How Do I Choose a SUP (The Ultimate Buying Guide to Boards, Fins, Leashes, Paddles, and Clothes)?

Getting your first ever SUP board is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Having a deeper understanding of SUP board, fins, and paddles will help you cleverly choose when buying your gear. Lightweight, durable, and affordable gear are mostly the best when selecting any stand-up paddling equipment. A SUP made of carbon fiber or fiberglass is the most preferred choice of most paddlers, although it can be more expensive.
How Do I Choose a SUP

Table of Contents

Aside from the SUP material, it is also essential to know the right size of the board, paddle, leash, and fins that will fit your style and especially your body weight when buying paddling gears. Most SUP gear sizes are dependent on your physical features (body weight and height). Weather can also be a determining factor in how you dress for SUP. This guide will help you choose the best fitting and worth your money SUP equipment.

What Do You Need for SUP?

Preparing for SUP can sometimes get overwhelming with a lot of gear and clothes to prepare. Having a list of essential gear, SUP clothing, and other optional equipment used for stand-up paddling will help you prepare quickly. Here’s a brief checklist to look at before heading out for the water:

Essential Gear:

  • Stand up paddleboard (SUP)
  • Fin for SUP
  • SUP paddle
  • Leash
  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
  • Pump (for inflatables)
  • Whistle
  • Sunscreen

Clothing:

  • Rashguard
  • Board shorts
  • Swimsuit
  • Sandals
  • Water shoes
  • Hat
  • Drysuit or wetsuit (depends on the weather)
  • Towel

Optional Equipment:

  • Anchor kit
  • Water bottle
  • Waterproof cases for devices
  • Headlight or flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Camera

Feel free to include additional equipment you usually use when stand-up paddling. Just remembers to consider your board’s weight capacity when taking gears into your SUP. A well-planned trip truly makes paddleboarding stress-free and more enjoyable.

What Makes a Good SUP?

If you are planning to buy a new SUP board, it helps to know what makes an excellent SUP. You can also make a sound judgment if a purchase is worth the price for the feature it offers. Below are some key qualities worth considering for a premium stand-up paddleboard.

  • Lightweight: A top-grade stand-up paddleboard should not be heavy. Walking around with a heavy board is very exhausting. Having a lightweight SUP is advantageous because it is easier to carry around and takes less energy to push through the water. An ideal weight for a 10-inch board should be approximately 25 lbs.
  • Durability: It is reasonable to spend a little more to have a long-lasting SUP board than an inexpensive one that breaks easily. Although price does not always equate to quality, checking the materials used for the board construction should always be viewed by a buyer. Another thing to note is that the most durable stand-up paddleboards are somewhat weighty.

Wood, carbon, bamboo, fiberglass, and inflatable boards are the most common kind of boards to buy in the market. Ask the salesperson about the materials and construction process of the board to know which is best suited for you. Overall, you want to find the perfect balance between weight and strength for your ideal SUP board.

What Are the Types of SUP?

As SUP is getting more popular these recent years, other waters or even land activities combine with this all-around sport. A need for specialized boards for different disciplines to gain maximum performance as well as comfort. Below is the most popular type of SUP boards:

  • Inflatable board: An inflatable paddle board or iSUP, as the name indicates, needs air to pump in it before using. This kind of board though mostly made from plastic, is very durable and lightweight. Inflatable boards with less than 15 psi are not recommended as they will have excessive flex and less performance. Since this type of board can be deflated, it is ideal for paddlers who do not have a lot of space for storage at home and has limited means of transporting a composite board.
  • Composite board: If you’re a paddler who hates to pump air before paddling, a composite board is best for you. The Composite board is the stiffest and best-performing SUP. Different materials like wood, bamboo, and fiberglass are used to make a top-quality composite board. This board also has a wide range of sizes, designs, and prices that will suit your need.
  • Surf board: A surf paddle board is used by most experienced SUP riders for paddle surfing. A specialized designed surf paddle board is usually shorter and has a slender nose and tail. The rocker of a surf board is also more pronounced than other boards. These modifications give more mobility and control in waves that are perfect for surfing.
  • Flatwater board: Flatwater board, as the name implies, is optimized for calm and flat waters. This board is usually round at the sides, combined with a pointed nose and wide enough for beginners to stand and balance. It is best to use this board for paddling straightly with a minimal need for turns on steady water.
  • Racing board: A race board is almost identical to the flatwater board. It also has a pointed nose a round body but with a noticeable difference in width. The race board is very narrow to increase speed while sacrificing board stability. This makes it hard for beginners to use as it requires much skillful balancing.
  • All-around board: An all-around board is probably the best board to buy for those into various SUP activities. This board lets you ride in flat water, paddle surf, or just sit back and relax on your board. All-around boards are wider, longer, and usually around 5 to 6 inches thick, making it easy to balance and maneuver but can still decently cut through a wave.
  • Yoga and fitness board: Standup paddle boarding offers the best setting for environmental meditation; this attracts people to combine SUP with yoga and other fitness activities. SUP significantly reduces stress level, exercises the whole body and boost overall health. A yoga and fitness specialized board offer a wide base for extra room for pose and balance. It also has a soft top design for the knees.
  • Touring board: These boards perform best on calm waters and can cover distance quickly. Like a racing board, a touring board also has a pointed nose and built for speed while having enough width to make balance comfortable for anyone.
  • Fishing board: Riding a SUP allows you to access excellent fishing spots. Specialized fishing paddle board comes with rod holder, seat pedestal, and bait boxes. An ideal fishing SUP board should offer great stability and wide enough to hold fishing gears.

What Kind of SUP Should I Get?

Determining what kind of SUP activity you will do for paddle boarding will help you in choosing what board to buy. However, a beginner rider should practice with a board that is wide enough for easier balance. Around 30 inches wide board is the common size for a beginner board. Narrow boards are used for racing as it offers more speed when paddling, but this requires an excellent sense of balance from the rider.

