How to choose your inflatable SUP board?
How to choose your inflatable SUP?
Still as trendy as ever, paddle is the water sport that has become the most popular in the last 5 years. Choosing the right inflatable paddle can seem a complex task for a beginner. The number of brands, models and price ranges available may seem confusing. Luckily the SUP Lines Team is there, with 8 years of experience, we know the beginnings of the inflatable. There are some tips to refine your search and find the ideal board for you.There are many questions to ask yourself before choosing an inflatable SUP.
What is my current level of Stand-Up Paddle?
To answer this question, we will not differentiate between inflatable paddle and rigid paddle. Here you should be self-critical and judge your level of paddle by yourself. If you have never practiced a sliding sport, the factor to take into account will be the volume of the board (which will be more important). If you already practice board sports such as Kite, Surf, Snowboard or even Skate, you can opt for a volume more in relation to your morphology (height + weight) because yes, the volume is related above all to your body mass.
If you already have some experience in SUP or Surfing and you are stable on a board with good take-off control, you can opt for a board with a slightly smaller volume than the "standard".
The different levels should be named like this:
Beginner: Never practiced any board sports,
Novice : Some experiences of sliding (in rental for example),
In progress: Mastering the basics of the practice,
Intermediate: Acquired basics and some proven techniques,
Confirmed: The SUP doesn't hold much secret for you anymore,
Expert: You're like a Polynesian King on your paddle, unsinkable.
No need to lie to yourself, be fair and accurate about your past experiences and feelings, you will come out a winner. Once your level has been screened, we will talk about the different disciplines that exist in paddle, because each paddle has its own specificities.
What type of SUP board for what use?
There are a total of 5 shapes of inflatable paddle (same for the rigid one). Each of these shapes corresponds to a specific use for technical reasons that you must absolutely understand:
A longer board will glide better than a shorter board,
A narrower board will be faster (but less stable) than a wider board,
Wider boards at the tail will be more stable than narrower boards,
Boards with a narrow tail will turn faster during surfing maneuvers,
Boards with a sharper nose (the tip of the board) will glide better on the water than a board with a rounded nose,
Boards with a wider nose will lose speed when sailing but will have a better wave grip.
Repeat these notions in your head several times and you will see that it will be easy to apply these technical rules to your needs.
Inflatable surf paddle: It's a short, wide board. This shape allows you to handle the board easily (length) and to catch waves with ease (width). It is designed for surfers who mainly want to catch waves. You will notice that the nose is rounded to facilitate wave catching (but you already know this because you read this guide carefully, don't you?).
An inflatable all-round paddle: This is a versatile board halfway between surfing and riding. Concretely the length is more important to improve the performance in navigation. The width is still important enough to ensure surfing on small waves. This versatile format allows for use on rough or flat water.
An inflatable paddle for riding: The perfect shape for riding in lakes, ponds and the sea. Long and wide, the board is designed to be comfortable and "fit" for easy water penetration. Perfect for lakes, ponds and the sea.
An inflatable touring paddle: This is a board halfway between a ride and a race. In other words, this shape is designed for riders who want to ride with ease while still being able to reach a very interesting paddling speed. Here the narrow nose and the long length of the board allows a glide higher than a SUP touring board. Perfect for lakes and rivers, this format remains efficient in a calm sea.
A raceing inflatable paddle : Race is the discipline of speed in Stand-Up Paddle. The goal is to go fast. The board is the longest and narrowest on the SUP market in order to reach high speeds. This configuration does not favor stability which makes it the least relevant board for beginners. Can only be used on the flat (calm, flat water).
How do I choose the size of my inflatable paddle?
This is the most important element before choosing your paddle. Many "supers" are disgusted with the paddle because of a wrong choice of size/volume/thickness. Here the element to take into account is your morphology (the famous subject that annoys). Depending on your height and especially your weight, you will have to choose a board with an adapted volume and thickness. Don't worry, in 99% of the cases, the brand communicates the maximum weight of the rider per board size. You will then just have to dose according to your level (the higher your level is, the more you can reduce the volume to its minimum).
In general, larger paddlers should paddle larger boards, but it depends a lot on the individual's skills, discipline (ride, race or waves) and preferences. While there are many nuances in the shape and size of boards, here are some general principles that everyone agrees on to help you understand how the size and shape of a board affects the sailing experience:
Thicker SUPs carry more weight than thinner sups, but the board will be less maneuverable and take longer to inflate,
Thinner boards are more stable than thicker boards when they support the right amount of weight,
Wider boards are more stable but slower,
Narrower boards are faster but less stable.
What technologies are important for an inflatable SUP?
To date, there are many technologies related to the practice. Sometimes a real revolution, sometimes a slight improvement (and sometimes just a name change), you will have to find the useful and decisive features according to your projects and needs. Here are a few examples of modern technologies that ensure durability and performance in line with the latest generation of inflatable paddles:
Pads: A pad is a support where the rider can lean on in order to get a better grip on the board. This technology is not unique to the paddle world and is found in surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing. There are several types of pads, to date Eva pads are considered the most eye-catching (especially with the Crocodile and Diamond shapes).
The layers: Once upon a time, only one layer of rail was present on the inflatable paddles. This technique did not allow the paddles to hold up over time and avoid water infiltration. In 2020, the most qualitative boards will have 2 or even 3 layers of rails for the most expensive ones! The first layer guarantees watertightness, the second layer makes the rail even more and protects the rails from abrasion from the sun.
The Drop Stitch: This is THE important technology, the one that allows the inflatable to compete with traditional boards. Drop Stich is a material used in the construction of modern inflatable paddles. Originally used to make rescue boats, it is a material made of vertical wires that hold the deck surfaces to the hull. This is what today allows the boards to couple PVC and Drop Stitch in order to withstand very high pressures and to benefit from an incomparable rigidity for inflatables.
PVC and idealy Drop Stitch are the key to a rigid, fast and durable inflatable paddle.
As innovation in the field is constant, there will be more innovations in the coming years to further reduce the difference in performance between rigid and inflatable.