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Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

This sport combines surfing with kayaking or canoeing. It gives you a fresh perspective, lets you look right down into the water, and feels like you're walking on the surface. The upright position provides a full body workout, while the width of the board makes it is easy to balance.

photo: Surftech

Intro to Paddleboarding Technique

Accessible and easy to get into, learn how to stand up, balance and steer your paddleboard with some basic strokes.

Flat Water SUPs

If you're new to the sport, you might start with one of these all-around boards. They're crafted to explore lakes and other bodies of water where conditions are calm. You'll get a core and leg workout from maintaining your balance, and it's a great off-season training activity for skiers and snowboarders.

Flat water boards tend be larger (longer, wider, with higher volume). This makes them quite stable. They usually have a flat bottom, which forms a big, stable platform. The size of the board you choose will ultimately be based on your weight and experience on the water.

Surf SUPs

Surfing on a SUP is easier to learn than surfing on a regular board, as you can use the paddle to balance and steer. It's a fun way to get into the sport, and many avid surfers use SUPs to stay in shape when the water's still or waves are weak. These boards usually run a little shorter and are more tapered than flat water boards, so they're more nimble in the waves. A shorter board usually suits lighter people and those with more advanced riding skills.

Inflatable SUPs

If you're travelling, don't have a lot of room to store a board, or want to transport your board by bike or even public bus, an inflatable might be the right choice. They fit inside a carrying case that's the size of a large backpack. With a hand pump, you can inflate it in 5 to 10 minutes or even faster if you use an electric or battery powered pump.

Because you can inflate these boards to a relatively high pressure, cruising on one doesn't feel much different than a fibreglass board. They provide a similar rigid and stable platform and the construction and materials are actually very durable and less likely to be damaged if you end up paddling through rocky areas.

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Board Rocker

Rocker is the degree of upward curve from the nose to tail of the board when viewed from the side. Flat water SUPs have less rocker so they glide more efficiently over longer distances. A board with a lot of rocker lets you drive and turn the board more easily on a wave. Boards for surf and whitewater are generally more highly rockered for manoeuvrability, at the cost of some reduction in speed and tracking.

Fins

Fins help your board track in a straight line and they add stability. A single fin can usually be adjusted forward or back within the fin box. Sliding the fin forward will make the board easier to turn. Sliding it toward the board's tail will help it track straighter. A 3-fin cluster allows you more options to change tracking and turning. You can remove the centre fin, or both the side fins or swap them out for different heights and shapes to tune your board for racing or surfing.

Care

Most SUPs are constructed with EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam in the core. It's a light, shapeable material that doesn't soak up water. However, it will expand and contract when exposed to extreme heat or cold. To help your board last longer, don't keep it in the hot, hot sun. Store it in a cool, shaded place when you're not using it. Also, if you place your board with the traction surface facing the ground, then it won't be frying hot when you step on it.

Additional Gear

PFD

Unlike surfboards, SUPs are considered nautical vessels like kayaks or canoes. So, when you ride one in Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard requires that you have a PFD with you. You don't have to actually wear it, but it is to your benefit and safety if you do.

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Paddle

Your paddle should be taller than you are by about 10-20cm. You should be able to stand up tall and straight when using it. In general, a long, tapered blade will suit cruising in flat water, and a shorter, wider blade will work better in choppier conditions, where you may want to put in quick, short strokes.

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