Buying your first SUP surfboard can be both an exhilarating and an intimidating event. Whether you’re a longtime surfer, experienced paddler or just getting into the sport, choosing the correct board can make or break your experience.
To ease the transition, we caught up with longtime standup paddle surfing connoisseur and Infinity SUP shop manager Justin Van Dyck for some key factors to consider when selecting your first board. Here’s what he had to say.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a SUP surfboard. What is your experience/skill level? What type of waves do you plan on surfing? What is more important to you: stability or performance?
After you ask yourself these questions, you can then choose a design that will help you achieve those goals — [a] longer, wider-nose board for nose-riding, something strictly for progressive surfing or something that bridges the gap.
There are lots of different shapes within the SUP surfing sub-genre, so it’s important to figure out what you want to do with your SUP, then figure out what board will get you there most efficiently.
If the individual is new and learning or just wants to have fun riding waves, stability is always going to be the biggest factor. A nice, stable board will make all the little things much easier.
If you are more advanced and wanting to progress, there are board designs that can work as a one-board quiver, but most guys that are really into it will need one to three different boards to span a full range of conditions and styles of surfing.
A good place to start is to figure out the dimensions of a board you’ve tried that felt good and was easy for you. Use that as a baseline of what you know you can paddle.
This should give you an idea if the board was way too stable or not stable enough; then you can make judgments based off that. Demo[ing] or renting is the best way to get an idea about what type of board you want and also is a great way to gauge what size you can handle.
A very common-size performance board for an average 180-pound male who is intermediate would look something like 8’5″ x 30″ x 125L, and a very common-size performance board for an average 125-pound female would look something like 8’2″ x 28″ x 115L.
Single-fins track straight and are generally used with a larger fin, so they tend to be more stable. They have a smooth, dependable feeling while turning but lack quick rail-to-rail maneuvering and tend to have a governor on speed.
Three fins is the most common for wave riding. They blend the best combination of stability, speed and performance.
Quad fins are the fastest setup of them all and turn very nice[ly]. Some good surfers don’t like them because a thruster feels so positive off the bottom of the wave. We think 90 percent of SUP surfers should be on quads because the benefits outweigh the negatives that only advanced surfers can feel.
You definitely get what you pay for. For some people a cheap board is all they want/need, and there is nothing wrong with that, but if you’re loving the sport and use your board often, it’s worth the extra money to get nice equipment that will perform and last.
SUP is a cheap sport compared to others. After the initial purchase of a board and paddle, there is no lift ticket, there is no monthly membership fee and there are no green fees.
More from SUP Magazine