How to choose the right paddle board.

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I’ve been lucky enough to be able to try out a wide variety of different paddle boards and since I love to surf, I’ve gravitated to a board that performs well in the ocean.  The sad truth is that there are so many different shapes and designs on the market that it is very difficult to do a good job at evaluating what’s best for you.  My recommendation is to talk to a local shop and try before you buy if at all possible. If you’re located in Northern California, you can visit our Surfitlocker in Petaluma and try a wide variety of boards.

The best way to get started is to focus on six key criteria:

1.     Location you plan to paddle

2.     Shape of the board

3.     Construction and materials

4.     Length & Width

5.     Weight & Volume

6.     Cost

Location

I personally spend the majority of my paddling time in the ocean, since I live close to Santa Cruz and enjoy surfing.  The board I use most often is a 10’ 6” carbon fiber board designed for surfing and cruising.  I also paddle on a local reservoir and river, the 10’ 6” works, but it isn’t the optimal board if I was going to spend the majority of my time on flat water vs. the ocean. 

It’s always a good idea to talk to a shop or brand that specializes in the kind of paddling you plan to focus on and one that knows your location well.

Shape

The shape of the paddle board will determine how it performs and handles in the water.  If you plan to surf, fish, race or do SUP yoga, each activity warrants a different board design and shape.  So, before you buy a board, consider what activity you see yourself doing most of the time. 

Construction and Materials

Knowing what you want to do with your board and your budget will help dictate the construction and materials that your board will be made of.  There are trade-offs, which are personal choices of what works best for you.  For example, if you’re cramped for space, an inflatable SUP may be the best bet, but you won’t get the responsiveness when surfing or gliding that typically comes with a rigid board.   My carbon fiber board is light, but I paid more for that type of material.  If you love to hike and also paddle, an inflatable is ideal because you can take it to a remote lake or river that is impossible to get access to with a car and a rigid board.  They can also easily be checked-in as luggage for your airline trip with little drama as compared to a rigid 14’ board that can cause most baggage handlers a fit and you extra charges.

Length & Width

The length and width of the board you choose will also be driven by what you intend to do the majority of the time you’re on the water.  Longer, thinner boards are ideal for racing.  Shorter boards for surfing.  Wider boards for cruising.  The best approach is to try a variety of shapes and sizes to determine what feels best to you.

Weight & Volume

The length and width of the board you choose will also be driven by what you intend to do the majority of the time you’re on the water.  Longer, thinner boards are ideal for racing.  Shorter boards for surfing.  Wider boards for cruising.  The best approach is to try a variety of shapes and sizes to determine what feels best to you.

Cost

Rigid boards can range from $500 to well over $2000.  If you’re on a budget, look for a used board first, then upgrade to a new board once you know what type fits your needs best.  Don’t be afraid to rent for a while and try a wide variety first. 

Happy Paddling,

Bill

PS: Let us know what type of board you end up buying this summer by emailing us at: info@surfitlocker.com