SUP guide to buying a first board.

With some many companies and so much choice out there to buy a board is a disaster waiting to happen.  I bought my first board 8 months ago and I will be honest I had no idea what I was doing….I was clueless and now I am paying the price. It is a huge investment and a rewarding one, but get it wrong as I did is to risk throwing money down the toilet.  If I knew then what I know now I would have made a very different decision.

I got the SUP bug whilst on holiday and was determined to buy a board but my funds were limited.  So I shopped around, read widely about boards and found a company run out of a guy’s apartment who imports their own brand of boards. Great, I thought, low overheads give low prices and also it is supporting a local business and I am all for that.  I arrived with pockets bulging with cash ready to be impressed, I guess my inexperience and naivety led to me falling for the patter of the sales man, and guess what I was sold a dummy!

Buying a SUP is akin to buying a car….. The person selling it makes money if they convince you to part with yours, but like a car you need to try before you buy.  After all you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, one should never buy a board without testing it on the water.  This is lesson 1!  A bad board will dump you in the drink, no matter how accomplished a SUP rider you are, if the rocker is tippy or the design poor then it will be unstable and if that happens then no matter how good your balance is you wil never successfully ride that board.  

What makes a good board? Well, the best thing to look for is Research and Development, also have a look at the brands doing well in professional competition. Chances are they will have put a lot of time and effort into research.  As I write this the top brand on the circuit is Starboard, followed by Mistral.  It sounds like a cliche but the bigger brands spend a lot of time and resources making the best boards.  It is difficult to see how smaller home based brands can spend the time and money researching and developing good performing boards.  It is not possible they don’t have the research budget as a result they are bad boards.  

Let me tell you what is wrong with my board then maybe that will give an indication on what to look out for.

Rigidity:  one of the key things is how stiff the board is, many inflatable boards have an issue that they are not stiff enough.  In fact my board bounces around all over the place.  If a board is not stiff enough then it will be unbalanced and balance is everything when remaining upright.  

Tracking:  my board has 3 fins, a central large fin and 2 smaller ‘thruster fins’,  in a perfect world this gives stability and tracking, in reality the thrusters are made of such soft plastic that they curl and I paddle in circles.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the board tracking straight so constant adjustment is needed which takes all speed out the board.  This is a major design flaw but not one that is covered under the warranty.  

Shape:  ask yourself what you will be using the board for, flat water, surf, race, yoga?  There is a shape for every activity and the difference between them is vast.  I wanted an all rounder so had a rounded nose.  This is probably the best board for most.  But is the nose doesn’t have the right angle it does not cut through the after and tends to cut into the after and nose dives, meaning constant adjustment of stance, not ideal for the beginner.  

They are the key things to look out for.  I spent a great deal of time in the water because my board is imbalanced, the rocker is tippy and threw me off.  I have got the hang of my board though and as a result I can ride nearly anything because I have developed a great sense of what the board can do.  This is the positive of a bad board…..if you can handle a cheap bad board when you do upgrade and go for something better then you will be well practiced.  

So here are buying points:

  • Try before you buy
  • Don’t fall for sales technique
  • Try before you buy 
  • Research the board and company
  • Try, try, test and try
  • Cheaper is not better
  • Find what is suited to you and what you want to do with it
  • Try it on the water – that’s is where you will use it so try it!
  • Talk to more experienced boarders and what they use.
  • Don’t fall for sales as they want your money

I have had to learn the hard way and I did wrong and now I’m stuck with a poor board.  Don’t make the same mistake.

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