Thinking about buying your first inflatable stand up paddleboard (or SUP for short)? You’ll notice there’s quite a few on the market with varying price ranges and quality assurances too. This really simple, quick guide is designed to give you an overview of things to consider when making your purchase and parting with your cash!
Here’s our top things to consider when buying your first inflatable SUP
- Thickness – SUP boards range from 4 to 6 inches thick. Whilst the 4 inch boards will be fine, they do sit closer to the water. The heavier you are the more likely you are to get your feet wet! For beginners, a board anywhere between 4-6 inches deep will be more sturdy and easier to get started.
- Length – there’s so many different board lengths! For an all rounder board when you’re starting out, go for the 10’6 or 10’8 depending on your weight and height. These will be the best ‘all rounders’ when starting out and provide a nice balance between stability and maneuverability. Looking for something a little more specialist? Check out our article on types of SUP boards available.
- Width – the wider the board, the more stable it will be. Boards which are narrow in the middle tend to be better for racing or touring. Beginners will want a wider board to begin with. Generally, something around 32 inches wide should be sufficiently stable. Many people will make the mistake of upgrading a board too early. You know like when you were a kid and your parents would buy your shoes the next size up so you can grow into them? Whilst it might mean you have the board for longer, your experience can be tarnished and your technique might be hampered. It’s better to learn on a board that is suitable for learning and making mistakes on, rather than a board you later come to dislike spending time on because it’s too unstable for you when you start out.
What else do I need to think about?
- What’s your budget? It would be great to live in a world where we didn’t have to consider money… but we do. So, before you get lost down a rabbit hole of different boards and styles, set out your budget. What can you realistically spend on your board? That way when you look you can try and get the best bang for your buck! You can spend anywhere between £250 and £1,000+ on a quality board that will last, it all depends what your plans for paddling are.
- Read the reviews! You’d be amazed by what you can learn from just taking a moment to google the board you’re looking at buying and seeing what others say about it. Top tip: when reading the reviews, consider what you’re going to be using the board for. This will help you make the most of what other people are saying about the board when they used it.
- Weight of the board. Now, if you’re just planning on pumping your board up by the car and dropping it in the canal straight at the side of you, you can kind of discount this. However, if you’re planning on going on an adventure with your SUP – ie having a little walk and then pumping up in a remote spot, check the weight of not just the board but also the weight of the whole package. Some SUPs weight A LOT more than others, so it’s worth checking, especially if you’re walking or catching public transport.
A few more things to consider when buying your first inflatable SUP…
- Drop stitch technology. If you can afford a board with good quality drop stitch technology, it’s worth the investment. Drop stitch technology makes the board more rigid when inflated and stops it from bulging in the middle.
- Fin setup (one vs three). You’ll have seen that different boards have different fin systems. Some have one main middle fin, some have three finds in a V formation. Unless you’re planning on doing something very specific, this doesn’t matter too much. Generally, the one fin setup is better for touring, tracking and long journeys, and the three fins are better for all round paddling and especially surfing.
- How easy is it to get parts? There’s nothing worse than getting a board, going out for a few plays and then either breaking it or having a fault. Make sure the place you’re purchasing from or the brand you’re buying from is reputable if you can. Sorting any issues and being able to get hold of new parts saves a lot of money in the long run as we don’t want boards to just be used for a summer and then end up in landfill! Consider your new board as an investment, a little bit like you would with a trusty winter coat.
- Durability. You might not always get to check the durability before you buy, which is where the reviews come in useful. Youtube is also a great place to look for reviews and you can get a good idea of the boards durability on there too.
- What’s your weight? One of the biggest issues we see on the water is someone buying a board they’re too heavy for and getting that sinking feeling in the middle. Each board listing should have a maximum weight (normally in kg), so make sure you know your weight before you commit to purchasing. You want to make sure your weight is under the maximum weight listed by a couple of kilos. If you’re heavier than it states, go to the next size up 🙂
And there you have it…
Those are our top things to look out for when buying your first inflatable SUP. Helpful? We hope so!
Don’t forget. Most inflatable SUPs do come with a leash, but you’ll need to make sure it’s the right one for the job. Wearing the wrong leash could be dangerous in certain situations. Use our quick guide here to check which leash you’ll need when you’re out paddling your inflatable SUP! There are also a few other bits of safety advice you need to know, so head to our safety blogs to find out more. AND remember to get yourself a British Canoeing membership that gives you a licence to access over 4500km of waterways, liability insurance, and loads of great discounts.