Here’s some general information on the sport, which we hope you’ll find of interest and use.
If you’re new to the sport, you may well be wondering what it’s all about, and why on earth it has become so popular! Read our ‘why paddleboarding‘ section to find out, and hopefully it’ll encourage you to have a go.
The health and fitness benefits of paddleboarding are certainly one of the main reasons the sport has become so popular. Read more about them here…
If you’re looking to buy a board then the choice of options available can seem more than a little bewildering, and unfortunately, the truth is that it really is all too easy to end up with something completely wrong for your requirements. Read our intro to buying your first board for some pointers and impartial advice…
And finally, if you’ve got a boat (launch or yacht), then you really should be in the market for a paddleboard, if you don’t have one already! Read all about it here…
Twenty years ago it wasn’t even on the map, but now there are millions of stand-up paddlers worldwide, hundreds of different brands, and the sport’s growth is still accelerating as the sport finds ever more niches and areas to colonise. This sheer versatility is the fundamental reason why the sport is not just some passing fad. SUP is here to stay!
Some paddleboarders race, others surf, some go exploring, some fish from their board, some use it for fitness, while for others it’s simply a convenient second tender for the boat. Some like to paddle long distance, or ride rivers and white water, some like to do tricks. Some go paddling to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, while for others it’s very much a social thing; a way of meeting up and doing stuff with other like-minded people. And for many, it’s simply a brilliant bach and beach toy for the family in the summer…
Paddle-boarding can be all those things – yet it offers an extra dimension too. The physical health benefits are now well documented – more about those on the next page. But it’s also good for your head. There’s something hypnotically pleasant about paddleboarding. You’re higher off the water because you’re standing up, so you have a much better view all round. Especially downwards, it’s great for seeing fish and the sea floor if you’re in clear shallow water, or just gazing at the patterns and sparkles of the ripples on the surface. Just enjoying the sensation of gliding over the water, and the hypnotic, mesmeric rhythm of the water passing under the nose of the board.
Whatever avenues you choose to explore with the sport, the satisfaction factor never goes away. Better still, it’s easy. If you can stand up, then you can stand up paddleboard. It’s more like learning to ride a bike than learning to surf – once you’ve stood up for the first time, you’ve got it. Be you young, old, tall, short, 20kg or 120kg, in perfect shape or in need of a low-impact yet stimulating form of exercise to get you back into good health, it’s just a case of finding the right paddleboard for your requirements. Northland Paddleboarding can equip you with everything you need to get into this great sport.
New Zealand is blessed with more miles of coastline than
mainland USA, and some incredible inland waters to explore too. Paddleboards are the perfect craft for making the most of it all. Get out there and give it a go – you won’t regret it. Indeed, it may even change your life!
Paddleboarding and Health
The extraordinary health and fitness benefits of SUP have been a primary driver of the sport’s incredible growth. It has become an essential cross-training tool alongside running, swimming and cycling for athletes from a wide variety of disciplines, thanks to its core strengthening and balance training benefits.
There are also an increasing number of referrals from doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors etc, who are delighted to be able to recommend a low-impact activity that really targets that all-important core area, as so many back problems are a direct result of (or exarcerbated by) weak core strength.
However, what has also been catching the attention of the weight-conscious public are the extremely high calorie burn rates. At its most extreme, ie when paddling flat out, you can be burning up to 1000 calories/hr, (compare to running, where you’ll be lucky to get 600 calories/hr). Even sedentary paddling still burns calories at the same rate as a good hike. So here’s an easy outdoor sport that can be done socially, or competitively for those who like the extra adrenalin rush, feels good, and burns a bunch of calories too! What’s not to like?
But there’s also the sheer feelgood factor. Even if it’s just a gentle cruise around the lake or harbour, you feel good after a paddleboard session in a way that very few other sports can offer, despite what seems like relatively low levels of actual effort and adrenalin rush. Because your core muscles are having to work ontinuously while you’re paddle-boarding (and balance is actually a very complicated neuro-muscular function so there are a lot of synapses firing), this triggers extra endorphins; those feel-good chemicals for the brain.
Understanding the board market
With many hundreds (indeed probably thousands) of stand up paddleboard brands and designs out there to choose from, how on earth can you possibly work out what is right for you? Fortunately, it’s actually quite easy to know how a board will perform, and which type of board(s) you should be considering for your own use, once you understand how to interpret the board dimensions and the plan shape, so that’s what we’ll try and help you with now.
Of the various dimensions that typically get listed in a board’s description, the two most important ones are length and width. From these two numbers you can pretty much instantly understand what a board does and what weight/ability of rider it is for. So let’s start by unpacking these.
The length of a SUP board determines what it does. Shorter boards are more manouevrable, while longer boards have more straight line speed and glide. It really is as simple as that. There is nothing else you can automatically infer from the length measurement – in particular it most certainly does NOT determine stability (ie you cannot assume that a longer board is automatically more stable), or weight carrying ability.
So we can very easily group boards by length. Any SUP much less than 10’ long is primarily about manouevring. It wants to turn. You can spin these shorter boards through 90 degrees with a single paddle stroke. So, pretty much every board this size is designed for SUP surfing. They’re not good for much else as they are slow and painful to paddle in a straight line because they always want to turn.
At the other end of the scale, anything much longer than 12’ is really all about straight line paddling; speed and directional stability. So, not surprisingly, this is where we find the boards designed for racing and long distance cruising.
Everything in between, ie from 10’ to 12’ or thereabouts, is essentially an all-rounder; still short enough to be relatively easy to turn, but with enough straight line performance to be perfectly OK to paddle across the lake, up the harbour or whatever.
