How to choose the right size inflatable SUP board
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!
So how do you decide what size board you need?
There’s no easy answer to this question because it depends on where you play, your ability, your weight, and how much gear you want to take on the board. But we’ve put this guide together to help guide you in the right direction.
The most important factor in 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 surfSUP if you’re going to be spending 90% of your time on flat water.
So we’ve broken it down by the types of SUPping you might be doing.
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 sociable 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, masking the most of the weather and being at one with nature.
If cruising sounds like your thing, then your best board is an all round inflatable SUP. All round inflatable paddle boards are typically between 10″ and 11″ long, with 10’6 and 10’8 being the most popular sizes. They’re typically 31 to 34″ wide, and 4, 5 or 6″ thick. All round boards are by definition a compromise. By being shorter than a touring or race board they are relatively easy to turn and control, but this: They don’t track quite as well as a long touring board, and require more corrective strokes to keep you on the straight and narrow. And it means they are also slower. And compared to a shorter surfSUP, they are not quite as manoeuvrable and have less performance on wave. But if you do opt for an all round board then you’re in good company. All-round boards are currently the most popular boards, and we think that our Go Anywhere duo of a 10’6 x 32″ x 4.75″ and a 10’8 x 32″ x 6″ board means that riders of any size and ability have an option perfect for them.
10’8 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
If you’re a nervous beginner, and want a board that gives you a very stable platform to learn on, but also provides challenges as you develop, this is your best choice. It gives you the flexibility and confidence to use anywhere, and has been designed for families and beginners all the way through to intermediates; this is the perfect one inflatable paddleboard fits all.
When stood in the stable paddling position, this board tracks sweet and true, and will generally keep you on the straight and narrow. However, take a step back, or drop back into surf stance, and the board suddenly becomes much more responsive due to its cleverly designed pintail shape. With 6″ of volume, this board will float an average family paddler plus a child or dog. With over 250l of volume, it will take 150kg of weigh before performance is compromised. And intermediate paddlers will be able to manage even more weight comfortably.
It’s also a great platform for learning to surf on; unusually for all round iSUP, this board has removable click fit FCS fins. When these are fitted, the 2+1 fin arrangement gives you great bite and control when on a wave compared to the fixed fins found as standard on most all round boards. And if you really want to push the boundaries, you can swap out the flexi fins and fit your favourite performance FCS fins from any hard board range.
So in summary buy this board if you want an all round board, but one where performance errs towards flat water, river or lake paddling. A great family board. Lots of volume to take passengers, a higher riding position so front riders stay relatively dry, but very manoeuvrable when taking a step back.
10’6 Go anywhere inflatable SUP
Being only 2 ” shorter than our 10’8, being the same width (32″) and being the same great pintail shape, it’s not surprising that this board performs similarly to the 10’8. The 2″ reduction in length only makes a minor difference in handling, but the bigger difference is the depth of the board. Being only 4.75″ rather than 6″ thick, this board suits smaller beginner riders (total weight <100kg, including kit and other riders being carried on the board), riders looking for a better surf experience, or intermediate riders of a combined personal and kit weight of up to 125kg.
For many of us, cruising remains where it’s at, and that is your paddling of choice for ever. However, many SUP fans find that as their paddling skills and fitness level improves they decide to take it to another level and start touring, surfing, racing or whitewater paddling. So what size boards do you need if you want to step it up?
Touring, on rivers, canals or the coast
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 longer than 12′, between 28″ and 33″ wide, 6″ deep, and have a good waterline without a hockey nose! Being a longer board
these boards are faster and require less corrective strokes when paddling, augmenting the speed improvements.
McConks 12’8 Go Explore was designed as a specific touring board, and the board has tested it’s mettle on a circumnavigation of Malta.
This board just loves racking up the miles. It likes to go in a straight line, and turns only slowly unless you step back and throw a pivot turn. However, the deckpad at the back of the board has been sacrificed to make more expedition storage space, so pivot turns can be a little tricky on this board. This board is great if you’re one of our heavier riders (over 150kg). It’s also extremely stable for beginners who want to take passengers and is very light, so great for travelling (in fact all of our packages come in at under 15kg including the paddle). Ironically, because this board is slow to turn, it’s also a beginners dream for learning to surfSUP. It carves very gently and very slowly, and with the large volume of the board, catches all but the tiniest waves. And because it’s so fast, and likes going in a straight line, it’s also extremely forgiving to bad paddle technique.
Buy this board if you want to paddle long distances, if you want to paddle fast, if you’re wanting to take lots of kit or passengers, or if you’re a very nervous, but keen to learn surfSUPer. Also read our article about inflatable SUP racing. If you fancy entering a race, then this board is the board for you.
For a fuller description of this board, read our focus on touring article.
If you’re going to spend most of your time surfing, then you’re in the wrong place. Although inflatable boards can be surfed (see our article on surfing airSUP), if you are a real surfhead, you would be better off with a rigid board. And if you are, then take a look at some of the great rigid boards from some great UK companies such as Loco surfing, Freshwater Bay Paddleboards, Fatstick and Neptune.
