Types of SUPs: Which One is Right for You?

Stand-up paddling is a great sport for people of all ages and abilities.  It's low-impact, easy to learn, and can be done virtually anywhere you can find water.  We love it because of its versatility ... but that can also create some confusion for those looking to break into the sport.

How?  Well, that versatility comes with an array of options as far as board type, size, and length.  So how do you know which one is right for you?

calm lake

First, think about where you plan to use the board. 

Easy access to a small lake will require different equipment than whitewater boarding.  Racing options aren't the greatest for those who want to focus on SUP yoga or fishing.

Second, think about who will use it.

Children often do better on shorter boards and weight limits can influence the type and size of board needed for adults.  

Third, consider how you plan to move it.

If you do a lot of adventuring all across the country and plan to take your SUP along, an inflatable board is the way to go.  The same goes for those who plan to take it on hiking/camping trips.  If you plan to only visit areas where you can drive directly to the water (a boat launch), a solid SUP may be the better option, but keep in mind that solid SUPs are obviously heavier and may be difficult for some people to carry/move by themselves.

And fourth, decide which is more important - maneuverability or speed.

Why?  Planing hulls (those that remain flat along the surface of the water with a rounded nose) are more maneuverable than displacement hulls (those that "cut" through the water with a nose like that of a canoe and tend to sit lower in the water).  This goes along with the first question - where do you plan to use it - and adds the layer of how do you plan to use it.  Planing hulls are great for surfing, yoga, and whitewater as well as leisurely rides across the water.  Displacement hulls are for those looking for speed for racing, touring, or fitness paddling.

Carrying SUPs

Now that you've thought about the when, where, and how you plan to use your SUP, let's consider the different board options available.  Some of these options may vary by company/brand, so be sure to read the specifics associated with all of the boards you are considering before you make a purchase.  Be sure to check out volume, length, weight limits, thickness, and width.

In general, planing boards are more forgiving when it comes to these measurements.  Displacement boards require a bit more thought.  Pay special attention to the volume and weight statistics.  If you are too light for the board, it won't sink into the water enough and will be difficult to control.  If you are too heavy, it will sink too deep and will drag and be far slower than it should be.  And remember to consider the weight of any gear you bring as this will have a significant influence on the performance of the board.

Surf SUP


Surf SUPs are generally shorter than 10 feet long and are almost always planing hulls.  They cut over the surface of the water with ease and allow for great maneuverability.  The downside?  They are slower on flat water and are less stable.

All-around SUP, yoga


These boards, as the name suggests, can be used for just about any type of SUPing.  These are perfect beginner boards and are excellent options for those sharing the board with friends and family (who will differ in size and skill level).  Though they work in just about any situation, they don't excel as much as the others for specific objectives (they aren't as fast as racing/touring boards or as maneuverable as surf SUPs).  They generally range from 10 to 12 feet in length and usually have planing hulls though some companies offer displacement style all-around boards.

Flatwater SUP


These boards are designed for distance and speed.  Most are over 12 feet long and are still wide enough to be relatively stable in most conditions.  They will typically have a displacement hull, which allows for better tracking (staying straight on the water) and speed.

Racing SUP


Racing SUPs are a sub-category of the flatwater boards.  They are generally the same length and always have displacement hulls.  The major difference is in the width.  Racing boards are narrow, which means they are far less stable than any other board and aren't a great choice for beginners.  The narrowness allows for increased speeds, which is why this choice is great for those looking to race.

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How to Care for Your Inflatable SUP

How to Care for Your Inflatable SUP

Like most sporting equipment, an inflatable SUP is a significant investment.  No one likes spending hundreds of dollars on something only to have it break down or stop working long before its typical lifespan is up.

Stillwater Outdoors wants to help you protect your investment.  That's why we offer a 5-year iron-clad warranty on all of our double-layer technology SUPs.  Fortunately, there are a few key steps that you can take to make sure that your inflatable SUP lasts for many years to come.

Step One: Wash the SUP After Use

This one may not seem necessary.  After all, SUPs don't have the same nooks and crannies that kayaks do so there are fewer places for water, plant life, and other debris to collect.  Even so, it's always a good idea to hose off your SUP after use, especially if you use it on salt water.  Salt is never good when it comes to equipment ... or skin ... or just about anything for that matter.  Do yourself, and your board, a favor and give it a rinse when you're done having fun.

Step Two: Keep the SUP Flat at all times

There are two factors to this step.  One is fairly obvious - flat boards can't fall.  Though inflatable boards are far lighter than their counterparts, they can still get damaged by falling off their sides (especially the fins).  Two - the boards are built to handle weight and stress on their larger, flatter surfaces, not the sides.  To avoid unnecessary wear and tear along the seams on the sides, keep them stored flat whenever possible.

SUP stored with fins up

Step Three: Fins Up and Out

Never set your SUP on the ground with the fins down.  Yes, we know that the top of the boards are prettier, but the bottom is where all the magic happens.  Dings and dents on your fins will make tracking difficult if not impossible.  Along those same lines, while rolling up your inflatable SUP, make sure to roll it so that the permanent fins end up on the outside and not squished in the middle.  And it's never a good idea to leave the removable fin in place while storing, so go ahead and pull that out as well.

Step Four: Don't Be a Drag

With inflatable SUPs, this step is far easier to follow.  Their lightweight construction means just about anyone can lift and move them without dragging them across the rocks, sand, or grass.  Carry your SUP down to the water and carry it back up again to keep it in prime shape.

People carrying SUPs across beach

Step Five: No Sun for SUPs

Of course your SUP is going to be exposed to the sun while in use, but in general it's a good idea to keep it out of the sun while you're taking a break.  Why?  UV light can damage your SUP's skin just as it can yours.  The SUP will also absorb a lot of heat if left on a hot shore for any length of time.  That heat causes the gases inside of the SUP to expand, which can put even more pressure on the skin and may cause the PSI to go well beyond the safe amount.  If you do have to keep it in the sun for any length of time, consider venting a little air to lower the PSI and allow for future expansion.

Step Six: Don't Stack Things on Your SUP

Whether it's in a carrying case or is inflated, it's best not to stack things on top of your SUP.  Besides the added strain (especially if stored for a long time) there is always a risk of puncture or other damage to the surface.  Inflatable SUPs are durable, but its best to practice caution and keep them stored on top of anything else.

Step Seven: Dry Before Storage

This is an important step.  Mold is everywhere - in the dirt, in the air, in your house.  If you leave any water on the surface of your SUP before it goes into storage, all it takes is one little spore of mold to start a big problem.  Make sure to dry your SUP thoroughly before putting it in any long-term storage.  If you are camping or hiking with it and must put it in the carrying case while wet, be sure to air out both the SUP and case thoroughly when you return home before storing it again.

We hope that these simple reminders will help keep your inflatable SUP looking like new for years to come.

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