It is also worth noting that a lengthy paddle board is best for long distance paddling, while shorter boards are easier to maneuver. A shorter board of around 9 to 10 inches is usually used for paddle surfing and can handle waves with ease. As you get more comfortable in the water and have a clear understanding of what SUP activity you like the most you’ll be able to pick a specialized board best for you.

What Should I Look for When Buying a SUP?

The strength to weight ratio is the sweet spot for a buyer when choosing a stand up paddle board. Your choice may also vary depending on the SUP activity you would mostly use it for. Different paddling activities require different specialized paddle board to have the best SUP experience. But generally, a paddler should choose a long-lasting, durable paddle board and is reasonably lightweight.

Aside from the SUP’s material, examine also its length, width, shape, volume, thickness, and other factors that may affect your riding. Be sure that it fits your paddling activities and can accommodate your size. Buying from a trusted brand usually is the better option as it produces the best quality boards, and its life span is double than the cheaper models.

How Much Does a SUP Cost?

SUP cost varies on the build construction and material used for the board, but a decent quality paddle board will cost you around $800 to $1400 or more. Epoxy and Fiberglass boards are the most expensive board for composite boards; it usually has a starting cost $1200 to $2000. These boards are specialized boards that are used by competitive paddlers for racing, surfing, and other more extreme SUP activities.

Inflatable SUP or iSUP is generally much cheaper than composite boards. A well-made iSUP can cost around $700 to $1400 on the market. Although iSUP is a few hundred dollars cheaper than composite boards, a good quality inflatable can still be on par with well-made specialized boards. It is best to avoid those cheap $200 to $400 inflatable boards that are flooding the internet as they might be easy to break and have poor performance. Remember to research the product well before buying especially when ordering online.

Why Are SUP So Expensive?

A good quality paddle board are costly because it uses expensive materials in production and has a complex construction process. Some parts of the board are made using machines but there are still other vital parts of it that require manual labor which drives the production cost higher. Another unseen factor is the shipping, and logistic cost as some SUPs are made overseas mainly in China; this also adds to the hefty price of a paddle board.

Although there are SUP boards that are very cheap than usual in the market, it is best to avoid those as it skimps on good materials or in their assembly. To produce a superior board, a manufacturer should have quality materials, effective construction methods, and the latest technology.

Are Cheap SUPs Any Good?

An inexpensive paddle board is mostly not worth your investment if you are looking for a quality long lasting SUP board. A cheap stand-up paddle board is usually not durable, does not perform well, and has little resale value. To drive the cost down of a paddle board a company will most likely omit quality materials or omit an expensive vital construction process.

Some beginner paddlers may prefer to have a cheap paddle board for practice. This can be a good idea if you are not yet dedicated or a casual stand-up paddler. Before buying any paddling gears, consider your frequency of use, distance from paddling spots, and ultimately your budget.

What Are the Best SUP Boards?

A lot of companies compete for the best SUP board. Having a lot of good companies to choose from is always a win for the consumers. You can choose a feature you favor the most by having these different available options for a paddle board.

Here’s a list of top SUP manufacturers to choose from:

  • Atoll Board Co.
  • Aqua Planet
  • Bluefin SUP
  • GILI
  • iRocker
  • NIXY Sports
  • Sea Eagle
  • Starboard
  • Thurso SUP

What Is the Best SUP Brand?

iROCKER paddle boards are the most recommended brand for SUP. This American company based in Jacksonville, Florida has the best-selling inflatable boards. Since its launch in 2013, it quickly gains popularity and steadily rises as the top SUP company globally.

Founder of iROCKER continually improves its board by actively listening to its customer’s feedback. The changes they made make a significant impact on their sales and customer patronage. They offer a wide variety of colors for their boards and have lots of free accessory bundles like travel backpacks, pumps, leashes, repair kits, stickers, and a carbon fiber paddle. The iROCKER SUP board also comes with a 1 to 2 years warranty depending on the model for additional peace of mind.

Which Irocker SUP Should I Get?

The iROCKER Cruiser is recommended SUP for beginners as it focuses on stability and control while taking away a little speed. This board is perfect for those who struggle in balancing and for paddlers who are carrying an extra passenger. Having a width of 10’6″ makes it an ideal board for yoga/fitness and fishing.

For experienced paddlers, the iROCKER 11′ Sport focuses on speed and maneuverability. This model has a long and narrow dimension and is best suited for adventure seekers and competitive riders. Although it is not as stable as the all-around boards, it has good tracking performance, glides well, and very durable.

Are Aquaplanet SUPs Any Good?

Aquaplanet SUP offers excellent quality for their boards compared to its price. This makes it one of the top choices for a brand-new paddle board. They offer great deals for their superior boards, which will always make your hard-earned money worth it.

Aquaplanet SUPs are well known for their all-around paddle boards, which are perfect for all kinds of stand-up paddlers. Their inflatable paddle boards are very light to carry around, while their material is incredibly thick enough to be sturdy. All its additional accessories do not look cheap and are manufactured exceptionally well. They have excellent customer service and are very thoughtful after-sales.

What Is a Soft SUP?

Soft-top paddle boards are made like most hard paddle boards but are wrapped in a softshell. This construction process makes the board less costly while sacrificing a little speed that makes it more stable and very affordable. A good quality soft top paddle board is more durable than fiberglass as it does not crack or chip easily.

This board is ideal for fitness or yoga SUP because it is soft in the knees and fit. It is also wide enough to do different stances for fitness and can carry other equipment. Soft SUP is also best for fishing, families, kids, beginners, and pet-lover paddlers. For those on a budget, this type of paddle board is undoubtedly the most economical yet very efficient to use.

What Is SUP Touring?

