About Stand Up Paddling and Stand Up Paddle Boards

Tips for getting into standup paddle boarding.

Whenever I teach someone to standup paddle, I always give them the tip that if you can stand, you can standup paddle. A lot of it is being relaxed, and if you get the right equipment, everything is going to be very easy. Getting a wider board, at first, is going to definitely help out, something like our 10’6” Beachboy or 10’8” XXL, which have plenty of thickness and buoyancy for just about anybody. When you go out and paddle, your stability depends on the conditions, as well.

If you are going out in a flatwater harbor, which is probably the best place to learn, maybe go out with a friend or an experienced paddler so they can give you some tips and tricks, but also, be a lot safer. If you are going out in the surf, stay as far away from any other standup paddle surfers or regular surfers as you can, as you do not want to run into anybody and you want to obey surfline etiquette. If you are going to go down any rivers, I would highly recommend getting your skills honed on flat water first before you do any rapids, as one hard fall can ruin your day or career of standup paddling. More tips from the United States Coast Guard.

What is an inflatable standup paddleboard?

An inflatable standup paddleboard is any board that is full of air, rather than with a foam core. The ease of transport and the durability are just a few of the factors that lead to an inflatable standup paddleboard being the superior choice for those that want the rigidity of a hard board, but with the durability and ease of transport (of an inflatable).

The inflatable that we (C4 Waterman) make are made with a heavy duty drop stitch that gives it a rigidity and keeps the shape almost as well as a composite board.

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What’s the difference between an inflatable and composite standup paddleboard?

When it comes to standup paddleboards, it really depends on what your intended uses are and your way of getting the board around. Many people prefer the inflatables as they can fit in the trunk of a small car or carried on your back if you need to ride the subway. With a composite board, you will need a truck or something with racks to get it around.

The benefit (of composite) is a rigidity that gives you an unparalleled stiffness that you can feel on the water. Durability depends on the build (construction). If you get a heavy duty composite board, it can bounce off of rocks like an inflatable, but the inflatables with a double layer, like our Opae line, are as strong an inflatable as you are going to find.

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Standup Paddleboard versus Kayak.

Now, a lot of this depends on your definition of kayaking. If you are talking about sit-on-top kayaks in a harbor versus sea kayaking, it’s a very different game. With standup paddleboard, you are getting a full body workout when you do it. So if you are talking about recreation on a lake or a harbor, I think a standup paddleboard wins every time.

When you are talking about touring or sea kayaking, you can tour on a standup paddleboard, but you better have strong legs and good balance for the seventh or eighth hour out there. In a sea kayak, you have plenty of dry storage, plus, you can sit and rest (without having to sit on the wet board).

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Is standup paddle boarding difficult or hard?

A lot of what you are doing on the water plays into the level of difficulty. So if you are learning how to standup paddleboard, you are definitely going to want to do it in a calm lake or harbor with some instruction from a professional or a friend that has been doing it awhile. Another factor that plays into difficulty is what board you are on.

If you rent a waterlogged, narrow board from some company that has no idea what they are giving their customers, then it’s going to be pretty hard to learn, especially with a heavy paddle that might sink. If you go with a thirty two inch wide, eleven and a half feet long board, with a nice, fiberglass paddle that floats, you won’t have to worry about falling off and your board or paddle sinking, and you can have the confidence to go out and hone your skills.

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What kind of standup paddle do I need?

So when people are shopping for standup paddles, I always encourage them to get an adjustable as they’re first paddle. The reason being is that you are not quite sure what your proper length preference is and what your real passion in standup paddle boarding is, whether it be surfing, touring, racing, who knows.

So when you are going with your first adjustable, you want to make sure you go with a fiberglass. The reason being is that not only are modern fiberglass paddles light, like our hoe series, or adult adjustable two piece or three piece, but they also have the right impact strength that is much superior to carbon fiber. Although carbon fiber is stiffer and lighter, for a beginner, it is not necessary.

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What length and size standup paddle do I need?

When it comes to length and size of your paddle, there’s been debate since the beginning of standup paddling. As far as me and all the rest of the crew at C4 Waterman, we like our paddles eight to ten inches above our height. The reason being is that if you have your hand placement in the proper place, your blade will be submerged at the beginning of the catch without having to hinge at your hips and lift yourself back up on your return (with your already overworked lower back muscles).

