SUP Gear Continued
Paddle boarding offers enthusiasts a long list of great gear to choose from when they enter the sport. Often, the main piece of inquiry and research is on the board. Depending on what they are looking to do in the sport will determine what type, size, and price of board they should be buying. But beyond that, paddling has a long list of accessories which are just as equally important to those looking to paddle.
Just like choosing a board, understanding the correct piece, price range, and what exactly a paddler needs to be a success can become confusing. The market has been flooded with accessories and without proper guidance beginners may find themselves spending hard-earned cash on products they may not need. Of course, the best way to avoid this pitfall is to do research. But as a general guideline, Perfect Paddles is here to help you understand everything SUP. And a large portion of this is getting to know every piece of equipment involved.
Besides the board, a paddle is the most important product to purchase when entering SUP. If a board holds your weight, paddles straight, and doesn’t have any holes, then all it needs to do is float and you are good. But a paddle is what we hold in our hands, what we use to propel us through the water, and because of this, choosing the correct one is paramount.
There are three main types of paddles with all of them either being adjustable, meaning multiple paddlers can adjust them to their own height, or fixed, which means it is customized to your specific size. The first, and cheapest option, is the basic black aluminum paddle. Most outfitters and rental spots will have these in stock because they are cheap and durable. They can take a beating from days on the water with inexperienced paddlers and if they break, then they are easily replaced. But you get what you pay for.
They are heavy. They tend to drag in the water. And they do not provide an easy paddle stroke over the course of a long paddle. Therefore, unless you are on a major budget, they are to be avoided. Most beginner paddlers will see the price tag of these paddles (anywhere in the $70-$80 range for new) and get the idea they can save money on the paddle after purchasing an expensive board. This is not a good idea. Almost one hundred percent of these people find themselves back in the SUP shop within a month looking to replace their aluminum paddle with something better.
The second type of paddle is a fiber glass one. A step up from the aluminum, these paddles are lighter to grip and provide a better feeling stroke. Averaging around $250 (with some variance) they are a significant jump in price up from the aluminum paddle. However, with the lighter feel and easier stroke, most beginners will stick with their fiber glass paddles for the long term.
The third type, and the most expensive type of paddle is the racing to surf version, crafted out of carbon fiber and cut to fit your custom size. These paddles are exceptionally light and have the ultimate shape to increase your paddle efficiency. Coming in around $300 or above, depending on the manufacturer, carbon fiber paddles will be the only paddle you will ever need to buy.
If you are serious about the sport of SUP, do not skimp on the paddle. It is equally as important, or some would say more important, than the board you are standing on. To increase your joy on the water, and avoid having to buy multiple paddles, look for ones in the higher price ranges. You will not regret it.
The word carbon-fiber gets used frequently in the SUP world. As just mentioned, the best paddles are crafted out of it. But what is it? And why it is so expensive?
To try and put it simply, carbon fiber is tiny strips of fiber, consisting mostly of carbon, sewn together like yarn to create material that is both strong and ultra-light. As Innovative Composite states on their website, “Carbon fibers have several advantages including high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion. These properties have made carbon fiber very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, and motorsports, along with other competition sports.”
They continue, “Carbon fiber is five-times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. Though carbon fiber is stronger and stiffer than steel, it is lighter than steel; making it the ideal manufacturing material for many parts.”
It is obvious then, why this material would make for an ideal mold for boards and paddles. The key to paddle boarding equipment is to keep it light and strong allowing paddlers to enjoy their time on the water without the added stress of using aluminum paddles and heavy fiber glassed boars. Of course, expect the price tag to jump substantially if you are looking to purchase anything carbon fiber. But, as any experienced paddler will say, it is worth the cost.
Check out these Buddy Deal shops for everything carbon fiber:
- Stand Up Outfitters, New Bern, North Carolina
- Wind’s Up, Tisbury, Massachusetts
- Oregon Paddle Sports, Eugene, Oregon
SUP Fishing Gear
Just like fishing on a boat requires equipment to be successful, so does fishing on a SUP. Of course, the most important piece of gear is the board.
