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.

  1. Almost anyone can do it: kids as young as 6 to senior citizens.
  2. It’s a total body workout.
  3. You can do it on nearly any body of water.
  4. You can do lots of stuff with it. Race, do yoga, surf, take your dog or kid for a ride, just be.
  5. “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]