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10 QUESTIONS EVERY FIRST-TIME SUP BUYER SHOULD ANSWER!

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A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CHOOSING YOUR FIRST STARBOARD STAND UP PADDLE BOARD.

by Starboard Teamrider, SUPWell PaddleFit Pro Coach and ISA / Surfing NZ Qualified SUP Instructor, Victoria Stuart.

When you pick up a Starboard product catalogue or land on the Starboard Website, the sheer size of the range, and the number of boards to choose from, can be pretty overwhelming – I know this only too well, because its my job to help you on your journey to becoming a stand up paddler.  No matter how many filters and tags we put on the products that go on our website, there’s still no easy way to choose a board online.  So I’ve put together these 10 questions for you to ask yourself when you start looking for a board:

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QUESTION ONE: WHO’S PADDLING THIS BOARD?

If you’re the only person who’ll be using your board, lucky you! You can choose a board that is a 100% perfect fit for your size, shape, ability level and what you want to do with it. If you’re planning to share the board among family members, you’re best to consider the height and weight of the biggest person using it, and also the size of the person who will use it the most.  Usually, you’ll want to find a middle ground, leaning more towards the main user.

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QUESTION TWO: WHAT IS THE RIDER’S WEIGHT AND HEIGHT? 

Starboard provides a “RECOMMENDED RIDER WEIGHT” for every board that allows you to find all suitable boards for riders of all weights, from Under 40kg to Over 100kg.

It’s important to pick a board with the right weight capacity so you will be stable and the board will perform how it’s meant to. The only thing worse than a board too small or narrow, that means you’re always falling in, is a board that is too big and hard to control in the wind.

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QUESTION THREE: WHAT IS THE RIDER’S ABILITY LEVEL? 

Regardless of whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced paddler, there are three basic pointers to remember:

1. LONG = FAST. A longer board generally glides better due to its increased water-line length

2. WIDE = STABLE. A wider board generally provides more stability

3. SHORT = TURNS. A shorter board generally turns better

But let’s not assume that all first-time board buyers are new to stand up paddling!  You may be doing a PaddleFit program, have hired a board, or mucked around on a friend’s board before.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!  We get that a SUP is not a small ticket item, and we really recommend you test a few boards to see what you like before you take the plunge.

Contact your Us or your local Starboard shop and ask about the next Starboard demo day, or sign up for a class or two. Learning new skills and good technique will improve your paddling ability faster, and you will end up buying a board that you won’t outgrow as you get better.

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QUESTION FOUR. WHAT ARE YOU USING IT FOR?

Usually, when you start out in paddling, you want an ALL ROUND / CRUISING style board that lets you try a bit of everything.  You can catch a wave on pretty much any Starboard board, so if you’re thinking you’d like to try a bit of surfing, you’d look towards towards the BLEND or the super stable WIDE RIDE range which includes the all time favourite Whopper model.

If you’re using it for fitness, racing, or maybe to do a little island hopping or exploring, you want to choose a longer board – something over 10’.  The GO boards are ideal being very stable with extra glide and amazing artwork from the #1 ranked female paddler Sonni Honscheid.

If you’re just mucking around off the beach or boat, catching small waves, or you’re very small in stature, you could go down to around 9’0 and still paddle ok in flatwater. If you’re thinking mostly surfing with a little bit of flatwater, you could consider a WIDE RIDE or a WIDEPOINT.  If you’d like to get into downwind paddling, you’re going to want something 12’6 or 14’ and over.

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QUESTION FIVE: WHERE WILL YOU USE IT? 

If you’re buying a board that you’re going to use 90% of the time on flatwater or small chop (about knee height), in a harbour, on a lake or on a river, you want to choose a nice long slender board.

The Starboard TOURING range has a 14’, 12’6, and 11’6 options and several different widths to suit different rider weights. Or if you’re pretty stable and comfortable on a board, you might want to consider a wider race board.

If you’re still in the beginner to intermediate zone, the GO boards are the perfect flatwater solution. If you’re using it mostly on a beach with some surf or swell, then go for one of the boards in the BLEND or WIDE RIDE range.  These have a long board like feel in the surf and make it really easy for you to catch your first waves, as well as having a good amount of glide to cover longer distances.

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QUESTION SIX: WHAT ABOUT STORAGE AND TRANSPORT? 

You guessed it.  This is where we work out if you need an inflatable board or if you’re better with a hard board. If you have room to store it, a means to transport it, and you can lift it, then I’d recommend a hard board.

If you want to travel with your board (such a cool way to experience the world!), you live in an apartment or on a boat, or you don’t have a car, then an inflatable board is the best option for you. The other reason you might choose inflatable is because they are generally lighter and easier to lift and carry.

The only downside to inflatables is that they don’t perform quite so well in choppy conditions and wind.  So think about the location you usually paddle, and whether you’ll want to go out when it’s blowing 10-15knots.  If paddling in these condtions and requiring an inflatable look at the TOURING Double Chamber & AIRLINE Inflatables which perform better in chop and windy conditions due to their rigidity.

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QUESTION SEVEN: HOW STRONG ARE YOU?

