SUP Boards FAQs
We answer these three questions: What is the difference between a SUP board and a paddle board? What SUP board is best for beginners? and How do I choose a SUP size?
We get a lot of customer calls asking about SUP Boards. We figured having answers to these questions on our website would be helpful for those looking for a stand up paddle board.
What is the difference between a SUP board and a paddle board?
These days both terms are shorthand for the same thing: stand up paddle board. However, it wasn't always that way. Before standing on your paddle board took the water sports world by storm there were "prone paddle boards" that surfers would use to stay in shape for surfing.
A prone paddle board is a longer board much like a stand up paddle board, however, the paddler would get on their knees and use their hands to paddle long distances. If they got tired of paddling from their knees, they could lie flat on the board and cover long distances in the position the most surfers are in as they paddle out to catch waves.
Standing on paddle boards was a game changer
Let's face it, paddling with your hands while on your knees isn't terribly comfortable and paddling while on your belly can get pretty boring because it's hard to take in the scenery around you.
Once paddlers started standing up on paddle boards, they found that they could use a long paddle to propel them on their board. Anyone that got up on a SUP board immediately fell in love with the sport.
Standing on a SUP board really improves your balance and is much more comfortable than the prone paddling experience. The perspective that one gets is also far better than one gets on a kayak or a prone paddle board because you are up much higher and can look far deeper into the water.
A couple of things which make SUP boards unique
Once the deck pad and adjustable paddle were invented the sport really took off. The deck pad was much more comfortable on the feet and the adjustable paddle let family members share the same paddle.
The adjustable paddle also made it possible to use the same paddle for all of the various SUP disciplines. Typically you need a longer paddle for long distance paddling on a touring board and a shorter paddle for all around SUP sports like SUP surfing or whitewater SUP.
Inflatable paddle boards are all of the standing variety
SUP boards can be both rigid or inflatable paddle boards whereas prone paddle boards only are available as rigid boards. The reason for that is because most inflatable paddle boards are 6 inches thick which puts you too high above the water if you are paddling from your knees. You can make an adjustable paddle longer but you don't have the same luxury with your arms.
SUP boards are much more versatile
Prone paddle boards serve one function which is traveling long distances on flat water. SUP boards, on the other hand, are quite versatile. You can use all around paddle boards for ocean surfing, river running, fishing, practicing yoga or traveling long distance on flat water.
What SUP board is best for beginners?
Whether we are talking about rigid or inflatable paddle boards, all around sup boards tend to be the best choice as entry level SUPs for beginner paddlers. All around paddle boards tend be be shaped like the longboards of the past but the top brands offer great stability and additional features like 3 fins and multiple attachment points.
The all around hard or inflatable paddle board is the best choice for beginner paddlers
They tend to be the best match for the money and if you shop for a quality inflatable paddle board, you will see that they come with loads of accessories besides a hand pump. At Glide SUP, we include a limited warranty for the life of the SUP boards and extra accessories like a kayak seat and a carrying strap.
The last independent review that was done on our inflatable paddle boards, also ranked their rigidity higher than all of the other boards they reviewed which all came in at a higher price. A stiff inflatable SUP board is important for all skill levels because it paddles more smoothly, get up to speed quicker and are generally a lot more fun.
How do I choose a SUP size?
If you are in the market for a new stand up paddle board, you will get a lot of answers to this question because it is somewhat subjective. You will want to consider the weight of the paddlers rather than their height. It will also depend on the skill levels of the paddler and what they intend to use the paddle board for.
Paddle board width
If you are new to the sport of SUP and are just looking to do recreational paddling, you will typically not want to go with a stand up paddle board that is less than 32 inches wide as the narrower a board is the less stable it will be. Touring boards tend to be narrow and long to give the paddler more glide per stroke whereas if you are interested in the all around style, they tend to be shorter but wider board that is built more for maneuverability.
Paddle board length
The longer your stand up paddle board is the faster and more stable it will be. Longer boards also tend to track better but they are less maneuverable than than shorter paddle boards. Let's assume that you are doing a search for an all around stand up paddle board that comes in a 10'6 and also an 11'6 length. Your main consideration would be how much you weigh. If you are over 200 lbs, you will find the 11'6 paddle board to be more stable even though it is only an inch or two wider than the 10'6 paddle board.
Check the weight capacity of the stand up paddle board
In the past, we used to pay more attention to paddle board volume which is a confusing metric. These days, most SUP brands will let you know the weight capacity of their various boards.
Start with the weight capacity that works best for you and then factor in your skill level and what you will be using your paddle board for. You could be a really lightweight, beginner paddler but might buy a longer paddle board that has a higher weight limit because you want a board that will cover long distances fast.
Conversely, you might be a heavy, advanced paddler who wants to use the board for SUP surfing, in which case you can probably handle a shorter, narrower paddle board that is slightly below your weight capacity because you want to be able to turn it quickly in ocean waves. In this case, the paddler's skill level can most likely overcome the challenges of balancing on a smaller paddle board.
Hopefully we have satisfactorily answered the questions: What is the difference between a SUP board and a paddle board? What SUP board is best for beginners? and How do I choose a SUP size? If not, please reach out to us as we always love to chat with aspiring paddle board enthusiasts!