How to choose Best Stand Up Paddle Boards
WUSUP? -Which SUP is best for me?
With so many brands and shapes on the market, it can be diffiuclt to know which will be the best stand up paddle board for what you want to do. We have personally owned over a dozen different SUP boards over the last 3 years, from 8'5" to 14'8" long and from under 27" to 34" wide. I have even used a variety of windsurf boards as SUP's. I am still questing to find the ultimate SUP, however, in truth, it all comes down to what you expect from your board and from your body.
We have been hooked on SUP ever since Svein Rasmussan from Starboard first invited us to try one of his early stand up paddle board prototypes. We have been testing, training and playing, unwrapping new SUP boards every few months, so that we can deeply understand what each shape has to offer, what it will do well and what it will not. I hope that after reading this you will begin to understand why the serious SUP brands like Starboard have so many different shapes on offer.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding has grown into different sub-sports
The bicycles of the ocean, with Stand Up Paddle Boards, you can take a stroll on that beautiful lake you have been staring at for years. Explore the coastline, paddle around a nearby island, follow a stream, cross a lake or practice tricks in the local Dam. Cruising with freinds, the Sunset painted sky reflected across glassy waters. memories like this fill the Stand Up Paddle Boarders last thoughts as they drift into a healthy exhausted sleep. I now believe this will be the most popular category for Stand Up Paddle-boarding simply because - it is so easy to use a Paddle-board on flat water, and it is so intrinsically pleasurable on very deep level.
Fitness & Cruising SUP's Summary
In General any of the stand up paddle boards over 10' long, the longer the board, the better "glide-on" you get for each stroke. However shorter baords are easier to carry around.
- Long boards Glide further after each stroke - this feels great, is efficient at covering longer distances and is faster.
- Shorter Boards, turn more easily, are lighter and easier to carry and store. Where will you be storing your board most of the time?
- For distances under 3km, even a short wave board like the pocket rocket will work. Though you will have to paddle hard and effectively if you want to keep up with friends on longer boards.
- If you have room, and want to Glide silently through the calm waters of a wetland wilderness - the K15 or the Point will have you internally grinning. For Open water distance racing the Point is the way to get there first. In-between lie the Cruiser, the Blend and the Drive.
Best Fitness & Cruising SUP Boards
- Starboard K15
- Starboard Pin (Flat Water)
- Starboard the Point (ocean swell)
- Starboard Cruiser 12'6
- SUPer 12'6 (with centre-board for windsurfing)
- Starboard Blend 11'2"
- Starboard Drive 10'5"
The Gun is also good for light weight people with good technique - my own distance board of choice.
SUP was not an instant hit, it was not until Long boarders (malibu riders) noticed that Stand up Surfers were getting more rides and from further out that the benifit was noticed. The long stand up paddle board riders started to use Paddle-boards, also called Beach Boy Surfing at that time. Then the short board surfers started to use it for training on small days. Some of the core wave surfers found themselves reaching for their SUP more and more often even on the really good days, this came as a SUPrise even to them.
Many older surfers, are coming back to the water now on SUP, I have one friend who has an old ribcage injury and can no longer lay down paddle on his long-board. After a few months using his Starboard Drive 10'5 he is now looking for something a little shorter he can shred with. He is SUP surfing up to 5 hours a day in Koh Lak, North of Phuket in Thailand.
Scott Mckercher - old surfer and Former PWA Wave Windsurf Champion told me at a party that he uses SUP or windsurfer for Surfing now as his knees are not up to "Pop" of jumping from lay down to stand up position that is essential with traditional surfboards.
I used to think that this category will propably be the biggest area of the sport because you really can have hours of fun surfing really tiny little bits of shore break and standing up the whole time. Of course if you are lucky to have waves bigger than this all the better. I have yet to see anyone who could not Stand Up and Paddle on dead flat water.
