Choosing the best paddleboard can seem like a serious challenge, especially if you’re new to the SUP scene but we’ll help you narrow down your choice with 10 important factors. Despite the fact that the sport of stand up paddleboarding is still fairly new and developing, there are a seemingly endless number of options available today when it comes to SUPs. All-around boards, touring models, shapes and profiles, inflatable SUPs, hard paddleboards — the list goes on and on. Let’s dig in!
While the fact that there are so many options available may initially seem like a negative, this is actually a blessing in disguise as you have a perfect opportunity to find the best SUP board for your skill level, budget, and intended use. Wading through the many options is much easier if you start the process by accurately identifying the characteristics of your ideal board.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the most important factors to take into consideration when it comes to buying a paddleboard. We’ll cover everything from a paddler’s size and skill level, intended use, budget, and more. As we work through our list, you’ll begin to see how this quickly narrows down the field of potential purchases and makes the decision process so much easier.
Remember, buying a SUP is not a one-size-fits-all process. Narrowing down the field and ultimately choosing the best paddleboard is highly-individualized and takes a bit of effort, but in the end you’ll have a board that’s a perfect match for your needs.
So with all of that said, let’s jump right in…
1. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD TYPE
When it comes to paddleboards, there are several different types to choose from. All-around boards are the most popular and are the best choice for first-time paddlers due to their excellent stability and versatility. From SUP fitness to fishing to flat water paddling — all-around boards can do a variety of things well. If you’re looking to pick up your first board, we strongly recommend starting out on an all-round shape like our Waterwalker series. Even if you decide to add a more specialized shape to your quiver after a few seasons on the water, that first all-rounder is the perfect way to introduce friends and family to the sport.
Next up are surfing SUPs. These boards typically feature shorter, high-performance designs and they’re built for maximum maneuverability.
Touring boards are longer models built with speed and efficiency in mind. Perfect for paddling long distances with a bunch of strapped-down gear, a touring SUP is the perfect rig for exploring and they’re often quite stable.
If you’re into longer boards, SUP racing boards are another option. SUP race boards are designed with one thing in mind — speed. Unlike touring boards which are still reasonably wide and stable, racing paddle boards are narrow and offer little in the stability department. Racing SUPs are designed with experienced paddlers in mind, so if you’re a beginner, this is not an ideal board category to consider until your skill level advances.
SUP fishing is an activity that has been growing year over year, and many companies are now releasing models specifically designed for anglers. SUP fishing boards feature an extremely wide profile that offers maximum stability, and they typically come with a variety of accessory mounts and gear tie down attachment points.
Next up are SUP boards built for river surfing and whitewater paddling. River SUP boards are also wider for increased stability and inflatable construction is often preferred due to the fact that iSUPs are not easily damaged by rocks, branches, and other obstacles the way fiberglass boards are.
Last but not least are boards designed primarily for yoga and SUP fitness. Like SUP fishing boards, these models are wider and built for increased stability. They often feature oversized traction pads that have surfaces designed to be easy on the hands and feet. Check out the Tranquility yoga SUP to get an idea of a yoga board’s more stable shape.
2. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD DIMENSIONS
When it comes to paddleboard dimensions, shorter boards are more maneuverable, longer boards are faster, and wider boards are the most stable. For SUP beginners, an all-around board in the 10′-11′ range with a 32″ width is a great place to start.
3. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD FOR YOUR INTENDED USE
What are you primarily planning to do on your SUP? Will you mainly be paddling in flat water? Whitewater? Surfing? SUP fitness? Stand up paddleboarding is an extremely diverse sport and there are board models specifically designed for each and every activity!
If you’re a newcomer at this point and aren’t sure what type of paddling you’ll enjoy, an all-around board will once again be your best option as it will perform fairly well in a wide variety of conditions. As you become more experienced and discover what type of paddling you enjoy the most, you can consider a more specialized board design that is specifically geared toward that activity. Nonetheless, a lot of paddleboarders enjoy the versatility of an all-around shape even at an advanced level.
Serious paddlers who enjoy a variety of activities and also have access to diverse paddling conditions, like heavy surf for shredding waves, quiet coves for SUP yoga and fitness, and whitewater river rapids, are more likely to have specialized equipment. Using a specially designed board for each different SUP activity is ideal when you’re chasing optimal performance, although it is obviously much more expensive.
4. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD BASED ON PADDLER SIZE
Larger paddlers will require a larger SUP with more buoyancy, while smaller paddlers can get away with shorter, thinner boards. Before purchasing a board, be sure to confirm that it’s suitable for your height and weight. For exampole, our 7’6″ Prodigy junior kids inflatable stand up paddleboard is designed for junior paddlers up to 165 LB/75 KG. Our Expedition 11’6″/350 CM touring SUP and Waterwalker 11’/335 CM all-rounder are built to handle people, pets and gear up to 450 LB/200 KG and, with it’s added width and volume for superior stability, our Tranquility yoga SUP can handle loads of up to 480 LB/220 KG. Expect the best performance from any paddleboard at the recommended rather than max capacity, however.
5. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD FOR YOUR SKILL LEVEL
As we’ve discussed, beginners should choose a wider board that focuses more on stability instead of performance. As your paddling experience increases, you can progress to more advanced board designs which require a greater amount of skill to enjoy.
Beginners should avoid buying boards that are designed for advanced paddlers as this often leads to frustration. Too many newcomers buy paddleboards that are ill-suited to their experience level and their overall enjoyment of the sport suffers as a result.
6. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD – RIGID VS. INFLATABLE SUPS
Both hard paddleboards and iSUPs have distinct pros and cons, and it’s important to take these factors into consideration when deciding on a board. For the time being, rigid SUPs still offer better performance and are the preferred choice when it comes to competitive paddling. While inflatables have continued to narrow the performance gap over the past several years due to advancements in materials and construction technologies, they are still second-best when it comes to overall performance but the clear winner on portability, storage, and overall convenience.
When it comes to durability, inflatables are often preferred due to the fact that they are ding-proof and practically indestructible. Unlike rigid boards which require costly and time-consuming shop repairs for dings and cracks, most damage to an iSUP can be quickly and easily patched with the repair kit included with your SUP package at home.
Rigid boards require a lot of storage space and are much more difficult to transport from your house to the water. On the other hand, when not in use, inflatable SUPs can be rolled up and stored in your travel bag under your bed, in a closet, garage, or in other small spaces like your trunk. Never leave home without it! Transporting an iSUP is also super easy as it’ll easily fit in the trunk or backseat of any vehicle, and you can even check one on with your luggage if flying.
You might want to consider a hard board if top performance is your number one priority but for almost all paddlers, however, an inflatable SUP is the better choice due to their amazing portability, durability, and overall convenience.
7. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD FOR YOUR BUDGET
Pricing is an obvious factor that needs to be considered as you’re shopping for a new paddleboard. Setting a realistic budget for your board purchase will help you to narrow down the best options, and today there are a variety of outstanding boards at all price points. Our gear uses state-of-the-art materials and the strongest inflatable paddleboard construction currently available on the market for ultimate toughness, rigidity and durability. By selling direct-to-consumer, we cut out the middlemen, so we can craft the highest quality boards and gear at a fair price to you. So, you no longer have to spend a fortune to paddle out on a premium setup.
8. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD PACKAGE AND ACCESSORIES
As you compare SUPs, remember to take inventory of what each board comes with as accessories can really add up. The first thing you’ll need is a paddle. Almost every package includes one but, a lightweight, durable, carbon fiber paddle makes a huge difference and will let you stay out on the water longer. Our SUP packages include everything you’ll need to head down to the water on day one – a travel-friendly backpack, a water-resistant deck cooler bag, a double swivel leash, a high-pressure dual action pump and more. We even ship with a waterproof phone pocket so you won’t be without your camera, music and connections on the water.
9. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD COMPANY FOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Customer support is incredibly important when buying new gear. If a company has a bad reputation when it comes to the overall quality of their products, responding to customer inquiries, servicing warranty claims, etc., then it’s best to keep shopping. One of the most frustrating experiences is buying new gear only to be disappointed by poor after-sales support.
Do your homework before buying a new board. Look up customer reviews and carefully read their feedback — are current customers happy with their purchases? Is the company responsive and helpful when issues arise? A good SUP company doesn’t just care about their products and bottom line — they care about the hard-working people who are buying their gear – that’s YOU, the Thurso Surf Crew! Make sure that the brand you choose has a track record of supporting their customers and standing behind the boards they make. If you ever have anything you can share about your experience with Thurso Surf, we’d love to hear about it! We’re committed to quality and making sure you’re loving every minute of your time on the water is our north star. Hit us up anytime at contact[at]thursosurf[dot]com or wherever you hang out on social – Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
10. CHOOSING THE BEST PADDLEBOARD WARRANTY
Last but not least, warranty coverage is something to take into consideration as you’re narrowing down the best options. Obviously, the longer the warranty period, the better. In most cases, the best SUP warranties are 2 years and they will cover any and all manufacturer defects. You can check out ours over here.
Also, be cautious as you’re comparing the warranties offered by various SUP companies — keep in mind that a warranty is only as good as the company that is offering it. A warranty that sounds great on paper might prove to be absolutely worthless if the company issuing it has a history of refusing claims.
Final Thoughts On Choosing The Best Paddleboard
We hope that the information in this article has been helpful to you in deciding which paddleboard to buy. As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of important factors to take into consideration when shopping for a new board, and you’ll be much happier with your new purchase if you take the time to do an accurate and realistic assessment of your needs. That lean, mean, fiberglass SUP racer might look super cool, but if you’re a new paddler who is just starting out, it may very well prove to be a costly mistake.
Remember that proper gear selection is critical to your enjoyment of the sport, so carefully take all we’ve covered into consideration as you make your final decision. The time you invest in this process will pay huge dividends once you find a board that is perfectly suited to your budget, interests, and skill level! If you have questions about what setup is right for you just want to talk gear and paddling, hit us up anytime at contact[at]thursosurf[dot]com.
Lastly, we encourage you to have fun with this process and hope that you find a board that’s absolutely perfect for your needs. Shopping for a new paddleboard is exciting and it’s not something you get to do every day — enjoy it!