The Essential Guide to Owning a Stand Up Paddle Board

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Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) has become a popular way to play on the water.  It's fun, relaxing, affordable - and, oh yeah - it's a fantastic full-body workout.  SUP rental companies are popping up everywhere, which makes the sport more accessible.  The inflatable paddle board market is booming, making paddle board ownership a possibility to nearly everyone. Interested in owning a paddle board, but don’t know where to start?  Here is your essential guide to make owning a paddle board a reality!

1. Rent a Paddle Board

If you’ve never tried SUP, rent a paddle board and get on the water before you buy a board. Although inflatable paddle boards are very affordable, it’s still an investment and you want to make sure you enjoy the sport. When you rent a stand up paddle board, the company typically provides everything you need:  paddle board, leash, personal flotation device (PFD), and a 5 minute orientation to paddle boarding including stroke tips and the boundaries of the paddle area.  All you need to bring is sunscreen and a sense of adventure.  I like to bring my own PFD because I know where mine has been! 

Most rental companies will have a stock of hard boards to use.  If you want to try an inflatable paddle board, search for inflatable rentals in your area.  I've only seen inflatable paddle board rentals in certain areas of the country like Denver, but check out what's available near you.

2. Buying a Stand Up Paddle Board

So, you've rented some paddle boards and decided you love SUP and might want to own a board.  There are several things to think about before buying your own board.

  • Hard Board - In order to own a hard board, you will need space to store it and a way to transport the board to water.  Hard boards can be heavy for weaklings like myself!  If you own a boat or live right on the water, a hard board could be an option for you.  Some rental companies will offer board storage at their location for a fee, too.

  • Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board - An inflatable paddle board is a great option for those of us that don't have boats or beach houses!  You can store your inflatable paddle board in a closet and it easily fits in the trunk of your car.  It's also a bit easier to transport.  Mine weighs about 30lbs when rolled up in the backpack with a pump and paddle in the bag.

  • Size of the Paddle Board - Whether you are choosing a hard board or an inflatable, you want to make sure you choose the correct volume and measurements.  Check the max weight for either board and account not only for your own weight, but anything you want to add to the board - coolers, pets, another person, dry bags, etc.  

  • Quality - Make sure you buy military grade PVC if you choose an inflatable board.  Don't try to save a few dollars and sacrifice quality.  You don't want to spring a leak in the middle of the water!  If you buy a hard board, find a fiberglass wrapped board with an EPS foam core.

  • This extensive article from REI is a great resource when considering a stand up paddle board purchase. 

3. Inflatable Paddle Board Packages

If you buy an inflatable paddle board, I recommend buying a package that includes all the necessary accessories.  Most packages will include a high pressure SUP pump, removable center fin, roll-up strap and a paddle.  My Tower iSUP is a great choice!  There are different pumps and paddles available, but the standard package is a good place to start for beginners. 

4. Paddle

If you only buy a board and not a package, you will need to buy a paddle.  You can begin with a standard, lower cost paddle, but I highly recommend a carbon fiber paddle - it will change your life.  The light weight of a carbon fiber paddle will help with paddle fatigue and glides through the water.  If you plan to travel with your paddle or transport it inside your backpack, try this three piece paddle from iGK - this also happens to be my paddle and I absolutely love it.  

5. Leash

A leash is important, especially for beginners.  The leash will prevent losing your board if you fall in the water and can provide an extra layer of safety in rough waters.  You will always be tethered to your board and can use it as a flotation device - in addition to your PFD. 

6. Backpack

If you buy an inflatable paddle board, you will need to buy a backpack for transportation.  You will see pictures of people carrying a rolled up paddle board under their arm on some of the paddle board company websites, but I'm here to tell you - buy a backpack!  I'm able to fit my inflatable paddle board, personal flotation device, anchor, paddle, towel, and leash in my backpack.  It's nice to have everything in one place not to mention you can check your backpack on an airplane if you decide to travel with your iSUP!

7. Personal Flotation Device

This is required and it's just smart - buy a personal flotation device!  You'll find many options on Amazon, but I love my life belt.  It's not as restrictive as a traditional life vest and won't interfere with your tan lines!

8. Dry Bag

A dry bag is highly recommended for any valuables, water, and snacks.  If you rent a paddle board, you might be able to leave your valuables with the rental company, but if you are taking your own board on the water, you need a dry bag.  Dry bags come in all different sizes and colors, but I love my Earth Pak bag.  I can fit several bottle of water, my valuables, snacks and still have plenty of room left in this bag.

Once you buy a stand up paddle board, there are all kinds of accessories that can be added, but these are the essentials necessary to get you on the water!  The freedom of owning a board allows you to venture outside boundaries and really explore some pretty amazing areas.  If you follow my blog at all, you already know what I recommend!