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Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, has surged in popularity, especially since the start of the pandemic. You can get a board for as little as $200 or as high as $2,000 and beyond. Choosing a paddleboard, however, is a bit trickier. With so many different paddleboards and price points on the market, how do you know which board is best for you?
While cost, quality, and reviews are important, there are other important considerations. What board you buy will depend on a variety of factors including your experience, size, budget, and the kind of paddleboarding you intend to do. Read our paddleboard buyer’s guide to learn about the different types of paddleboards and some recommended models, if you’re looking to buy.
All-around paddleboards vs. tourings
There are two primary shapes of stand-up paddleboards: all-around and touring. All-around paddleboards are characterized by their rounded noses, while a touring is easily identifiable by its pointed nose. All-around boards are generally more suitable for beginners as they tend to be wider and easier to balance on. Conversely, a touring can be harder to balance on and are less maneuverable. They are designed for longer, faster-paced paddles.
If you’re considering purchasing your first paddleboard, don’t overlook the benefits of a touring board—even if you’re a beginner. Perez Vermeulen, manager of Kalavida Surf Shop in Coldstream, B C., recommends touring boards for those wanting to go on longer paddles. “You stay straighter in the water for a longer period of time, which will shave a lot of time off of a five-kilometre paddle.”
Inflatable vs. hard paddleboards
Before buying, you must also consider whether an inflatable or a hard paddleboard best suits your needs. “There’s a fine line in performance differences between hard boards and inflatables,” says Vermeulen, “so it really comes down to what the person wants.”
Inflatable paddleboards are lightweight, durable, and easy to transport. They require pumping and take the average person approximately 10 minutes to inflate. Since they can be easily deflated and tucked away, they’re particularly appealing to those with limited storage space. Made from tough PVC plastic, inflatables are difficult to damage and handle accidental drops or encounters with rocks better than hard boards. Although not always the case, inflatables generally cost less than hard boards.
Hard paddleboards, on the other hand, are generally more responsive on the water. They tend to glide easily and quickly over the water in comparison to inflatables. They’re typically constructed of fiberglass and epoxy resin layers over hollow wood or foam cores. Because of the hard materials used, however, these boards are more susceptible to cracks or scratches. While they tend to be more aesthetically pleasing in comparison to inflatables, they require sufficient storage space.
Depending on the materials used and the overall size, paddleboards can range in weight from 20 to 30 pounds. But keep in mind that some can be as light as 15 and others as heavy as 40 pounds or more. An inflatable board generally weighs less than an equivalently sized hard paddleboard, making it easier to lift and carry.
Red Paddle Co’s most popular range of boards, known as the Ride, offers all-arounds in three lengths: 9’8”, 10’6”, and 10’8”. “It’s perfect for anyone who just wants to get into paddleboarding,” says Maddi Leblanc, a competitive stand-up paddleboarder and manager of Surf the Greats in Toronto.
Its rounded nose and tail help to keep the board stable in different conditions, from calm to bumpy waters. When thinking of which length to buy, it’s important to take into consideration the weight of the rider.
The 9’8” is suitable for riders up to 198 lbs, the 10’6” for riders up to 220 lbs, and the 10’8” for riders up to 265 lbs. “It’s really an all-around board—you can take it out in a variety of conditions and have a lot of fun with it,” says Leblanc.
Prices for the Ride series boards start at $1,499 without a paddle.
For those looking to increase their speed on the water, Red Paddle Co also offers the Sport series with boards in three different lengths: 11’0”, 11’3”, and 12’6”. Suitable for beginners, this touring board delivers greater speed and increased glide.
“If you want to treat paddleboarding as a workout, this board is a great option,” says Leblanc. The board’s sleek shape, which features a drawn-out nose, allows for better performance. If you’re in need of more stability, opt for the 11’3” as the width of the board is slightly larger at 32”. “It’s a bit wider and offers more volume, which is better for beginners depending on their weight,” says Mike Sandusky, co-owner of Surf Ontario in Toronto.
Prices for the Sport series boards start at $1,699.
Another good inflatable for those looking for increased speed is the Kazuzu 12’6”. The pointed nose allows for greater speed and improved tracking along the water. Janna Van Hoof, owner of Toronto-based stand-up paddleboarding school SUPGirlz, can’t get enough of the board. “It’s an amazing purchase, especially if you plan to paddleboard on lakes.” Owing to its length and shape, the Kazuzu responds better in windy conditions. The Kazuzu 12’6” inflatable retails for $1,227.
Although most experts recommend spending a little bit more to get a quality board—you get what you pay for is a common refrain—not everyone can drop $1,500 on a new board. If you’re on a budget, then consider the 10’10” Fusion by Aqua Marina. While this all-around board lacks speed, it offers good stability on the water and is appropriate for beginners. “The volume will float the majority of riders and give them a good experience,” says Sandusky. “The board is good quality and you can’t beat the price.”
Starboard offers high-quality boards for all levels. If you’re looking for an entry-level board, the brand’s GO series is a popular choice. This all-around board comes in six different lengths and widths ranging from 10’2″ x 29″ to 12’0″ x 34″. As with any board, the best fit in this series depends on important factors such as the rider’s performance goals and weight. The 12’0” by 30” is the fastest board in the series while the 10’2” by 29” provides more maneuverability.
Taiga’s 10’6” Borea is an all-around that provides great versatility. “It’s easy enough that everybody can give it a try,” says Van Hoof. “You could put a child or even a dog on the board.” It offers a good level of stability and speed and can even be purchased as an inflatable.
“NSP has always been a popular board because they’re light and durable,” says Sandusky. The Elements Flatwater 12’ is a good option for those seeking durability and performance. The board can be used on rivers or lakes and is suitable for both coastal cruising and fitness training. “The good thing about this board is that it’s a flat rocker,” says Sandusky. “It will sit well on the water, whether the rider is 100 lbs or 250 lbs.”
Another reliable hardboard is the Adventure Paddleboarding All Rounder. The board is available in three different sizes: 9’8”, 10’6”, and 11’6”. “It’s a board you can tour around with and not get frustrated,” says Sandusky. “It tracks well and is quite good compared to some other all-around boards.” In other words, you don’t have to switch sides as frequently when paddling as the board is better designed to maintain a straight line in the water.