Hello there, newly recruited paddleboard fanatic!
You’ve caught the paddleboarding bug and now you want your own kit right?
Great idea! No more waiting to rent, beg or borrow kit.
So, what should you look for when buying your first paddleboard?
You need to make sure the paddleboard is the correct length, shape, style and width for you and your ability, plus where you are planning on using the board.
Here you will find your ultimate guide to buying your first paddleboard.
The purpose of this guide is to make sure you find the SUP board that is right for you. Your needs as a paddleboarder are as unique as you are.
Table of Contents
What need to think about before buying your first paddleboard
Some questions to ask yourself about what to look for when buying a paddleboard;
- Where will I using my paddleboard?
- Will it be I be using my paddleboard in the open sea, rivers, lakes or waves?
- What type of paddleboard supports my needs?
- What size paddleboard do I need?
- What features would I like on my paddleboard?
- What type of paddle do I need?
- What fin set up do I need?
Where are you planning on using your board?
It can be easy to get lost and confused when it comes to buying your first board – so to start us off, let’s be sure of a few elements.
The best SUP for the ocean is a board you are comfortable riding any potential chop in. If you are still new to paddleboarding then consider getting your hands on something with a good deal of width and volume to it.
That being said, if you are on a mission to tackle the waves then a triple fin set up on a shorter wave board is the one for you.
The best SUP for the harbour depends on whether you’re planning on going for long-distance paddles or mini harbour tours and pootles.
Longer boards are better for longer distances, plus you can add bags and picnic elements to your board set-up.
If you are a larger rider but still only planning on staying in the harbour then start your search for a board with lots of volume, and length to accommodate your weight.
Read our review of the best touring paddleboards in the UK.
Lakes & Rivers
Lakes and rivers demand less of a SUP board meaning you can take your wave board out on the rivers and there won’t be much to challenge the rocker on the board, but you will have a more successful paddle if you opt for something longer and flatter to maintain good pace and distance.
It may even be worth searching for touring or race boards if pace and distance are of high priority for your selection.
What you need is an all-purpose, flat water touring and wave board. This spec will look different for each rider.
For instance, a 50kg rider who primarily is looking for waves but lives in an environment where the waves aren’t reliable, might want a board that can be used as a touring board and wave board. If you’re not so bothered about hitting PBs for speed on flat water then a wave board can be used for causal touring and exploring.
Another potential would be, a 65kg rider who only wants to go out on calm, flat days and do long distances would be better suited to a longer cruiser board.
Another example would be, an 80kg rider who is looking for waves and only waves and has a good level of board skill and has no interest in flat water pootling would be better to choose one wave board only.
There is, of course, the option of selecting multiple boards. One for waves and chop, one for flat and far. But if you’re on a budget or you’re first starting out, it’s best to get yourself a perfect little all-rounder.
Here are our favourite all-rounder boards.
Types of board
Paddleboards come in two forms; hard boards and inflatable boards.
Hard boards/ solid paddleboards are made with a foam core lined with fibreglass, carbon, plastic or wood and coated in epoxy resin.
The benefits of a hard paddleboard are mainly focused on performance. Hard SUPs will be more manoeuvrable, more dynamic, better at catching waves and have more speed on the flat, due to their solid shape and robust design.
Solid SUP boards are also always ready to go – if you have the space!
With no need to mess around with pumping it up and deflating it before and after a session.
Inflatable boards are brilliant if you are short of space for storing your SUP or if you need to access the water on foot, or the SUP won’t fit in your car. Simply inflate up, and deflate down. You can also take inflatable SUPs on trips with you, and carry them on your back. Perfect for hard-to-access secret spots.
Another benefit of an inflatable SUP is that they are more forgiving for beginners if you are falling off, potentially bumping knees and elbows, clambering back on etc.
The higher the quality of the inflatable board the more it will hold its shape it choppy conditions and act and respond more like a hard board.
Weigh up the benefits and negatives of a hard or inflatable sup for you.
There are four types of SUP boards; all-rounders, surf sups, race sups, and flat water sups.
All Rounder SUPS
Example all rounder: Fanatic Fly 10’6
Perfect for beginners or those who want to master all elements of the sport. These boards are longer, wider, and have more volume than other boards.
Example wave board: Starboard Spice 8’2
Designed for quick manoeuvrability, they are usually shorter and stubbier and hold a thinner nose and tail than other designs. The nose of the board may also be raised to avoid nose-diving down a wave. Fin set up can differ from board to board.