In waves several hours practice will be required for the average person who has no surf experience. On a 30" wide board most people who do some kind of regular exersize will be able play with small waves within 10 hours of practice. Some will be able to catch rides in surf in under an hour even if they have never surfed before - especially good wind-surfers and other board riders.
If these are the sort of conditions you can see yourself using the board in the most, then a Board that is 9'8" to 12'6" long and 30" wide will be great. Longer for smaller surf, and wider for Bigger or taller people. The longer boards are more stable on the length axis. A board 32" wide is better for anyone who doubts their balance and wants to start having fun right away.
Also I have noticed that heavier people especially if they are tall, have a much harder time, ( due to their higer center of gravity), they make very fast paddlers once they get the body memory sorted out. Incidentally the best selling board in this category is the Drive 10'5
For learning to Surf the 10' x 34" Whopper is probably the best available. Just because it is good for beginners does not mean it is a poor performer though, the Whopper Shreds especially in the hands of a seasoned surfer. This is the ideal family board, Resort Board, Tender for yacht or School Board.
Wave/Longboard and Wave/Fitness Style SUP's Summary
Length helps the boards glide through the water faster, also they are less easy to turn which makes them easier to paddle in a straight line, thus easier to go fast, but of course not so good at turning around to get lined up for the next wave.
The shorter boards turn faster and react more quickly to the wave and to your shifting weight.
For Surfing, our advice -take the shortest board you can handle. Shorter boards are more sluggish when they are not being pushed by the wave so they need to catch the wave from the steepest part of the wave face, where as longer boards do not rely on the push of the wave so much as they are able to catch up to and match wave speed more easily by paddle power. The more wave knowledge, the better the wave shape, and the better paddle technique and balance you have - the shorter the board you can use.
A short board will still be a slug when not on the wave though, so if you want a board that glides on the flat and rides waves well, then 9'8" Element and the 10'5" Drive are both very good boards. If you want to do more distance than wave then the 11'2" Blend is great.
If you have good balance or prior surfing experience I really recommend the Starboard 10'3 x 28.5" Gun - it has noticeably more V in the tail making it more responsive to rail to rail weight changes. Remember a responsive board will exaggerate all your weight shifts - for better or for worse.
Best Wave/Cruising SUP Boards
- Starboard 9'8" Element
- Starboard 10'3 Gun
- Starboard 10'5" Drive
- Starboard 11'2" Blend
- Starboard 10' Whopper
At first the Pro Surfers were using the Stand Up Boards for Cross-Training. I suspect it was really Laird Hamilton who brought SUP to the world's attention in the movie "Riding Giants", Then later when he crossed the English Channel on a Stand Up Paddle Board. What is really interesting is that there is a whole segment of HOT Stand Up Paddle Boarding Surfers who are using shorter boards, and even starting to go narrower to get them to turn from one rail to the other even faster. I am blown away by what Human Beings are capable of, (in a good way for a change :)
I really think the future of SUP wave Surfing is with shorter SUP's with 3 or more fins. The Shorter SUP's still have enough volume to carry a persons weight, with good technique you can still catch small surf so long as it has shape, and they are much lighter and easier to carry and store.
Most importanly though is their responsiveness, you learn fast of small boards because the feedback is very good, Also you can correct the trim of the board just by shifting your weight. Of course you do need above average balance to ride the smaller SUP boards. If you doubt your balance then do not start with anyting under 10'5" unless it is a Whopper.
Wave ShortBoard Style SUP's Summary
Short boards move sluggishly on flat water, to bring the board up to wave speed you will need short fast strokes, good balance and a steeper take-off.
Short Boards turn around very quickly and turn on the wave more easily. When you are moving with the power of the wave, you can stand on the back of the board over the fins, this is the easiest place to steer the board from. Of course if you have an 11' Board, you will have an extra 8' of board swinging around in front of you. You have to stop it moving one way before you can get it to move the other way, (this is called inertia and it is a waste of energy if you are trying to move quickly).
Shorter boards, are much lighter, generally cheaper and easy to carry and store.
