After a mini-hiatus from the site – it is summer after all – and some very important industry research, we’re back and ready to provide our list of the 6 best SUPs for beginners.
Are you a SUP Beginner?
Most people getting into this sport are starting out as complete beginners. That is what makes SUP so alluring: almost anyone, after an initial period of getting their bearings, can pick up this sport. And once you do, you’re off to the races.
You want to make sure you start off with the right board, though. This seems very obvious, but how many times have enthusiastic buyers jumped into a new adventure sport by purchasing the coolest looking gear?
And unfortunately, that gear turns out to be way too advanced and complicated, and before you know it, it’s collecting dust or on Craigslist.
For SUP, you have way too many choices to let this happen. So let’s do it right. The following list includes a line of 2014 boards that are perfect for beginners on a variety of waterways… bays, lakes, small surf, rivers, etc.
But first, a recap of what, at least in our opinion, makes a good beginner stand-up paddle board.
The 3 Keys to a Good Beginner SUP
Or, how to find the right balance in materials, performance and affordability to start off right.
1) Durability: The board should be made out of high quality, durable materials. Why is this so important? Because no matter how careful you are, this board is going to take a beating. See, SUPs are large and unwieldy. Even if you find a nice light board, which I hope this guide will help with, the board is going to bang into things, get scraped up on the rocks or shore debris, rub up against the float, and so on.
So find one that is built to last. Most SUP manufacturers do a good job with including high grade poly, layered fiberglass, wood, and composites to give you a durable board. Just be careful not to go too low in the market, because you may find something that won’t last the summer.
2) Stability: When you first get on the board, it will take a little while (at least a few minutes) to get your balance. Then when you start paddling, you’ll fidget a bit with your feet and move around. When you head up wind or into the chop, you’ll need to reposition yourself.
All of this requires a board with sufficient width and stability. Don’t worry though, this list has you covered. All of the boards featured here are noted for their stability.
3) Versatility: You want to start off with a SUP that isn’t targeted for one type of water activity. More specifically, don’t get a pure surf SUP, a narrow, fast racing board, a pure yoga SUP, long downwinder, or a well-equipped fishing board if you’re just starting out.
The key is “recreational”. This basically means suitable for beginners in a variety of formats. You can take these boards out anywhere and have a nice glide.
Another factor in versatility is length. In this list, we’ve chosen boards that fall into the 11ft+ category because we’ve found that to be a good length for most beginners.
You’ll find that most of these models come in different lengths though, so if you’re a particularly small or large paddler, you can fine tune your purchase to meet your needs. Just also consider whether the board is a family or shared board, in which case the 11ft+ boards are a nice mid-point for riders of different sizes.
4) Affordability: Yes, don’t blow your wad on your first SUP. There’s no need to. Of course, a quality SUP is going to set you back a little no matter what. And we’ve already mentioned the need to find durable materials and quality construction.
The point here is: do not go and spend over $1,200 on a board that you may use a couple times on a seasonal basis. Unless you’re ready to commit to more frequent riding, or are moving up in the market, just find a board in the $700 – $1100 range.
I know, that’s still pretty pricey, but as you research the SUP market, you’ll see that they can get way more expensive as performance factors in more and more. So, for starters, stay in this “mid-range” and you should be okay.
Now, to the list. Please note that these boards are listed in no particular order. They all meet our criteria for a great beginner board and have received strong endorsements from others buying their first board. Visit any of the links to learn more and see reviews on merchant websites.
Manufacturer’s descriptions are listed below each photo.
DURA-TEC, as the name implies, features BIC’s legendary durability in an exclusive, nearly indestructible construction technology. DURA-TEC boards, available in 9’4, 10’4 and 11’4, are user-friendly with solid performance at a budget-friendly price. They are ideal for families, clubs, schools and novices looking for value and low-maintenance, stress-free performance.
Whether it is hitting the beach or riding the river waves, Connelly Classic SUP Paddleboard serves all of your paddling needs. The Connelly Classic board is best known for durability, largely because of wood stringers wrapped on the bottom with a fiberglass seal.
Waterways differ in the sport and for that reason, it is important to know that this board is also lightweight with triple fins in order to cater to both adults and children alike. Of note, this board comes with an auto vent, which tends to work better on flat water, rather than large bodies of water with large waves and dangerous rip currents.
Want an all around, do anything board? Then the Carve is your board. Lakes, rivers, oceans, the Carve is at home in all waters. Four sizes to choose from depending on your needs and conditions. Load up the 11’6″ with the dog and the kids and go for a spin on the lake. Take any of the sizes into the waves and carve the day away. Easy to ride, easy to paddle, easy to enjoy.
Soft Top with Hard Bottom Technology: Single wood stringers introduce overall stiffness. Wood half-deck provides extra impact resistance on the deck. Extra-strong bottom glass composite material provides longevity and low maintenance. Full EVA deck for a soft, comfortable touch. The EVA is grooved in the most important areas.
No matter where you want to take your stand up paddleboard, you want something that will provide easy gliding and stability; with the Surftech Balboa AST SUP Paddleboard, you will really get it all. This Surftech paddleboard is great for touring or recreation. The EVA deck provides long-term comfort, while the AST construction makes this paddleboard low maintenance and lightweight. This stand up paddleboard is most importantly extremely stable, with a wide standing platform, and has easy gliding capability thanks to the relaxed bottom rocker.
Perfect for all-around use and recreational paddling. Based on it’s popular predecessor, but 1″ wider from nose to tail for improved stability and an even broader range of use.
All new construction for 2015!
Building on the success of the original impulse, we have added three new shapes to fit all ability levels. SunTec II construction now replaces the slick-skin bottom with a durable epoxy composite surface making it ideal for emerging recreational paddlers and frequent users.