Flat Water & Race SUPS
Example race board: SIC RS 14’
Flat water boards are best for lakes and rivers. They are considerably longer than all-rounders and sport a pointed nose to cut through the water at speed. Race SUPS are narrower than flat water SUPS and often have a raised deck where you stand higher up onto the board, lifting your centre of gravity further away from the surface of the water.
Double-check before you buy.
Every board comes with size specifications, read them, measure them and make sure they are right for you.
Look out for weight limits, hop on the scales and measure your height before you part with your money.
As a rule, the volume should be twice the rider’s weight. The volume is always in litres. So if you weigh 70kg/154lbs you would end up on a board roughly 140kgs/ 309lbs.
Although, beginners may feel more comfortable on a board with a little more volume than double their body weight initially, so again see if you can demo any boards before purchasing.
Boards can be anywhere from 8 feet to over 14 feet long.
Stubby wave boards will sit around the 7-foot mark, whereas longer race pace boards can be up to 14 feet long.
Bare this in mind when you are considering transporting your SUP around. Most SUPs won’t fit in a conventional-sized car, and some may not even fit in a van.
An 8ft stubby will fit in a VW Golf hatchback for instance, trust us we’ve tried. But, our 12ft all-rounder won’t fit in a van unless the passenger seats are put down or removed.
So consider these things.
The shorter the board the easier it will be to turn, if you are a smaller stature beginner, consider how much strength you are going to need to turn the board around efficiently.
The wider the board, the more stable is it.
Anything less than 30” may feel a little unstable for a beginner, but the more you use it the less you will need to rely on the width.
You will start to enjoy a less girthy board when you progress as they are easier to turn, spin on a dime when the waves are coming, and much easier to carry up and down the beach.
Narrower boards are much faster on flat water and glide over the surface more efficiently.
The deeper the carry handle the easier it is to carry. Older style boards with shallow handle slots are much more painful on the grip and mean you have to break more when carrying the kit, especially if your spot is a little distance from the car park.
There are different styles of leash that may come with your board. See if you are getting a calf, an ankle or a waist leash. Calf leashes are mainly for racers and waist leashes are better suited for those planning on being in white water in rivers etc.
If your board has a bungee attachment to the front in a criss-cross pattern then this means that you will be able to securely store luggage, ie water, bags, waterproof bags etc. Good for harbour tours.
The deck pad is all about comfort and stability. There are different designs of deck pads on the market, dog tooth, alligator or diamond patterns. Make sure the board feels compatible with your feet underfoot, especially if you’re planning on starting off on your knees.
WindSUP boards are multifaceted boards that mean you can transform your SUP board into a windsurfer. If you are a windsurfer too, it may be worth forking out the extra £100 ish to get the converter then you can add another windsurf board to your remit. Don’t spend the extra money if you have no interest in windsurfing.
You might like to read our article – Can your windsurf board be used as a paddleboard?
One middle fin at the tail.
Requires more balance than three or four fins. Not ideal for total newbies.
One main larger middle fins, but also two smaller fins at the side.
Better for less-skilled riders who need extra support from their boards.
Three fins again, but all fins are the same size.
More advanced and creates more speed and drive. Good for SUP surf.
Four fin set up.
Again, more advanced. Save for SUP surf progression.
Most SUPs will arrive packaged up with a standard paddle. The paddle will most likely be adjustable in height which is great if you want to share the paddle with friends and family.
Depending on what level and what type of SUP sport you’re doing it will differ. As a rule for beginner riding, your paddle should be above your head with a bend in your arm.
How much should you spend on your first paddleboard?
We would recommend spending a minimum of £300 on a board. Anything less than that and the quality is going to dramatically reduce. There have been lots of low-quality paddleboards for sale in recent months as their popularity has grown.
If you want to buy one that will last and be able to shape you into a watersports pro invest in the best quality kit. Here are some of our suggestions.
Read more about how much you should spend on a paddleboard here.
We hope we have helped you on your way to picking the perfect paddleboard for you. Keep checking back in when you find them online to make sure you’re getting the best for your money.
Always chat with the pros and try the kit out before you buy.
See you on the water!
About the author
Indie is the keenest watersports and fitness coach you'll ever meet. Whether it's windsurfing, paddleboarding or surfing, if there is any kind of wind or swell you'll find Indie charging on the water. She runs her own fitness and watersports instructor business called trainwithindie.com.