Getting Started in Standup Paddle Boarding

Photo Credit: Anne Nygard/Unsplash

Standup paddleboarding, SUP for short, is taking the sporting world by storm and is quickly becoming the fastest-growing watersport in the U.S. An activity that draws broad appeal among people who love watersports, fitness sports, and adventure activities, paddleboarding can be enjoyed by people of every demographic, age, and fitness level.

Getting Familiarized With Standup Paddleboarding

There are cheap and easy ways to figure out if you will ultimately like to standup paddleboard without walking out of a store with a four-figure bill.

As with other paddlesports such as kayaking and canoeing, standup paddleboarding commands and attracts its own community. Tapping into that community is the best way to learn the ropes of this growing sport. Among those ways are to figure out if any of your existing friends already SUP and if they’re willing to take you out on their equipment and show you the ropes, go to SUP shops to demo or rent equipment, or find a SUP club that hosts paddling events near you.

What Type of Standup Paddle Board Equipment to Buy

Once you know for sure that you want to get into standup paddleboarding you will need to buy some SUP equipment. That is you will need to purchase a SUP board, a SUP paddle, a leash, and a pfd. As you will learn during the testing phase above, standup paddleboards vary in materials and construction as well as in size and shape, just like surfboards do. Boards also vary based on skill level and the type of paddleboarding you will be doing. While some boards will work both for cruising and for surfing if you will be primarily be doing one or the other you should purchase equipment made specifically for the one.

It is quite common in the paddling world for people to initially buy boats or boards that are versatile as a compromise only to realize in a short time that they need a more specialized rig to do the type of paddling they primarily do. The takeaway from this point is that you should make sure you buy a board that is designed for your weight, your skill level, and for the type of paddleboarding you will be doing. Otherwise, you’ll be looking for new equipment sooner than you need to. This same logic can be applied to choosing a SUP paddle.

How Much to Spend on Standup Paddle Boarding Equipment

If you’re athletic and have experience paddling or surfing you may find that you’re a natural at standup paddleboarding. If that is the case, buying new gear might make sense. On the low side a new board will cost about $800 and they can go for thousands of dollars on the upper end. You can often find deals at your local outfitters that include the board and paddle together.

For the rest of the beginners who are just figuring out if they will seriously get into the sport of standup paddleboarding used gear and even plastic boards will do just fine. Many board manufacturers sell new beginner equipment for around $800 all in. This is the same gear that people will be reselling for around $500-$600 to trade up for more aggressive and intermediate-level equipment. You can find these types of used deals in classified ads online or at your local SUP outfitter who sells their demo fleet or because they take trade-ins on new equipment.

Where to Standup Paddle Board

Now that you’ve gotten your equipment you’ll want to get out on the water. Of course, if you heeded the advice of this article and tried out the sport of SUP before buying equipment, you already have some paddling destinations and hopefully, you have some friends or new friends you can go with. But, you do have safe options if you can’t find anyone to go with and you still want to get out on the water.

Basically, anywhere there is water you can SUP. So look for canals, lakes, and other protected bodies of water to practice in. Stay close to the shoreline and you’ll be just fine. And oh yeah, always wear your pfd, no matter how good of a swimmer or how safe you think you are.

Overlooked Considerations

If you haven’t already thought about it, it will occur to you pretty quickly. SUPs are large (10-14 feet) and they are delicate, relatively speaking. Before you buy any equipment you should have a plan of how you will transport the board to and from the water and where you will store it. A standard roof rack will rack pads will get your board to and from your destination. As for storage, that’s a bit trickier. Boards can be hung from the ceilings or walls of garages or placed on racks in such a way that they won’t get damaged. If you don’t have a garage, they make pretty cool décor and are great conversation pieces in any living room.