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Choosing the best paddle board for beginners is more straightforward than you think. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is an on-the-water activity that’s grown quickly because at its core, it’s simply lots of fun regardless of how you choose to paddle. With so many activities to choose from, there’s a great option at every skill level. Plus, stand up paddle boarding is easy to learn, so almost anyone can enjoy being out on the water on a paddle board.

Man and woman walk along beach with Thurso Surf Waterwalker All-around SUPs

Stand up paddleboarding is a great way to spend a day on the water!

5 Pro Tips for Choosing a Stand Up Paddle Board

Your interests and how you plan to use the board should guide which stand up paddle board you choose. Think through the types of activities you plan to do on the water (fishing, yoga, surfing, etc). What do you imagine yourself doing? You may not be able to answer exactly what you plan to do with your SUP so take a moment to daydream about your time out on the water. Once you get some ideas about how you plan to use your SUP you can look into what paddle board is best for you.

 

1. Understand the different types of stand up paddle boards

If you’re just getting started, choosing the right paddle board for your paddle style is important. The best remedy, understand the types so your choice is easy. It’s not enough to choose simply on looks. There’s a lot of clever design work behind SUPs that you can take advantage of if you learn about what’s out there. There is some crossover in types, but here are the most common:
  • All-around SUPs – An all-around SUP is the best choice for 99% of beginner paddlers as they are versatile and suited for all types of activities from surfing, to fishing, to paddling with pets. They’re the most common SUPs you see on the water so their shape and size and a great place to start if you’re not sure what activities or bodies of water you’ll paddle most often.
  • Touring SUPs – These boards are designed for longer distances and speed. They are typically longer and narrower than all-around boards for extra glide and paddling efficiency. A pointed nose that allows them to cut through the water and track effectively. However, their shape tapers at the front and back to ensure they are agile. While a touring board can hold plenty of gear front and rear for longer expeditions, their narrow and tapered shape means the paddler’s range of movement is limited to the center of the board where it is widest. Their speedy shape means they are noticeably less stable than the all-around boards.
  • Multi-purpose SUPs – These are great for people who need the extra deck space. Some will use it for fishing, to carry extra gear or paddle tandem with other passengers or pets. The Max multi-purpose SUP is based on an all-around shape. It’s extra-wide and longer than most boards so it’s extremely stable and fun for the whole family. However, with that increased width and length, it has more drag in the water when paddling solo. If you don’t need extra buoyancy, and all-around board like the Waterwalker is the best fit.
  • Yoga SUPs – These boards are designed for yoga and other fitness activities. They’re designed to be very stable so they’re wider than all-around SUPs, but not as big as multi-purpose SUPs. The better ones will include a deck pad equal in comfort to what you’d expect from a yoga mat.
Woman kneeling on her Thurso Surf iSUP reaches into her deck cooler bag for a snack

Accessories like this deck cooler bag let you upgrade any type of paddle board you choose.

2. Choose the right size SUP (for you)

Beginners first thought is to maximize stability. That’s great! Although you’ll need to work on your balance and basic paddling fundamentals at first, don’t let the thought of falling in intimidate you. Maneuverability is important too. Opting for an oversized board to be sure you’ll never fall comes at the cost of speed and ability to turn with ease. Be aware that there are tradeoffs when it comes to the size and shape of your SUP.

Generally speaking, the bigger a SUP is relative to your size, the more stable it is. However, what you gain with added stability you lose in speed and maneuverability. Of course, if your board is small and narrow it’ll be more nimble in rough waters and easier to turn in the surf, but it will also be less stable than something wider. These tradeoffs aren’t ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Every SUP shape performs differently in different conditions.

Man standing on footpath near beach with Thurso Surf roller backpack

Inflatables make transport and storage easy, especially when you have a backpack with wheels.

3. Decide between an inflatable or epoxy SUP

The next factor a beginner needs to look at when buying a paddle board is whether to choose an inflatable or epoxy. Inflatables (sometimes called iSUPs) are great for a variety of reasons. First, they’re easier to transport. Since inflatables can be packed down, you don’t need a roof rack and can easily carry them in a board bag. You can even fly with them! Because they can be packed up that also means they’re easier to store because they don’t require as much space.

There was a time when the performance of inflatables might not have lived up to the expectations of hard board (epoxy) riders, but those days are long gone. These days inflatable stand up paddle boards can be easily hand pumped into a comparable stiffness and rigidity. Unless you’re surfing aggressively on larger waves, an inflatable is likely the best choice.

A man and woman paddle their Thurso Surf Waterwalker All-around SUPs in the ocean near rocks

You can paddle from your knees if you need more stability.

4. Find your storage space

Even an inflatable SUP takes up a fair amount of space so, it’s important to have a good place to store it in mind. You’ll want somewhere that can keep it safe from the elements and any accidental bumps or collisions. That being said, you don’t have to worry too much about your SUP getting damaged. Inflatables are especially durable, but the better you look after your SUP the longer it will last. This is why an inflatable that can roll up and be stored in a bag is extremely convenient. There’s no need to build any racks or find a space that can accommodate the full length of your SUP.

5. Be smart about what you spend

When choosing a SUP, beginners do not need to buy the most expensive board on the market. Look for a balance between, affordability, quality, and durability, with all the accessories you need to get started paddling right away. Well-respected brands put the time into board design with the right materials and features so you still get a quality product that you can afford. Take the time to look at a few different companies to see what they offer. Many sell SUP packages, so you get everything you need and more in one purchase. The single most important accessory to consider is the paddle. A lightweight, highly durable paddle with a carbon-shaft will make a big difference in muscle soreness in your neck, back, and shoulders. Reduced fatigue means you can paddle faster, further, and have more fun each time you head out.

A stand up paddle boarder paddles towards shore on a Thurso Surf Waterwalker All-around SUP

Once you get out there and give it a try you’ll understand why people love this sport.

Final Thoughts

Figuring out how to choose a stand up paddle board as a beginner is pretty straightforward. Just take the time to think through what you plan to do and the rest will fall into place as you search. The type, size, storage, and cost of SUPs are all important factors to consider for first-time buyers. So, follow the 5 pro tips provided to help make your first stand up paddle board purchase. Look forward to seeing you on the water!
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