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...


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.


£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 >


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.


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.

6 ways to float your boat: PFDs and buoyancy aids for paddle boarding

Should you wear a PFD (personal floatation devices) when paddleboarding? And, if so, which one? Here, we explain the difference between the different sorts of bouyancy aids and which type could be best for you

Whatever your paddleboarding or swimming ability, it pays to wear a PFD, particularly if you’re paddling alone. Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your board itself can help you, or that your swimming ability will be enough, but neither will come to your aid if you hit your head on the board, or another object, on your way down.  A PFD can be a vest, jacket, hip belt that is designed to keep you afloat and enhance your chances of survival.

There are plenty of PFDs to choose from, some of which are designed to be less intrusive on your paddling stroke. Below are some of the most common types, and some of PFDs we use and are happy to recommend, and what to look out for.


  • Your PFD must fit. A poor-fitting buoyancy aid will be more of a hindrance than a help.
  • Make sure it’s tight around your body, but still comfortable.
  • Make sure it has an ISO/CE approved label.
  • Tuck away any loose straps so they can’t get caught.

Beltpack inflatable PFD
A belt pack is worn around the waist like a bum bag, and it’s the least obstructive type of flotation device you can get. They contain an inflatable bladder which inflates when you pull a cord when you need it. Once the PFD is inflated, they usually support you under the arms and chest, over your head, or as a cushion, and can be further topped up with air using a valve. Small and easy to use… they key is to ensure they’re certified, and the buoyancy matches your weight. Some also come with other pockets for phones and things, and D-ring clipping points.

All-purpose universal PFDs
Commonly known as ‘life jackets’, these buoyant PFDs are an ‘always on’ option, and so considered the safest to use for beginners or younger paddlers. They consist of a vest with varying degrees of foam thickness – you need to match your weight to the appropriate level of buoyancy – that covers your chest and abdomen, and which wraps over the shoulders. By spreading the coverage across the upper body, there is less bulk, making it easier for users to pull themselves back on to the board. It usually has a zip or buckle fastening, or both, which can be adjusted for a tight fit. 

Collision vest
Similar to a universal PFD in terms of its coverage, but which looks like a coat of armour, these optimised vests cater for more adventurous paddlers who want the protection of a universal PFD but without the restriction of movement that comes with the foam thickness. 
Wetsuit outlet

Low-profile life jacket
Designed to provide greater freedom for paddlers around the shoulder/arm/chest area, these low-profile PFDs contain all of the buoyancy into a small area around the abdomen. This way, your movement isn’t restricted at all. Preferred by more experienced paddlers and those in a white water environment, they’re designed with a greater floatation area on the front to ensure you float face up if knocked unconscious.

Floatation jacket/bodywarmer
You can also find jackets and gilets that double up as buoyancy aids. They don’t look like buoyancy aids but provides 50N or more of bouyancy using a multilayer floatation system.

Rescue PFD
A low-profile PFD with added features… a rescue PFD is more suited to advanced paddlers and instructors. They’re big enough to enable you to carry things such as a first aid kit, quick-release belt and more.

8 best apps for paddle boarding

One of the attractions of paddle boarding for many is being able to switch off from the world. No technology, and no distractions, other than the natural surroundings around us. However, your phone can be a very useful tool when you’re ‘on board’, and not just for taking Insta selfies. Here are our favourite and most-used apps… 

Paddle Logger
Designed and created by paddle boarders, for paddle boarders, you can use Paddle Logger to track your paddle sessions, view and share your adventures with others, set up distances for race training, and stay connected with loved ones in case you get into difficulty. This last feature is really good; you can set up an alert which, if you don’t check in after a certain amount of amount, contacts them immediately. If you have an Apple watch, you can also track your health gains too. Free, with in-app purchases.

Yep, your running app now tracks SUP sessions too. Record your sessions for distance and speed, compare to others in your locality, and even compete against others in designated ‘segments’. One segment example is the Hennerton Backwater; start at the Henley end to the Wargrave Marina, you , you can compare your time against others.

Record your paddle sessions including your top speed, average speed and speed breakdown, and rank yourselves against other paddlers. You can also get live weather data including wind direction and speed. GPS tracking will follow your exact location whether or not you have phone signal. Create a bucket list of your most-wanted paddles and connect with other paddlers.

Paddle Monster
Join an active SUP racing community and gain access to customised training videos as well as strength and conditioning training from world-class paddlers and coaches Larry Cain, Seychelle and Travis Grant. Membership stars at $10 a month, and for $60 a month you get personalised analysis, plus you can post your workouts and photos alongside such SUP stars as Connor Baxter. 

