|Inflatable SUP Guide - Beginner's guide for inflatable SUP boards|
SUP is short for Stand Up Paddle, it is one of the fastest growing watersports in the world. SUP is a versatile sport with many minor variations, which makes it an activity for everyone. SUP boards are longer and wider with more buoyancy than traditional surfboards and windsurf boards, making the balancing easier as well as more comfortable.
The latest trend is the inflatable SUP boards, which is a lot more versatile and neat type of a SUP. This SUP type makes it possible to transport and keep around without a car or much storaging space at hand. Furthermore, the inflatable SUP boards are far more durable and can take hits without damaging in form of scratches or bumps. Inflatable SUP boards pretty much has the same sailing attributes as the traditional hard SUP boards, and with new production methods they have improved so much they now appeal to far more than the hard SUP boards.
When buying an inflatable SUP board, it is important to know which SUP suits you and your needs best.
SUP boards comes in various shapes and sizes, and each applies for something differently. Some are made to handle waves, others are best for still waters while another does both fairly well.
Down below we have gathered the information we find necessary in order for you to choose the right SUP suitable for your needs.
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Volume is the indicator that tells of how much buoyancy an inflatable SUP got. If you're on the heavier side of surfers you will need a SUP with more buoyancy, while as a surfer on the lighter side you will not need much. An inflatable SUP with a high volume is less manoeuvrable than an inflatable SUP with a low volume. It is therefore important that you choose an inflatable SUP with just the volume suitable for your weight.
The table down below gives an idea of how much volume the SUP for you requires.
Although, keep in mind that this is only guiding and we know that volume varies and depends on sailing style.
It is important you pick the right shape for your inflatable SUP. To best do this, you have to decide upon whether you want to use your SUP for waves, still water, whether it should be easy to use for beginners, for sailing at a faster pace or a SUP for the entire family to have joy of. These are but some of the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on a SUP.
That which is known as the "normal" SUP is also called an Allround SUP. An allround SUP is as the name implies, a SUP for just about everything within the sport. It is not a SUP speciallised in one particular field, but rather capable of all of it. It is a great pick for the beginner or for those after a SUP the whole family can use. An allround SUP is typically 9-12 feet long and 28-32 inches wide, and the sailers weight determines the required size. An allround SUP can be used for touring as well as simple play with medium sized waves. Therefore, this board applies for you who wants a board capable of a little of everything.
A Race SUP is a board designed for speed. The SUP has a narrow design, which due to less water resisstance provides more speed much faster. Therefore the race board is perfect for those who wants to go out on trips, both short and long, or wants to race with friends. The downside of a race SUP board, is that it does not lay as stabile on the water surface. This makes it harder to balance on, compared to an Allround SUP board. There exists two Race SUP categories defined by the internatioal competition standards, the first is called Battle of the Paddle. It is a special type of race where the cometitators sail out to round a wave, where after the one who returns to the beach first wins. For this race type the board is typically 12'6 feet long. The other category of the two race types is the SUP Race, the SUP boards are often 14 feet long for this one. This type of a race SUP is fast and direction stabile, which means you can paddle more times on either sides of the board without the SUP board changing direction. Race SUP's are usually between 22 and 28 inches wide, and the narrower they are the faster they sail, however this also makes them less stabile.
The modern choise is a mix between an allround SUP and a Race SUP, and this type of SUP is called a Touring SUP. A touring SUP has a narrow design at the tip, this makes it easy to aquire speed fast, whereas the area where one stands is much wider, making it easy to balance on, a lot more compared to the Race SUP. Touring SUP boards derives from the race SUP category Paddle of the Battle, which demands a fast SUP with great stability. A touring SUP is best suited for you who wants to go on long trips on still water, on open sea or everything between that. Touring SUP boards are for just about everyone, gives the effective gliding on water and demands almost no strength to get up in pace.
Within a category of itself is the inflatable Wave SUP boards. Wave SUP boards are known for being very short, very manoeuvrable and very rigid. Wave SUP boards is therefore perfectly suited for waves, but can also be used on still water, and quite well due to their ease when it comes to control. This is also why they are great for shorter people or children.
There is a lot of sizes for inflatable SUP boards. The size of the SUP boards is measured in feet, and typically follows the volume. It is therefore important, when picking a SUP, to choose one with the right volume. The size is not as important to have in mind when looking for a SUP board. By simply finding the right shape for you, as well as the proper volume, the size of the board usually will fit you too. Most SUP's for women has a size of 10'0 to 10'6 and most SUP's for men has a size of 10'6 to 11'6. Racing SUP boards are however typically above 12'6, since they got a more narrow design than a typical allround SUP. A wave SUP would often be much smaller with a size of about 8'0.
Choosing the right paddle is just as important as picking the right board. Paddles for SUP's are usually made of aluminium, which oftenly is standard equipment for a SUP package. Should you want a lighter and more rigid paddle, one made of carbon would be better suited for you. SUP paddles made of carbon are far more rigid and lighter, which makes them effecient in water. This means that you will not need as much strength to sail at the same speed. Carbon paddles are however a bit more expensive than paddles made of aluminium, which is why a lot of manufactuers choose to make paddles of both carbon and aluminium. To get the best of both worlds.
