Category Archives: stand up paddleboard

How do I Choose a Beginner SUP Board?

Stand-up paddleboarding, commonly known as SUP, is a fantastic way to explore serene waters, improve your balance, and get a full-body workout while having fun. If you’re a beginner looking to embark on this exciting water sport, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make is selecting the right SUP board. With a plethora of options available, the process might seem overwhelming. Don’t worry; we’re here to guide you through it step by step.

Understanding the Basics of SUP Boards

Before diving into the selection process, it’s essential to understand the basics of SUP boards:

  • Types of SUP Boards: There are several types of SUP boards, including all-around, touring, and inflatable paddle boards. Each has its own unique features and best use cases.
  • Board Length and Width: The dimensions of a SUP board greatly affect its stability, speed, and maneuverability. We’ll explore how to choose the right size for your needs.

Determine Your Paddling Environment

Your choice of SUP board should be influenced by where you plan to paddle:

  • Flatwater vs. Surfing: If you’re primarily paddling on calm lakes or rivers, an all-around board might be your best bet. However, if you’re hitting the waves, you’ll want a board designed for surfing.
  • Racing vs. Leisure: Some paddleboarders enjoy racing, while others prefer leisurely paddling. We’ll help you decide which category you fall into and which board suits your style.

Considering the Build Material

The material of your SUP board affects its weight, durability, and performance. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of the three primary construction materials: hardshell epoxy, soft-top, and inflatable.

Stability and Weight Capacity

Beginner paddleboarders often prioritize stability. We’ll discuss how board width and volume contribute to stability and weight capacity, ensuring you stay balanced and safe on the water.

Portability and Storage

For many beginners, portability is key. Now, we’ll explore the advantages of inflatable SUP boards, which are easy to transport and store.

Brand Reputation and Reviews

Researching different brands and reading customer reviews can provide valuable insights into the quality and performance of SUP boards. We’ll offer tips on how to identify reputable brands and make an informed decision.  Some boards are just made better than others, and that is why it is helpful to read consumer reports like this Atoll paddleboard review.

Budget Considerations

Setting a budget is crucial when purchasing a SUP board. We’ll provide guidance on finding the best value for your money and explain what to expect in different price ranges.

Accessories and Extras

To complete your paddleboarding setup, you’ll need accessories like paddles, leashes, and fins. We’ll recommend the essentials and discuss optional extras that can enhance your experience.

Inflatables vs Solid Paddleboards for Beginners

Whether an inflatable or a solid (hardshell) paddleboard is better for a beginner depends on various factors, including your preferences, the type of paddling you intend to do, storage and transportation considerations, and budget. Let’s compare the two options to help you make an informed choice:

Inflatable Paddleboard:

  1. Stability: Inflatable SUPs typically offer excellent stability due to their wider design and greater volume. This makes them a great choice for beginners who want to build confidence and balance on the water.
  2. Portability: One of the most significant advantages of inflatable SUPs is their portability. They can be deflated and rolled up into a compact backpack, making them easy to transport and store. This is ideal if you have limited storage space or plan to travel with your board.
  3. Durability: Inflatables are surprisingly durable and can withstand accidental impacts with rocks or other objects in the water. They are less likely to get dinged or scratched compared to hardshell boards.
  4. Versatility: Inflatables are versatile and can be used in various water conditions, from calm lakes to mild surf. They are also suitable for yoga and fitness activities due to their soft and comfortable deck.
  5. Price: In general, inflatable SUPs are more budget-friendly than hardshell boards, making them an attractive option for beginners who want to try out the sport without a substantial financial commitment.

Solid (Hardshell) Paddleboard:

  1. Performance: Hardshell SUPs often provide better performance in terms of speed, tracking, and maneuverability. If you plan to get into racing or are interested in advanced paddling techniques, a hardboard might be preferable.
  2. Rigidity: Hardshell boards are stiffer than inflatables, which can result in a more responsive and dynamic feel on the water. This characteristic is appealing to some paddlers.
  3. Maintenance: Hardshell boards require less maintenance. You don’t need to inflate or deflate them, and there are no worries about potential air leaks or punctures.
  4. Weight: Solid paddleboards can be heavier than inflatable ones. This may affect ease of transportation, especially if you don’t have a roof rack or a large vehicle.

For most beginners, inflatable paddleboards are a fantastic choice. They offer a stable and forgiving platform to learn the ropes of stand-up paddleboarding. Their portability, durability, and affordability make them a practical option. However, if you’re specifically interested in high-performance paddling and don’t mind the extra weight and storage considerations, a solid paddleboard could be a suitable alternative.

Best Places to Learn How to Paddleboard

Learning how to paddleboard is an enjoyable and relatively straightforward process, and you can do it in various locations, depending on your preferences and access to water. Here are some of the best places to learn how to paddleboard:

Calm Lakes and Ponds: Beginner paddleboarders often start on calm, flatwater surfaces. Lakes and ponds are ideal for learning because they typically offer minimal currents and waves. Look for a serene location with easy access to the water and a gentle shoreline.