Wind Compass
BBC Weather and Met Office are great starters for planning your paddles, but Wind Compass gives you accurate weather data based on your actual location, not the nearest weather station. You can track conditions at multiple points on the river, and even monitor it on an hourly basis. It shows you wind direction, wind speed, temperature, sunrise/sunset etc.

Go Paddling
A great feature here is paddlePoints, a free-to-join service that enables you to find new routes (including where to park etc) and store your own favourites. See routes others have followed and set up markers to denote the best and worst bits about each paddle. You can also find out the relevant licence requirement info for each paddle point.

What Three Words
What Three Words have basically divided the world into 3m squares and given each one a unique combination of three words, and these addresses are as accurate as GPS coordinates. If you get into a spot of bother, or lost, you can share your location to get help.

Want to know the river conditions before you head out? The Environmental Agency website is a good starting point, and  it uses a yellow/red warning system to denote high levels. RiverApp has 1,186 UK rivers and tells you not only how high the water is, but how fast the flow is too. Everything you need to decide whether or not the river you want to paddle is safe to use.

The best local paddling routes you haven't tried yet!

The River Thames can be high, fasten and wild at this time of year. However, don't let this stop you, for there are some beautiful routes to be done. You'll need your British Canoe Association licence and be careful to dress for the weather. Here are some of our favourite routes...

The canal is 87 miles that goes all the way from the Thames close to Wokingham Waterside centre to Bristol. Here are three launching points we recommend, complete with free parking.

Burghfield Road Bridge (opposite the Cunning Man pub)
Immediately after passing the Cunning Man pub on your left(RG30 3RB), you’ll see a right before the bridge, which is a short track with parking for around 5-6 cars. You can launch within 30ft.

Launch right next to the bridge (beware it can be quite fast flowing here where the canal funnels through the bridge), and travel upstream to Burghfield Mill to the weir, or downstream 1.3km to Southcote Lock. From Southcote, you can either return to your launch point via a loop around Burghfield Island, or continue downstream from Southcote Lock onto to Fobney Lock and into Reading (see next route).

Fobney Lock
Passing the Madejski Stadium on your left, then Reading’s Recycling centre, you can access the car park on the right using sat nav: RG2 0RP. Note the car park has a 2.1m height restriction.
Launch left of the lock (upstream) towards Burghfield to do the reverse of the route above, or right of the lock (downstream) to head into Reading and even to the Thames and Wokingham Waterside Centre. Note this can be a tricky portage to navigate. Choose the left bank across the bridge but be careful when using the flight of stairs.

Beyond Fobney Lock is a pleasant 1km stretch of countryside before it turns into an urban labyrinth of terraced houses before you reach County Lock. Continue past this to access the Oracle and the Thames, or Reading Abbey to Blake’s Lock. 

Sheffield Bottom
The canal-side car park is off Hanger Road, signposted Sheffield Bottom Lock Picnic Area, sat nav:RG7 4AJ. Note the car park has a 2.1m height restriction.

Head downstream past Garston Lock towards Burghfield and even Fobney Lock, or upstream towards Aldermarston Tea Rooms. Both Sheffleld Bottom and Garston locks sit within a set of ponds and reservoirs that are part of the Theale Nature Reserve.

The Basingstoke Canal runs for 32 miles from West Byfleet in Surrey to Greywell in Hampshire. It is perfect for paddlers who want an easy paddle on a flat stretch of water. You’ll be surrounded by wildlife and a little history! 

Barley Mow to Odiham
Head to the Barley Mow Car Park and slipway using sat nav RG27 8DE.

Launch and turn right towards Odiham and under the Barley Mow Bridge for a lock-free and beautifully rural nine-mile paddle (if that’s too far you can turn back at any point!). Beware some summer weed growth, which can get tangled on your fin and slow you down. If it feels like you’re wading through treacle, you’ll have something caught on your fin! Try and make it all the way to the Odiham Castle if you can… it’s worth it.

Crookham to Barley Mow
Crookham Wharf is situated by Chequers Bridge, which has a small public car park and…when we’re not in lockdown, a pub. GU51 5SY

A pretty wooded paddle with some attractive houses from Dogmersfield Village, this is a peaceful paddle. You can do a trip both ways, or a one-way shuttle to the Barley Mow pub.

Ash to Reading Wharf Road
Head to Ash Lock in Aldershot, GU11 2PS, and launch from the low bank above the lock, and turn right towards Fleet.

Another lock-free section of canal, you’ll be surrounded by wooded Heathland and pass Farnborough Airfield. which can be a good area to turn back if you don’t want to do the full 5.5 miles to Fleet, or the 11-mile round trip. With army ranges nearby, don’t be surprised to hear gunfire!