SUP fishing boards are often wider, thicker, and longer than a usual cruising board. This big surface allows paddlers to store the essentials of fishing on deck including a cooler, rods, and bait.
Beyond that, board companies offer places on the board where a paddler can install a rod holder(s), cell phone holder, and even a GPS to help locate and pin the best fishing holes in the water.
Also important may be a dry bag to store valuables as well as a small anchor to nestle up to your preferred spot in the water.
Manufacturers offer countless items to ensure your experience on the water is the best it can be. To see what your local shop has to offer be sure to do a quick search on Perfect Paddles or check out these shops offering a Buddy Deal:
- SUP-Outfitters, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Lonestar Paddle, Fort Worth, Texas
- Go Stand Up Paddle, Rio Verde, Arizona
Kids love paddling. The chance to be on the water, floating around, and even jumping off to catch a cool splash on their bodies is often too difficult for them to pass up.
Most of the equipment for SUP is tailored to adults so manufacturers began to produce equipment designed specifically for the size of the average child. They started with scaling everything down including paddles, flotation devices, even boards. The blade sizes became smaller to decrease resistant in the water and reduce pain the shoulders, the sizes of handles were scaled down to fit in a child’s hand and flotation devices came in a vest-style to make sure they would instantly float if they were to fall in the water and did not know how to swim.
This allowed kids to feel more comfortable with the activity and the accessories. As anyone who has ever used a paddle or board that wasn’t the correct size, you know what a miserable experience it can be. Instead of suffering with equipment that is too big, kids’ equipment correctly fits their audience, making for a more pleasurable experience.
Be sure to check out these Buddy Deal shops for kids’ equipment:
- Paddle Works, Manasquan, New Jersey
- Bluet SUP, Highland Village, Texas
- Goff Tours, Laguna Beach, California
On the opposite end of the spectrum from kids, extra large equipment is also available for the bigger SUP enthusiast.
As experienced paddlers and teachers of SUP, the team at Perfect Paddles has seen on a few occasions the necessity for larger equipment. Bigger paddlers require equipment which will float them and allow them to paddle comfortably. Otherwise they will most likely spend their afternoon bobbing in the water as a direct result of falling off their undersized board. Which would make for an unenjoyable session and disheartening experience.
XL equipment mostly involves bigger boards, thicker boards. Paddlers must match their bodies with the correct size boards if they are to successfully stand on the water. Outside of that, larger flotation devices and longer paddles are also available.
If you find yourself on the plus size of the spectrum, make sure you talk to an experienced teacher or salesperson before purchasing or renting a SUP. The last thing anyone wants is to believe the sport isn’t for them if they are placed on the incorrect board from the start.
Be sure to look up these shops offering Buddy Deals:
- Demo Sport, San Rafael, California
- Portsmouth Paddle, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
- Aloha Paddle Sports, Cornelius, North Carolina
Special Needs Equipment
The best attribute of SUP can be found in its inclusivity. From all ages, body types, and skill levels, the sport welcomes everyone who is open to giving it a try. This also includes those with special needs.
The special needs equipment mainly includes modifications made to boards. A perfect example of this is a board crafted by a company called Onit. As they write about on abilities.com about this companies SUP boards, “This unique adaptive paddle board system incorporates a crafted standup board, an all-terrain surf chair, a custom ramp which allows the wheelchair user to roll onto the board unaided, and a mechanism to lock it securely in place. Outriggers on either side lend stability as the rider skims across the water's surface. Advanced paddlers can remove these outriggers once they have mastered the balance.”
Though they may not be a viable company any longer, their spirit lives on in the SUP community. Innovations in paddles, with the implementation of a double blade shaped to mimic a kayak paddle, allow those uncomfortable with standing to gently sit on the board and still be able to paddle with efficiency.
Along with this, adult life-vests have also been implemented to ensure everyone is safe during their time on the water.
If you have someone with special needs or know someone who is, please feel free to contact Perfect Paddles and we can point you in the correct direction. Or search on our site for your local shop to give them a call!
