stand up paddleboard

How to choose a SUP

A stand up paddleboard (SUP) combines paddling with surfing. 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.

Types of SUPs

Each SUP has its own shape and intended purpose. Select a shape that matches the conditions you want to paddle in.

Flat water

These all-around boards are the best way to start and suit paddling on calm lakes and inlets. Even though these boards are quite stable, you’ll still get an excellent leg and core workout. They tend to be longer, wider, and higher volume which makes them quite stable.

Best for:

  • Beginners
  • Calm lakes
  • Protected inlets

Surf

Surfing on a SUP is easier to learn than a regular surf board because you’re already standing and balanced when the wave gets to you. These boards are a bit shorter and are tapered so they are nimble and responsive in the waves. They often have an upward curve, or rocker, in the nose and tail to make them easier to pivot and turn.

Best for:

  • Advanced SUPers
  • Surfers

Inflatable

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.

Best for:

  • Beginner to advanced riders
  • Travellers
  • People with limited storage space

Hull shapes

Planing hulls have a similar shape to a surfboard: flat and wide with a blunt nose. This shape rides on top of the water and works well on both flat and choppy waters. They feel stable and are a good choice for beginner paddlers.

Displacement hulls have a pointed nose designed to slice through water efficiently when touring. They tend to be longer and narrower than planning hulls, and although they are fast, they are less stable and more prone to tipping, so are best for advanced riders.

Board length

The length of the board determines how fast it is and how responsive it is to turning and carving.

  • Short boards are great for surfing (under 9 feet)
  • Medium boards are great all-around boards (9 to 12 feet)
  • Long boards are great for racing or touring (12 to 14 feet)

Fins

Fins help your board track in a straight line, add stability, and can also add speed when catching waves.

Single fins are designed to keep you stable. Sliding the fin forward makes the board easier to turn. Sliding it back makes 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 and maintenance

Extreme heat and cold can cause the board to expand and contract, possibly weakening it. Store it in a cool, shaded place when you’re not using it. If you’re leaving it out on the beach during a break, store it with the traction surface (the part you stand on) facing the ground. That way it won’t be frying hot when you step on it.

Do I need a PFD?

Yes. 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.

What type of paddle?

Your paddle should be taller than you are by about 10-20cm, so you can stand up tall and straight when using it. In general, a long, tapered blade suits 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.