As the name suggests, a SUP touring is a paddle board that is designed for exploring and sightseeing. Touring SUP generally has a pointed nose to cut through the water to cover long-range destinations effectively. It is specifically modified to glide smoothly on flat water, and it provides more speed like a racing board.

Speed and efficiency are the features that make a tour-specific paddle board, but this comes at the cost of reducing stability and less maneuverability. Tour paddle boards are not recommended for beginners and for those who struggle with balance. It can also be hard to use on rough waters, but it can perform really well on calm water. A large body of water with flat water is the ideal setting to use a touring board.

What Is a Hybrid SUP?

A hybrid SUP is the combination of the features of surfing and touring paddle board. Hybrid SUP is best for paddlers who occasionally do surfing and recreational stand-up paddling. Although it does not perfectly provide the same advantage when using a surf-specific or tour-specific SUP, it is decent enough to be able to do both activities using a single board.

Hybrid boards have excellent board stability, fast and effective in flat water as well as in waves. Although this SUP is not suited for advanced surfers, it is can still be used by beginners for SUP surfing. It has just the right amount of lift in the nose and tail that you will need for medium or small surf. You may consider getting a hybrid SUP if you are interested in surfing as well as recreational stand-up paddling.

Can You Use a Surfboard as a SUP?

A surfboard has too little stability and not doesn’t have good floatation, which makes it not suited for stand up paddling. Even if surfing and stand up paddling are both board water sports and are almost identical its execution greatly differs. In surfing, you spend most of your time lying on your surf board while paddling with your hands, then stand to catch a wave, whereas in SUP you would like to constantly stand on your SUP board while using the paddle to move around the water.

Since the paddle board is designed for standing, it has a greater volume than a surf board. A SUP board is also longer, wider, and thicker to give more stability for standing. While it is not recommended to SUP using a surf board it is possible if a person has a good sense of balance and the surf board is long enough to be stable but this requires excellent skill and can be very uncomfortable. It is still best to just use a stand up paddle board for SUP.

What Makes a SUP More Stable?

Many factors affect the stability of a SUP board, like its width, length, thickness, buoyancy, fins, and nose/tail shape. Here is a brief explanation of how these factors affect board stability.

  • SUP Width: The board width has the most significant impact on board stability. A beginner paddler should practice with a paddle board that is around 30 inches to 32 inches. Even though a wider board is harder to turn, you can downsize your board width as you get more comfortable standing.
  • Board Length: It is easier to balance using longer boards, but it is much difficult to maneuver. A board length of 9’6″ to 11’6″ is the ideal length for a beginner stand-up paddler. Unlike board width, the length of the SUP does not significantly impact the board stability.
  • Thickness: The board thickness affects the volume of the board which can impact how close you will be paddling on the water. A very thin SUP will cause you to paddle so low into the water, which can be uncomfortable.
  • SUP Fins: Aside from the paddle board length, width, and thickness, fins greatly help in making your board steady. Most SUP board has a slot for three fins, the center fin being the most vital and two side finds for extra stability. Paddle board fins are removable and come in different sizes. Larger fins provide more stability, while smaller fins produce better maneuverability.
  • Buoyancy: Another noting factor is the body weight to board volume ratio. This will indicate the buoyancy of the board in the water, depending on the rider’s weight. Insufficient buoyancy will make the board unstable and the paddler sink. To know the weight-volume ratio of a SUP board, it is best to consult the manufacturer for detailed specifications.
  • Nose/Tail Shape: A wide and flat nose/tail has more stability when paddling through flat water. Having a pointed and narrow nose is more advantageous on surf or white water as it can cut through the wave easier. Observe the water behavior on your paddling spots before deciding on the nose shape.

What SUP Board Is Best for Beginners?

An ideal paddle board for beginners is one that has superior stability. An all-around type of SUP is the most steady and common board to practice with as you explore different stand-up paddling activities. Getting a good balance is vital in SUP, as you would want to stay standing on your board while learning to paddle.

Board stability is affected by a lot of factors like board length, width, thickness, and weight. For a beginner, it is best to have a board with a 30 inches width and 10 feet to 11 feet length. You can check with your SUP manufacturer the recommended board thickness and volume that will fit your body weight.

What Size SUP Should I Get?

The right size of paddle for you greatly depends on your body weight. You also need to factor in your skill level and what SUP activity you are planning to do. It is also helpful to identify your preferred board function if you prefer stability over maneuverability and speed over control. Your SUP size can also be based on your paddling style, water condition, and SUP location.

For most people, a SUP length of 10 to 11 feet SUP with a board width of 30 to 32 inches is the most stable and comfortable to use. You can increase the width to 33 to 34 inches if you need more stability. Keep in mind that a good SUP for you should be able to support your body weight.

What Is the Best Size SUP for a Beginner?

A SUP with a length of 10′ to 12’6″ with a thickness of 5′ and a width of 30″ to 33″ is the best size for a beginner paddler for a male who weighs around 180-200 lbs or 80-90 kgs. While a female paddler weighing 150-175 lbs or 70-80 kgs should have SUP with a length of 9’6″ to 12’6″ with a board thickness of 5′ and SUP width of 30″ to 32″.

You can get a larger or smaller SUP depending on your weight and your confidence in the water. A larger paddle board is always recommended for a beginner as it offers more stability. You can determine if the paddle board size is right for you if it can carry your weight effortlessly. Don’t mind your slow speed as you start to learn SUP. A beginner paddler should focus on improving balance to progress in stand-up paddling.

How Do You Know What Size SUP to Get?

There are various elements that can affect your choice of paddle board. Your body weight is one of the factors that greatly determines what size of SUP you should have. A proper paddle board is one that can hold your weight and stable in water. The table below will help you know the size that fits you.

