Choosing the right SUP board

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Choosing the right Stand Up Paddle board

It may have its roots in ancient Hawaii, but SUPing’s recent renaissance has seen its popularity rocket around the world and, whereas even 5 years ago you wouldn’t have seen many SUPs around the place, they are now a regular sight at the beach, and SUP specific clubs are popping up everywhere.

Unlike other ‘new’ sports, equipment for SUPing hasn’t evolved experimentally either. Perhaps due to the (much slower and more painful!) evolutions of other watersports, SUPing has learnt from the mistakes of other sports, and there is already a bewildering range of equipment for the various disciplines and for all conditions. And it all works!

For the beginner, or for someone looking to specialise in a discipline, the 20+ boards at your local store can be bewildering. Here’s a rundown of what you need to look for in a board for the most popular disciplines.

Board types

Beginner – Before you decide to enter any long distance races, take on any overhead surf, or set off on a 3 day SUP safari, you need to learn the basics. This is where beginner boards come in and, regardless of your experience with similar sports, beginner boards are an essential step to ensure you get your head around the dynamics of SUPing. The watchword with beginner boards is stability. Stability comes from having a long, wide and buoyant board without too much rocker.

Beware that an inch or two, whilst not seeming much can make all the difference. For example, a 30″ board can be hugely more stable than a 28″ board.

All-water/Ocean going – If you’re lucky enough to have access to surf and some flatter water, and you only want one board, then there are some great options for hedging your bets and having a ‘one board quiver’. As with a beginner board you don’t want anything too extreme in terms of the length or the rocker, but you do want something a bit shorter and with less volume than a beginner board, and with a fuller shape than a wave board, to keep you going on flat water. This is perhaps the broadest category of boards, and it’s not black and white, you can go for ‘slightly better in the surf’ or ‘slightly better on flat water’, and there are plenty to choose from.

Surfing – There’s no denying that however popular racing or touring become, SUPing’s roots will always be in surfing. It’s not surprising then that SUP boards designed for surf are similar in many respects to their surfing cousins. For starters, you can expect more rocker – to help to drive and turn the board when riding on waves. You’ll also find narrower tails and different tail shapes (bats, swallows and pins for example), again to ensure you can throw the board into turns, and your fin setup becomes much more important, with many surf-specific SUPs having a thruster set up or stabiliser fins.

Racing – Racing is one of the fastest growing SUP disciplines, and race boards have undergone something of a revolution in the last couple of years, now borrowing as much from the world of sailing as surfing. With the ‘displacement hull’ revolution now in full swing (displacement hulls are more efficient when a board isn’t planning), there is a new generation of staggeringly quick boards to meet the needs of an ever more competitive race scene.

Touring – Generally for long distance travel on flat water, touring SUPs have a relatively high volume and are designed to be highly efficient cruising machines. Once up to speed, touring SUPs can keep going with much less effort from the paddler. Many have fixings for storage systems so that you can head of camping, fishing, or just take a couple of beers for when you’re half way.

At Stand on Liquid we carry the largest selection of boards in the Pacific Northwest! Check us out at



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