Slow-Moving Rivers: Many rivers have sections with slow-moving or meandering currents that are suitable for beginners. These areas allow you to practice balance and paddle techniques without the challenges of strong river currents.

SUP Schools and Rentals: Consider taking a lesson from a stand-up paddleboarding school or rental shop. These facilities often have experienced instructors who can teach you the basics, provide equipment, and ensure a safe learning environment. Beach towns and coastal areas often have SUP rental shops.

Ocean Bays and Inlets: If you’re near the coast, sheltered ocean bays and inlets can be excellent places to learn paddleboarding. These areas typically have calmer waters than the open ocean, making them more beginner-friendly.

Community Pools: Some community pools offer stand-up paddleboarding lessons or practice sessions. While not as expansive as natural water bodies, pools provide a controlled environment to work on balance and paddling techniques.

SUP Yoga Studios: If you’re interested in combining paddleboarding with yoga, look for SUP yoga studios near you. These studios often provide stable boards for yoga classes on calm water.

Paddleboard Tours: Joining a guided paddleboard tour can be a great way to learn while exploring scenic waterways. Tour operators often provide instruction as part of the experience, making it accessible for beginners.

Online Tutorials and Videos: While not a physical location, online tutorials and instructional videos can be valuable resources for learning the basics of paddleboarding. You can practice your skills on a calm body of water after watching and learning from these resources.

National and State Parks: Many national and state parks offer paddleboarding opportunities on their lakes and rivers. These locations often provide a beautiful natural setting for learning the sport.

Friends or Family with Experience: If you have friends or family members who are experienced paddleboarders, they can be great mentors. Learning from someone you trust can help you build confidence more quickly.

Remember to prioritize safety when learning how to paddleboard. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD), start in calm waters, and take a lesson or practice with someone experienced if you’re new to the sport.


Choosing the right beginner SUP board can make all the difference in your enjoyment of this exhilarating water sport. By understanding your needs, assessing your environment, and considering factors like board type, material, stability, and budget, you can confidently select the perfect board to kickstart your SUP adventure. Happy paddling!

Remember, the journey begins with the right board, so take your time, do your research, and get ready to embark on a thrilling paddleboarding journey!

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Surfing on a Stand Up Paddleboard SUP Explained


SUP wave surfing

Most people don’t realize that you can surf on a stand-up paddleboard. You’ve probably seen people at your local lakes and rivers on a stand-up paddleboard. But it was probably on flat water.

Flatwater is fine for a SUP and it’s still fun to do, but the most exhilarating part of paddle boarding is when you can get out and surf waves on your paddleboard. Surfing is actually where the sport of stand-up paddling started back the day in Hawaii.

You can read more about how SUP was invented here:

Standing on a large paddle board outside of where the waves are breaking with a paddle simply makes it easier to catch a wave.

But it is not all easy.  A SUP is much larger board than a traditional surfboard, and it takes special skills to learn how to maneuver it on a wave.

Something you want to take into consideration wall out SUP surfing is that you do not have to wear a life jacket. So you need to be extra cautious and safety-minded. Make sure that you are a great swimmer, and never surf alone.

And it is still okay if you choose to wear a life jacket wall stand up paddleboard surfing. That is the smartest move.

One of the best things about SUP surfing is that you can get the most fun out of a wave. To get the most action out of a wave, you need to make sure you position yourself in the wave properly.

Understanding the difference between something like a top turn and a cutback and various other maneuvers will allow you to maximize not only be time but the fun you can have on the wave.

One of the most basic turns you can do is the bottom turn. The bottom turn takes place at the bottom of the wave, launching you up the face of the wave, and it helps to generate speed between your turns.

A top turn is pretty much just the opposite of the bottom turn.  You do this maneuver when you are near the crest of the wave to quickly change directions, gain control, and head back down the face of the wave.

When used in rapid combination the bottom turn and the top turn are used to keep the SUP surfer near the breaking part of the wave. As a surfer, you want to stay near the breaking part of the wave because that is where the most action is, it’s just more fun where the wave is breaking.

When performing a bottom turn, if you don’t cut hard enough you will shoot out on the middle part of the wave and get ahead of where the wave is breaking. When this occurs a surfer can use the cut back turn.

The cutback turn quickly brings the rider back into the meat or the breaking part of the wave. It is also a good way to scrub off speed and slow down your board on the wave, helping to keep the rider in the pocket of the wave.

A surfer can also combine these maneuvers or use them as partial new maneuvers in combination with another turn to create an endless multitude of turns to use while cruising on the wave.

One of the major advantages of SUP surfing, especially for beginners, is that such surfing allows you to ride waves without any previous surfing experience.

What size stand up paddle board should you get for surfing?

A good rule of thumb is to think about a surfboard. Sups are bigger than surfboards, but if you are going to surf on your SUP then you would want to get a sub that is closer in size to a surfboard.

Does this make sense?

