So you are looking to buy your first paddleboard? Good for you…this is a decision you will not regret!
There is no right answer to the question of what type of paddleboard you should get for your first board. There are many boards that will suit your purposes, but there are some ways to
narrow down the choices to help you pick out a board that will serve you well with a budget that you are comfortable with.
There are several things to keep in mind when you are choosing a paddleboard.
What type of riding do you want to do?
- Flatwater, Surf, both?
- Specialty paddling like racing, downwinders, rivers, or strictly surfing?
- Yoga or fitness?
How much do you want to spend?
How often will you use it?
Will you be the only one riding it or will you be sharing?
How big are you?
How will you transport it?
Do you have a good place to store it?
The first recommendation is try as many boards as you can! If you can get out and demo a variety or shapes and sizes, that will be the best way to narrow down what you like and do not like. Do not necessarily rule out a board that challenges you when you first get on it. Remember a paddleboard is an investment in future fun and fitness, and a board that you can grow into and that will challenge you can be a good thing.
If you want a specialty board, talk to an expert at your local SUP shop. They should be able to steer you toward an ideal choice for what you want to do.
If you are looking for a more general-purpose board and are not able to demo a bunch of boards, you will need to make some assumptions about boards before “taking the plunge”. Generally speaking, longer boards glide better than shorter boards because of the extra surface area. Wider boards are usually more stable than narrower boards.
What will your primary use for the board be? If you will be almost exclusively cruising in flat or open water, you will want to gear your purchase toward that use, an 11’-12’ board will give you great bang for your buck regarding glide per stroke. And most of these boards can be surfed if you find yourself disposed to trying that. If SUP yoga everyday is your thing, you will benefit from buying with that goal front and center in your mind. A board with a flat bottom for stability and with a super cushy deck pad will make lots of poses more comfortable and easier to maintain. The BOGA Yoga board is designed specifically for this and does an amazing job. And it glides well too.
If you want to split your time more evenly between flatwater and surfing, a “50/50” board as they call them can be good. Usually more in the neighborhood of 10-11’ this board will have a curve in the nose, called “rocker” that keeps your nose out of the water when you are travelling on a wave. Because of the rocker they will have less surface area on the water and won’t glide quite as well. But these boards can be a lot of fun in their maneuverability. And so what if you have to work harder to paddle along. You’re out there to get a workout after all, right?
Displacement hull Planing hull
Boards with displacement hulls are designed to travel through the water as opposed to on top of the water like boards with planing hulls. These boards are much thicker and have a sharp, vertical nose which slices through any irregularities on the water’s surface. These boards offer improved glide and a very smooth, even ride. They are usually meant for racing and general cruising. They also have a more narrow width which gives them added speed but also makes them a little less stable side-to-side.
How often you will use the board and how much you want to spend could be tied together. Given the luxury of near daily use, you will feel the typical benefits of a more costly board. You can have fun on an $800 or an $1800 board. And that’s what this is all about…having fun. But usually with the increase in price you get better quality. High-tech construction and lighter weight materials with better shapes for increased performance, and a better balanced board are just a few of the benefits that you usually find with a more expensive board. If you will only be able to get out on the water a handful of times, increased performance probably isn’t going to be as important to you.
When buying a board for you and you alone, you only need to consider your size. A 5’ 100lb woman will certainly need “less board” than a 6’ 200lb man. On a smaller board a smaller person will experience the same performance as a larger person on a larger board. So if you are the only one who will be using the board, choose accordingly. If you are sharing it with someone of a different size, or you want to take your 100lb dog out with you, you will need to take that into consideration. Also consider how easy it will be to transport a board of a given size. It’s no fun to load a 12’ board on top of a huge SUV…especially if you are 5’ tall. So think about how easily you will be able to handle the length and weight.
Storage is another consideration. It is easier to store a 10’ board than a 12’ board. But 10’ is still big. There are plastic boards, foam boards, and epoxy boards. Plastic boards will be heavier, but will need less TLC. They can be left out and knocked around to your heart’s content. Foam boards are relatively inexpensive and can take a beating, but will sacrifice performance. Epoxy boards need to be kept out of sunlight when not in use so they don’t delaminate and/or blister, but they offer the best performance.
If you are unable to get out there and demo before you buy, talk to your local SUP shop. They can evaluate what type of paddleboard you need based on your size and your budget and make a recommendation. You will be able to learn to ride any board you get and you can have fun doing it. When you try boards you want to keep in mind what you want from the board long term. Even if a board isn’t the easiest for you to balance on when you first jump on, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t work for you. Having something that you can grow into can be a good thing. Every time you go out you will improve. The most important thing is that you get out there! Challenge yourself to have fun!