Inflatable Buying Guide : How to Choose Your First Stand Up Paddle board ?
Choosing a Paddle board can often be overwhelming due to the numerous options available. That’s why we put together this Guide in order to simplify the process of selecting and buying an inflatable stand up paddle board. This paddle board buying guide should answer all your questions about what is the BEST SUP for you. And if you have more questions, read Top 20 questions about inflatable paddle boards and if we missed an answer feel free to contact us.
First, let’s start with the essentials elements you need to start paddle boarding your favorite lake or ocean. Your paddle boarding equipment will include a stand up paddle board, a paddle, an ankle leash and a life jacket vest. There are lots of other paddle board accessories/gear that you might need while stand up paddling but this is the minimum to get out while being safe at the same time.
The most important piece of equipment will be your paddle board. There are different types of sup board and each type of boards will be ideal for different paddle boarding exercise.
The Types of paddle Board can vary but the main styles of sup boards are sup racing, touring paddle board, all around stand up paddle board and paddle surfing.
Sup racing and touring paddle board are typically longer and narrower with a pointed nose or bow and a rounded hull. The typical length for race paddleboards will be 12’6 feet and 14 feet long while touring paddle board can go as small as 10’6 feet to 11 feet. The pointed nose or bow cuts through the water more efficiently and requires less effort to paddle longer distances.
This makes these sup board great for use in flat and calm waters.
Race paddleboards tend to have a narrow width which can make them less stable and are more suited for experienced paddlers. A touring paddle board is usually a bit wider for increased stability and is well suited for anyone wanting to paddling on flat water.
An all Around stand up paddle Board is very versatile and very stable. This type of stability make these type of paddle board the best for a beginner or anyone who want to paddle boarding very easy with stability. The all around sup offer a traditional surf board style plan hull and is between 10′ feet and 12′ feet long, and 29 inches to 36 inches wide.
All Around sup board are great for paddle board yoga, fishing and as an everyday paddling board (see our stand up paddle boards for sale here).
Paddle Surfing is a little bit different than paddle boarding because you are going to ride waves ! A Surf paddle board is usually shorter than a traditional sup in order to provide more maneuverability and responsiveness.
That’s why a surf paddle board will be in the range of 7’6 feet to 9’6 feet long. To adjust as best as possible the length of your paddle surfing board take into consideration your weight and surf skill. A paddle surfing board is less stable for flat water but excel in medium to large waves where quick response is necessary.
A PaddleBoard of this style is typically for a more experienced paddle boarder or surfer (see our sup surfboards for sale here).
Paddle Board Length, Width and Volume
A Paddle board can come in all different sizes as we have seen above.So knowing your specific needs and ability will make the decision process easier. The most important thing with a sup paddle board is having one that works for your size. A Paddleboard needs to be large enough to support your weight and ability !
The Length of a paddle board
For a beginner or anyone who want a relaxing paddle board will need a board between 10′ and 12 feet in length. With a wide all around stand up paddle board, a longer sup board will provide more overall volume and be more stable.
Longer paddle boards are faster than a short sup board so take that into consideration when choosing. If your goal is to sup racing or paddle boarding long distance you will want a paddle board that is at least 11 feet for paddle touring and 12’6feet to 14′ feet long for more competion race (see our paddle board for sale here).
Paddle board surfers who are comfortable in the ocean and larger wavers will require a shorter sup surf board for more mobility.
The Width and Volume of a Paddle Board
A paddle board is made up to 36 inches wide to accommodate a variety of body types and different paddle boarding levels. A SUP Board width is the most important factor in determining stability.
Wider sizes of inflatable paddle board are ideal for larger people or a beginner. The added width and thickness of an inflatable sup help displace your weight in the water.
Larger people should aim for a paddleboard at least 30 inches width and with more volume.
Smaller people can use a narrower and lighter sup paddle board since they don’t need as much displacement in the water to counter their weight. A good starting point would be 29-30 inches wide and with less volume for their inflatable stand up paddle boards.
