Paddleboards for women…the good, the bad, and the ugly

With the sport of paddleboarding growing faster than any other sport worldwide, it makes sense that many companies would be looking to fill a need, create a niche or offer something special to their line.  And with women making up a large part of the paddleboarding community and making a lot of the household purchasing decisions, it makes sense that paddle board companies would begin to cater to what they think women are looking for in a paddleboard.

What defines a “women’s paddleboard”?  It’s a good question, one without any definitive answer. But there seem to be some shared general characteristics across many of the boards being advertised as “women’s boards”.  Here are some of the things that set women’s boards apart from the rest

  • Size-because women are generally smaller than men, so are boards designed specifically for them.
  • Weight-because women are generally smaller than men, boards designed for us tend to be lighter.  Some share the same profiles as other boards in the lineup, but they are made with lighter materials (sometimes at the sacrifice of durability so be careful)
  • Color and graphics-women’s boards tend to look like they are for women.  Many of them are pink or have pink flowers on them.  And many of them are not boards men would want to be seen riding…which is a great way to keep your boyfriend, husband, son from taking your board out.

Many women’s specific paddleboards are in the 10’6 neighborhood size wise.  Women don’t typically need as much volume in a board because we don’t have as much weight to float.  So smaller, narrower boards make more sense.  Some women even prefer smaller, more surf style shapes for flatwater paddling because they feel more playful.

 

Of the three features mentioned above, weight is probably the most important.  One of the beautiful things about paddleboarding is the simplicity.  You don’t need a lot of equipment, you can go anywhere there is water, and it’s easy to throw your board on your roof and go….or is it?   A 5’2 woman with an SUV is probably going to have a bit of trouble getting an 11’6 x 33” wide board that weighs 35 lbs on her roof.  And isn’t that an excessive amount of board for her size anyway?  Maybe…but some people like the extra stability afforded to them by extra volume in the board and the extra glide you can get from a longer board.  But when it comes to handling it, if it’s not easy, we’re less likely to do it.  So many companies are offering lightweight options for women’s boards.  For instance, Corran Addison Designs (now Riot SUP) offer the Bellissima. It is a very pink version of their normally red Doppler.  It is 10’6 by 30” wide.  But here’s the thing.  The Doppler weighs in at a whopping 21 lbs (still super light and a good choice if pink isn’t your thing) but the Bellissima weighs 17lbs!!!  That makes paddling accessible to just about everyone.

Lakeshore Paddle has a model called the Betty Board.  It is 11’6 and it weighs only 19lbs.  Coreban makes a Wahine line that uses the shapes of their other boards, but lighter weight materials to make them incredibly manageable too.  And they offer high performance surf models.

Then there is the issue of color and graphics.  There are definitely some ladies out there who love a pink board, and that’s great.  For the rest of us, we have to decide if the benefits of size and weight with us in mind outweigh, pink, purple and flowers.    I have said about snowboards that I wouldn’t ride a board just because I like the graphics…but some graphics would make me NOT want to ride a specific board.  In the future if companies want to continue with colors and graphics geared toward women, I think more companies will take Boardworks’ approach which features much more muted and subtly feminine details.

While I am fully behind sports catering to women’s specific needs and wants, I’m  not sure that “shrink it and pink it” is the answer with paddleboards.  For petite women, smaller sized boards can definitely be a great answer.  Lighter weight boards are a benefit for most paddlers.  And pink can be a great selling point for some people.  Use “women’s paddleboards” as a suggestion, but realize that there are a lot of options out there and these may or may not be the best ones for you.  In the end you should visit your local SUP shop, talk with people who know about the different boards, and when possible demo boards!  The way the board feels to you and the way it performs for you is much more important that anything else.

 

 



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