Top Tips for Buying Your First iSUP
Bitten by the SUP bug and ready to go on the hunt for your first inflatable board?
It’s a jungle out there. Instead of going online to to browse boards from different brands, our approach would be to first establish what you mostly want to do with the board. Your requirements determine the board specs and narrow down the search.
Boards under 10ft are for kids or surfing, sorry, we can’t help you there. Generally speaking, boards between 10-12ft, are for all-around use and SUP yoga. If you have any intention of wanting to do longer-distance flat water touring in the future or simply glide better, go for a minimum of 11′ 6, preferably 12′ 6, board. The 10ft all-around boards tend to have a round nose, whereas the longer boards have a pointy nose. They’re often faster than shorter ones and tend to track straighter. An all-around board is a safe choice, but it will be a compromise and you may outgrow it sooner than you think. We recommend choosing an iSUP you can grow into.
Width is another important factor that affects how the board handles. Width usually ranges between 25 to 34 inches. A wider board will feel more stable than a skinny board, but at the same time slower. Wide boards are awkward to paddle unless you have very wide shoulders, as you have to reach out to the side to get your paddle in the water, resulting in a very inefficient stroke. A narrower board can feel tippy at the beginning, but with a bit of practice, you adjust very quickly.
A board’s volume, expressed in litres, gives an indication of the board’s ability to float. The higher the volume, the more weight the board can support. Most boards also provide maximum weight capacity, but especially if you are a heavier or taller paddler, plan to share a board, take a dog on-board or carry lots of gear, make sure to compare volumes of the boards on your shortlist. It never hurts to have a little extra volume.
Other points to consider when buying your iSUP:
Air pressure – A quality iSUP is designed to be inflated to at least 15 psi when fully inflated. Basically, the higher the PSI level, the smoother the paddle because it won’t bend. The more rigid the board, the better it performs. Don’t go for anything that cannot be inflated to 15 psi. Those are the banana boards you often see at beaches.
Thickness – Unless you are very light, go with a board with a thickness of 6 inches. The 4-inch thick boards tend to perform poorly and are usually cheaply constructed.
Standard fin box – Check that the board has a US standard centre fin box so that you can easily replace or upgrade the fin should you want to. For example, for shallow rivers or very weedy summer canals, you may want to switch to a smaller river fin. Steer clear of boards with fixed 3-piece rubber fins attached to the board, unless you do surfing.
Paddle – If you buy a package that includes a board and 3-piece paddle, there may be a chance to upgrade the paddle to a lighter one at the point of purchase. Aluminium paddles are very heavy. Alternatively, paddle with that paddle for a while and upgrade at a later point. It’s always handy to have an extra paddle around.
Leash – Make sure you have a leash and wear it. Your SUP is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for safety. For flat water paddling, get a coiled leash, so that it does not drag in the water. For moving water, use a quick-release belt with the leash. We also recommend wearing a buoyancy aid, especially if paddling alone, on the river or during the colder months.
Pump – Don’t bother with electric pumps – they are generally very slow and noisy. Inflating your board is a good warm-up and there’s definitely a technique to it. With the better boards, you get dual-barrel or double-action pumps anyways.
Congratulations – you’ve now found your perfect iSUP. We hope it’s the start of a very long love for our favourite water sport. Don’t forget to wave hello if you see us out on the canal sometime.
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