- Green Fin Paddle, Destin, Florida
- Mike’s Paddle, Alameda, California
- Paddle Sports Center, Santa Barbara, California
Other than signing up for a beginner lesson, renting a board is a great way to get started in SUP. It allows the beginner to become familiar with the process of getting on the board, standing up, and paddling in their own way. Experience is often the best teacher.
Along these lines, most shops and outfitters offer customers the ability to rent boards for multiple days, allowing them to take the boards where they please and enjoying the sport of SUP on a waterbody of their choosing.
One stipulation when signing up for a multi-day rental. Be sure you can transport the boards to and from the location you wish to take them. This may include car roof-racks, a trailer, or if a shop is willing to rent soft racks, which are temporary racks you can strap to the roof of your car, be sure to include this into your planning.
Do things your way with a multi-day rental!
- Lake Life Paddle, Belle Isle, Florida
- Rodanthe Watersports, Rodanthe, North Carolina
- Paddles Up, Ocean Springs, Mississippi
A key piece of SUP gear most paddlers do not discuss is a wetsuit. Let’s face it, most people want to experience paddling in pristine conditions, under a glaring sun, on a warm foreign beach with some tasty beverages awaiting them upon their return to shore.
But that is not always the reality.
The weather changes, the conditions begin to worsen, and cold can find its way to almost every paddling spot. Which is why wetsuits are a vital piece of gear to own or rent.
Wetsuits work by allowing a thin layer of water on the inside of the suit which gives the paddler a warm protective layer heated by their own bodies. Depending on the thickness of the material, paddlers can submerge themselves in temperatures reaching even thirty degrees.
If you live in a wintry area, be sure to check out which shops are renting cold weather gear to keep you on the water all year long! Or check out these shops offering Buddy Deals on rentals:
- M&M SUP Amsterdam, Amsterdam, North Holland
- SUP East Coast Style, Salem, Massachusetts
- Morro Bay Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Morro Bay, California
The list of accessories and pieces of gear for the average paddler seems to be infinite. But besides your board and paddle, there are a couple of other vital pieces of equipment to ensure you will have the best, and safest, time on the water.
The first piece of gear is a proper PFD, or personal flotation device. These can always come as either a vest to wear during the paddle or as a waist belt where you pull a tab and it inflates when you are in danger. There are positives and negatives to both.
The wearable vest is probably safer only because as soon as you fall in, it is already working with no extra steps to include. But it can be bulky and hot to paddle long distances in.
A waist pack is sleek, light, and easy to wear but if you find yourself in dire need of assistance or by some unfortunate accident you find yourself unconscious, then you would be unable to inflate the vest and use it for how it was intended.
The ability to choose which vest to use should be determined by the type of paddling you want to do as well as your experience. If you are going for a leisure paddle with no true danger, then a belt PFD will work great. However, if you are tackling some white-water river paddling, then a full vest is a must.
The other piece of essential gear for any paddler is a strong leash. Necessary for surf and sometimes for flat water, a strong leash will always keep you tethered to a board. Given that your board is the best flotation device you have on the water, this is the best way to remain safe at all times. When renting a board, be sure to ask for a leash with your rental and check to make sure there is not rot on any portion of it. Investing in a solid leash is a critical piece of gear to pick up for beginners to experienced paddlers alike.
And be sure to check out these Buddy Deal shops:
- Yoga Floats, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Paddle Method, Marina del Rey, California
- WanderSurf Board Company, San Diego, California
Understanding every piece of available gear for a beginner paddler is key to ensuring the best and safest way to enjoy the sport. There are, of course, a few essentials to purchase. These include the correct board, a good paddle, a comfortable PFD, and a strong leash. With these four items in mind, a paddler can then look further into different options and other accessories to maximize their time on the water.
As the sport innovates, the accessories will naturally change as well. We hope Perfect Paddles can be your ultimate resource for everything SUP. Which means, if you have any questions or need to contact us directly, then we say please do so. We are here to help. We are here to learn and grow and flourish through the sport of SUP. And we will always be here to guide you along the way.