a better option for you, too. If you are smaller and lighter and plan on paddling alone then a lower volume board may be best.

Generally boards are available in lengths from as short as a standard surfboard to as long as 14 feet. Most general use flat-water boards will fall somewhere in between, running around 10 – 12 feet.

Another general factor to consider is the wider the board is the more stable it is. Wide boards are great for rental boards and those wishing to participate in SUP exercise such as SUP yoga.

The longer and narrower a board is the faster it will track.

Boards with a slight rocker (shallow curve upwards) will be easier to turn.

The shape of the board will also determine how it will perform based on the paddling you want to do. Boards with pointed bows (fronts) are excellent for fast paddling and are used for racing, whereas rounded bows or noses are great for riding waves or flat-water recreational paddling.

Before investing your hard-earned money on a paddleboard spend some time paddling and trying various boards. Listen to experienced SUP professionals and have them help fit you to the right board, paddle and equipment and you will end up with a worthy investment that will last you for years to come.

Check back soon for advice on selecting a paddle and other necessary equipment for your time on the water.

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