Why it Can be a Big Mistake to Buy a “Beginner Stand Up Paddleboard”
As a beginner interested in buying your first Stand Up Paddleboard it can be confusing to navigate all the different board styles available. You may be tempted to just buy the largest, widest, best price, most popular “beginner” board because that is the easiest way to make a decision. Buying the basic beginner board can be a big mistake! Because it is a sizeable investment, you will most likely only ever buy one Stand Up Paddleboard, so don’t miss out on the chance to get the best one for your future self. By purchasing a beginner specific board you may be dooming yourself to being an eternal beginner! After the first 3-4 outings you will get the hang of it and may realize the limitations of your “beginner SUP”, not being able to keep up to your friends, and seeing other paddlers literally paddling circles around you! Here is an easy guide to figuring out the difference in style so you can confidently shop for the perfect SUP to get you started and keep you stoked for years to come!
An All-around board is moderately short at 10’6”-11” and moderately wide at 30”-34”. That gives enough volume to support most riders and their children or dogs, is wide enough to be comfortably stable and moderately efficient so you can explore a bit. While an all-around board is not your best option to pack down with cargo and go for a camping trip, when you chose a quality board with a higher PSI range you can easily pack 270 lb and go out for a few hours of adventure. Some beginner boards are even wider at 35”-36”, and these boards can be a hog to paddle, so while easy to stand, you will struggle to get anywhere and will easily be pushed out by wind and current.
A “beginner board” is usually disguised as an all-around board but is moderately short and very wide, making it easy to balance on and maneuver, but very slow and extra work to inflate if an iSUP, or extra heavy with a full foam top deck as a hardboard.
The board needs to fit the rider. Most of the damage to a board happens off the water and most questions about SUPs are about how to transport, carry, store, etc. A small rider should have a board that they can carry and there are small rider specific boards available. Other things to consider about size are that a larger board takes longer to inflate and is heavier to carry. If it is not easy to bring, you might choose not to bring it when packing up for a fun day at the water (a big mistake!). When travelling or hiking, those extra few pounds can take a toll. If you have confidence to handle a more compact all-around board, you can explore the world of remote waters! It is a really awesome feeling to be the only person on a pristine lake that took a hike to access, and the views and pictures you get from the middle of the lake are unlike anything you can experience from the shore.
An efficient paddle stroke needs the paddle to be right up and down, almost digging the blade under the board, and slightly sinking the rail. With an extra wide board, this can be challenging. That is why a race board is long and narrow- it has the least resistance to forward motion, and very good at tracking straight. You can paddle on one side for a long time while still going straight, vs an all around where you may switch sides every 5-7 strokes. When your board is very wide, much wider than your shoulders, you will be struggling to get your paddle into the optimal position. When you paddle with your shaft out at an angle you are wasting energy and zig-zagging your way across the water, looking like a real novice. Other paddlers are able to get out to see that little island or the seastars on the pier and get back before lunch, while a beginner board is slow and you may tire before you get there and miss out on the fun, sticking close to the launch point instead. You might wonder why you are not as skilled as other paddlers, causing some frustration and embarrassment. The truth is, you could be an amazing paddler if only you had a higher performance board.
Don't be an eternal beginner, get your proper setup today- You will be glad you did for years to come!