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Bliss Life

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Bang your Board. SUP Style!

Jun 14, 2012 09:27AM

Betty Board from Lakeshore Paddleboard Company-Known for it's light weight and easy handling

Written by Kristin Close

Selecting a board is a big decision. There are several key factors that come into play.

Common questions asked when buying a board are How much do you (or friends or family) weigh? What are the conditions where you want to paddle or surf (inland or coastal)? What is your previous SUP, surf, windsurf or paddling experience? What aspect of SUP appeals to you (flat water, waves, touring, yoga etc.)? Is fun, fitness and relaxation, or performance SUP your goal? The combination to all these questions will narrow down your choices.

Director of Sales of Stand on Liquid Nolan Wilson said, when choosing a board, “I would also select a brand that has been around for a while. With the growing of the sport there are tons of off brands that will confuse and distort your best choice.” Wilson ads, “If you have a site or store that has steered you right in the past, lean on them again going forward.”

Beginners or families can share larger boards. Experts seeking to progress can use smaller boards. Beginner boards are likely to be a bit wider than those for more advanced riders, making them less likely to tip over if you become slightly off balance. Narrower boards are suited to more advanced stand-up paddle boarders - streamlined boards allow the rider to make turns and other maneuvers more quickly and easily.

Wilson suggests “buying right” the first time. It’s very easy spending as little as possible but often times you get what you pay for. Be thoughtful and think about the long run. For a little more you can get what you really wanted.

Wilson said, “To make this a little easier to think about, approach it this way: once you pay for the board and paddle there are no green fees, lift tickets, or tunes up that will need to be performed.”

You need the perfect board for the site and conditions of the day and for who you are. Men, women, kids, and seniors, everyone buying a stand-up paddle board has different needs. Make sure the first board you get suits your expected needs.

There are three things to know:


Size for your weight.

Study the dimensions of the board you're considering and make sure you don't go too small. The general rule is that once you're up to paddling speed you don't want the tail to drag. Stepping slightly forward will smooth out the water release at the tail, but if the board is too small the nose will dive. Board makers generally agree on certain dimensions: 11' boards that are around 29" wide and 4 1/4" thick, or 12' boards that are 30" wide and 4 1/2" thick. The flotation is a combination of the length, width and thickness of the board. If you can't test a board or are inexperienced, listen to the advice and experience of others. (Heavyweights should have the biggest boards around 12'. Paddlers right at 170 lbs. do well on 11' boards and very-lightweights can go as short as 10'.)


Size for your water conditions

There are three basic water conditions: flat water, rough water, and surf. In flat water, you can see your wake and actually hear turbulence. You will even be able to trim a board that is too small but don't get cocky and think this will work for you in all conditions. The size and weight recommendations above work well in flat water.

Rough water will not be forgiving. The board seems much less stable and the nose will dive into the chop. The board that seemed fine in flat water will seem too small. Get a bigger board for rough water, approximately six inches to one foot longer.

For surfing you want speed and stability for paddling-out and catching waves, which favors bigger boards. Beginners in the surf should stick to the same board they use in rough water. It will catch the waves easier and you won't fall so often. Better surfers will prefer smaller boards. They've learned the knack and timing for paddling out and catching waves so the performance when riding the wave is primary. 11' and 12' boards work fine in the surf for occasional surfers. High performance surfers are using 9'6" to 10'6" standup paddle boards.


Size for you convenience

There are many other things you do with your board other that riding it. You carry it to the water, you hoist it up on top of your head to load it on your vehicle and you have to store it someplace.

Try picking it up, carrying it, and hoisting it over your head. If you have trouble, look for a board with a hand slot or buy a handle kit to attach a carrying handle. Smaller boards are lighter weight with thinner rails and are easier to handle when out of the water (making these boards especially popular with women stand up paddle boarders). Also, check where you have to store it. If it needs to fit into the locking personal storage in your vacation condo you better test this before you purchase. Having a smaller board in the locker is better than having a big board stolen from the carport rafters! Easy carrying, loading and storing is part of the love affair with your first board.


Before you go, make sure you have:


A paddle

Stand up paddle board paddles have an angle or “elbow” in the shaft for maximum efficiency. Choose a paddle that's roughly 6” to 8” taller than you are (though some manufacturers recommend an 8” to 10” differential).


A personal flotation device, PFD.

The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddle boards as vessels, so always wear a PFD whenever you're paddling hard water.


Wear the proper clothing.

For cold conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or dry suit. In milder conditions, wear shorts and a T-shirt or bathing suit—something that moves with you and can get wet. Always have sun protection! Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.


The best SUP boards on the market:





Amundson Designs

Paddle Surf Hawaii

QuickBlade Paddles




Pro-Lite International

Ocean Watersports Sunglasses

Roberto Ricci Designs (RRD)

Surf More XM

True Ames

ULI SUP Boards



With these the tips from Nolan, choose your board and take it to the water! Have fun and be safe while rockin’ the board. What is your favorite SUP board?