Which Inflatable SUP Board For a Beginner?
Stand-up paddle boarding or SUP for short, next to kitesurfing, is the fastest growing water sport in the UK. Also, the level of entry is fairly low. Compared to kitesurfing where you need at least a 2-day course with a recognised school (such as Skymonster Kitesurfing School Scotland), SUP basics can be mastered much quicker.
The great thing about SUP’ing is that anyone can do it. No matter your age you will find a board and a style that suits you and your fitness level. There’s massive variety of things you can do on a SUP – from exploring the coastline on the flat and calm days, taking a trip up and down calm rivers and channels to surfing waves and playing around in white water. It’s also a great family adventure – larger boards can easily hold an adult with a child. My 6-year-old still sits in the front when we paddle out on the calmer days. It’s a great workout with the extra weight too!
I get asked a lot of questions on the first SUP board to test the water with this new sport. And a lot of people seem to be surprised how far the technology went in the last few years. In the past getting a SUP board meant a lot of hassle with having to put it on the roof-bars of your car. Right now a lot of casual SUP’ers opt in for an inflatable board. Mainly due to the convenience of getting around as they fit easily inside any car’s trunk. They are much more resistant to damage too. Solid boards tend to chip away when you accidentally drop them, go over small rocks or when you hit them with a paddle. Inflatables don’t and with where the tech is now, they are also very safe if you go for the well recognised brands.
It’s worth noting that the market has been flooded with cheap Chinese clones and dodgy-quality boards you can get in the large chain stores. Steer clear away from these. They are not safe and when you’re out in the middle of the bay the last thing you want to hear is the air escaping from underneath you. As with any other sports equipment – there is a reason behind a price and in case of SUP’ing it’s a matter of safety. Stick to the well know brands. These guys have been in this game for donkey’s years. They know what they are doing and they can’t afford to release an unsafe product. Below are two of the boards that I found to be the best way to get into SUP’ing safely. They are also ideal all-rounders that you will keep for years!
This SUP has been with us for number of years and it’s one of the world’s best selling inflatable SUP boards. There is an excellent reason for it. Red Paddle has been perfecting its Ride range for so long that they’ve produced a perfect all-rounder that works on both flat water and in the small surf. The Red Paddle Ride is stable, manoeuvrable and since 2016 also very light thanks to the MSL technology. It also comes with a Titan pump that uses 2 chambers to inflate the board which makes a massive difference. In the 2017 models they have also added an accessories mount on the nose of the board – for GoPro cameras, GPS devices and the like. Small thing but helps.
There is also a smaller model for lighter riders or those who are spending more time in the surf – the Red Paddle 9’8″ Ride. And there’s a larger model, the Red Paddle 10’8″ Ride for larger riders and families wanting a SUP that can be used with kids on board. This variety of sizes is one of the many reasons why Red Paddle Ride boards are one of the best recognised on the market. They are suitable for complete beginners and intermediate riders looking for a stable and reliable all-rounder. You really can’t go wrong choosing one of the Ride boards as your first SUP.
As the name suggests, it’s the JP Australia’s all-round SUP model. The company has been in the SUP game longer than most. Originating from windsurfing, JP is a premium brand producing some of the best boards on the market with many world champions on record – both in SUP and windsurfing. They have a large number for solid boards that are regarded as the top-shelve stuff. So when they have entered the inflatable arena some years back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of their new products. And boy, these things are amazing.
Just as with Ride family, the AllRound Air’s are superb for every-day SUP’ing. From flat water to surf to rivers and exploring the world with kids. Build quality is second to none, all their boards are super light and extremely durable – in both LE and the premium SE editions. JP also claims that their boards have the best weight to stiffness ratio on the market which becomes quite apparent as soon as you take one out for a spin. They also look great on the water thanks to the amazing designers at JP. They are a bit faster than Ride’s due to narrower nose that helps with glide. All in all JP has been one of my all-time favourite brands for the last 20 years. I loved their windsurfing kit and I can say the same about their SUP offering – both rigid and inflatable.
Both are a superb way to get into the world of SUP’ing and for many riders these are the boards to keep!