So already we’ve got a lot more clarity on the picture. If you’re not after a specialist wave board or race/touring board, then you can pretty much ignore everything shorter than 10’ or longer than 12’.
This number determines who the board is for. The width of a SUP board defines its stability, and weight-carrying ability. If you have two boards of essentially the same plan shape, the wider one will always be more stable and able to carry more weight. An inch or two difference in width can make an astonishingly large difference in stability. This is why the entire spectrum of all-rounder SUPs tend to span just a few inches in width; maybe 29” to 36”, with the vast majority being in the 31-34” bracket. It might not seem like a big difference, but a 34” wide board may be comfortable for almost twice as heavy a rider as the 31” board!
So if you’re looking for maximum stability and/or weight carrying ability, then look at the wider designs. If you’re light, go narrower. Don’t buy a board wider than you need – it will quickly begin to feel like an aircraft carrier; ponderous and dull. (This is why it makes such good sense to have some lessons at a proper paddleboarding school before you buy a board, so that you can be through that initial stage of the learning curve when you need extra stability, before you buy.)
As your technical proficiency and paddling skills improve, you can move further towards narrower boards, which will pretty much always be faster, due to less drag. They are also easier to paddle properly, as you can maintain a more vertical paddle shaft on a narrower board. This is why race boards inhabit very different realms of the width spectrum; the most radical now coming in at less than 20” wide! But these are extremely specialist machines. Your typical club racer is more likely to be on something around 23-25” wide – and will for sure still be finding that technically challenging, particularly in any sort of bumpy conditions.
How to choose: Most all-round boards are between 30-34″ in width. 30-32″ is fine for riders up to about 90kg. Over 90kg, look for something at least 32″, and riders over 110kg should choose either a very high volume 32” board, or something of 34”+ in width. Youngsters (and adults under 60kg) will be OK with a 30″ board, but will get more out of a board with less width if they can find something appropriate.
So the board’s length tells us what it does, and the width tells us who it is for. The third important parameter is plan shape. This tells us about the feel of the board, and where it sits within its general length grouping.
You don’t need a highly trained eye to spot that some boards have more pointed noses than others, and some have narrow tails while others have wider, ‘square’ tails. These differences affect stability and glide, and thus play a major part in determining the feel of the board. It’s actually pretty logical – a pointed nose makes for a more directional board. It’s less stable than a rounded nose, but significantly faster. A square tail increases the stability and weight carrying capability. It slightly decreases speed but the stability gains more than make up for this. Consequently, manufacturers often use a square tail in conjunction with a narrower plan shape, because the square tail helps make up for the loss of stability caused by the reduced width.
So the plan shape does have a big impact on the feel of a board. However, plan shape variations are secondary to length in determining the orientation of a board. Any board of 8’ long is almost certainly a wave board, but a square tail 8’ board will perform differently to a narrow (pin) tail 8’ board, and the differences will be meaningful to the experienced surfer and determine which surf conditions the board works best in. Likewise, any board of 14’ is still essentially a race board, but the tail and nose shape determine which conditions it will be best suited to.
Choosing Your First Board
Hopefully you now feel a bit better equipped to consider that first purchase! Unfortunately there is no exact formula for getting the right board, and sadly there is also a lot of rubbish on the market – it is all too easy to end up with something entirely unsuitable for your requirements, or something that looks like a bargain but falls apart after a season. At Northland Paddleboarding we take great pride in knowing the market inside out, and being able to match our clients up with the very best equipment for their requirements. We have accounts with all the major brands, and can offer impartial and expert advice. We can also arrange demo sessions so you can try before you buy. Please feel free to contact us and discuss your requirements (ideally, what we’d like best of all is to do it while on the water, as then we can really see exactly what you need).
Paddleboards and Boats
Stand up paddleboards make a perfect second (or even first!) tender for a boat. Rather than having to drag heavy kayaks on board, paddleboards take up much less space, are much lighter, and generally much more fun. Get to your anchorage, chuck the hook down, chuck the paddleboard(s) over the side, and off you go!
- The perfect craft for trips ashore, around the anchorage or marina
- The big flat deck platform of a paddleboard is ideal for ferrying supplies, jerrycans etc to/from shore.
- Ideal for exploring and exercise while you’re staying on your boat.
- Great as a working platform for painting/hull maintenance
This is one area where inflatable paddleboards absolutely dominate – it’d be daft to choose anything else.
- Light and easy to get back on board
- Won’t damage the paintwork or varnish
- Easy to store when on passage – just deflate it and stick it in a locker
- No rub or bang-bang-bang when tied up alongside
If you’re buying a paddleboard for your boat, here are a few pointers:
- Make sure it has a good towing/fixing point on the bow and stern, for tying up to your boat, towing astern, and/or for lashing the board to stanchions/cleats when you’re transporting it on deck.
- Make sure it’s UV-proof and can cope with being left out in the sun
- Choose one with plenty of cargo fixing points, for runs ashore etc
- Boards with permanently-fixed fins rather than removable fins are better suited to boat work. They can be run up on the beach with no damage, there are less bits to lose, and it’s one less hard bit to catch your ankles on or damage the paintwork when the board is on deck.
The Northland Paddleboarding crew have huge experience of using paddleboards on boats, and will be happy to advise on all aspects of choosing the right paddleboard etc. We recommend and use the Red Paddle Co inflatable paddleboard range for this purpose, they are already the board of choice for thousands of NZ boat owners, and well proven. They fulfil all the requirements listed above, and due to their patented manufacturing technology offer significantly more performance than any other inflatable brand, so there is absolutely no compromise over buying a ‘solid’ board.