Choosing the perfect inflatable paddle board
Choosing the right inflatable SUP is a challenge. There are so many different brands and so many different shapes, making it very difficult to decide what will work best for you.
Choosing the right board depends on many, many things. Some of these things are about you – e.g. size, weight, ambition, balance. Some are about the type of paddling you want to do – exploring, surfing, cruising, racing. Some boards are more versatile, and are suitable for a range of people of different sizes and abilities, and cope with a range of different types of paddling. Some boards however are much more specific – either to the paddler weight and ability, or to the arena that they’re designed for.
If you get the right board for you, SUP really isn’t difficult. It’s as easy as standing on a board and pushing a paddle through the water. Lots of people try to make out SUP is something else. But for many of our customers, SUP has been about getting up on a board for the first time, and just simply paddling, enjoying the environment, and enjoying good company.
Most beginners will be looking for a relatively adaptable, versatile board that allows them to get used to a range of different environments, and that can be used by different family members. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be an all-round board.
To make it easy for you, we’ve put together this SUP selection tool.
A board for everyone
We really believe that, no matter how big, small, old, young, competent or incompetent you are, there is a perfect board for you. A board that will make it easy for you to enjoy and progress in SUP.
We’re not going to tell you why you should buy one of our boards. If you’re here already, the chances are you know about the McConks legendary price to quality ratio and our customer service. But hopefully this article will help you choose the right type of board for you. And of course, we hope that board will be a McConks!
So whether you’re teaching whitewater paddle boarding to the next generation of rippers, finding your feet for the first time, looking to create your Zen through yoga SUP, or looking to explore the world on a paddleboard, we have the perfect board for you.
The key questions to answer before buying a SUP
To start at the beginning. Before you can choose the right paddleboard, there are some key questions to answer:
- What’s your total weight – including the kit you want to carry on your paddle board, and the weight of passengers you might want to carry?
- Where are you on your paddle boarding journey?
- What type of environment do you want to paddleboard in?
There’s a complex relationship between the three, and that’s why we often spend so long talking to customers to help them pick the perfect board.
In simple terms, the volume of the board you need (which affect show stable it is) will vary depending on your weight, the type of paddling you want to do, and your ability. Some retailers will tell you that a board is fine for people up to a certain weight, and not for anyone over that weight. But that is over simplistic: The better you are, the less volume you need. Therefore saying a board isn’t suitable for anyone over 75kg isn’t strictly true; an expert rider of over 100kg would be fine! So for all of our boards, we give a range of max weights, from beginner to expert.
And the right board volume is also be influenced by the kind of environment you want to paddle. A board volume that might be suitable for a flatwater lake might be too small and tippy once you take it into tidal chop or swell. And different shape boards are needed for different used. A yoga board with a wide stable platform would be a very different shape to a sleek and narrow race board, for example.
You might not have been on a SUP before, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a total beginner. There are a number of sports and activities that give you some of the skills you need. Some of them are obvious – such as surfing or windsurfing. In fact any boardsports give you a kick start in your SUP journey, as do any paddlesports. And in fact, any sport or activity that improve your balance – from yoga to martial arts, or from climbing to mountain biking – all help to give you a headstart on your SUP journey.
To make it easy for you, we’ve put together this SUP selection tool.
Touring and explorer paddle boards
Beginners often think that touring boards are too long or too tippy for them, or are too difficult to manage. That’s simply not true. Our touring boards are fast and stable, and we we think that most paddlers, most of the time, would be better off with a touring board than an all-round board. They’re faster, more stable, more efficient, better upwind, and carry more weight. And that’s why when anyone asks us for advice about a new board, we tell them to start off thinking about an explorer or touring board, and justify why it isn’t the right board for them. To put this into context, we’ve had dozens of customers who have upgraded from all round boards to explorer boards, but none who have gone the other way
If you want to paddle long distances, or go quickly, you want a highly efficient board. You need a board that has long parallel rails (the side of the board), and that has a progressive rocker (how much the nose of the board turns up) and a long waterline (the length of the board that’s in the water. These factors combine to determine how well the board glides in between paddle strokes. In addition, the more efficient the board is, the fewer times you need to swap paddle sides, and the less time you lose decelerating when swapping paddle sides.
If you’re touring, you also want to be able to carry kit – possibly a lot of it. And the board therefore needs enough shock cord storage, and enough width and volume to be able to carry the weight.