Best Pure Wave SUP Boards
Not surprising, really. You can generate enormous power with real whole body movements and long smooth strokes, countering the forces trying to turn the board, with just the right amount of rail pressure on the same side as the stroke. Every single stroke becomes a perfect moment, especially when timed with the swells. There is a lot to this, but the learning progress is amazingly fast.
Faster than any other water sport I can think of. (without burning petrol anyway). So it is not suprising that Stand Up races are gaining in popularity. You can expect to see Starboard driving the leading edge shapes and composites in this field for sure. As in the First ever Stand Up Paddleboard World Cup in Germany - Sponsored by Naish and Won by Starboard.
For Ocean Racing or cruising, the Point is the board everyone will be seeing the tail off. The Point has a lot of Nose Rocker for running down big ocean swells.
For pure flat water efficiency the Pin or the K15 is the best, while The Cruiser 12'6" was the clear favorite and fastest among the mainstream brand SUP's in Boards Magazine Tests. If you really want to experience effortless Glide in flat water then I suggest you try an get a ride on a K15.
Having said that, with a little practice the 10'5" will pick up some very satisfying pace too, if you still want a manouvable Surf Weapon, but you wont win any point to point races unless you are as Fit as Laird or Ekolu.
Best Racing SUP Boards
I know that some very long distances have already been done on SUP. It would be cool to tie on some supplies and set a bench mark record, explore the coast or visit a distnat island.
For Ocean Distance Runs, the Point would be hard to beat.
For Paddling of to a secluded break for some long breaking sections The 12'6" Cruiser would be perfect.
Best Long Distance SUPsStarboard 12'6" Cruiser
River and Resort SUP Tours
On the river everything works. The longer the better for speed, but even the 9' is still good value and will be easier to fit on the plane and while walking those forrest or jungle paths if your river plans are a litte more exotic.
I recommend everyone consider buying their SUP fitted with a threaded hole to insert a mast base for a windsurfing sail. Even if you think there is no way you would ever be interested in using your SUP as a windurfer. There are a couple of very good reasons to go the mast "track" option. Firstly, SUP would not have grown this fast if Stand Up Boards could not catch the waves earlier than any other Man powered Surf Board.
With a Sail on you can catch more rides, more easily and further out than anyone else. Also the Sail makes it a snap to turn even a very long board. Windsurfing is so easy to learn on the right gear. Now even if you are a pure wave animal, (and we do respect and understand that). You may just find it easier to re-sell your board later if it is "fully optioned and Windsurfable.
Note: For a pure- light weight Paddleboard the Technora construction boards do not come with the mast base insert for windsurfing, (adds about 300gm to the boards weight). Camo and Sportech Model Boards on most models are windsurfing compatible.
By the way, the Worlds Leading Windsurf Company knows exactly where to put that mast foot insert for windsurfing, and tests for performance, They don't just throw it in as a sales point.
all boards are closed cell, foam core construction
- also called Touch or AST, the touch surface removes the need for wax or EVA - saving cost and weight
- AST with EVA covering
- Wood and EVA. Discontinued in 2010 making all these boards collectables. - they are windsurfable.
- Not much information on this, but it looks great and is light. Basically it is an Epoxy Wood type construction. It is not windsurfable.
- Technora is like Kevlar but more UV resistant. This means less glass and therefore less resin is needed, super light and strong.
Consider trying a Starboard 10'5" Drive as a great All rounder, Starboard 11'2" Blend if you are heavier, 12' Starboard Big Easy if you are vertically challanged but still want to cover some ground. Starboard 10' Whopper if you dream of being able to Surf but you are bigger, have yet to develop good balance or just want to catch more waves sooner.
Have good balance and want to surf - go the Pocket Rocket - if you are heavier or the surf is not so good then start adding some extra length.
if you can't make it to Pattaya, Contact us and we will do our best to arrange a free demo for you, even if you have no interest in purchasing gear. We love the sport and want to share it with you.