Think about how are you going to lift your board on and off your car, and get it to and from the water.  A light board is easier to paddle with less effort but for most people the major benefit is easier loading and unloading of the board from the roof with less risk of back or shoulder injury.

Starboard boards are built with high quality materials and designed to be as light as possible while still performing and having long term durability. However you’ll find there is still a big difference between a really large, high volume board designed for a 100kg+ paddler, and a smaller board for a lighter rider.

The good news? Starboards 25 years plus experience in the design and manufacture of high performance epoxy boards means they are the leaders in large, high volume boards that are affordable & LIGHTWEIGHT but most importantly with correct care can withstand long term wear & tear of paddling, catching waves, handling, storage and travel.

For those close enough to the water to walk there are SUP straps and wheels to make carrying your board a bit easier.  All the new GO Tikihine range have a comfortable built-in shoulder carry strap, leaving you hands free to get your paddle, towel and water bottle to the beach with you!

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QUESTION EIGHT: HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO INVEST? 

Yes, there are heaps of cheap paddle board package online for under $1000 but you’d get more enjoyment out of picking up a suitable old secondhand Starboard than shelling out for a low-quality no-name brand board from the internet.

 It’s all about the ride. 

No matter what your budget is you should always know what you are buying go for the best you can afford.  If I had to make a budget choice, I’d buy a decent new paddle and a cheaper technology or second hand board.  Starboard’s range is designed so that there is a board at every price point based on which technology you choose – from Blue Carbon, the lightest and highest performance construction at around $3,000 to the Lite Tech hardboards and Zen Inflatable boards available with a performance lightweight paddle for around $1500.

If that’s still out of your budget try finding an old-season or ex-demo board, as Starboards are designed and built to last and because they have a reputation for doing so they hold their value well and are easy to resell if you decide to upgrade to a faster or more high performance board.  We find that when most people get a good quality all rounder like a Starboard Whopper as their first board they keep it for a long time, and it becomes the board they introduce their friends & family to SUP with often getting another one so they can make paddling something to do socially.

QUESTION NINE: GOT YOUR PADDLE, LEASH & PFD?

Starboard paddles are easy to work out.  There are basically two different shapes – one for racing and flatwater, the other for all round paddling and surfing.

  • If you’re NOT surfing look at the LIMA.  If you are catching waves sometimes or often, go for the ENDURO.
  • Carbon is the lightest and most expensive technology, then Balsa, then TikiTech, then Tufskin.  Go for the best you can afford and the colour or design that suits your style.
  • If you’re the only one using it, buy a fixed shaft cut to your own size (about a Shaka above your head). If you’re sharing it with someone taller or shorter, buy a 2-Piece adjustable. If you’re traveling, buy a 3-Piece adjustable.
  • The blade sizes are a bit like gears on a bike.  Smaller blades mean you can go longer, faster and are easier on your arms and shoulders.  Larger blades are good for more power, but you will fatigue more quickly and can be more prone to shoulder injuries.
  • Shafts come in round or oval.  I prefer oval for racing because I can feel where the blade is in relation to my hand and board, so I don’t “slip” (imagine face-planting onto your board because your paddle accidentally went in sideways).  But it is totally personal preference.  So is stiffness, BUT you’re really not going to notice the difference when you’re starting out!
  • If you have big hands, ask for the larger 27.5 shaft.  If you have really small hands and you’re not very tall, you might enjoy a skinny shaft. As I mentioned before, go for the best quality you can afford.
  • My pick of the current Starboard range would be the beautiful new Lima Sonni Wave paddle with a hybrid carbon shaft, weighing in lighter than the older season carbon paddles, and about 100 times prettier.
  • I would choose the Tufskin paddle for the boat or as a spare.  As Starboard’s heaviest and lowest price point paddle, the Tufskin is still a lot lighter than most other paddles out there. Remember, the lighter your paddle is, the more you’ll want to use it, and the longer you’ll be able to stay on the water.

LEASHES SAVE LIVES

1. Flatwater/Racing/Downwind Paddling:  COILED LEASH (a Heavy Duty thicker version for wind)

2. Surf / All Round Paddling: 8mm-10mm STRAIGHT LEASH (similar to the length of your board)

3. Moving Water / River Paddling:  QUICK RELEASE SPECIAL RIVER LEASH – you don’t want to get tangled /trapped and not able to get your leash off in the flow.

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QUESTION TEN: LAST BUT NOT LEAST….  DO YOU LOVE THE OCEAN?

Starboard is about making not only the best boards on the planet, but also the best boards for the planet.

You might already know about our Blue Carbon Eco Board GOLD rating from Sustainable Surf org, or about the myriad of other environmental initiatives Starboard is involved in – from turning recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets into boards and accessories, to planting mangroves in South East Asia to help absorbhundred thousand tons of CO2 from the ecosystem. Find out more at Blue.star-board.com

And, all of our paddles come with a dinky little trash picker that you can use to fish plastic bags and other floating debris out of the water, every time you paddle…

Live a #DeepBlueLife with Starboard.

If you’d like some personalised guidance to buying a board from Starboard, don’t hesitate to contact Stand Up Paddle Sports

Happy Paddling!

Thank you, Victoria from Starboard New Zealand for this article.

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