There is a lot of sizes when it comes to paddles, both in length of the shaft, but also the size of the blade at the end of the paddle. As many sizes as there is, there is equally as many opinions as for how big or small a paddle or blade should be. Like there is various types of SUP boards, there is too, various paddles which goes best for particular areas within the sport. A rule of thumb is that the faster acceleration you want, the smaller the blade should be, though should you want a higher topspeed the blade of the paddle needs to be larger. The weight of the surfer also plays an important role, the more you weight the larger a blade you want. A small blade is usually 80-90 in2, a normal blade for allround SUP's lies between 90-100 in2 and a big blade is between 100-155 in2. If in doubt on what to go for, we recommend to start off with a normal blade within the allround class, and here after decide whether you need a larger or smaller blade.
Most importantly, is it to decide upon the correct length of the paddle. Again, it also depends of what you intend to use it for, which sports and so on, but you can almost always count in that for an allround SUP and a wave SUP, the length should be 15-20cm higher than yourself. And for race and touring the length of the paddle should be around 40-50cm. Another way to find the proper length for your paddle, is by standing up straight and waving your arms 90 degrees forward. The place where your hand hangs out from your body, that is length your paddle should be (for allround SUP). If in doubt, we recommend buying an adjustable paddle and after finding your preferable length you upgrade to a paddle with a fixed length.
The advantage of adjustable paddles is they go well with just about everything within the sport and can be used by more people, be it friends or family. The advantage of paddles with a fixed lengths is that they are more rigid and lighter, making them much more effective.
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When you want to paddle on your SUP, it is always important to wear the proper outfit. Your muscles must always be kept warm, and as a beginner you are likely to fall into the water a lot, it is therefore a very good idea to wear a wetsuit. Keep in mind that this wetsuit should be flexible, so you have no trouble moving around freely. Another thing, keep up with the weather before heading out into the water with your SUP board. During Summer, we recommend that you use a 2-3mm wetsuit with either short or long arms and legs, and during Winter you will need a 5mm wetsuit to keep you warm. If you have moved on from your beginner stage, and are not falling as often into the water anymore, you can go with a thinner wetsuit. Alternatively, you could use a rashguard, which is a thin T-shirt/lycra that protects you from the wind and the sun. If doing yoga on your SUP, we recommend that you wear your usual yoga outfit.
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When buying an inflatable SUP, a pump, a reperations kit and sometimes a paddle is included. Besides these, there is quite a lot of extra accessories for SUP's, one would find practical to have. We have made a list with all the accessories you could find necessary when out paddling on your SUP:
Inflatable SUP boards are produced with layers of PVC plastic with woven fibers which goes vertically from the deck and through the cavity, making the board parallel, and completely rigid and extremly resisstant. This technology is called drop stitch. Some inflatable SUP boards are made of one layer of PVC plastic, others with two. The advantage with only one is the low weigth achieved, and the advantage of having two layers is more rigidness and improved durabillity for taking hits or damage. Furthermore, having the decks covered, on most SUP boards, with EVA foam padding, provides a comfier and less slippery surface.
The illustration down below shows the construction of a one PVC layer SUP.
The illustration down below shows the construction of a doubled PVC layer SUP.
After you have bought your first inflatable SUP, it can be a bit tough to get the hang of paddleboarding. But down here you can follow a step by step on how to use it, making the first times a lot easier:
Step 1: At the start and end
Place the inflatable SUP in knee deep water, and sit in middle of the SUP board on your knees. When on your knees, grab your paddle and paddle out onto deeper waters, where you, should you fall off, will not hit the bottom. If uncertain, and have not yet gotten your balance on the board, stay seated on your knees till you are confident enough to take on the next step.
Step 2: Stand up
After you have found your balance it is time to stand up. The easiest way to do so, is to place the paddle across the SUP board and support yourself to this with your hands while getting up. It is important, to have placed yourself in the center of the board with a foot on each side of the handle, to easier keep your balance. The feet needs to be placed at shoulder width and your knees to be fixed. Find a point in the horizon and keep an eye on this. Take your paddle in your hand, one hand on the t-handle and the other on the shaft of your paddle.
Step 3: First meters
Now you are in position to row your first meters on your new inflatable SUP board. Place the SUP paddle on the water surface and push it through the water, following next to your board. Repeat 1-2 times and switch side. When switching side, also change placement of your hands. Looking good already, rowing down the stream.
Step 4: Time to turnaround
You are at the end of the world and wish to return home. To do so, push the water towards the end on one side and towards the tip on the other, the further out your movements are, the faster you turn. As you improve you can experiment a bit with standing on the end of your inflatable SUP board, while simutaneously turning around normally, and by that turn around faster.
Step 5: In case of an emergency
Should you end out on waters too deep, figuratively, the best you can do is to lie down on your board with the paddle under your chest, then use your hands to row to the safest coast neatby. If unable to do so, the best to is to call out for help while remaining calm. Do not swim away from your inflatable SUP board.