Beginner SUP:

Paddler Weight SUP Length SUP Width SUP Thickness
Under 120 lbs 9’6” to 10’9” 31” to 32” 5”
120 to 150 lbs 9’6″ to 10’9″ 31″ to 32″ 5″
150 to 175 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 31″ to 33″ 5″
175 to 200 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 32″ to 34″ 5″
200 to 225 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 32″ to 34″ 5″ to 6″
Above 225 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 32″ to 34″ 6″

Advance SUP:

Paddler Weight SUP Length SUP Width SUP Thickness
Under 120 lbs 9’6” to 10’9” 29” to 32” 5”
120 to 150 lbs 9’6″ to 10’9″ 30″ to 32″ 5″
150 to 175 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 30″ to 32″ 5″
175 to 200 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 30″ to 33″ 5″
200 to 225 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 32″ to 34″ 5″ to 6″
Above 225 lbs 10’0″ to 12’6″ 32″ to 34″ 6″

How Much Weight Can a SUP Hold?

Average stand-up paddle board can support 250 to 300 pounds of weight. While there, some SUP can hold up to 500 pounds of weight which is perfect for carrying extra load and gears. Every paddle board has a different weight limit capacity, so it best to check with your manufacturer about the weight capacity of your board.

Most SUP manufacturers include the maximum weight limit of the SUP in the board specification list and its height, length, width, and other valuable information. For fishing, yoga, fitness, and family SUP it is reasonable to get a paddle board that can carry more than your own weight. This will let you take fishing gear, fitness equipment, family member, snacks, pet, or other cargo that you would need.

What Size SUP Do I Need for My Weight?

A beginner paddler weighing under 120 lbs to 150 lbs can get a SUP that has a length of 9’6″ to 10’9″, SUP width of 31″ to 32″ and board thickness of 5″. For beginners weighing 150 lbs to above 225 lbs should get a paddle board with a length of 10’0″ to 12’6″, SUP width of 32″ to 34″ and thickness of 5″ to 6″.

A more advanced stand-up paddler can downsize their board for better maneuverability. An advance paddler weighing under 120 lbs to 150 lbs can downsize their SUP width to around 29″ to 32″. And for those weighing 150 lbs to above 225 lbs, they can choose from 30″ to 34″ for their board width. Remember, only downsize when you feel confident and stable enough in your existing board.

What Length SUP Do I Need?

It is best to consider your stand-up paddling skill level before choosing your SUP length. Beginner paddlers usually use an all-around type of SUP board of around 10 to 11 feet. At the same time, an advanced stand-up paddler can downsize their board to 9 feet 6 inches. But these lengths are still dependent on the rider’s body weight and not only their paddling skill.

SUP lengths of 9’6″ to 11′ are commonly used by paddlers weighing 125 lbs to 150 lbs. While paddlers weighing above 150 lbs should use a paddle board with a length of 10′ to 12’6″. Having a longer board improves stability and has better tracking. At the same time, shorter boards provide better maneuverability and are best for catching waves.

Is a Longer SUP Better?

Using a longer board a generally faster than shorter boards. Long boards can provide better tracking and can cover a lot of distance quickly which makes it the best option for touring SUP and racing SUP. Another advantage of using a lengthy board is for greater board stability which makes it more attractive to use for beginners.

Yoga, fitness, family, and fishing SUP also tends to use a long board than a short one as it can carry more necessary gears for the activities and provide better balance. While there are lots of good sides in using a long SUP, it is less superior when it comes to maneuverability and catching waves. This is why a shorter board is much preferred for SUP surfing and in choppy water conditions.

Is a Longer SUP More Stable?

Yes, a longer paddler board provides more balance and stability which makes it desirable to use for beginner paddlers. Increasing the paddle board’s length also increases volume and weight capacity. This is the reason why lengthier boards are more stable in water.

It can also increase the tracking capabilities of the board to cover more distances faster and explore sceneries effectively. Other SUP activities like yoga/fitness, fishing, touring, and family are also benefitted by a lengthy SUP board. A greater length allows more carrying capacity and space for fishing gears, exercising gears, snacks, or another family member. Board stability is truly one of the factors that are sought after for a better SUP experience.

What Length SUP Should I Get?

If you are an inexperienced paddler or trying out SUP for the first time, getting a SUP board of around 10 to 11 feet is the most recommended. An all-around paddle board of this length is what beginners commonly use as they learn to balance and stand on board. If you still feel unstable, you can increase the length of the board to 12 feet to provide better stability.

For more advanced SUP you can downsize your board to 9 to 10 feet to gain increase turning capabilities. It is also better to have a shorter board if you plan to do SUP surfing, as it can catch the wave more effectively. SUP length is dependent on your board weight, skill level, and type of SUP activity you plan to do. Always remember to check your board specifications to know if your body weight is suited for the board’s length, width, thickness, volume, and type of activity.

What Volume SUP Do I Need?

To start determining the right volume of the board for your weight it is first necessary to know the maximum load that your board will carry as well as your skill level. Once you determine these factors, it is time to compute the range volumes of the paddle board you need. Below are the formulas for calculating the SUP volume based on your skill and weight:

  • Beginner: Body weight x 1 to 1.4.
  • Intermediate: Body weight x .8 to 1.1.
  • Touring: Body weight x 1.0 to 1.1.
  • Fishing: Body weight + fishing gears x 1.9 to 1.4.
  • Yoga: Body weight x 1.0 to 1.2.
  • Surfing: Body weight x .5 to 1.0.

Here’s an example of computation for a beginner SUP. Suppose that the body weight of the beginner paddler is 170 lbs. The computation will be 170 x 1 = 170 and 170 x 1.4 = 238. The range volume of the paddle board for the beginner will be around 170L to 238L.

How Much Do SUP Boards Weigh?

The average weight of composite paddle boards is around 25-30 pounds, while the average inflatable SUP weighs 20-25 pounds. Depending on their size and construction, paddle boards have a wide range of weights. Some paddle boards are lightweight, which only weigh 15 pounds are generally more expensive. Lighter weight boards are easier to walk around, and transport but are more brittle.

