A Beginners Guide to SUP (Stand-Up PaddleBoards)

Surfing and windsurfing are here for a long time. Even if your grandparents do not live in Hawai, they still know what surfs are. Let’s ask them about SUPs or Stand-Up Paddleboards. The young generation, but not just them, likes them. Paddleboards become popular in the last years. They offer freedom as you do not need to wait for waves or wind as with surfs and windsurfs. You will use all your muscles on legs and hands, not just hands as with kayaks or canoes. And you can enjoy it together with your friends and family (if you buy wide and long paddleboards) or practice yoga on it (on wide SUPs). Here is our guide for beginners to all things SUP (or Stand-Up Paddleboards) related.

Go to our pick of best SUP (paddleboard) for beginners

or check our guide of parameters you need to consider before choosing the paddleboard.

Shape
Weight Capacity and Volume
Solid or Inflatable
Length
Width
Thickness
Paddle
Accessories

Our Top Choice of SUP (Paddleboard) for Beginners

It is not easy to pick the first paddleboard and buy it online. So here is our easy advice on how to start. Pick the wider and shorter paddleboard for better control. You need to get accustomed to this before moving to longer and faster one. By wider, we mean paddleboards with 80 cm or 30 inches width. Length should be around 11 feet (330 cm) and thickness will depend on your weight. We recommend starting with inflatable SUPs as they are much easier to transport and store. We recommend to buy it all as a package, so you will get not just paddleboard and paddle, but also pump, leash, storage and carry bag and repair kit. Add just your PFD or life jacket and you are ready to go paddleboarding.

SereneLife Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board with Paddle, Air Pump, Leash, Storage Bag, Bottom Fin, Repair Kit
10’5 feet long & 30 inches wide & 6 inches thick
Available in four different colors
Check Price on Amazon

The shape of the Paddleboard

There are two basic shapes of Paddleboards. The hull or the body can be either wide with an oval nose (planing hull) or narrow with sharp-pointed front (displacement hull). Additionally, you can find a lot of hybrid paddleboards, that combine characteristics of both basic shapes.

Planing HullDisplacement Hull
Bay Sports Premium Inflatable SUP Board Yoga MandalaLifetime Amped Paddleboard
+ good maneuverability
+ more forgiving
- slower
+ fast and smooth ride
- less maneuverability
- less tolerable
Suitable for:
leisure paddling
surfing
SUP yoga
Suitable for:
fitness paddling
SUP touring/camping
racing
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Weight Capacity and Volume of the Paddleboard

These two parameters of the paddleboard are very important for smooth and easy riding on the water. Basically, it means how much weight is paddleboard able to hold and how much water it displaces under the burden. It is important for the board to be stable and maneuverable, not sinking under or floating too high on the water.

The weight capacity and volume depend on the length, width, and thickness of the particular paddleboard. Different combinations of length, width and thickness lead to the same results. Therefore, almost all producers of paddleboards show the respective data on weight capacity and volume.

Volume is specified in liters of the water the board displaces. It shows the ability of paddleboard to float on the water with weight on it. The higher the volume, the more weight can board support without sinking.

Weight Capacity is shown in kilograms or pounds and describes the ideal weight of the rider (with all accessories) for a smooth ride. If you put more weight on the board than it will fall lower in the water and the movement will be inefficient. If you put less weight on the paddleboard than capacity indicates, the board will float too high and will feel too heavy to move.

Volume and weight capacity can not be taken into consideration as sole parameters. You always need to combine it with shape and way of the use of the paddleboard. Planing hull boards are more tolerable in case you put less weight on the board. Displacement hulls are not as forgiving and any deviation in weight will be reflected in speed and control of the board on the water.

Solid or Inflatable SUPs

The subheading says it all. Paddleboard can be either solid or inflatable.

Solid Stand-Up Paddleboards are made from foam core wrapped with fiberglass or from carbon fiber. Carbon fiber paddle boards are lighter and stiffer but also more pricey. Plastic boards are cheaper but heavier.

Inflatable Paddleboards are made from PVC with an air core. You need a pump to inflate it before use.

Solid SUPsInflatable SUPs
BIC Sport TOUGH-TEC Performer SupInflatable SUP + Everything Included
+ For fast and efficient performance
+ Stability on the Water
+ Fine-tuned for specific characteristics
- Need to have a place to store it
- Need a vehicle able to transport it
+ softer
+ easy to transport
+ easy to store
+ all included in a package
- the pump needed to inflate it
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Length of the Paddleboard

The length of the board determines the speed and control you will have over the paddleboard. Longer boards are faster and less maneuverable. Shorter SUPs are slower but offer better control.

The length in combination with width and thickness impact also volume and a weight capacity of the board. Think also about the place and way of use and storage of your board, as longer boards are generally harder to transport, carry and store.

