The paddleboard buyer’s guide

More people than ever are looking to buy a paddleboard, but where do you start? We’ve put together a handy guide to help you sift through the different shapes and sizes so you can find the best board for you.

The best way to find the most suitable board for you is to have a lesson and try a board/s so you know what sort of length/width suits you before you commit to buying. You can do that with us, of course, but this isn’t always possible, so we’re always on hand to discuss your needs by email, phone or message. We’ve tried pretty much every brand so you don’t have to. Just drop us a line…

Length/width/thickness

Most people who come to us for boards are looking to use them mainly on the river with the odd excursion in the [largely flat] sea on holiday. The most used/popular inflatable boards for this are ‘all round’ boards which are usually between 10.4-11’ feet long and 32”-33” wide, which is ideal for those just starting out. 

Most boards of this size will take up to 120kg in weight. 

Those who are slightly taller/heavier may need extra width (so 34”) not just for greater stability, but also to compensate for their extra reach.

Most boards are either 6 inches or 4.7 inches thick. The 6 inch-thick boards generally provide greater volume/stability, but if you’re lighter/shorter, you won’t necessarily need it. 

So, in short, if you’re lighter/shorter, consider something around 32” wide and 4.7 inches thick. If you’re tall or heavier, the extra width and thickness will give you greater volume.

If you’re looking to do longer paddles, or you’re after a bit more speed in the water, then consider a ‘touring’ board. These are usually 11-12’6” long. The longer boards tend to track straighter, while shorter boards are usually easier to manoeuvre. Touring boards are slightly thinner in width, sometimes as thin as 28”, but the extra length compensates for this.

Size and use

8′ – 10’2  – Perfect for children or lighter riders, or those who want to surf(smaller boards can be easier to manoeuvre).

10′ – 10’6 – Ideal for beginners, the most common size, perfect for learning and leisure paddles.

10’8 – Greater stability and perfect for families looking to share a board or have a pet on the front. Can be helpful for yoga too, or heavier paddlers.

11′- 12’6 – Longer boards come with a pointier nose, and are better for those who want to travel longer distances or who want more speed.

12’6 – 14′ – Longer, thinner, faster… perfect if you want to start racing. Harder to turn.

Budget

£350 or less

Entry-level boards won’t be the best constructed, which means they’re often bendier. These are the boards you often see advertised on Wowcher/Amazon/GroupOn etc. When you’re stood in the middle, the nose and tail (front and back) might be out of the water, which also means the fin might not be as deep as it needs to be in the water, which then means you’ll have less control of your board. However, if buying a cheap board gets you into the sport, and you later decide to get a better quality board, then it will have done it’s job… but don’t expect much for this budget. You really do get what you pay for.

This is a reasonable entry-level package > https://www.gong-galaxy.com/produit/pack-gong-sup-inflatable-chip/

£350-£600

The quality of mid-range boards is getting better all the time. They’re usually made from better materials, they’re better constructed and, ultimately, this means they’ll be less bendy/easier and more fun to use/last longer. Some of these boards will also be ‘double layered’, which means they’ll be stiffer than most entry-level boards.

We sell boards in this bracket and so we recommend Sandbanks and their Ultimate/Cruiser/Elite/Wave options. They’re excellent quality, and their options suit people of all sizes. They’re also a more aerodynamic shape than other all round boards because they have a pointier nose, which means they glide through the water better.

£700+

If you have the budget for a ‘premium’ board then you’re looking at brands such as Red, Starboard, JP, Fanatic. Are they worth the extra money? It depends how often you use yours, and where/how. Ultimately, they’ll be constructed with better materials and the construction itself will be of the highest quality. In our experience, the Sandbanks boards have proved as good as some of these top-end boards and cost less, but it’s all down to personal opinion. That said, Starboard boards are exceptional, and are the stiffest boards we’ve ever used.

The paddle

You may hear some instructors tell you a paddle is as important, if not more so, than the board itself. This is down to personal opinion and how frequently you paddle, but once you’ve tried a lighter paddle… it’s very hard to go back! 

Most ISUP packages come with a three-piece aluminium/fibreglass paddle. These are fine for starting out, though they can be on the slightly heavy side, so a bit cumbersome. You can also get two-piece and single-piece paddles. Most packages will let you upgrade to a carbon paddle, or part carbon paddle, which are a lot lighter and easier to use. But each paddle will have a different sized blade and shaft depending on your height and what your intend to use it for. Again, it can be a bit of a minefield, but most SUP retailers are happy to talk you through the options.

Younger paddlers will definitely benefit from a shorter paddle. We use these, but you can now buy carbon kids paddles too, which are even lighter and easier to use, but a bit more expensive.

If you really get into your paddleboarding, talk to us about the range of carbon paddles. You’re welcome to try mine as a comparison toffee the difference.

You can also upgrade your fins too, but that’s for those seriously looking to get into racing/touring/surfing…

Whatever your question/query, we’re happy to help you on your paddleboard buying journey.

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