Rigid boards tend to be heavier because of their composition material and often weigh around 40 to 50 pounds, but this can better withstand drops and knocks. Careful handling of the board prevents chips and dents to make it last longer. Plastic boards are the heaviest material and very exhausting to carry around, whereas carbon boards are the lightest material for a rigid board.

What Is the Best SUP Board to Buy?

For a paddle boarder who is into various SUP activities, it is best to get an all-around SUP board. Having an all-around board can let you perform in different kinds of water decently. Though it is not a specialized board for a specific activity, it offers more versatility among all types of paddle boards.

All-around SUP is also a beginner-friendly board as it provides good stability that even an inexperienced paddler can easily stand up. iRocker all-around SUP board is one of the best-known inflatable all-around boards in the market. It is well made by using good materials, and the included accessories are all top quality. They also offer one to two years warranty with an excellent and hassle-free after-sales service.

Do I Need a Fin on My SUP?

Aside from the board and the paddle, the fins are one of the essential parts of the SUP to able track, stabilize and effectively steer on the water. A fin greatly improves the board balance, provides better tracking, and prevents the board from wobble. Fins also make a paddle board easier to maneuver and to turn accurately. Without board fins, you would spin around in circles, and it will be almost impossible to go in a forward direction.

Most fins have a wide range of sizes, different shapes, and varying weights. There are usually 3 to 5 fin slots located under your paddle board. Beginners, as well as professional paddlers, use a board fin but the fin set up may differ depending on the skill level and style. As these board fins are interchangeable, you can customize your fin set up depending on your paddling needs.

Can You SUP Without a Fin?

It is possible to SUP without a help of a fin, but it will be very ineffective and extremely hard. Calm and steady water can be more forgiving to a finless board but still not advisable as you may occasionally encounter waves. You may find yourself spinning around, zigzagging, and wobbling on the water when you detach your board fins completely. A fin provides better stability, tracking and cause the board to turn when needed.

Not using a fin is always a bad idea especially for inexperienced paddlers. Even advanced SUP riders still use a fin because it is certainly one of the vital parts of a SUP, like the board and the paddle. You can try different fins set up if you feel that using much or fewer fins will benefit your paddling style.

How Many Fins Should a SUP Have?

An ideal fin set up depends on your skill level, paddling style, and water condition. The number of fins on your board can drastically change in your SUP. Learning how to interchange your fins can be a great advantage if done appropriately. Below is the list of the different fin setup you may try on:

  • Zero fins: A finless or free fin board is very rare and inadvisable. You can get away without using fins in flat and calm water conditions. Fins are an essential part of the board as it gives stability and tracking.
  • Single fin: One fin set up commonly use a large center fin. This classic setup is most suited for flat water paddling. Since the board only has a single fin, this provides extra speed and minimal drag but less board stability. To confidently use a single fin set up requires a good sense of balance.
  • Two fins: This unusual setup becomes popular when paddle boards become shorter. It is commonly used on rough water or in SUP surfing, where you need to kick out of the water and gain balance at the same time.
  • Three fins: A 3 fin or 2 + 1 fin is the most common setup used in stand-up paddle boarding. This setup uses one large back center fin with two equally sized smaller side fins, producing superior board stability. Another setup for three fins is known as thrusters which use three equal-sized fins. Beginner paddlers generally use this setup for its outstanding balance. However, this setup creates more drag and reduced speed.
  • Four fins: Quads are most commonly used by pro surf paddlers for their ability to hold and generate drive. Four fins do not steer well as other fin setups and are harder to control. Inexperienced paddlers may find difficulties using this kind of setup. Configuration varies from 4 equal-sized fins or two equal-sized smaller back fins and two equal-sized large front fins.

Are SUP Fins Universal?

Fins are not universal because SUP boards use different types of fin systems. A fin and a fin box should always be compatible in order to be fitted together. The U.S. fin box and fin most common type, and any U.S. fin size and shape will fit a U.S. fin box. The surf industry uses this as a standard system, and you will find many fins compatible with a U.S. fin box.

Another known type is the FCS or the fin control system, and this also has its own set of fins that will be compatible with its fin box. It is a good practice to know which fin system you have before buying new fins. There are still other fin systems but the availability and type of their fins are not as wide as those of the most known fin system.

Are SUP Fins Interchangeable?

SUP fins having a compatible fin system are interchangeable. Changing fin setup is typical for stand up paddling as the skill and style of a paddler require different fin configurations. Most paddle boards have detachable fins and fin boxes that can accommodate a wide variety of fin sizes and shapes. Screw-in fins and Snap-in fin system are the two most commonly used fin boxes for paddle boarding.

  • Screw-in fins: This fin system uses a particular set of screws to secure the fin to the fin boxes. It uses two tabs, one in the front and another at the back, to lock the fin in place. Using a screw makes this system very secure, but causing damage to your fins may also damage your board.
  • Snap-in fins: Unlike screw-in fins, the snap-in system doesn’t use any screws. This system uses a pin at the front to be inserted at the fin box while the back portion will snap into its place. Snap-ins are very convenient to install and also don’t need much tools and time. Although the fins are still very secure, it reduces the risk of damaging your board when you accidentally hit your fins.

What Is a SUP Leash?

A SUP leash makes a secure connection between the paddler and the board using a coil or straight leash. This will help in keeping the board close to its owner when they fall down the water and it also acts a piece of safety equipment. A loose paddle board is one of the most dangerous things to crash on in the ocean. SUP leash greatly helps in locating your paddle board in deep water that can be lifesaving.

Depending on your paddle board activity, SUP leashes should be attached to the ankle, calf, or waist. Using the proper type of SUP leash for a specific SUP activity greatly impacts your safety and comfort while paddling. Despite one’s paddling skills, every paddler should wear a SUP leash when stand-up paddling.

