Frequently Asked Questions about Stand Up Paddling

woman-dogWe're in the process of developing a set of good frequently asked questions, but in the meantime here is some useful information.

How to Select a Good Stand Up Paddle Board and Paddle for You

BOARDS

Many beginners, and sometimes even those with some experience, often have trouble selecting the standup paddle board that fits their needs and will keep them stoked/progressing.

Above all other considerations, there are three things that will keep you stoked on your new board:

  • You can get it to/from the water. You can’t use the board if you can’t get it off your car and into the water.
  • You can stand up on it in the majority of conditions present. The honeymoon phase of love for your new board will only last a few “sit down paddle” sessions, and if you aren’t consistently standing up to paddle after that time, you will probably quit soon thereafter.
  • You can go somewhere. If you have a big, square soft-top that paddles in circles, or your “high performance” board keeps pearling when you drop in, frustration will soon overpower stoke and your board will start collecting dust in your garage.

Once you have eliminated all the boards that fail the first three tests, you can then apply the standard rules of balancing cost with features.

Weight/durability balance - For well-built boards, the weight of the board is inversely related to the board’s durability (the heavier the board, the more durable. This is a trade-off you will probably have to consider when selecting your new board out of the available options.

Width/Stability balance - Generally, the wider a board is the more stability it provides a standing paddler. Many buyers (or even worse and more common: shapers) make the mistake of thinking “wider is better.”

Wider is not better. Once surfing on a wave, it is the width that will make the board feel big or small. Also, the wider your board, the slower it will paddle. Outside of fish shapes that are designed for efficiency via rail-length to planing area optimization,


PADDLES

When choosing a paddle, you will no doubt be confused as to which one to buy. There are wood, bamboo, fiberglass, carbon, plastic and aluminium paddles - each one with its own price point and set of features. Other than material and price, the handle or T-top and shape of the blade are important factors in choosing a paddle. Most paddles can be shortened to your size once you purchase them.

SUP paddle materials - Carbon, Fiberglass, Wood, ABS Plastic -- SUP paddles come in many different types

Carbon is generally stiffer, lighter and stronger but more expensive. Some people complain that a carbon shaft hurts their shoulders because it is so stiff. Fiberglass shafts are also light (though heavier than carbon) and provide more “give” than carbon paddles. It basically comes down to personal preference and price as to which material will work for you.

Not quite as versatile and light, the wood and bamboo options are beautiful and usually in the medium - high price range, but can also double as beautiful works of art. Plastic and aluminum paddles are heavy and cumbersome, but more affordable. Rental companies will often offer only aluminum or plastic paddles because of their durability.

Shape and angle - the shape and angle of the blade are also important when choosing a paddle. Do you want a larger blade to grab more water or a smaller one to get through the water faster? What kind of angle do you want the blade to have? Dihedral or no dihedral? The only way for you to know which blade is best for you is to try as many out as possible.

Handle - the last factor is the handle. Put your hand around the top of the paddle shaft and squeeze to see how it fits in your hand. The discomfort of a cramping hand or forearm while paddling is the worst!

Length - when it comes to paddle length, the rule of thumb is to have a paddle that is 6 to 8 inches above your head. For surfing, go shorter and for long distance paddling or racing, go longer.


Common Terminology used in board design.

Deck: The bit you stand on. Generally flat but can be domed (generally shaped into surf SUP's) allowing volume to be reduced in the rails for ease in rail to rail transitions while surfing.

Bottom: Flat bottoms are the norm, giving greater stability. A convexed hull will be faster and more manoeuvrable but less forgiving. Vee will often be shapped into the tail giving greater maneuverability.

Rails: Edges of the board. Higher volume rails will aid stability. The opposite for a thinner rail. This design feature allows for ease of turning which leads to higher performance in the surf.

Rocker: Curve from nose (front) to tail (back) in section along the boards length. This in turn can be broken down into nose rocker/lift and tail rocker/lift. Of more importance in surf conditions though a design factor in all boards.

Tail: The back end of the board. Many tails shapes are available. Mostly a preference thing but certain shapes do aid performance, especially speed, holding ability (while surfing steeper waves) and manoeuvrability.

Fins: Placed on the underside at the back of the board to stop the tail from drifting while surfing. Both in surf and flat water SUP's the fin will give the board directional stability.

Handle or Soap dish: SUP's are wide making them difficult to carry. Shaping a groove into the deck for your hand allows for carrying under the arm.