The number of people who enjoy a session with us and who then go on to buy their own board is growing, which is brilliant. Our aim is to not only introduce the sport we love, but to enable people to be self sufficient to the extent that they can continue to paddle board with us or on their own.
And let’s face it: 2020 has been extraordinary for the sport as a whole. More people are trying the sport, more people are buying boards… to the extent that they’ve been sold out all summer. Yet the most common question from all the people we teach is… ‘which board should I buy’?
Our response is always that there’s no simple answer that suits everyone. Your size, your SUPping habits (coast, river, surf etc) and budget will all dictate your decision, and we recommend you try before you buy. Many shops or SUP centres enable you to try in a safe environment.
We sell boards for a specific brand because we like their boards and we love their customer care, but your choice has never been greater…
What should you look for?
Paddle boards are everywhere, which is great news. The proliferation of brands making and selling them means the prices are slowly falling too, but beware buying cheap… you may end up buying twice. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The problem is, where to start?
If you’re looking for a board on which to learn and develop your skills, or simply to use on holiday with family and friends, then we recommend something that’s going to provide with you the most stability for the best experience.
Our fleet consists of several brands, but mainly Sandbanks. We have different sizes and shapes because, well, we’re all different shapes and sizes too! A child shouldn’t learn on an adult board, while a taller/larger adult shouldn’t learn on the same size board as a smaller adult… the experience just wouldn’t be enjoyable.
Most of our boards are more than 10′ long, 6 inches thick and over 30 inches wide, though our smaller boards are thinner for lighter users. Many of the cheaper boards you’ll find in your supermarkets will be thin, some 4 inches, and less wide, which makes for a really flimsy experience… not ideal. This increases your chance of getting wet, and the board becoming damaged.
Furthermore, if you continue to enjoy paddle boarding and improving, you might want to progress to something that’s faster and more manoeuvrable, or which has a sleeker shape.
We won’t bore you with any technical details but you won’t be surprised to know that some boards are better than others, and that’s reflected in the price you pay. Some have more layers, some have better quality stitching, better valves, fins, leash and the paddle itself… they’re all trying to achieve optimum stiffness and performance. If you’re learning for the first time you won’t need the best board you can buy, but also try and refrain from buying a board for £300 or under. These boards are cheap for a reason… Our first board was from Decathlon, and it served a purpose, yet within a year we’d upgraded…
We’ve experienced several brands – some good, some not so good – and so we’re happy to recommend the following boards which have worked for us. Each includes a full pack, so comes with bag, leash, paddle, find and repair kit.
Gong Chop 10’/11′
Finding a budget board is a precarious business, so we don’t think you’ll find better than these from Gong, based in France. A windsurf and surf brand with years of experience, their boards are excellent quality, and still weigh in under £350 inc. postage.
Our fleet consists of the Sandbanks boards, mainly the Ultimate, but also the larger Cruiser (great if you’re taller or bigger), and the Elite and Wave models (thinner at 4.75 inches thick). Why do we use Sandbanks? They’re excellent quality, and their options suit people of all sizes. The quality is superb (ours take a lot of abuse!). They’re also a really aerodynamic shape, which allows for progression.
Fanatic Pure Air
We’ve used the Fanatic Pure Air boards and they’re excellent quality, and the perfect size for people of all sizes. With a rounder nose, however, they’re not the quickest.
McConks Go Simple
Made in the UK by a family business and boasting premium quality at low prices.
For those who want a extra bit of speed, a touring board is longer and sometimes thinner in width, which means you cut through the water quicker. Choose from Fatstick’s inflatable touring sup, or Sandbanks’ touring SUP. Both excellent.
We love Starboard. They’re boards are incredible, their focus on sustainability impressive (their boards come wrapped in paper, not plastic, and their bags are made out of recycled bottles). But they’re not cheap.
Arguably the world’s most popular brand, UK brand Red boast excellent quality. These boards are regular award winners, hence the price tag. Are they £400/£500 better than the Sandbanks boards we use, though? Probably not.