Do You Need a Leash for SUP?

Every paddler of all skill levels should wear a proper SUP leash when paddling any body of water. Wearing a SUP leash is like putting on the seatbelt for vehicles. Water and weather conditions change most of the time very quickly. This equipment which makes you tethered to your board, can be lifesaving in tricky situations.

Falling from your board is a common occurrence for many paddlers. Locating your board which also acts as a floatation device, is vital in times of exhaustion as it lets you safely regain strength to paddle back to the shore. This makes a leash not a piece of optional equipment but a critical safety gear that can save your life.

How Do I Choose a SUP Leash?

Various water conditions require different kinds of SUP leash. Wearing the wrong type of leash can put your life at risk as it may get tangled or snagged. Equipping yourself with a proper leash is vital for your safety. Below is a list of SUP leashes suited for your paddle board activity:

  • River Leash: The proper leash for white water is a quick-release coiled leash attach to your paddler’s waist. River debris and woods often get caught on your leash, and the ability to detach your leash quickly is important in these situations. Wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) together with the leash can also be an option for river SUP.
  • Surf Leash: A straight and strong leash attached to the ankle is perfect for SUP surfing as it doesn’t tangle easily compared to a coiled leash. A durable leash is essential to withstand strong waves at sea. A SUP leash snapping on the beach is dangerous for the paddler as well as for other beachgoers. Its length should be at least one foot longer than your board to be at a safe distance when you fall.
  • Flatwater Leash: Coiled leash strapped to the ankle are best for flatwater SUP as it does not drag in the water behind your board. Another advantage of a coiled leash is that it is thinner and lighter, making your footwork more smooth. However, some prefer a straight leash for flatwater as it doesn’t get entangled often.
  • Race Leash: A calf attached coiled leash is the most popular for SUP race. Calf attachment greatly benefits a racer as it prevents the leash from dragging in the water. Because of the competitive nature of a SUP race, wearing a leash is a requirement for all paddle boarders.

How Long Should My SUP Leash Be?

A SUP leash should be at least 1 foot longer than your board. This will give you the safe, optimum distance from your board in the event that you fall. The board will have a tendency to snap back at you if the leash is too short; that is why you should fall away from your board as you fall.

It is best to have a longer leash, even if it will take more time to retrieve it than a short one that will hit you. A straight and coiled leash will usually be stretched out through constant use. Check your leash for a sign of damage and replace it when necessary. Rather than jeopardizing your safety, it is always better to buy quality safety equipment.

How Do I Choose a SUP Paddle?

A quality paddle should be made of good material that will help you paddle effortlessly. Paddles made from fiberglass or carbon fiber have a lighter swing weight that will let you paddle efficiently and is less tiring. A stiffer blade and shaft will also help in transferring energy effectively and will produce more speed in every stroke.

Blade shape and size also matters in selecting your paddle. A smaller and narrow blade can be an advantage based on your paddling style and activity. A small blade leads to faster paddling cadence and is great for SUP surfing and flat water activities. At the same time, a larger blade generates a more powerful stroke but is a lot slower.

Can You Use a Kayak Paddle on a SUP?

Kayak and SUP paddle can be used for both sports. Some paddle manufacturers made a SUP paddle that can be converted to a kayak paddle. This cost-effective, versatile SUP/kayak paddle will let you switch the handle to a paddle blade. Below is a step-by-step tutorial on how easy to swap a blade:

  • Remove T-bar grip from the SUP paddle: Open the clasp on the T-bar side of the paddle and remove the T-bar slowly.
  • Replace T-bar grip with kayak blade: Now that the T-bar grip is removed, attach the kayak blade by inserting the blade into the paddle. Remember to match the position of the blade to the other end.
  • Secure the kayak blade: Simply lock the clasp to hold the blade in position. Quick and easy right? Have fun kayaking!

You can also switch back to SUP paddle; just redo the process by replacing the kayak blade with a T-bar grip. Converting and switching SUP to kayak is common for most people. This is an easy and affordable way to enjoy the excitement of each water sport.

What Makes a Good SUP Paddle?

A paddle should fit your body height, paddling style, and SUP activity. Having the right length of SUP paddle, preferably 8 inches higher than your height, will give you the most comfort. However, you can always adjust the paddle length based on your style and SUP activity, but it should always let you stand upright and have a decent reach.

The paddle’s construction material is another factor in choosing a good SUP paddle. Carbon glass fiber is the best but most expensive paddle material because it the most lightweight and stiffest compared to aluminum and fiberglass. It is the most efficient paddle as you won’t tire quickly and has the lightest swing weight.

What Is the Best SUP Paddle?

Weight, price, performance, durability, aesthetic, material, ease of adjustment, and the list go on for the factors that make a superior SUP paddle. A more experienced paddler can tell the difference when handling different paddles. Here is a list of our 15 best SUP paddle:

  • Werner Trance 95 Performance Paddle
  • KIALOA Makai Paddle
  • Werner Vibe Paddle
  • Abahub Carbon Fiber Paddle
  • Thurso Surf Carbon Fiber Paddle
  • Aqua-bound Challenge 85 Paddle
  • Airhead Paddle
  • Boardworks Aluminum Adjustable Paddle
  • Crazy Abalone Paddle
  • Woowave Carbon Fiber Paddle
  • Isle Carbon Fiber Adjustable Paddle
  • Aqua-bound Lyric Paddle
  • KIALOA Insanity SUP Paddle
  • Super SUP Carbon Fiber Paddle
  • Boardworks Kraken Adjustable Paddle

Ultimately, it comes down to the stand-up paddler’s preference and bias in choosing the best SUP. Some gain peace of mind using a well-built, high-performing SUP paddle. At the same time, other paddlers will get stylish paddle even if doesn’t affect performance. A cool-looking SUP can often add to the confidence and joy of a paddler.

