The ultimate paddleboard buyer’s guide

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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.

Inflatable paddleboards

Hard paddleboards