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What type of board

How do you choose the right inflatable iSUP for you?

Choosing the right inflatable paddleboard should be a joy – you should be thinking about your escape to freedom – the adventures you’re going to have on your new board, all the new places to visit, all the amazing people you’ll meet on your SUP journey.

But we keep hearing that 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. All too often all the fun is taken out of it by overly complex decision making, by the number of products available, and by conflicting claims by different manufacturers. And that’s before you even start thinking about ethics, sustainability and what colour the board is.

If you’ve decided you want an inflatable SUP board rather than a rigid board, but you don’t know what size board to get, then this article is for you.  If you’re still not sure whether you need a rigid or inflatable board, then check out this article.  And when you’ve read it, and decided an inflatable is for you, then come back!

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 paddleboarding 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.

To further help we’ve put together this inflatable SUP board selector to aid your course to SUP freedom. Even if you’re not after a McConks board (1), then this should make it easier to see what shape, size and type of board matches your ability, weight and ambition/paddling environment!

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.

THE most important factor when choosing your board is the type of paddling you expect to spend most of your time doing.  There’s no point setting yourself up with an all round board if you’re going to be spending 99% of your time on the water surfing.  Or on the flipside spending your money on a lovely surf SUP if you’re going to be spending 90% of your time on flat water.

The selector/wizard will help guide you through the process, but before you start you might want to first think about the following questions:

What weight do you need your board to carry?

This is not just your weight, but the total weight that you will expect to carry most of the time. So if you expect to regularly paddle with children on board, don’t forget to add their weight. Of if you are intending to be overnight adventures, don’t forget the weight of the kit of you will carry.

How much SUP experience do you have?

There’s little point getting an inflatable paddleboard board that’s designed for elite whitewater paddlers if you’ve never been on whitewater before. Be realistic about your ability to get the most out of your board. And we can say this from bitter experience. For years we over-estimated our windsurfing and surfing ability and struggled with inappropriate kit. Development is much swifter if you get the right kit for your ability.

What type of paddling do you want to do?

Many people choose an all round board because they aren’t sure about what type of paddling they want to do, and because the wonderful world of SUP marketing has told them that all round board inflatable SUP boards, like the Red Paddle Ride 10’6 are the best boards for beginners in all environments. It’s true that all round boards are great beginners boards and great if you want to practice a mixture of SUP surfing and SUP touring. But that isn’t most paddlers. Most paddlers spend more time touring, exploring and having fun, than surfing. And if this is the case, a board that is designed for touring, but that is fun in surf, might be a better option. Likewise, if you want a board that you use occasionally for SUP yoga, but most of the time for cruising/exploring, then you might find that a Yoga specific board is too slow and cumbersome for general paddles, and that a touring board is good enough for SUP yoga.

So choose your based on the 90% of the paddling you will actually do, not the 10% of paddling that you might do!

To add further to your SUP knowledge bank we’ve broken down some of stand up paddle boarding’s more general avenues below.

SUP cruising/all round paddling

SUP cruising is how most people start out paddleboarding, and is accessible to people of all ages.  It’s great exercise, but you don’t have to set your heartbeat racing, or push yourself too hard.  And there’s no shame in sitting or kneeling if tired, or if the chop is beating your balance.

Many people enjoy the social side of SUP, and like to have gentle paddles over moderate distances with friends and families.  Maybe taking in lunch at a riverside pub, maybe stopping for a swim at a beach, maybe stopping off for a little surf on a river wave or a break.  But mostly enjoying being outdoors, enjoying the company, making the most of the weather and being at one with nature.

Adventure/touring SUP

Touring is simply cruising, but for longer, or a little faster,  or in more challenging conditions.  If you like to seek out those quiet beaches, breaks and bays, like exploring with your board both on and off the water, or simply just getting away from the crowds, then you want a touring paddleboard. A full size touring board will be around 12′, between 28″ and 33″ wide, 6″ deep, and have a good waterline without a hockey nose! 

SUP surfing

If you’re a coastal SUP surfer, or even a river surfer (riding standing waves) then you need to be looking at McConks’ specialist line of boards. We supply the Freedom 10’6 crossover wind/surf SUP hard board, that’s available as pre-order only, that’s a great choice for longboard style wave sliding. If rivers are your bag then McConks’ white water platforms (such as the Go Skate) will be be where you need to look.

