There are not a whole lot of places where you can try out a bunch of paddleboards before you buy one. But, your local shop(s) may offer demos of some or all of the models in their inventory. Paddleboard demos are a great way for you to find just what you are looking for without having to second-guess whether a certain board is going to be right for you. So if you are in the market for a paddleboard and want to “try before you buy”, here are a few ideas about what is out there.
Free demos give you the option to choose one or more paddleboards that you would like to test out free of charge. The shop may bring the boards you want to try down to the water and let you go at it. Most free demos are supervised so that the shop person can answer any questions that you may have. Taking the paddleboard on your own to an area of your choosing may require a deposit and/or credit card. If you’re a beginner or are unsure of what type of paddleboarding (recreational touring, surf, downwinding etc) you are going to be doing, you may want to have a shop person with you to guide you in the decision making process and answer any questions you may have.
Paid demos usually allow you to try paddleboards on your own for a certain length of time. If you know what type of board you are looking for and want to test it in the type of water and conditions best suited for it, then a paid demo might be your best choice. Most paddleboard shops will put the money you spend on demoing toward the paddleboard you choose to buy. This makes it well worth your while.
Paddleboard shops order their boards through brand representatives (reps). Reps often have a number of paddleboards at their disposal to demo for any shop that wants to set up a demo event. They usually have a variety of boards covering the brand’s latest offerings and newest tech. So you will get some good insight on the best designs and features available. Ask your local shop if they have any demo events scheduled that you can sign up for. These are almost always free of charge.
Shops also schedule events when they bring their demo fleet out for people to try. These events usually require you to sign up, and are often limited to just a few minutes per board so everyone gets to try everything. But it’s still a good way to get a feel for how different boards perform relative to one another. If you jump on something that you think you really like, it may be worth your time and money to schedule a separate demo of just that board to give it a more thorough test.
When demoing paddleboards keep in mind the applications the board is designed for and what you hope to get out of it. For example, if you want a recreational board that can perform on flatwater and surf then let the shop know that so they can match you up with the most appropriate boards. If you want to do all open water paddling, tell them that. Be as specific as you can since there is a board for everyone out there and it’s our job to help you find the one that’s right for you.