How To Choose the Right Paddle Board For You | iSUP Buying Guide
Are you interested in getting an inflatable SUP board (iSUP) but you are not sure what is the right size paddle board for your needs? Should you get one fin or three? Should you get a planing or displacement hull?
You are in the right place.
In this article, I will help you by using real-life benefits instead of unmeaningful features.
Whatever you choose in the end, you will be sure that you have made the right decision.
In order to make your choice easier, we will define your needs and constraints first.
Table of contentLet's identify your needs and constraints? What are stand up paddleboards? What to look for in an inflatable SUP? What SUP board type do you want? Outdoor Master iSUPs PROS & CONS What makes these SUP boards unique? How to be prepared for a family SUP trip Where to buy your iSUP board? iSUP Board Comparison Chart
LET'S IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS AND CONSTRAINTS?
In order to identify your own criteria, here are some questions to help you clearly determine your needs and constraints.
What do you want to do on your SUP board?
Are you trying to get places, race, explore untapped areas, fishing, or just getting fun on the water?
Have you ever stood on a SUP board before?
If yes, was it easy for you to balance yourself? If not, what do you think of your physical balance?
What is your budget?
Keep in mind that a SUP board can be a medium-term investment and a good one can last for years if you take care of it.
What is your total weight?
Including everything will be with you on board.
Is the package weight very important for you?
How is it important for you compared to other criteria such as stability or price for example?
Do you live in a small apartment or drive a small car?
Are there any dimensions that the package must not exceed?
Are durability and reliability essential criteria for you?
What will be the consequences of a failure of your inflatable paddleboard? Would that be dangerous? Will you be able to get safe if things took a turn for the worse?
Are you going to travel with your SUP board?
Getting to your paddling spot requires hiking while carrying your SUP board?
Do you have any other personal needs or constraints?
Now that you have answered these questions, you should have identified your needs and constraints, your important selection criteria, and the compromises you are ready to make.
This is an example of what you should arrive at:Even if I have never stood on a SUP board before, I see that I can quickly learn how to maintain my physical balance. What I want from my inflatable SUP board is to get fun with my friends and occasionally explore untapped areas near me. What I can easily pay is $350 but it can get up to $650 if the product can last me at least 5 years. Right now, I weigh 216 pounds and the only thing that I will have with me onboard is my dog. I'm willing to compromise on the package weight and volume but not on the reliability. I will not travel with my SUP board nor hike with it for long distances.
WHAT ARE PVC PADDLE BOARDS?
Inflatable paddleboards use two layers of polyester fabric tied together by thousands of very thin polyester threads. The next step consists of using a PVC layer that is glued or laminated onto the top and bottom of these two layers to make them air-tight.
After a polyester fabric is coated on both sides making the sidewalls, the more air you get inside it the more rigid the board will be. I prefer inflatable paddle boards because they are:
Unlike solid paddleboards, inflatable ones become compact once deflated.
So, if you live in an apartment with a small closet or you drive a small car, I highly recommend inflatable paddle boards.
If you are traveling a lot, having an inflatable paddleboard makes more sense. After you rolled it up, it can fit in a bag that can be checked on an airplane.
Traveling with your iSUP lets you pick your own paddling schedule and save some money on rental costs.
Exploring untapped paddling areas that require hiking becomes more accessible with lightweight inflatable paddle boards, especially the compact ones.
Compared to solid paddleboards, inflatable iSUPs are more able to resist impacts against rocks and logs. This is why they are preferred by rental services.
Due to the softer deck pads on inflatable paddle boards, standing and kneeling become more comfortable.
EASIER ON THE BODY
Falling on an inflatable SUP doesn't hurt as much as if you fall on a solid one. This makes more sense to beginners because as we all know, the falling rate is high when you are still learning.
Inflatable paddleboards are way more affordable. When solid SUPs are available starting from about $900, the inflatable ones are availablestarting from about just $250.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN INFLATABLE SUP?
PLANING VS DISPLACEMENT SUP
Paddle boards come with different hull shapes and your choice should be depending on your ability, your type of paddling, and the water conditions you will be in.
SUP boards with a planing hull make an excellent choice for recreational paddling, fitness, and fishing due to their flat and rounded nose that makes them ride on top of the water and be very maneuverable.
The same design that gives them these advantages also makes them less able to keep a straight line on the water. Improving your paddle strokes and having good fins makes this less of a problem.
Paddle boards with a displacement hull are an excellent choice for SUP touring or racing due to their pointed nose that cuts through the water and pushes it to the side, making it track nice and straight while riding smooth and fast.
The drawbacks of this hull shape are that it makes the SUP board less maneuverable and less stable.
The material used to make a paddleboard influences its price, durability, performance, and lifespan.