How Long Should Your SUP Paddle Be?

A SUP paddle size chart will help you choose your optimal paddle length. Your body height greatly affects your recommended SUP paddle length. Aside from your height, the paddle length also changed based on your paddling style and activities. The chart below will help you choose the perfect paddle length for your needs:

Paddler Height Touring SUP SUP Surfing SUP Racing
feet cm inches cm inches cm inches cm
4’6” 137 61 155 58 147 59 150
4’8” 142 63 160 60 152 62 157
4’10” 147 66 168 63 160 64 163
5’ 152 68 173 65 165 66 168
5’1” 155 69 175 66 167 67 170
5’2” 157 70 178 67 170 68 173
5’3” 160 71 180 68 172 69 175
5’4” 163 72 183 69 175 70 178
5’5” 165 73 185 70 177 71 180
5’6” 168 74 188 71 180 72 183
5’7” 170 75 191 72 182 73 185
5’8” 173 76 193 73 185 74 188
5’9” 175 77 196 74 190 75 191
5’10” 178 78 198 75 193 76 193
5’11” 180 79 201 76 195 77 196
6’ 183 80 203 77 198 78 198
6’1” 185 81 206 78 200 79 201
6’2” 188 82 208 79 203 80 203
6’3” 191 83 211 80 205 81 206
6’4” 193 84 213 81 208 82 208
6’5” 196 85 216 82 210 83 211
6’6” 198 86 218 83 213 84 213

How Do I Choose a SUP Paddle Length?

To choose your paddle length you first need to determine your height and SUP activity. A quick method in estimating your paddle length is your height plus 3 to 4 inches. Say you are 6 feet tall; a paddle length of 6’3″ or 6’4″ will suit you.

Aside from your height, you can also estimate the paddle length based on your SUP activity. Here’s the formula in calculating a paddle board based on height and type of paddle boarding you are into:

  • SUP Racing: Paddler height plus 9 to 12 inches.
  • SUP Surfing: Paddler height plus 5 to 8 inches.
  • Touring and recreational SUP: Paddler height plus 7 to 10 inches.

What Size SUP Paddle Blade Should I Get?

Like most SUP equipment, paddle blade size greatly depends on your body weight, SUP style, and activity. A weightier stand-up paddler should use a larger blade to propel through the water effectively. Having a smaller blade for your weight will lack the power to move you in the water, while choosing a larger blade for your size will result to shoulder strain. Below is a blade size chart for your average weight:

Body Weight 80 – 110 kg 70 – 100 kg 60 – 90 kg 50 – 80 kg 40 – 70 kg
Blade Size X-Large Large Medium Small X-Small
Blade Area 100 in2 90 in2 80 in2 70 in2 60 in2

An additional factor to consider is your SUP activity. It is recommended to use a smaller blade for people who are into SUP surfing, all-around SUP, lightweight, and beginner paddlers. The use of a larger blade is most suited in waves and strong paddlers to gain more power.

Why Are SUP Paddles Angled?

Paddles are angled to about 12 degrees to utilize maximum efficiency in a stroke. An angled blade makes the paddling smoother, lighter, provides more speed and less drag. It will also take less energy in starting a stroke and is easy to lift in exit because the blade won’t drag up water. These reasons make an angled blade truly more superior to straight blades.

Another advantage of using an angled blade is that you can start a stroke much farther forward, resulting in a faster paddling speed. It is also less tiring to use angled paddles which can be an advantage in long SUP races. Shoulder fatigue is often caused by continuous paddling, but thanks to the excellent engineering of this blade, we can efficiently use our energy and spend more time stand-up paddling.

Do SUP Paddles Sink?

Regardless of the material your SUP paddle is made of, it will most likely float in water. This is because SUP paddles are built with foam hidden in their shaft. These foams inside the paddle give buoyancy to the paddle no matter what material is used in the construction. Each SUP paddle has different buoyancy. Some can be easily seen above the surface, while others will be floating just a little below the water surface

Although it is guaranteed that your SUP paddle will not sink to the bottom, it would be less worrisome if your SUP paddle will not always get lost from your hand. Investing in carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle ensures a firmer grip, better floatation, and more efficiency. A good paddles float can be easily spotted and won’t constantly get ripped from your hand.

What Else Should I Look for in a SUP Paddle?

Aside from paddle length, blade size, and blade angle, it is also vital to use a superior material for your SUP paddle. Paddling can be really exhausting using a massive and heavy paddle. This will limit your SUP ability and significantly reduce your paddling time. It can also, most of the time, lead to shoulder strain.

Avoiding these downsides is absolutely possible with the use of the suitable paddle materials. The weight of the paddle is dependent on the material it is made with. Below are the descriptions most commonly used materials for SUP paddles:

  • Plastic: This is the most affordable paddle and the entry level for paddle boarding. Though still very durable, it has more weight than other paddling materials.
  • Wood: Using wood is not good for a SUP paddle as it has more weight and expensive. It has a good feel and looks aesthetically pleasing than other materials.
  • Fiberglass: A brilliant material for a paddle for its lightweight and stiffness. It can transfer power efficiently, which will let a paddler travel further. It is more costly than other paddles but not as expensive as carbon.
  • Carbon Fiber: The most expensive, lightest, and stiffest material for paddling. This is the perfect material for stand-up paddling but comes at a cost. It can transfer power most effectively and will truly change your paddling experience. This is commonly used by professional paddlers and the most serious hobbyist.

How Should You Dress for SUP?

Appropriate SUP clothing makes a paddler comfortable to move around when on top board or even in water. Safety is always the first to consider when going out of any bodies of water. It is highly recommended always to put on a leash and use a life jacket or PFD when going SUP. Carefully choose the right size of these safety devices, so you feel uneasy when paddling.

