The sun’s out, the weather’s warming up, shorts are back—and that means the season for standup paddleboards has finally arrived. The water is calling.
In the last decade, SUPs have seen a meteoric explosion in popularity. Some people SUP just to practice their balance and get out in nature. Others do yoga on their SUP boards for an extra stretching challenge. And still others use them for river trips, reef snorkeling adventures, or even for fishing expeditions.
The possibilities are endless, and the boards are plentiful. Here’s how to find the right one for you.
Standup Paddleboard Shapes and Sizes
Like kayaks and surf boards, standup paddleboards come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some boards are designed to rip down raging rapids, while others are made for more casual exploring.
All-purpose boards are usually long and wide, and they’re ideal for anyone new to the sport. Their generous dimensions offer stability and make it easier to stay balanced while paddling.
Whitewater boards are shorter, fatter, and great for ripping up whitewater parks and river rapids. They handle nimbly and make it easy to jib, surf, and weave—but they’re challenging to control as a beginner.
Touring and racing boards are typically long and skinny. They move quickly across lakes, reservoirs, and open water, but they can be challenging to control for the inexperienced.
Most boards you’ll see these days are inflatable. That design certainly has its advantages, but solid SUP boards have a lot of benefits, too. The market is full of rigid SUP boards made from a variety of materials that offer versatility for different user preferences and budgets.
Solid SUP Materials
Wooden boards are made with a hollow core construction, offering maximum strength and flotation without the need for synthetic foams. When the wood is sourced sustainably, they’re also more eco-friendly, and the natural grain gives these boards a classy look. Paulownia wood is universally recognized as the best “skin” for a solid board. Paulownia boards are lightweight, very durable, and cut across the water smoothly. But some makers use bamboo, pine, and other woods as well.
Most solid boards are made with either fiberglass or carbon fiber skins with foam cores. Not unlike surfboards, these are often lighter than wood, and generally more cost effective (so you feel a little less pain if they get nicked or gouged).
Length and Width
Generally, boards are between 30 to 35 inches wide, and anywhere from nine to 12 feet long (or even 15 feet long for multi-person boards). Longer boards are more stable than shorter boards; shorter boards are more agile. Longer, skinnier boards are faster in the water.
Ready to find your board? Read on to learn about the best standup paddleboards of 2022.
The 11 Best Standup Paddleboards of 2022
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