SUP board guide
Become educated with our SUP board guide
There is so much to learn with paddleboarding considering it is a sport that most people can pick up within a few minutes so we have created a SUP Board Guide to help you to understand some fundamentals about SUP Board shapes, styles and purpose.
Before you go and spend the money it is important to identify what exactly your are aiming to achieve with the sup board you are looking at. They are all so different so let’s start by getting some answers on paper and this in turn will help you identify what you should be looking for.
- Rider / paddler weight in a wet wetsuit.
- Rider height, can have a minor effect but generally not so important.
- Where will you be paddling / water conditions.
- What sort of paddling do you do i.e surf / distance / family fun / racing.
- Do you like a challenge and are you looking to progress.
- What is your realistic budget, bearing in mind you may have to buy a quality SUP paddle like a Werner.
By establishing the above we already see what is suitable and can cut the options down.
The terminology we use when describing a sup board is the same no matter what type of board it is. Each has a Nose, Rocker, Deck, Tail and Fins.
Most of the time you will see that a sup board is measured in feet and inches for length and width. Volume is in litres.
How do dimensions affect a board for you
To be honest there is no hard and fast rule as all boards, even when similar dimensions can feel very different but as a very rough guide …
- More volume can carry a larger person and keep things more stable.
- Longer boards travel in a straight line easier whereas short boards turn quickly and can be more suited to surfing.
- Wider boards are more stable / less tippy but this is all linked to volume and length so don’t imagine it is a magic wand.
3 types of SUP board
You could break down the sup boards available into 3 distinct groups being Surf, Flat water and Race. Each type of board will have very different characteristics and traits.
Generally this type of board is aimed at all round fun use. It needs to offer a stable ride, with increased glide as you paddle and a comfortable feel to the paddler i.e not making you work too hard.
Looking between 10-12ft in length, 30+ inches wide, this sup board will probably carry in excess of 180 litres of volume meaning it can happily carry a person weighing over 13 stone.
Board thickness will be a factor here and can massively increase the volume up to around 270 litres.
If this is going to be your family fun board then I would not recommend you go down the carbon construction route.
Whilst the dimensions stack up, there is far more to a board than just numbers. Probably our most popular all round sup board is the Jimmy Lewis Cruise Control. The 11ft model is so perfect it is sick. It surfs, cruises and is so stable it is harder to fall off than not.
Nose shapes are generally round with a wider tail that increases stability so if the shape is right you can sometimes find yourself able to get a slightly smaller board but this has its downside such as the ability to cover distances.
Your board will either be single fin or tri fin configuration. At this level it isn’t going to make a huge difference to how the board feels or works for you.
Surfing a sup board is a major buzz and one that many people experience for the first time on a sup and not strictly down the prone surf route. Coming into it this way is great but it leaves you a bit lost when it comes to deciding what the best board will be for you.
I have seen it plenty of times when people have gone straight for the shiny, pointy nose boards that rip the waves like the Jimmy Lewis Stun Gun or Jimmy Lewis Supertech but are they really the best options?
Obviously I am talking about someone getting into sup surfing here so bear that in mind. A tiny short board with low volume like 110 litres, even if it is 8’7 like the Jimmy Lewis Stun Gun is an advanced ride only. It is tippy both side to side and length ways and is designed to be super turny on a wave. These sup boards require a much greater level of balance from the rider and a more dynamic approach to paddling.
If I were talking to a paddler who was entering into the sup surf market I would be asking weight as a top priority. You are already looking at a lesser volume board so we need to make sure it has enough float to help you. We also need to consider the general dimensions like length and width as this will help you paddling out, waiting around for waves and catching them.
13 stone bloke – novice in the surf but ok at paddling around in flattish water. I’d be looking at a 31+ wide board, 9ft + length with relative volume of about 170 litres +. An example of this is the Jimmy Lewis Maestra . For someone slightly lighter I may suggest a lower volume as we have in the Jimmy Lewis Striker or the Jimmy Lewis Kwad in the bigger sizes like the 9’7. We do a lot surf teaching on the Kwad and Maestra as they are so versatile and good looking.
As your surfing moves forward you will be looking for more performance, but what suits one person and a certain location/wave may not work for you. Whereas before we wanted volume, it can be a real hinderence, whilst tail shapes and fin setup can now be a real game changer.
I can ride 2 boards of virtually the same dimensions being the 8’7 Stun Gun and 8’7 Kwad. The Stun Gun has 110 litres and the Kwad has 115 litres so nothing in it really, but both boards feel totally different. Stating the obvious, one has 4 fins and the other has 3 but the real difference is the plan shape. The Stun Gun has pretty pinny tail and nose which immediately reduces stability whereas the Kwad has a wider nose and tail which acts as dampers and reduces roll for anyone who is heavy footed.
The benefit of having a slightly more stable board is that you can head out in rougher water where chop is hindering progress as you’ll take less dunkings and have more fun.
The key to sup board selection in surf is to try it out even if you only paddle it around on the flat. Make sure you’re comfortable on it depending on your level. Practice those pivot turns and don’t just stand still – shuffle the feet and tip the board around to see how you do with this new agile sup board.
When you decide to buy a raceboard you need to appreciate the transition you are making to a pedigree piece of kit.
It is a total change of feel to a normal cruiser type of sup board with the board characteristics playing a big part.
Firstly you have a very pointy nose and possibly a narrower tail. The rails will be more rounded as they come down and into contact with the water and then add to that the narrower overall width.
The rounder rails certainly increase board speed, much like a kayak but the roll is obvious. That said the roll is easily recovered from and will become less apparent with practice.
Board trim by the rider is really important on a race board as steering can be heavily affected by foot weight and buoy turns are a real must if you haven”t yet mastered those.
Most brand offer a range of widths to cater for differing levels of paddler so don’t make it too hard for yourself. The Jimmy Lewis UBoat is 25 wide and initially can feel quite tippy but you can quickly normalise yourself to this and benefit from the increased speed of the board.
If you feel that the super narrow boards are out of your reach then aim for something a bit wider and more stable. You may find that this increases your speed as you can put more power down so narrow isn’t always the answer. Check out the Jimmy Lewis Sabre as a good example of a fast, wider race sup board.
Making a choice
No matter what board you are looking at make sure you try it out if possible. If possible paddle out with someone who can help offer some advice or coaching. When we do demo sessions we always paddle out and give advice where necessary. Just a few tweaks to the riders technique can make a huge difference to how the board feels and it may be that the paddler is closer than they think to advancing if given some help and a good board.