As far as size of blade goes, you will hear tons of different things from square inches to width and the height, but what we have found is that a long, narrow blade, like our X-Wing or any other C4 Waterman paddle, with a proper dihedral, will feel good for just about any size paddler. Although you’ll see paddles as narrow as six inches now, if it doesn’t have a proper dihedral, you’ll still find it feathering and wandering on your stroke. What I personally use is an X-Wing Carbon for racing or even touring. For surfing and just cruising around, I use our eight inch wide, adult adjustable three piece or two piece, but if I’m doing rivers with rapids, I use our two piece adjustable Hoe.

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Top tips for beginners in standup paddle boarding.

The top tips I always tell people when I’m teaching them or just giving them advice is just relax, keep your knees bent, stand up straight and don’t forget to keep your feet about shoulders width apart, or whatever feels natural to you. When you are paddling, try and keep your top hand in front of your eyes or nose and keep those eyes on the horizon, don’t look down at your feet, because that’s where you might end up (if you look down at the water).

Another part of learning is to go out consistently, but don’t try and race. Slow down, learn how to paddle yourself, engage your core, rotate and preserve your shoulders (and lower back) for many hours, days and years of paddling. Here's an example of a great program to learn skills.

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What are some storage tips and transport tips for standup paddle boards?

So if you are going to get a rigid composite board, you will need to invest in a few things (for transport). First of all, you have to invest in a board. You have to also see what your car can take as far as rack systems go, you are going to need pads and straps. That is all to get it to and from home and the beach. Once you get home, you probably shouldn’t store it on your floor, as if it falls over, you do not want it banging on the other stuff in your garage. A good, hanging system, whether it’s vertical or horizontal, will work, so your board can air dry and be ready for your next trip.

So if you want to invest in that stuff, a rigid board is the way to go, but if storage is a trouble, and so is transport, you can get an inflatable standup paddleboard. The beauty of the inflatable standup paddleboard is that you can take it just about anywhere, because it’s stored in a backpack. They don’t count as overweight baggage (mostly), so you can check it on your airline for the same price as your regular duffle bag. We (C4 Waterman) now have wheels on our inflatable standup paddleboard bags, so that’s another benefit too; As long as you can roll, you can bring your board.

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What is the best standup paddle board for touring?

Now, “touring” really depends on your definition of it; whether you are doing a couple of hours or a couple of days, what you are loading on the board, etc. If you are going to be doing day trips, but don’t want to hassle with a fourteen foot board, we have the 10’10 and 10’11 Crossover available in inflatable and composite construction. These are great because they have the touring aspects of a semi rounded bottom and the necessary length and width to get you on the water with a nice glide.

If you want to go with a twelve foot six inch or fourteen foot board for touring, we have the 12’6” iTrekker, the 14’ Wai Nui and 12’6” and 14’ Malolo. The benefit of a twelve foot six or fourteen foot is the glide you are going to achieve, as well as the efficiency. Typically, touring boards are narrower because you are going to gain more stability in the length, so you can save on side to side (width) while still being able to handle a load for as much time as forty five days going around Lake Superior, or just a weekend in the Boundary Waters area, or similar lakes and rivers.

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What’s the best inflatable standup paddleboard for big people?

I would say a lot of it has to do with skill level and what you are going to be doing with it. If you are going to be going on flatwater, you can probably get away with a 10’8” XXL or even the 10’ XL, but when you are going to be doing any sort of turbulent water, you might want to step up to the 9’3” or 10’ Opae.

The reason being is when you have width and thickness combined to make for a very, buoyant board, it’s going to keep you up higher out of the water, but also, give you more fore and aft and side to side stability.

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What is the best inflatable standup paddleboard for surfing?

Well, I always tell people that with an inflatable for surfing, you kind of have to take it for what it is. You are never going to find a hard rail on an inflatable board and they will have a level of flex you don’t have in most composite boards. Let’s say I am going to go out and surf an inflatable or go river surfing, I’m going to look for the thinnest inflatable, something from four to five inches like our 10’ XL.

If you are a bigger person, you can get away with six inches thick. With a thinner rail, you are going to be able to dig it into the wave, just like on your surfboard, but again, you are going to feel the performance difference.

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