McConks have three different boards that we class as explorer or touring boards. The longest and fastest is our Go Explore 14′ (previously the Go Further 14′) board. The shortest and most nimble is our Go Explore 11’4, and the Go Explore 12’8 is in the middle, both in terms of speed and manoeuvrability. We also have a mini explorer for small adults and children – our Go Explore 10’8.
Fins can make a massive difference to the range of environments your board is suitable for, and having a fin box that allows you to use a range of fins is important. For that reason, all of our touring boards come with a full length genuine AIR7 US fin box, allowing you to select from a wide range of fins from a large range of fins from many suppliers, whether these be premium performance Black Project race fins, our best value rigid touring fins or our short flexi river fins for shallow rivers. They also are equipped with genuine AIR7 click fit side fin boxes that allow you to use a wide array of side fins – from short shallow river fins, to 5″ G5 FCS style fins for surfing.
Capture the memories
All good exploring boards should come with a way of capturing the adventure and the memories. So all of our boards come with an integrated camera mount to attached a RAM mounts fitting to keep your waterproof camera or phone fully secure as you capture amazing footage, or follow the map! These mounts were designed for high speed motorbikes, and are totally bombproof. You never need to worry about losing your Go Pro or iPhone X with these mounts.
All-round inflatable SUP boards
All round boards are by their nature a series of compromises. Being shorter than touring boards, they’re a bit slower and less efficient. But the shorter length makes them a little easier for beginners to handle – turning is easy, and learning the different types of paddle strokes is therefore much easier. And the reduction in weight compared to the McConks touring boards also makes them easier to handle.
With a round nose and more pronounced rocker, they’re also great fun in surf. But the round nose, rocker, and shorter length means that they are slower and less efficient than touring boards. And they are a little less stable than our higher volume Go Explore touring boards in some conditions such as coastal chop, or on windy lakes. But on balance (pun intended) all round boards are a great first board for beginners.
Our Go Anywhere all round beginner stand up paddle boards come in two sizes, 10’6 x 32 x 5″ and 10’8 x 32 x 6 inch. They have the same plan shape, same waterline, and are pretty much identical, other than the difference in volume and thickness. And as a rule of thumb, if your total riding weight is over 90kg, you’ll do best with the 10’8, and under 70kg, best with the 10’6. If you’re somewhere in the middle, it depends on ability and in that case, we really do recommend trying both boards at one of our demo partners.
Whitewater / river surf SUP boards
We’ve been working with the best in the business to develop an awesome range of inflatable river boards. Unlike most other brands we haven’t tried to adapt what we already do, or market our existing boards as whitewater boards. We’ve started afresh and designed our whitewater boards from the bottom up.
Whether you’re looking for a super stable rapid running board to get you through consecutive grade 3 sections without swimming, or looking for a perfect board for your nearest park and play wave, we have your back.
Our 9’8 Go Wild is the super stable rapid running machine. With the hard rails it eddies in and out easily, but also tracks remarkably well if you’re paddling between sections.
Our 9’3 Go Wild board, is a little more lively and playful than our 9’8. But if you’re after the most playful board, our Go Skate is the perfect park and play river wave SUP.
Our Go X Wild is an 11 foot long river running machine. Originally designed to win SUP cross races (hence the X in the name), it has become a firm favourite of whitewater coaches and instructors across the UK.
Yoga SUP boards
Yoga SUP has become increasingly popular as more and more yogis get their SUP legs. We’ve been working with SUP yoga experts since 2016, and know from experience what makes a good yoga board.
Our Go Explore 11’4 is a super stable platform for balance poses, and really allows practitioners to settle and relax into challenging poses, and works both outdoors and indoors. Alternatively our Go Anywhere 10’8 is perfect for family paddleboarding and yoga.
Board selector tool
We have a tool to help you select the perfect board for you, based on your weight and the type of paddling you want to do. Find it here
Try, try and try again
So there you have it. It isn’t easy choosing the right board. And the best advice that anyone can give you is to get on the water and try lots of boards – and not just McConks boards.
Whilst we think our boards are the bees knees, and that our range provides something for most types of paddler, there are all sorts of shapes, sizes and finishes out there. And no-one other than you can make the right decision.
And (we’ll whisper this) maybe, just maybe, it might be that a board by a different brand is the right one for you. So get out there and demo, demo demo!
You can also ask for advice on social media. SUP hacks and Standup Paddle UK are two very friendly open facebook groups with thousands of members. There’s no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to choosing a SUP, and, unlike other groups, no-one will criticise you on these groups for asking a question they already know the answer to!