Measuring 87 miles, the River Wey forms where two streams join near Guildford, forming the Wey. It then meanders north and joins the River Thames at Weybridge. It’s a superb river if you’re looking for a picturesque paddle through beautiful Surrey countryside.

Pyrford to Guildford, or Byfleet
We launched from the Anchor in Pyrford, as others did, though ‘officially’ the Anchor is a private car park for customers only and with a barrier. There’s also off-road parking on the opposite side of the road.

Launch in front of the pub and heads right towards Byfleet, past the entrance to the Basingstoke Canal and the M25. If you make it all the way to Weybridge Town Lock, it’s 4.8 miles. This route is STUNNING!

What to wear when paddle boarding this winter

Winter is coming!

One of the most common questions we’re asked is: ‘so, what do you do in winter?’ Well, apart from swapping salads for soups and roast dinners, we continue to paddle of course! We go all-year round and actually put in more miles in winter than we do in the summer, but key to staying awesome through the bleaker months is dressing appropriately.

Some of our favourite paddles come in winter. Quiet waterways, stunning autumn colours, snow… winter paddling can be an incredible experience, though there’s no doubt it doesn’t appeal to those who prefer heading out in shorts, t-shirts and factor 50. However, if you’ve got a newfound love of paddle boarding and you want to continue your new obsession, or you simply want to keep going to help you through these crazy times, then you can do so safely as long as you’re well prepared. That’s where we come in... we’ve got wet in inappropriate clothing so you don’t have to, all in the name of research!

The trick is to stay warm but not overcook. You can still work up a sweat when paddling, so reaching for your thermals isn’t the one. Also, there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ solution here… some feel the cold more than others, so assess your own paddling confidence, and how much you feel the cold, before deciding what to wear. It's a fine line ensuring you guard yourself from cold water shock but also not overheating while paddling.

Below, we take you through your options, and some recommendations…

To wetsuit or not?

We provide wetsuits throughout our winter sessions and there’s something reassuring about wearing one for those nervous about falling in. However, wetsuits are better suited for those paddling in the sea. They work by trapping air between the material and the skin when wet, which means they can be hot if you don’t take a dip. Plus, they can restrict your movement too. 

A long john wetsuit provides greater freedom to move but we prefer to opt for wetsuit ‘pants’ with a base layer, such as a thermal rash vest and one or more neoprene layers on top. You’re after water-repellent properties with the ability to wick sweat. Also, resist the urge to wear a hoodie (consider how heavy this might be if you take a splash). A neoprene hoodie/jacket will be your friend…

Brands we like/would recommend


Pro Limit


Thermal rash vest



Top Layers

Sup bottoms

Sup bottoms come in varying thicknesses. Neoprene at 3mm will provide plenty of warmth, but may be more restrictive for movement.


If you want to stay fully dry then a drysuit is your best option, but be prepared to spend some money. As an example; Prolimit’s new Nordic drysuit is lightweight and guaranteed to keep the water away from your body, but it’s nearly £400. Supskin’s awesome sustainable wear is even more expensive, but you’ll have it for life. Maybe consider a thermal under layer instead? They're infinitely cheaper. It depends on where you're paddling, and the likelihood of you falling in...

Cold feet

Arguably the most important purchase you can make this winter is your footwear. Wetsuit boots will keep your digits warm, but make sure you go for those that cover your ankles. You want the full 5mm thick ones here too for complete protection, and if they’re non-slip then even better. If you’ve already got 3mm boots or what you might call low-top ‘summer boots’, then you can always use neoprene socks underneath to double your protection.




Bye bye cap, hello beanie. You might be tempted to reach for your knitted headwear here, but be warned: your head can overheat, and it’ll be useless if you get it wet if you go in (if you can stop it from sinking, that is). You can buy floating beanies and even thermal floating beanies that can be worn immediately after being wrung out. Magic!


It goes without saying that normal gloves are pretty useless when wet, so neoprene gloves are the answer. The key is to ensure they’re non slip; no one wants their hands sliding down the paddle, right?


The Dryrobe is quite simply one of the best things you can buy. Wear it while you pack away, or get changed. Sleep in it. Camp in it. Whatever you do with it, you’ll have it for life. Well worth the investment…

(Cheaper option from our friends at Sandbanks)

Which paddle board should you buy?

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.

Size matters
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...

Our recommendations
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.

< £350
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.

Sandbanks Ultimate/Cruiser/Elite/Wave
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.

Starboard Allstar
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.

Red Ride
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.

GWTF shop

Swap your plastic bottle for one of our GWTF ones and do your bit for the environment. Come and grab a hoodie/t-shirt/towel while you're there. Our tees and hoodies are hand printed, so designed to last, while our towels look just as awesome on a sun lounger as they will on you! The perfect companion post paddle.