One of the most appealing aspects of stand up paddleboarding is that there is not much of a learning curve.
That being said, it seems that many are rushing into this sport and jumping into advanced scenarios without a proper foundation (See: 10 SUP Mistakes Made by Rookies).
Learn the Basics First
In order to get your basics down, you need to find the right stand up paddle board for your needs as a beginner. You’ll find plenty of guides online about how to choose a board (Check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First SUP).
Many guides discuss the differences in board type and cover common terminology within the SUP universe. This is definitely helpful.
However, as a simple starting point, and before you get overwhelmed with a vast selection of boards to choose from, we think it’s helpful to focus on the most important factor for true beginners: stability.
Why is SUP stability so important when buying your first SUP?
You need something stable to get your bearings. Becoming familiar with balance and water surface fluctuations involves practice and developing muscle memory.
If you start with a narrow board – say a racing or touring design – you will constantly fight the board and lose out on this fundamental phase of learning. Plus it will be less fun.
Over time, as you progress, board performance designs and characteristics become more important. This is true in any sport.
How to determine SUP stability
Many product descriptions and accompanying literature will highlight whether or not a board is designed for stability. You can also dig a little deeper by making sure your comfortable with the stability of the board as it applies to your skill level by looking at these three characteristics:
Commonly measured by volume in litres (or liters), buoyancy will indicate how well the board floats above the water’s surface depending on the rider’s weight.
Check out these basic guidelines for determining appropriate board volume based on body weight (lbs).**
** These are general guidelines. Please consult paddleboard manufacturer’s specifications for appropriate rider weight to volume ratios.
If you don’t have adequate buoyancy, you’ll find yourself with a board that drags beneath the water’s surface, creating less stability. You want the board to sit nice and high.
The wider the board, the more stable the platform. Look for boards at least 30″ wide (preferably 32″ if you’re a bigger paddler) when you’re just starting out.
Certain boards are designed with increased width for other purposes. For example, yoga paddleboards are generally wider, which makes sense. So are fishing SUPs.
But most “all-arounders” and beginner boards are designed with generous width proportions as well. Just make sure you take this into account.
These all may seem obvious, but many new paddlers are still tempted by the allure of a shorter paddleboard. These SUPs feature surfboard looks, planing hulls, and are easier to carry, transport, store, etc. No wonder the attraction. But do not start out with a shortboard, especially if you are a new, larger rider.
Boards in the 10’4″ and up category are a good starting point for many adult beginners. Again, look at manufacturer and retailer product descriptions (as well as our reviews) to determine what board length works for your body weight and ability.
The longer the board, the more stable the ride. But increased width can offset the need for excessive length, so it’s wise to find the right balance.
Focus on stability first
We strongly feel that finding your balance and comfort on the board is the key to progressing in the world of SUP. It takes a stable, reliable platform to get started.
Justin Taylor, Head Paddler
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