SUP racing

SUP racing seems to have decided that long course endurance races are the future, for better or for worse.  Either way, longer, narrower boards are the way forward here, they are faster and have better glide. With races becoming (hopefully) more common again we may see additional classes catering solely for iSUPs. This did happen at some events in the past. The McConks Go Explore will work as an entry level race board whereas the more dedicated Go Race 14′ is best in class for an inflatable.

McConks also does a pre-order, custom made hard race SUP to cater for anyone looking to step up competitively or get hold of a super efficient (fast) flat water stand up paddle board that’s pretty awesome, even if we do say so ourselves!

White water/river SUP

Whitewater SUP and river surf SUP are specialist disciplines and require specialist kit.  You shouldn’t try either of these disciplines with all round SUP boards unless you are with experienced whitewater riders who’ve got your back.  Simple mistakes can cost you your life, and there have been deaths in whitewater SUP in recent years.

Whitewater boards need to be robust and be able to withstand knocks and bangs from ledges and rocks.  They also need a retractable or flexible fin, or be able to be ridden without fins.  There’s nothing more likely to buck you off your ride than a fin getting stuck on a rock!

Over the past few seasons McConks has developed a range of different whitewater/river SUPs from touring to river surfing machines. Having input from high level riders has been invaluable. All our WW iSUPs can be found in the McConks webshop, with a few listed here.

Downwind SUP

Downwind paddling is at the more extreme end of the SUP scale.  Paddling downwind on open water in large swell requires skill and experience.  The aim is to effectively surf wind driven swell downwind, and glides of over 100metres are heard of.  You need a fast, long board for downwind paddling, and the board needs a planing hull to stay on the wave.  You can learn to downwind SUP on a long iSUP, but if you want to get the best out of downwind, you’ll need a rigid stand up paddle board. Mellower downwind runs are possible on your standard inflatable. But your logistics (getting in and getting out and having transport back to point A) need to be considered. The below article tells you a little more about downwind paddling.

WindSUP and wing surfing

When the breeze ramps up the paddles are tsashed and it’s time to rig up – a windsurf sail or wingsurfing wing that is. WindSUP is pretty much windsurfing as it was back in the day for most. Attach your sail to a stand up paddle board with relevant attachment and away you go for some cruisy windsurfing. This can be done aboard either rigid or inflatable boards. Some riders take windSUP to the next level and venture out in waves. When there’s breeze, but not enough for full power windsurf, a big floaty SUP with a sail attached allows the catching and riding of waves. To make windSUP suitably easy McConks supplies the Go Sail inflatable windsurf sail. This is super light and much easier to uphaul than your usual windy rig.

With breeze in mind the new kid on the breezy block is wingsurfing (and wing foiling – see below). Utilising a blow up, hand held wing (such as the McConks Go Fly) gives another way to harness the power of breeze. The benefit over a windsurf sail is the complete freedom of movement riders get with a wing.

For more info on windsurfing/windSUP/wingsurfing check out the McConks Ultimate Guide here.

Wing/SUP foiling

Flying above water, with a hydrofoil lifting riders to an elevated position, is the newest craze in watersports. Your power source can be anything from a windsurf sail, wing surfing wing, a wave or even just a paddle with some foiler able to lift from just blade power alone (a very hard, physical skill to master). McConk doesn’t do a specific wing/SUP foil board (yet) but we do potentially have something in the pipeline. watch this space! In the meantime check out our Foiling Ultimate Guide as we do know a thing or two about flying above water.

eFoiling (electric hydrofoiling)

As with all foiling disciplines eFoils fly above the water. The difference here is riders use a handheld, wireless Bluetooth trigger throttle to control a propeller attached to the hydrofoil itself. This then allows flights regardless of weather conditions and water states. It’s possibly the easiest form of foiling there is but does require initial outlay for the gear. EFoil boards, as with all foiling platforms, are just hybrid SUP designs> if you want to check out more about eFoiling then hit up our sister site Fly McConks.
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(1). Why would you not want a McConks board? We were number one SUP Manufacturer according to the SUPhubUK survey of over 1200 paddlers and SUP instructors! We’re trusted by users who put their kit through the most rigorous of use, such as the National Trust and Prince’s Trust! And we think we are about the most ethical and sustainable paddleboard brand there is.

McConks SUP construction layup

One Response

  1. Hi, looking to upgrade, researching for a while now and quite fancy one if your boards. I know you have said you have demo centres across the UK.Any up North Liverpool way? Obviously willing to travel a bit.
    Big thanks

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