It is essential to wear swimming gear or beach clothes when going stand up paddling like any water-based sports. The most recommended clothes to wear when going paddling are swimsuits, board shorts, a wet suit or dry suit (depending on the season), swimming trunks, a light shirt, and a rash guard. Using a hat is also a good idea during summer or on a sunny day. Remember that excellent SUP clothing will not constrict a paddler’s movement.

What Do You Wear to SUP?

Different SUP activities require specific SUP gears to have the best paddling experience. The weather and the season will also determine your choice of clothes. Below are suggested SUP wears for hot and cold climates, as well as specific gears needed for different SUP styles.

  • Summer: For summer or sunny weather, most stand-up paddlers wear lightweight clothing paired with board shorts. You can also wear a bathing suit or swimming trunks if you prefer. Remember to use sunblock before heading out to avoid getting a sunburn. Using a cap or sunglasses is also a good idea to protect your eyes and face from the sun.
  • Spring/Autumn: You can still wear summer SUP clothes in spring or autumn with an added layer for more comfort. A waterproof jacket or drysuit (if the temperature is 14-21 degrees C or around 57-70 degrees F) is suitable for this season.
  • Winter: A wetsuit is probably the best winter season SUP wear. Although it is a bit expensive, using a wetsuit will significantly make you warm. Neoprene boots and a light waterproof suit or a long sleeve top can also add to your comfort.

What Should I Wear for SUP Winter?

Wearing a wetsuit greatly helps and is a must during the rainy, cold, and winter season. Using a wetsuit will help in regulating your body temperature as it is specially designed to make you feel warmer. You may also wear a jacket or a hoodie and pair it with neoprene leggings as a substitute for a wetsuit.

It is also advisable to have “neoprene” boots that are made from the same material used for a wetsuit. If possible, wear thermal socks as they will surely make you feel cozy than regular socks in winter. For extra comfort, it is wise to wear gloves and a hat/beanie outdoors. Wearing proper winter gear will definitely make your winter SUP more memorable.

Do You Need a Wetsuit for SUP?

Wearing a wetsuit is a must when going paddling boarding in cold weather, especially in the winter. It is made of a material called neoprene, which is a kind of rubber. Wetsuits are specifically designed to keep you warm as it traps water between the neoprene and your skin when submerged in water. You would always want to use this when a surface water temperature is around 50 to 70 degrees.

Aside from added warmth, using a wetsuit can also aid in swimming. This gear repels water away from your body which allows a person to swim faster. It also gives additional buoyancy, which helps you stay afloat on the water. Although a wetsuit is costly, it is worth the investment for the most competitive and professional athletes.

Do I Need a Buoyancy Aid for SUP?

Most maritime and water laws of different countries require a person in bodies of water always to wear buoyancy aids or life jackets. Wearing buoyancy aids (also commonly referred to as PFD) can help a conscious person stay afloat and can be lifesaving in many situations. Using floatation aids is as important as using a seatbelt when driving a vehicle.

Like any water-based activity, many unexpected situations may occur when out on the ocean. It is always best to use buoyancy aids if you plan to SUP in deep water and seas, especially for inexperienced swimmers. You will never know when your PFD will be handy. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Do You Need a Life Jacket for SUP?

Life jacket laws differ in each country. For instance, in the United States, SUP boards operating outside the surfing or swimming area are designated as vessels. Henceforth, the U.S Coast Guard (USCG) requires paddle boarders ages 13 and above to have a USCG approve life jacket. However, you do not need to wear it all the time, but it is highly recommended for your safety. A child 12 years old or younger must always wear a life jacket when riding a SUP board.

PFDs can also be a substitute for a life jacket as long as it meets the USCG standards. There are five classifications of PFD set by the U.S. Coast Guard – Type I, II, III, IV, and V. If you are not familiar with these types, here’s a brief description for each:

  • Type I – Offshore life jacket: This life jacket is designed for remote and rough waters and cruising, fishing, and boating alone. It provides the most buoyancy and can turn the most unconscious person’s face up in the water.
  • Type II – Near-shore vest: Good for inland day cruising, boating, and calm waters. This life jacket does not suitable for extended rough waters conditions. More comfortable to use than Type I but less buoyant and can only turn some unconscious person face-up in the water.
  • Type III – Floatation aids: This is are commonly used by surfers and wakeboarders. This life jacket is best in calm waters when there is an immediate rescue. This is not recommended for rough water as it will not most unconscious people face up.
  • Type IV – Throwable device: Type IV is designed to be thrown to an overboard victim to help in floatation. This device is not intended to be worn and is not effective for unconscious persons or children.
  • Type V – Special use life jacket: Customized for a specific use such as windsurfing, kayaking, sailboarding harness, and commercial white-water vest. Type PFDs should always be worn to meet USCG requirements. It also does not guarantee the make an unconscious person face up but is much comfortable to wear than types I and II.

As mentioned earlier, other countries or states may have different life jacket laws. Always check with your local maritime and authorities on water laws and regulations when paddling boarding in a new location.

What Else Should I Bring for SUP?

Aside from your SUP board, paddle, fins, leash, PFD, and clothes, you may also want to bring additional gears for your SUP activity. An additional set of clothes can also come in handy in unforeseen situations. Having a checklist will help in organizing your SUP gears. Below are optional things you may consider bringing in your next SUP:

  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Pet
  • Snacks
  • Towel
  • Water proof cases
  • Water bottle
  • Sandals
  • Lip balm
  • First aid kit
  • Shades
  • Fishing gear
  • GPS
  • Radio
  • Maps

Feel free to add items you constantly bring to your SUP list. Creating a checklist prevents you from forgetting a vital piece of equipment for your stand-up paddling. Always be sure to have a peek on your checklist to completely bring all your stuff and enjoy paddling to the fullest!

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