So you want to buy a stand-up paddleboard?
The sport is one of the fastest growing in the world. And Americans are buying nearly 300,000 stand-up paddleboards a year, according to the Stand-Up Paddleboard Industry Association.
The Outdoor Foundation didn’t even include stand-up paddleboarding – or SUP, which migrated from Hawaii to California in 2004 — in its annual survey until 2010. About 1.2 million people tried the sport in 2011 alone.
“This activity, sport, it’s pretty addictive,” said Bill Cochrane, who owns Nalu Stand-up Paddle and Surf in Rocky River.
Why? Cochrane gives a few reasons.
- Almost anyone can do it: kids as young as 6 to senior citizens.
- It’s a total body workout.
- You can do it on nearly any body of water.
- You can do lots of stuff with it. Race, do yoga, surf, take your dog or kid for a ride, just be.
- “It’s as close to surfing as most people are going to get. And surfing’s sexy.”
“There are approximately 200 brands of stand-up paddleboards out there,” said Tyler Calloway, of the Industry Association. “It’s a really good time to get a good deal on a paddleboard.”
OK, now that you’re persuaded to actually buy a board, what should you look for? Do you buy a traditional hard board or an inflatable?
Inflatable paddleboards (ISUPs) are the fastest growing segment of the paddleboard industry. And they have little in common with a flimsy pool float. All blown up, you might not even realize the board is filled with air.
Good-quality inflatable boards are made of layers of heavy duty PVC, with a drop-stitch technology and a valve that allows you to blow up the board to extremely high air pressure. They are no cheaper than traditional fiberglass or composite boards, so expect to pay at least $700, unless you find a phenomenal deal.
What are the benefits of an inflatable?
Easier to store/travel with: You don’t have to have a roof rack on your car. You can just deflate your board and roll it into a backpack. And you can store it in a closet in the off season, no problem.
Sturdier: Hard to believe, but fiberglass boards can get dinged on docks and rocks. Experts say inflatables will generally bounce off, and are hard to get a hole in. You can fix punctures, though, if they do happen.
More comfortable: Inflatables can be a bit softer on your feet, especially for newbies who might fall, or people paddling long distances.
Better for dogs: Inflatables are less slippery, so your pup may sit better. Not sure about claws and punctures, though.
What are the drawbacks?
Slower: No matter how much you blow up the paddleboard, it still won’t be as rigid or sleek as a hardboard, so you’ll have more drag. You likely won’t win races.
Less responsive to turns: This means harder to surf.
Harder to track: In stand-up paddleboarding, you paddle on one side and then switch, left or right. Some experts say inflatables are harder to steer in a straight line.
As for me, as a novice without a roof rack, easier-to-travel beats out everything else. What do you think? Email me at [email protected]