You want to pick a SUP that is going to be smaller than one you would use for cruising or touring or fishing. You want to drop one to two feet from the board length that you would use on a flatwater paddle.

For example, if you normally use a 12 to 13 foot stand up paddleboard, choose a 9 to 10-foot board for surfing waves.

Another thing to consider is the width of the board.  SUPs are wider than surfboards. This makes them great for stability and standing, but not so good for turning on the face of a wave. Therefore you want to get something smaller than your standard sup.

A good rule of thumb is to pick a board that is less than 30 or 31 in wide.

And finally, in general, you want a rigid SUP to surf on waves.

Inflatables don’t give you the performance that you need on a wave. Especially cutting back and forth on the wave the turns, are just not ideal on an inflatable. And the sidewalls of inflatables are anywhere from 4 to 6 in which makes quick turns very hard to do on a wave.

A good board makes all the difference when riding waves on a SUP.  The folks over at Boardworks tend to make some really good paddleboards that are quite surfy.  Not a surprise because they also make surf boards. paddleboard for surfing

A great board to get started paddle surfing waves is the Boardworks Kraken.  It’s comes in sizes 9′, 9″, 10′, 3″, and 11′.  If you’re new to SUP surfing you’ll want to pick the smaller 9′, 9″ or  10′, 3″ sizes because they’ll be easier to maneuver and you’ll have more fun.

The Kraken also has a 5-fin setup that is configurable for whatever water conditions you’re paddling in.  This is just a really solid, great looking board for surf as well as flat water paddling.

Where should you go to learn how to SUP surf?

The best place to go is where no one else is. You want to look for an uncrowded area with lots of room to operate in. Generally, you would want smaller gentle waves especially if you can find them where the water surface is smooth and not choppy.

Something you don’t want when you’re learning to surf are rocky areas like jetties or wharves or any sharp reefs. Ideally, you want a beach break with sandy bottoms and wide-open expanses.

One of the more challenging things to learn is paddling through the surf to get out at the ideal spot to catch waves. Paddling through the surf is going to be the most challenging part that you will experience as a beginner.

To make it easier to get through the surf you can get down on your knees to lower your center of gravity to make it easier to balance, or you can even sit down almost like a kayak and paddle out through the surf if that’s easier for you.

It will take some practice and experience to be able to stand up while paddling out through the breaking surf. You can do it in time. and, even as a beginner, it’s worth trying to stand up and paddle through the break because you will understand the challenge and how to balance properly.

Even though you will fall a bunch it will be worth it for the experience that you gain.

And don’t forget as you’re paddling through the break to keep your paddle in the water. It’s like standing on three legs as opposed to two.

It gives you so much more balance and stability if you keep your paddle in the water during the break. A common mistake to make is to get nervous or scared and hold on to the paddle with both hands while the paddle is out of the water. You’ll have less stability if you do this and most likely fall into the water.

Because you can always fall into the water, be sure you understand water safety recommendations for SUP.

Life jackets or PFDs for SUP Surfing

Most people don’t  wear a life jacket while surfing on a paddleboard.  The Coast Guard does not require you to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while in the surf.

This is from the Coast Guard’s website:

“The first thing to know about stand-up paddleboarding is that a paddleboard is a vessel when used “beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area.” If a paddleboard is used within a designated “swimming, surfing or bathing area,” the Coast Guard does not consider it to be a vessel.”

So you don’t have to wear a life jacket in surf conditions.

And if you’re learning, you should be in relatively small waves and therefor well within your ability to stay safe and swim to shore.

But if you want some extra protection, you might want to pick up a compact life jacket like this one, the NRS Vapor PFD.  A PFD like this one is good because it is so small, and doesn’t restrict your movement while on your board.

nrs vapor light lifejacket

Another good way to have a little extra buoyancy while in the surf is with a wetsuit.  A wetsuit won’t give you as much flotation as a lifejacket, and shouldn’t be used in place of one, but it will help a little.

A wetsuit can also make your time on your paddleboard more comfortable.  A lot of beaches with good surf, have cold water.  For example, California has tons of great breaks to surf on your SUP, but the water is cold and you’ll want a wetsuit.

A pretty solid choice for a wetsuit, for folks that are new to SUP surfing, is the O’Neill Reactor II 3/2mm Back Zip Full Wetsuit.

oneill full zip wetsuit

This wetsuit is a popular option, not only for surfers in California, but all up and down the West Coast.

Practice Your SUP Surfing.

Like anything, you’re not going to pick this up immediately. It’s going to take some work, but as stated earlier you can get the basics of it down nearly instantly. You can SUP surf right away without ever having surfed before. That’s what makes surfing on a SUP so appealing.

The more you SUP surf the more you’re going to want to practice and get better. It’s only natural.  If you want to be able to rip turns at the top and bottom of the wave you need practice, practice, practice.

But that’s all part of learning.

And that’s about it.

SUP surfing is the most fun that you can have on a stand-up paddleboard. Wait for the weather to bring you some waves grab your board and hit the beach and start practicing your SUP surfing.

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