These are just guidelines for a starting point when buying an inflatable SUP. As you become more familiar on the paddleboard you may find that you prefer a larger or smaller sup board for one reason or another. That’s what is so nice in paddle boarding, there is a huge variety of sup paddle board that allow you to choose how you want to ride !
Construction of a Paddle Board
A Paddle Board can be made with different materials; most of the technology has been carried over from surfboard or canoe kayak.
Here are the 3 most common materials used for the constructionof a paddle board :
Fiberglass paddle board
Fiberglass is the most common material for a hard stand up paddle board. The construction technique vary from manufacturer to manufacturer of paddleboards. Some paddle board factory use a sandwich construction that integrates wood and fiberglass to add durability and stiffness to their sup boards.
Paddle Board Rotomolded
Paddleboard rotomolded are made with a durable plastic exterior with a rotational molding process. These sup paddle board are usually the cheapest but the heaviest !
Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
An inflatable paddle board is very durable and can be used for a variety of paddle boarding. The inflatable sup are made of PVC with drop stitch construction. The BIG ADVANTAGE ofan inflatable paddleboard is that you can easily transport it and store it ! (read Why buy an inflatable paddle board over a traditional hard paddleboard ? ).
Our inflatable paddle board all come with a backpack so that you can roll up the sup when not using it and store it easily. An inflatable sup can range in price and style (see our inflatable stand up paddle board sale here).
A paddle board Fin
The fin of a paddle board is what allow the sup to be navigable .
There are a few different paddle board fin configurations available :
Single paddle board fin
A single fin is the most common configuration for a paddle board. A large fin for a paddle board slides into the finbox and is tightened with a nut and screw. The finbox usually allows some forward and rear adjustment of the inflatable paddle board fin placement. With the fin closer to the tail the sup board will track better which is ideal for flat water such as lakes. With the fin moved forward it will allow the paddleboard to turn easier which is better for paddle surfing.
A paddle board thruster
This is a 3 fins configuration with 1 in the center and 2 side fins on the sup paddle board. The center fin can be the same size or larger than the sidesfins (larger will add more traction and speed control). A Thruster is the most common fin setup for paddle surfing. With the surf board thruster your ride will be more stable.
A 4 fins “quad” setup is only a surf configuration that will be available on some advanced surf paddleboards. This style generates speed and forward momentum for fast and responsive turns of the sup board.
The paddles of the sup
A paddle board come with a paddle. You have 2 options for paddles: fixed length or adjustable length.And the type of material can be different too.
A beginner should go with a straight shaft and an adjustable paddle that will allow multiple people to use it.
An adjustable paddle is ideal for multiple people and paddle boarding in different conditions. The paddles can be lengthened or shortened as needed. For this reason the adjustable paddles offer the most versatility and should be bought by a beginner.
A fixed paddle come in an unique size with a seperate handle. The shaft is cut to whatever size is desired and then the handle is binded to the shaft with epoxy. A fixed paddle have less flex and can be lighter and stronger than an adjustable paddle.
The construction of the paddles need also some consideration. A general rule is that a stronger and lighter paddle will be more expensive than an heavier one.
Carbon paddles are the most popular choice since they are very lightweight and very strong. You can get a carbon paddle in either fixed or adjustable length.
A light paddle will make an important difference when you spend a lot of time on the water paddle boarding !
Aluminum paddles are very durable and affordable but are heavier than the carbon ones.
An ankle leash is attached to the rear of the sup board and the other end is wraped around your ankle. So if you fall, your paddle board won’t go away from you !
When choosing an ankle leash you need to take one that is about the same length as your paddle board. Why ? Because if you fall you don’t want the board to hit your head !
A life jacket vest or Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
When you are outside a designated swim and or surfing area, most local law stipulate that you need to have a life jacket vest or a personal flotation device with you.