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Invented in Hawaii in the 1940s, stand-up paddle boarding has become especially popular in the last decade, partly because unlike surfing it can be practiced by a broad range of people of all ages and fitness levels.
But while most people associate this activity with placid seas and lakes, an increasing number are using them to surf - albeit relatively mild surf, no more than one to two feet high.
Most paddle boards are made of fiberglass and are ten to 12 feet long, but there are other factors that you should keep in mind when buying or renting one, especially if you're going to use it to surf. Here are five questions you should ask yourself beforehand:
Is The Board Shape Good for Surfing?
If you want an SUP board that's not only good for paddling calm waters but will also work well in mild surf, an all-around shaped board will be ideal. A specialized board for surfing is short with low volume; some inflatables only have a few inches of thickness. The low volume enhances performance when encountering larger waves. The thinner rails, of four-inch thickness, allow easy turning during surfing. A surfing SUP should also have a narrow tail to give the board more foot pressure when turning.
How Will the Fin Set-up Help During Surfing?
A single long center fin is ideal for surfing, helping to reduce drag in the water, especially on boards that are specially designed for surfing. Some boards allow for additional fins to create more traction and be used with a single fin when you want more speed.
Is the Deck Pad Ideal for Surfing?
The deck pad's texture plays a big role in the general traction movement of the board underfoot. A thicker and longer deck pad covering more surface is better. A board with a raised arch bar at the tail helps riders feel where their back feet are without the need to look down.
Which Is Better for Surfing, Inflatables or Hard Boards?
For pure SUP surfing, a hard board is better because the rails are more sculpted and make surfing maneuvers easier. Inflatables are good for beginners because they provide a soft landing when you fall. Riding waves on an inflatable SUP takes practice. An all-round inflatable board will still get you to paddle in the absence of ridable waves
Am I Getting Real Value with My SUP Surfing Board?
An SUP doesn’t come cheap - often $500 and up - and so it's paramount that you choose wisely when buying one. If you plan to surf frequently, you should buy a board specialized for surfing and another for other types of paddling. But if surfing will only be just one of the activities you will be doing, an all round board will work just fine.
SUP surfing is a challenging sport to learn - expect to do a lot of swimming before acing it. But getting the right board will help develop the proper surfing skills sooner than later. Happy surfing!