The five materials that are usually used are:
These two materials are used primarily in the drop-stitch construction of inflatable SUP boards.
This material makes expensive, lightweight, stiff, and maneuverable solid racing SUPs.
Fiberglass and epoxy resin are what the board makers use to wrap around the EPS core foam blank of fiberglass SUPs and as an outer layer over the veneer of wood.
This material is usually found in custom SUPs and it makes them expensive, heavy, and less suited to handle bumps up against rocks and logs.
This material is used to make SUP boards that are lightweight and cheap but not reliable.
Plastic material can be used to construct a reinforced plastic shell that is built around a core or by molding a piece of solid plastic into a paddleboard shape. In both cases, these boards are cheap and far more tough and durable, but they are not easy to store/transport and are far less maneuverable and much slower than most of the other types.
Getting the right size paddle board will help you a lot in how it handles water, you should take it into consideration when you are getting yours.
These boards are more maneuverable, almost always have a planing hull, and make ideal surfing SUPs.
The majority of these boards have a planing hull and make ideal all-around or fitness SUPs.
These boards tend to track straighter and provide the fastest ride. Most of the time, they come with a displacement hull.
In addition to the speed and maneuverability, the SUP length affects also its stability and weight capacity. The more length a board has the more it feels stable and the more weight it can support.
Your paddleboard's width should be chosen depending on your skill level, the type of paddling you do, and your body type.
Narrow paddle boards are fast and they make good racing or surfing SUPs. Due to their limited stability, they remain best suited for experienced paddlers.
Wide paddleboards feel stable and make good recreational or fitness SUPs. They also provide sufficient storage space, and due to their added stability, they make a good choice for beginners or big paddlers. SUP boards with a 34” width or higher make it harder for smaller (with short arms) paddlers to execute perfectly vertical strokes. This makes them more ready to veer off course.
Extra wide paddle boards are very stable and make good fishing SUPs. Do not get one of these boards unless you have experience and are sure about your needs.
Fins underneath your board are what prevent the rear end from slipping sideways as you execute your paddle stroke.
If you are undecided between getting a paddle board with one fin or three fins, I will recommend you three fins if you want to be able to keep a straight line as you glide on the water.
The bigger the fin, the more stability it can provide and the less maneuverable it becomes.
Fins come in many configurations but the three popular ones are:
This setup makes less drag and is a good choice for flatwater paddling. If you are paddling on shallow water or a river, replace your long single fin with a shorter one.
This configuration that uses fixed three fins (about the same size) gives your more control over the board. It's why it is used in surf SUPs.
2+1 setup: This configuration uses a removable large center fin and two small fixed side ones. This setup is common in inflatable SUP boards.
The board thickness is another thing that you should consider when you are looking for your inflatable paddle board.
The thickness of an iSUP relates to the board stability because more thickness means more volume, which in turn means more weight capacity.
Your recommended board thickness depends on your weight. If you are small, a thin (about 5″) board lets your paddle connects more to the water while being stable. If you are a heavy paddler, you will need a thickness of 6″.
Each inflatable paddle board has a weight capacity that the board can handle without affecting much of its performance.
When you are measuring your total weight, do not forget to include the weight of your gear, food, water, pet, etc.
As long as you can, always go with a board that can support a little more than your total weight. This way, you will feel stable and ride smoothly and not low in the water. If not, you will affect the performance and risk sinking.
The role of the deck pad on paddle boards is to give you a better grip under your foot and protect you if you fall on your board.
Manufacturers tend to not cover the whole paddle board surface in order to save on weight.
What I recommend you in terms of deck pads is one that is textured and made with EVA foam, it provides a good grip.
Another useful feature to look for is the raised edge at the rear end that gives you some leverage to execute advanced turning techniques, like the step-back turn, and make sure to keep your back foot from sliding off the board.
Carry handles are what you will use to carry your board to and from the water.
It is better to have at least the center and the rear carry handles. This way, you can carry it yourself or with the help of another person.
The best center handle design is one that can be flat to not interfere with you when you lay down or when you are standing.
Having multiple storage features is good to have on your paddleboard, especially for touring or fishing.
The majority of the paddles you get with a paddle board are not the best available on the market, but since most of the time they are durable they remain good for a beginner.
When you get some experience, you can upgrade it to a fiberglass or carbon one that is lighter, to paddle more before start feeling tired.
Your paddle's correct length depends on your height and your SUP activity.
|SUP ACTIVITY:||CORRECT PADDLE LENGTH:|
|Surfing||6" to 8" taller than you|
|Recreational paddling||8" to 10" taller than you|
|Racing||10" to 12" taller than you|
The kit hand pumps differ in terms of the number of chambers they have and how many settings they can use to release air.
