Buying Your Next Board: Some Tips
So you have the stand up paddling bug? You took up the sport this past summer, and you feel that you’re getting pretty good at it. You even went as far as to buy your first all around board. The far side of the lake is now within reach. You can paddle through the shore break, falling only half the time and maybe even riding a wave on the way in. Step by step you went from learning to stand up paddle to becoming a stand up paddler. So now it’s time to take perhaps the next most important step: your next board. Shorter? Longer? Narrow?
Let’s start in the realm of flat-water fitness, fun and touring. Chances are the big board you started out on was approximately 11’ x 31”x 4”. In other words, long, wide and slow. Great for balance, not so great for efficient paddling. When you’re ready to make the jump from plow horse to thoroughbred, think longer, as in a 12’6” stock class race or touring board.
Here’s the thing: once you master the basics on relatively calm water there’s no reason to paddle a slow board. Unlike surfing, where too quick of a leap to a more technical board can hinder skill progression, flat water paddling of any sort can only be made more enjoyable by being made easier (read: faster.) This isn’t to suggest that you’re ready for a super light, carbon fiber rocket ship. But if you really want to take advantage of all that stand up paddling has to offer, you need a board that moves through the water quickly and efficiently.
Almost every major manufacturer offers an accommodating 12’6” (the Glide Quest or the Focus Marlin are all good examples) both of which you can demo at our shop. Give a fast board a try and you’ll be amazed at how good a paddler you’ve become. Just make sure you stay above 28” wide unless you’re looking to get heavily into racing.
In the surf, the opposite applies. As you get better, and your board handling in and out of the surf and on the waves improves, the natural progression is to a shorter, more maneuverable board. The key: not too much shorter.
Say you started out on a 10’6” X 31” X 4.5”and have things pretty well figured out, meaning you can now paddle out, catch waves and ride most of the time without falling. The next step in your progression is to get a board with a similar outline, but to drop the length by approximately one foot, the wide point by approximately two inches, the thickness just a touch to, say, 9’6” X 29” X 4”. Change less than this and the effect on performance will be negligible, change more and you’ll find yourself struggling to relearn everything, having no fun at all. Take a look at the POP Saltwater Beaver or The Ripper by Dolsey, both are solid choices!
Regardless of your size and weight it’s important to remember that this is only your second board and you’ve still got a lot more learning—and boards—to look forward to.