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SUP Buying Guide – Supercharge Your Summer!

We get it. There are a lot of choices for Stand Up Paddle boards out there – So how do you get the best deal on a SUP for this season? Want to know which brands to look for? Where to buy from? Or what difference board styles makes? This is the in-depth article for you!

Origins of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddle boarding can be traced back thousands of years. Being such a easy and reliable mode of transportation with no moving parts, it’s not out of the question that ancient civilisations used primitive boards to get around on waterways. Modern paddle boarding was first popularised in Hawaii in the mid 20th century alongside the surf boom. Instructors would often paddle out into the water and stand on their boards to get a better look at their students forms, as well as to keep an eye on conditions to ensure safety for all. SUP has since grown in popularity to become a watersports category all of its own, with sub-genres for surfing, touring, racing, yoga, and fishing.

Types of SUP

SUPs now come in all shapes and sizes, with boards varying in size, shape, and materials. The boards that we sell here at West End Outdoors are all either hard boards, or inflatables. Hard boards give the advantage of being the stiffest boards available, meaning that they can sit higher on the water to provide less surface friction and therefor faster travel. Hard boards, however, are now very much of the minority in the stock that we sell, as Inflatable SUPs have taken over the market. Inflatable boards give the advantage of being able to fold away into a storage bag that can be carried on your back or that can fit easily within the boot of a car. While they don’t quite have the rigidity of a traditional hard board, the technology that goes in to them has advanced to such a level that for almost all SUPers, inflatable boards are more than capable and the best choice.

Most SUPs come in one of four body styles – Surf, All-Round, Touring, or Race.

Surf SUPs can often attach a windsurf sail to become dual purpose as a Wind-surfing board. While not as popular as All-Round or Touring body styles, surf boards can be a good choice for those not so sure of their balance, who want an easy board to learn how to stand up on the water – but bear in mind that their wider shape provides a slower speed on the water, with more effort required from the rider to paddle the same distance. Surf SUPs are usually under 10ft in length and 35in+ in width to provide a short but wide and stable shape.

All-round and Touring boards are by far the most popular choice for those looking for a board which offers both stability and speed on the water. Touring boards tend to be faster but slightly less stable, and All-Round boards are slightly slower on the water, but more stable to ride. All-Round and Touring boards also tend to overlap in size with All-Rounders sitting between 10-11ft in length, with a width of around 32-36in, and Tourers being 11-12ft in length, with a width of 30-34in in width. Another way to tell apart an All-Round board from a Tourer is that Tourers often have a pointed front end which helps cut through the water with more speed.

Finally, race boards are incredibly narrow to help cut through the water as fast as possible, requiring the rider to be very stable footed and able to balance on the board. As with Surf SUPs, racing style boards are not as popular as All-Rounder or Touring boards, but still offer an experience that no other board style can match. Race boards are usually the longest and narrowest boards we sell, with a length of 12ft+ and a width of around 25in.

We often get asked what size of board you should buy, based on your height and weight. This is an important consideration for all SUP purchases, but can often be misunderstood. All boards will have a weight rating (95kg, 150kg etc.) they are capable of carrying safely, and it is very important that you take this into account when purchasing your new SUP if you are larger built, or are looking to take out any children, pets, or large amounts of equipment with you when you’re out on the water. In terms of height of the rider, however, it is very much more personal preference which board style you choose, with anyone from a child to a full grown adult being able to ride almost any length of board.

Brands we stock

Here at West End Outdoors we only stock boards that we would be happy to own ourselves. At the moment this includes brands like Jobe, Fanatic, Typhoon, Shark, and many more. We are a small but committed team with a passion for the outdoors, and a true love for getting out on the water. We have a wealth of knowledge on offer and a physical storefront for you to come and visit if you’re in Glasgow to see what the boards are like like up close and personal. Along with West End Outdoors, our parent company West End Adventure offers tasters and tuition on the water to get you up to speed on all aspects of SUPing before or after your purchase!

The board packages we stock at West End Outdoors range in price starting from around £400 and going all the way up to £2500. This starting price holds a nice balance in affordability, and technology – as we wouldn’t want to stock anything that does not meet our standards! Boards below this price range often are build with compromises that we don’t feel make for a safe experience on the water. We are firm believers in buying and using quality equipment as it can and does save lives!

Most modern Inflatable Paddle Boards use some form of drop-string technology. This consists of thousands of thin nylon strings that run from the top to the bottom of the board which, when inflated, pull against one another creating a super strong and rigid platform. This is what makes modern inflatable paddle boards far better than than early models, and puts them almost in line with the rigidity of a traditional solid board. Add on top the convenience of being able to fold the board down into the size of a backpack for transport, and they are by far the more popular choice.

Taking a look at the diagram above of the Jobe Yarra 10’6″ Board, we can see this drop-string (Jobe X-Stiching) in practice. The Yarra is part of Jobes Premium Aero Series, and so also employs a 2 PVC layers to create a double layered body for added strength and durability, as well as a really good quality deckpad to give you maximum grip and control over the board on the water. Jobes Premium Aero series also implements a double stringer, which is a further PVC layer laid in a strip along both the top and the bottom of the board that tightens when inflated creating additional stability than already offered by the X-Stitching.

SUP Boards on the cutting edge of tech are now beginning to employ electric motors to help carry you along the water faster and with less effort than ever before. Jobe’s E-Duna leads the market with its drive unit also being able to operate as a pump to self inflate the board before use. This technology gets more advanced each year, and at West End Outdoors, we can’t wait to see what comes out next!

What else do you need?

Most of the SUPs we sell come as a package. This usually includes the board itself, a paddle, a waterproof bag, a pump, a leash, and a repair kit. This is a great starting point as it will give you all the necessary gear to get paddling, however we do also suggest looking into some extras.

This included Buoyancy Aids, which are a safety essential on the water, providing you with extra piece of mind should the worst happen, and Wetsuits to keep you warm when the weather is not playing ball (which, being based in Scotland, as you can imagine is quite often!)

You may also wish to buy a larger, faster pump for your SUP, or invest in an electric pump to conserve all your energy for when you’re out on the water!

How to look after your SUP

SUPs are a big investment for anyone, so looking after them properly is a big priority. We recommended always following a few key steps to make sure your SUP stays as impressive as the day it was purchased.

  1. Rinse off your SUP with fresh water after use – you can use a bucket or a hose for this, but we find a hose to be the most effective at getting any marks off the board! (We find boards are easier to clean while inflated)
  2. Wash with warm water and dish soap to get any stubborn stains or marks off – but do be aware to not use any abrasive cleaners on the sup, as they will wear off any graphic elements and could affect the structure of the board.
  3. Make sure the board is completely dry before storing for long periods.

Why buy from West End Outdoors?

Having made it to the end of our buying guide and ready to buy your new paddle board you are stepping into an amazing and fast growing community of paddlers and retailers. We are a small family run business based in Glasgow, with years of experience on the water. We are passionate about paddle boarding and have lots of excellent talented and knowledgable staff working for us. We operate online and in person – and of course you can come down and visit us any time at our base in Unit 12C2, Anniesland Business Park, Glasgow, G13 1EU. If you need to get in touch with any queries or issues please don’t hesitate to contact us by either e-mailing, or by phone at 0330 133 4040.

West End Outdoors