For chambers, there are ones with a single chamber and others with two. The dual-chamber hand pumps release more air, which makes them faster.
For settings, there are ones with just a single setting and others with two or three.
Hand pumps with triple settings start by filling a large volume of air on both the upstroke and downstroke. When things get a little harder you can switch to the second mode to only inflate on the downstroke using both chambers. The third setting is used to complete the last few PSI, it uses just one chamber and releases air only on the downstroke.
I consider the SUP leash mandatory safety equipment because it helps save your life by keeping a floating body near you and helps you not lose your investment (sup board) when you fall from it.
It is also for the safety of others around you because a free paddleboard can be lethal with the force of an ocean wave.
The best SUP leash is one with a dual-swivel, has a soft cuff, and a coiled cord for less drag.
WHAT SUP BOARD TYPE DO YOU WANT
All-around paddle boards are what I recommend for beginners because, without excelling, they can do everything from having fun on the water to catching small waves or going for long tours.
This way, you can try and experience different SUP activities, which most newcomers want.
On the other hand, SUPs dedicated to surfing, racing, or touring are limited to a single activity that you may not like when you practice. They are also expensive because they are made with performance in mind due to the use of advanced and high-cost materials.
The other thing that makes me recommend all-around paddle boards for beginners is that, unlike many dedicated SUPs, they are affordable and usually come with all the accessories needed to start paddling.
If you are just beginning and you look for a versatile, stable, and easy-to-use paddleboard, an all-around one is the best for you.
Touring paddle boards are longer and narrower compared to all-around SUPs.
They range between 11' to 14' in length and 30” to 32” in width and feature a pointy nose that points upwards.
When these boards are less stable and not easy to turn, they have a smooth glide on the water and offer more storage space, which is important if you want to paddle for long distances.
Touring paddle boards are recommended only for experienced paddlers and in calm flat water.
Fishing paddle boards are usually wide, between 32” to 38” (sometimes even 40”), and between 11' to 12'6 in length.
They are this wide in order to offer the stability needed for fishing and space for your fishing tool and catch.
Racing SUPs are the most expensive type of paddle boards and I recommend them only for competitive athletes.
Compared to touring SUPs, they are longer (between 12'6" and 14') and narrower (between 24” and 28”). This sleek shape is what makes them the fastest SUPs.
Fitness SUPs are relatively a new introduction to the market that is similar to all-around SUPs but with few differences.
They are slightly wider for added stability and have the center handle moved to the side to not affect your poses.
Besides that, they have a deck pad that covers the entire board surface.
OUTDOOR MASTER iSUPS PROS & CONS
- Takes less effort to turn and maneuver
- Perfect for learning
- Takes very little effort to propel forward
- Folds up really small
- Dual large bungee sections
- Comfortable soft deck pad
- If you are still beginning, its narrow width makes it not the most ideal option to paddle with a kids or dogs
- Its ultra stability helps you stay comfortable when dealing with waves and chop and is also good for SUP fitness
- Affordably priced
- Easy to paddle
- Comfortable to ride
- Great to use in different water conditions
- Can support riders of all sizes
- Dual large storage areas
- The deck pad feels comfortable despite standing or kneeling
- Isn't a fast board by any means (to be expected)
- Its thickness of just 4.7” makes it incredibly lightweight and can be transported by anybody
- Affordably priced
- Lots of storage space
- Its rounded tip and tail give it a decent level of stability for a board of the same size
- Many added D-rings to attach gear or a kayak seat
- Its thickness of just 4.7” makes it bent a decent amount under just a 170 lb paddler, which caused some puddling at the feet
- It is a durable board that you can expect to use for years
- Lightweight and can be carried even by older kids
- Glides well on the water
- The traction pad is soft and covers most of the deck
- The extra D-rings in the center let you attach a kayak seat or more gear
- 2-year warranty
- Its thickness of just 4.7” makes it not buoyant enough for heavier paddlers
- Due to its many handles and how lightweight, it is very easy to carry around
- The material feels heavy duty
- Seam lines are all straight and clean
- Its stiffness is just slightly lower than Red Sport that costs around $1500 and is way better than the iRocker Nautical which is in the same price range
- The included bag has wheels and heat reflective material to protect your equipment
- Over-inflate automatic protection
- Feels very stable even for a 245 lb 6-foot tall paddler
- Good tracking and glide
- Very easy to turn
- Takes a little more effort to keep a straight line when the wind pushes through chop
- Feels comfortable under your feet
- Stiffer than many affordable SUP boards and slightly less stiff than the $1500 one that uses RSS battens
- The extra D-rings let you easily attach a kayak seat or almost any other accessory
- Stable enough that kick turns aren't too difficult
- Unlike many competitors, it includes a phone waterproof case
- Handles well small waves and chop
- Its long and narrow shape makes it a little less rigid. So, you may notice some bend if your total weight is above 200 lbs
- Needs a little more effort to turn through the wind than a short all-around SUP
- Moves quickly in the water
- Nimble around turns
- Wide enough to be stable during your ride
- Plenty of options to stow gear
- The extra R-rings on both sides give you some versatility in attaching your leash or kayak seat
- Enough weight capacity to carry gear and have a child or a pet with you
- Good choice for beginners who want to progress into longer touring or fitness paddling
- Nothing to my knowledge
- Its ultra stability let you easily get into any pose without worrying about tipping over or losing balance
- Its lighter weight makes it easy enough to carry
- Its full-length deck pad feels like a yoga mat
- Its front bungee cord lets you hold a couple of water bottles
- The center carry handle that is replaced with side ones makes it much more comfortable to lie flat on the board
- Having no carry handle in the center makes carrying it once inflated a bit more of a challenge
- Has no dedicated paddle holder/strap
WHAT MAKES THESE SUP BOARDS UNIQUE?
