EXPERTS WEIGH IN ON THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR NEW PADDLEBOARDERS
WRITTEN BY COLIN FIELD
Choosing your first standup paddleboard can be a surprisingly difficult purchase. Options seem endless and many boards cost about the same as your first vehicle. There are now dozens and dozens of brands manufacturing boards, each with various models for different styles of paddling. Perhaps the biggest decision to make—and the one question retailers get asked the most—is whether to opt for an inflatable or a hard board. Many manufacturers now make both, and unless you’re looking at a high-end, specialized hard board, the price difference between the two types can be negligible. Depending on the type of paddling you want to do, both types have their advantages.
The most obvious advantages of inflatables are portability and the ability to store them small. Fold one up into your luggage while flying, throw it on the back of your motorcycle, or hike it up a mountain to access remote lakes. There are few limits to where you can paddle with an inflatable. And if your downtown condo doesn’t have much space, just roll it up and store it in the closet.
Durability is also an advantage--inflatables are surprisingly rugged. “Drop them, kick them, dropkick them, throw them, crash them, bash them—they’re tough,” confirms C4 Waterman global ambassador, Todd Lawson.
Typically made with ultra-tough PVC or similar rubbers and plastics, these boards practically require a shark bite to get punctures. It is this durability that makes inflatables great for kids, who won't have to worry about bashing their inflatable against rocks, or bashing themselves on their boards.
The lack of rigidity inherent in some inflatables means many are not as efficient as a hard board. Inflatables don’t glide as well on the water, or as fast. Though inflatable board technology has come a long way, elite paddlers still usually prefer hard boards for performance.
However, “you can’t judge a board by its material,” argues Boardworks rep Gretchen Gamble. “Shape, rocker and fins are just as big a factor as material when it comes to performance. Just like hard boards, there are a wide variety of inflatables available. Some inflatables are more responsive than others, and some are much better for touring and long distances.”
The only tangible downside to inflatables might be pumping up the board, which usually takes between five and 10 minutes.
If you’re looking to get competitive about paddleboarding, you likely need a hard board. Most racers, surfers and touring paddlers use hard boards. The exception to the rule is whitewater paddling, which is solely the domain of inflatables.
“A well-designed hard board will perform better in the surf, generally has more glide than an inflatable, and no pumping is required,” advises Gamble.
Some paddlers also argue that hard boards just look sexier.
While durability has dramatically improved in recent years—a bowling ball was repeatedly smashed into a hard board without leaving a mark at the Pau Hana booth at last summer’s Outdoor Retailer—scraping, scratching and bouncing off rocks still sounds absolutely terrible on a composite board. Fortunately, any small dents and cracks are easily fixed with epoxy and some sandpaper.
Finally, Demo, Demo, Demo!
Well it's coming-the summer madness on the water! Boats, jet skis, SUPs, wind, sun, & water. What are you doing to make sure you and your friends are save while you are out on a SUP. Maybe you decided to rent a SUP! Did the rental place provide you a personal floatation device (pfd) or a leash? Where is your floatation device? Is it bungeed to your board where it will serve no purpose but to keep you from getting a ticket from the coast guard? How about a leash? Many of the rental places do not provide one unless you ask. You should also make yourself familiar with the area you will be paddling. Here are some more conditions to take into consideration before you paddle:
Get on the water before the winds start to pick up. It’s best to paddle into the wind first, and than paddle with it on the way back.
During low tide the level of water will be lower, so you may hit your paddle on the sandy bottom, or you could run aground. During high tides make sure your stuff on the beach is away from the incoming tide.
If you are heading out into the ocean make sure you check the surf report. It takes skill to get in and out through the surf, and you don’t want to do it in head high surf. Avoid dangerous shore breaks. Know your limits.
Paddling with a current can be fun. Make sure you are wearing a lease in case you fall off. If you are not wearing a leash your board can quickly get away from you. Paddling against a current requires some extra paddle strength, balance, & skill. Find out if there are any currents where you are paddling.
-Boat & other watercraft traffic
SUPs are small compared to boats & jet skis. It is up to you to make sure that you are visible at all times. Wear bright colored hats, upper body clothing and PFD’s. A brightly colored boat, paddle blades and PFD will help. Use reflective patches on your clothing and equipment.
-Temperature-Air and Water
When paddling where the water temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, a wetsuit is a must and a drysuit is highly recommended. This is also the case if the combined air and water temperatures are below 120. On hot days make sure you have sunscreen on & plenty of water to drink.
-Environment-marine life, rocks, sandbars
Are there stingrays in the area you are paddling? If so, shuffle your feet when you are getting in & out of the water. Be careful of rocks-you can cut your feet, and damage your board. Be careful of sandbars, if you hit one it could throw you from your board.
Paddle Ready App: American Canoe Association for iphone or ipad
iWindsurf app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iwindsurf/id564865754?mt=8 on my iPhone
Tides Near Me: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tides-near-me-free/id585223877?mt=8
SUP: Leashes & Lifejackets - When to Wear, When Not to Wear
SUP Safety Placard:
WEAR YOUR PFD - once you’re in the water, it’s almost impossible to put it on!