With so many choices of stand up paddle board available it’s understandable consumers are increasingly confused and not sure which way to turn.
As a beginner looking to buy an inflatable board it’s slightly less difficult. There are some pretty simple questions you need to answer: Does the board float me? How is its stability? Is it a reputable brand I’m buying? Is the SUP in question manufactured to a high standard?
Despite what the brands might tell you (and that includes us!), there isn’t a huge amount of difference between one top quality iSUP and another. If they’re guaranteed to more than 22 PSI, the chances are the manufacturing is decent quality, and your choice comes down to shape, fin arrangement and colour.
But, moving on from beginner paddling it becomes a little trickier. Being a progressing intermediate is probably the most confusing period for kit choice. And if you’re looking for specific performance, i.e. manoeuvrability in waves or speed on a flat race track, then finding your ideal SUP partner as akin to needles and haystacks. We sympathise.
The only advice that anyone should give you – and something we can’t stress enough – is demo, demo, demo. Don’t believe the shops, don’t believe your peers (even if they’re telling you McConks is your ideal partner), don’t believe the marketing. Trying as many boards as you can get your feet on is the ONLY way to increase your knowledge base and make the right decision, and get good value for your hard earned £££.
In a short time you’ll discover what style fits your specific needs for general flat water paddling. This will help narrow down your choice for boards that match your needs. Having nailed the flat water choice it’s then time to consider your other needs: manoeuvrability, speed, tracking or glide for instance.
Where possible, take a few boards out in the conditions you’re aiming to spend most of your time paddling in. As with flat water testing, most reputable brands, retailers and organisations will have a readily available fleet of SUPs (some a few, others more) for you to try out in your preferred environment. So, based on your new found knowledge from previous try outs, it’s off into the deep blue to see where each craft is at performance wise.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that you’ll get to a point where a decision is needed, otherwise you will keep going around in circles, and never making a decision.
So you’ve made your decision, you’ve board your SUP package. And you’re ecstatic. And then…?
Then the hard work begins.
With so much ‘info’ available it’s easy to begin second guessing what you’ve chosen. Social media posts, info in mags and on websites, titbits picked up from perceived luminaries of the sport may make you doubt your purchase. Dan in your SUP club has got a new super AirTechLight Multivariate (AirTLM) paddle. And the new OxyTech iSUP. And you think Dan’s also got a bit faster, since their new purchase. And at this point you doubt your purchase which is no long as new, or shiny as Dan’s. And the next thing you know you’ve traded in your board an alternative. And the arms race begins. The next thing you know Dan’s seen the latest advert by Sunboard and must buy the new rail technology, and you really fancy the new BluePaddle RamStick. And this vicious cycle happens again the next year, and the next, ad infinitum!
And this repeat cycle doesn’t actually help most riders develop skills or improve their enjoyment of SUP. All it really does is help move money from your bank account into someone elses!
So what’s the solution?
Parting with cash for a new SUP will yield a craft which WILL work. After all, that initial research and demo period does pay off. Therefore the performance differences you’re being led to believe can be found more efficiently elsewhere are only at best incremental, and at worst are non existent. Take paddle surfing for instance. A board that a mag review has said to turn tighter may well do so in the hands of an professional SUP surfer. But the difference between your board and the contender is likely to be minimal, and the subtle nuances will only to be felt by higher skilled riders. In reality, you’ll only get to the same level having developed your own bag of tricks on kit that’s appropriate for your skill level, and kit that you’ve stuck with for a while and learned to love. The point is: your new SUP will do everything you ask of it (unless you’ve really made the wrong decision and bought a duff). It’s now time to make it happen.
So the best advice? Research, make your choice and then learn how to ride your SUP well over a period of time. In time you’ll be surprised how much progression you’ve made and all without the headache of constantly swapping kit for supposedly something better. As with everything in life the grass ISN’T always greener… And constantly buying brand new kit certainly isn’t green!
If you want to demo our new 2017 McConks board and paddle lineup, you can find out more here
And you can read more about our 2017 touring board here
And our 2017 all round board here