– Always try before you buy. I say this to most of my students but still see folks going to Costco
or buying sight unseen from online sources. This is the most important tip. Ya, Costco or an online retailer might be cheaper than a local store but no one there has any clue about you, your paddling style, the waters you paddle on and how your body type will work on their board. There’s nothing more important than finding out how the board feels to you on the water. Is it tippy? Is it heavy to carry? Can I car-top it? Is it slow or hard to keep straight? Take the time to do the proper research to avoid getting a dud.
– Don’t buy a board just because it comes with a free paddle. Most package deal paddles suck! Sorry for the language, but we’ve seen it over and over again. Most package deal paddles are aluminum and are super heavy. If the foam core in the shaft comes out, they’ll sink (seen it). Heavy means it’s hard to paddle and will add weight thus stress on your shoulders. Usually you can’t tell which way the power face is. Free carbon paddle? Have you tried it? Carbon doesn’t mean it’s a good paddle or is light. I’ve seen heavy and/or stiff carbon paddles. Most package deals don’t come more important items, a PFD or leash. Buying a paddle is a personal thing. Most paddlers want a good paddle that feels good to the hands, has a nice shaft flex, fits their budget and/or has a certain type of power face or blade width. Inflatable paddlers want a light paddle. Many paddles that come with inflatables are surprisingly super heavy (one student donated her paddle to me as a result).
*Per a reader comment below – Packaged boards and paddles do provide a low cost option for families or those on budget to get on the water. Start simple, then upgrade if needed.
– Boards Cost too Much – Yep but both inflatable and fiberglass board are very expensive to make and are usually shipped here from elsewhere. It is a problem since a family of four can’t buy 2-4 boards for less than a grand. Inflatables are the most affordable option if you’re buying a few at a time. Late summer to early fall is the best time to buy as retailers are dumping their 2016 boards to make room for the next year’s boards. The soft foam boards such as the one pictured leak and may only last you 1-2 seasons before it gets super heavy (see it). They’re also super thick thus tippy for taller folks.
Tip for Families: Buy only 1-2 boards as several kids can be on one board a time and usually only use it as a floating platform. Teach your kids how to paddle tandem (2 on a board). This works well and some families we know even race with one of their kids on their board. During a 6 kids class I had this year, we brought only 3 boards and put 2 kids on each board. Worked great!
Don’t Always Believe the Manufacture’s Specs – A student approached me the other day and noticed that the board he bought floats people up to 230lbs. I looked at it and replied – no way! I’m a big guy and sink most boards that are not 5″ thick and 32″ wide. Some board specs may say a board isn’t good for surfing but better for this or that. That’s a marketing ploy to channelize their marketing efforts. All boards surf, tour, race, etc.
Other Gear to Get – After you get your board, remember to get a lifejacket (PFD) and leash. These are very important items that even us pros use daily. I’m never good to paddle either item! Generally we go with a coiled leash (non surf) and vest PFD for the pockets, warmth, visibility to boaters (don’t get black). Kayaking PFDs have many options. Co2 works if you know how to use it – fire one cartridge before going offshore. Most haven’t done that.
Here’s an in depth video about Buying a SUP from Blue Planet’s Robert Stehlik. Definitely watch this! http://blueplanetsurf.com/pages/choosing-the-best-stand-up-paddle-board-for-your-needs