Kids PaddleboardsShort PaddleboardsMedium PaddleboardsLong Paddleboards
Length 8 feet (244 cm)Length less than 10 feet (<305 cm)Length from 10 to 12 feet (305 to 366 cm)Length more than 12 feet (366 cm)
+ good maneuverability
+ more forgiving
- slower
+ good maneuverability
+ more forgiving
- slower
+ ideal for all round use
+ for SUP yoga
+ for fast paddling
+ for long-distance touring

THURSO SURF Prodigy Junior Kids Inflatable SUP
Length: 7’6 Width: 30” Thickness: 4”
Volume: 150 l, Weight Capacity: 165 LB/75 kg
Adjustable Carbon Shaft Paddle/3 Fins/Leash/Pump/Backpack Included
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Width of the Paddleboard

Paddleboards are usually 25 to 36 inches (64 to 91 cm) wide. You should consider the way you paddle, the need for stability and control before picking the width of the paddleboard.

Wider paddleboards are slower, more stable and better maneuverable. They also provide better feelings regarding safety. Narrower SUPs are faster but less stable and controllable.

Wider paddleboards are recommended for long-distance tours or if you want to carry extra baggage or another member of family or friend. Also, they provide more space if you want to practice SUP yoga. Narrower boards are used mainly by SUP racers or surfers who enjoy fast rides on the water.

The thickness of the Paddleboard

Thickness is the third parameter determining the volume and weight capacity of the board. The thicker board provides more support and has larger weight capacity and volume. Usually, people decide first on how long and wide board they want (depending on the way of intended use and their ability level). Then, the thickness is used to balance the needed weight capacity.

Length of the Paddle

There will be no ride and fun on paddleboard without the paddle. The Paddle is an indivisible part of the paddleboard experience. It is the most important accessory you will buy with your paddleboard.

The length of the paddle will determine how much fun you will have on a paddleboard. The too-long paddle will be hard to use, the too-short paddle will force you to lean on the side of the board and increase the risk of falling down to the water.

You can use a simple mathematic tool for determining the right length of the paddle. Add 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) to your height and you will get the ideal length of the paddle for you. That is the measurement for most beginners or intermediate paddleboarders. In case you would like to do racing than you should pick a bit shorter than usual paddle.

Fortunately, the current trend is to use adjustable paddles. That means you can easily short or prolong the paddle depending on who will use it. Or you can adjust it when you find out the above-mentioned measurement tool did not work for you.

The other parameters you should consider when buying a paddle are the material, blade size, shape and offset.

Paddles are made either from plastic, fiberglass, aluminum, wood or carbon fiber. Each material has its advantages (weight, durability) and disadvantages (price).

Blade sizes are determined by the type of the person. The bigger people should use larger sizes, the smaller one should use smaller blade sizes. Generally, larger blades are more powerful, smaller blades are more efficient.

Small/Medium Body TypesMedium/Large Body TypesLarge/XL Body Types
Weight less than 150 Lbs (68 kg)Weight from 150 lbs to 200 lbs (68 kg to 90 kg)Weight more than 200 lbs (90 kg)
Recommended blade size
80 to 90 sq.in (510 to 580 sq. cm)
Recommended blade size
90 to 100 sq.in (580 to 645 sq. cm)
Recommended blade size
100 to 120 sq.in (645 to 770 sq. cm)

Blade shape can be either tear-drop for more powerful stroke and less cadence or rectangular for higher cadence stroke. Blade offset is the angle between the blade and shaft. It is usually 7 degrees for surfing, 10 degrees for all-around paddling and 12 degrees for racing on the paddleboard.

Accessories

There are a few important things you will need when paddleboarding. We already mentioned paddle but other very important is the personal floating device (PFD) or life jacket (vest). As you use ski helmet when skiing you should always use a life jacket when paddleboarding. The paddleboard is essentially a boat or vessel so you should keep to the same rules to be on the safe side.

The other important tool is the pump if you are using inflatable paddleboard. The battery or hand pump is essential in putting you on the water so do not forget it at home. You should also use some leash to keep your board attached to your leg to prevent unintentional loss of the board when you fall down. A good suit is also a must depending on the weather when you go out.

PFD - Life JacketBattery PumpSUP Leash Leg Rope
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Posted in Blog, Paddleboards, Reviews, Summer Ski Sports, Water Ski Sports and tagged , .

Ski Pro Guru

Simon is the leading editor of SkiProGuru.com for almost 3 years. He started skiing in his teens and now he switches from Alpine to Cross-Country Skiing regularly. He tried also snowboard for a few years, but then returned to conventional skiing :) In his free time he follows soccer, tennis and reads a lot of contemporary proses and novels.

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