When you compare Outdoor Master®'s inflatable paddle boards to ones from other brands like FBSPORT, Lucear, Surfwave, or Tuxedo, their cool features and accessories are examples of what makes them unique.
These are what makes them unique:
With Outdoor Master® boards, instead of a basic backpack, you get one that has built-in wheels that make transport easier and heat-insulated materials that protect your equipment from too hot or too cold temperatures.
Lots of accessories
The other thing that makes Outdoor Master® SUP boards unique is the number of accessories you get in the package. You get a set of action mounts to place them exactly where you need them to be plus a waterproof phone case, which is not often seen.
Very little flex
The Outdoor Master® SUP boards with a thickness of 6” can hold a lot of weight with very little flex.
The Infinite iSUP board for example, in terms of stiffness, is way better than the Nautical from iRocker and just slightly less stiff than Red Sport which costs around $1500.
Outdoor Master® SUP boards have an upgraded valve that automatically releases any extra air if you pump them over 15 PSI
All of these SUP boards (except SYNERGY 10'6 YOGA) have added D-rings in the center that let you attach a kayak seat or other accessories.
When many brands like the FBSPORT, Lucear, Surfwave, or Tuxedo offer just a 1-year warranty, Outdoor Master® iSUPs come with a 2-year warranty that shows that the company stands behind their products.
HOW TO BE PREPARED FOR A FAMILY SUP TRIP
GET AN ELECTRIC SUP PUMP
Even if your paddle board package includes a dual-chamber triple-action hand pump, getting an electric pump is the first upgrade to consider.
When inflating your iSUP using a hand pump takes usually 7 to 15 minutes, an electric pump can do the same in just 3 to 5 minutes without any significant effort from you.
UPGRADE YOUR PADDLE
Since the majority of kit paddles are heavy because they use heavy materials like aluminum, getting a carbon or fiberglass one that is lightweight makes you able to paddle way more before starting to feel tired.
Wetsuits or drysuits are what I recommend if hypothermia is a concern. If it's not too cold, you can wear something that dries quickly and lets you move freely.
WHERE TO BUY YOUR iSUP BOARD?
Outdoor Master is able to keep its products affordable by selling them online and directly to the consumer.
They also offer free shipping to many countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other ones.
I recommend you shop your SUP board online to benefit from lucrative deals, get more options to choose from, save time, and avoid the pressure or vigilance of the store staff.
If you still prefer offline shopping, you can still get your paddle board from Outdoor Master in one of the 50+ offline stores in just the United States.
HOW TO CARE FOR INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARD
Like any piece of sports equipment, inflatable paddle boards require proper care and maintenance to keep them in good condition. Here are some tips on how to care for your inflatable paddle board:
After each use, rinse your board with fresh water to remove salt, sand or other debris. Use a soft brush if needed.
Store your board in a cool, dry place when not in use. Avoid direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the material.
Inflate your board to the recommended pressure before each use. Over-inflating can damage the board, so be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions.
If you notice any leaks or punctures, repair them immediately with a patch kit. Don't forget to test the area around the repair before heading out on the water.
With proper care, your inflatable paddle board will provide years of enjoyment. So get out there and explore all that our waterways have to offer!
WHEN DO PADDLE BOARDS GO ON SALE
Paddle boards can be expensive.
If you're looking to save money on a paddle board, the best time to buy is typical during the off-season. Paddle boards go on sale in the fall and winter, when demand is low and retailers are looking to clear out inventory.
Of course, you'll want to make sure that the weather is still warm enough to actually use the paddle board.
But if you can find a deal on a paddle board during the off-season, it's definitely worth considering.