So you’ve decided to get into Paddle Surfing, nice call!
With that comes a big range of decisions such as what sort of board and what other sort of gear is needed to get started.
Well, the beauty of SUP is in its simplicity, but there are a wide array of variables and accessories that will truly enhance your overall experience.
The Board: Assuming you’re planning on hitting flat-water, the bigger the board the better the ride. You’ll find a bigger board will give you greater float, smoother glide, and greatly enhanced stability, especially when you’re just getting started. As for other design features, you’ll probably want a board with a reasonably pulled back (read pointy or sharp) nose for smoother glide, and a good amount of thickness and width to keep things stable.
Other board features to watch for…. Make sure the board has (or can accommodate aftermarket) deck pad. Carrying handles are very helpful in transporting the board, and extra mounting points are helpful for things like bags, water reservoirs and other stuff you may want to bring along on extended tours and camping excursions.
That all said, do your research but be sure to consult and buy your board from a local retailer that has experience with the conditions you’ll be paddling in.
The Paddle: Again, assuming you’re primarily paddling on the flat-water, and have good arm strength, you’ll probably want a bigger squar-ish blade, something that will allow you to move more water and keep a reasonably low cadence. A more compact blade is better for the surf where shorter, more rapid strokes are needed, or if you’re pretty small and don’t need to move a ton of water to get moving.
Paddles are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and materials. If you’re the only one that’s going to be using the paddle, make the investment in a “cut to size” full shaft carbon paddle as the weight savings and overall feel will noticeably improve your paddling experience.
If the paddle’s going to be shared amongst friends, get an adjustable shaft paddle but try to find one with a carbon blade, as the weight savings are especially noticeable at the blade end of the paddle. Kialoa makes a pretty good one called the Hinalea. It’s a great value oriented paddle but they’ve had some issues with the adjustable shaft mechanism in the first run. If you choose to go with this model, be certain that the one you’re buying has the “new n improved” adjuster.
Werner makes some pretty good paddles as well, and some of their full carbon models are available with a spring set adjustment, which is simple, light and convenient.
Leash: Most paddlers will only use a leash in small-medium sized swell, but I run a leash whether I’m in small surf any flat-water conditions. Only time I might not run a leash is when the surf is so big that using one would result in more hazardous conditions. Probably a bit overkill in most flat-water conditions, but I prefer the peace of mind knowing that my board’s only a leash length away at all times.
Paddle Guard and Rail Tape: I run Surfco’s Paddle Guard AND Rail tape on all boards and paddles. Though I find the paddle guard results in a slightly more dull feel when the paddle enters the water, the rails of my boards are still minty and should remain so for years to come.
Footwear: Some flat-water touring locations around Vancouver allow for bare feet but for the most part, the majority of the put in locations are filled with sharp rocks and barnacles. I’m using Xcel’s 1mm surf boot right now and they’ve certainly done the trick.
Hydration: For longer flat-water tours a Camelbak is indispensable, providing both convenient hydration in warm weather conditions, and a good place to store that miscellaneous junk you may want to bring along on a tour.
I’ve got the Camelbak Scorpion which is insulated for cold weather use, but I find the insulation helps to both keep the water cold, as well as it provides a good amount of storage for the miscellaneous junk.
Mountain Equipment Co-Op Dry Bags: These things are cheap (less than $10 CAD), and fit conveniently into my Camelbak storage pocket, allowing for enough room for keys, camera and a few other small items. Well worth the few bucks, and much more convenient than a ZipLoc baggie.
Camera: The majority of the photos shot for this site are taken with the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000. A great little “reasonably” waterproof camera that takes good photos and lives up to it’s tough name. Only caveat is it’s only waterproof to 10ft, so if you drop if off the board into deep water don’t bother trying to retrieve it as it will likely be DOA!
Board Cover: I’ve got a 12’6 Ocean & Earth Travel Cover which features a 0.5mm foam padding throughout.Though it’s not absolutely necessary, this board cover does a great job of protecting the board, especially when trying to maneuver the board into my basement… Many a ding has been saved by the bag.
One thing I can’t stress enough though, is to bring your board along when shopping for a bag. This 12’6 bag fits my Starboard 12’6 absolutely perfectly, but this same 12’6 bag barely accommodates my 10’10 Walden due to it’s extra thickness.
Safety Stuff: Though at this time, as far as we can tell there’s no specific law pertaining to PFD usage on Stand Up Paddleboards. But that said, in our opinion PFD usage is a very good idea, especially if you’re touring in rough conditions or paddling solo. A whistle, cell phone, and even a flaregun would also be suitable in securing assistance in unexpected situations.
So that’s all, by no means meant to be an exhaustive nor complete list but hopefully this article has provided a few useful shopping tips for first timers… Have some more tips? Post em up in the comments!