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. To place on the podium, you will almost certainly need a hard race board. but if you’re just after some competitive fun, inflatable SUPs meet that need. Our 12’8 is a great starter race board, and perfect if you want a fun touring and surf board, but with the odd foray into race. If you become a convert and need a longer inflatable race board, check out Loco’s 14″ iSUP ,
If you want the benefit of a touring board shape, but want a volume closer to an all round board, then check out Freshwater Bay’s 11’5 compact tourer.
Whitewater and river surf 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 retractable or flexible fins, 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!
We’re still developing our whitewater and river SUP board and Matt Stephenson is our prototype rider helping us to develop the perfect WWSUP board.
Downwind paddling is at the more extreme end of the SUP scale. Paddling downwind on open water in large swell requires great skill. 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 carbon board. Read this article for more information.
Any clearer? If not, then leave a comment below, just drop us a line, or give us a call (+44 7387 383243). We’ll talk you through the best board for your needs.
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If there’s a sport that captures this year’s zeitgeist, it’s standup paddle boarding or SUP. Standup paddleboarding has been around for a decade or see, but it is the evolution of inflatable paddleboards that has really supercharged the appeal and development of SUP. It seems that everyone has been keen to get in on the act this year, with Orlando Bloom paddleboarding naked, Bill Bailey appearing in the Guardian discussing his love of SUP on the Thames, and even Countryfile and Waitrose magazine featuring SUP in 2017. And there are a number of reasons why SUP is the fastest growing watersport in the UK and the world right now:
- It’s accessible. Anyone; young, old, able, less abled are able to get on a board and paddle, as long as the board is the right size for the rider and conditions.
- All you need is water. Unlike most other board sports, you can SUP 24/7. Admittedly some conditions are better than others; sun drenched waters and light winds are particularly appealing. But SUP is independent of waves or wind. Although there are speciality boards for racing, or for expeditions, or for esurfing, or for riding river rapids, a single all-purpose board can do all of this reasonably well. And you can SUP anywhere; river, lake, sea or canal. So there will always be somewhere to SUP within a few miles.
- It’s easy. With the correct board for your size and weight, you will be up and paddling within minutes. Even the most balance challengd beginners are stand up paddling within 15 minutes.
- It’s a great workout. It’s widely reported that SUP is good for the core muscles, and it’s also great for improving all round fitness; an hour paddleboarding will burn around 700 calories. And because you’re in control of how hard you work and how far you go, it doesn’t matter what shape you start in.
- Once you have made the initial outlay in kit, there are very few ongoing costs. And although the initial outlay can seem significant, buying second hand, or buying smartly can reduce the initial outlay.
- Getting close to nature. Stand up paddleboarding puts you right out there to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature. With the water under your feet you’ll find that you have the perfect viewpoint to observe
amazing creatures swimming and moving about below you. You’ll be able to see birds in action, witness a serene sunrise, paddle through mist, or marvel at a breathtaking sunset. Whether you are on a solo, family, or social paddle stand up paddleboarding connects you with your natural surroundings.
- Quality time together. Whether river paddling to lunch in a riverside pub, or paddling down river with your children on the boards, SUP can be very sociable. You can even bring your dog along for the ride.
- Stress reduction. Fed up of busy crowded beaches? Paddle to that secluded island or inaccessible beach around the headland. Skinny dipping. Paddle far from the madding crowd, strip, and dive in the water. SUP is a great way to unwind and relax. Beautiful sunsets, inspirational sunrises, paddling in amazing places reduces stress and recharges your batteries.
- Free dinner. Tie a crayfish or lobster pot net behind the board, add bacon and paddle. Or take a fishing rod with you. Easy to find your own perfect spot. And then grill them up on the beach when you get back. Probably with a cold beer!
- Deflate the board, roll up, and pack away in the convenient wheeled rucksack that comes with the best inflatable paddleboards. No worrying about tired arms strapping the boards to the roof or trying to squash everything into the car. You can be on the road in a few short minutes after getting off the water.
If these reasons don’t make you want to rush out and get your hands on an inflatable paddle board, then nothing will!
Visit our webshop to find out how easy it is to get hold of great quality, affordable paddleboard kit!
So, McConks has been a registered company for over 12 months, and we’ve been actively trading since May 2016. We thought now would be a good time to look back at what, if anything, we’ve achieved.
When we opened in June, we were definitely the new kid on the block. Noses were looked down, snooty comments were made by established brands and shops. “Another company importing cheap crap from China” was heard more than once. Even when SUP experts reviewed our kit favourably (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Board Mag UK here), there were squeals that SUPM was not standing up for ‘the industry”. There’s a huge amount of snobbery in watersports hardware, and because neither Jenny nor I were known professional performance paddlers, we were written off.
Hopefully those days are behind us. We’ve had some amazing reviews from expert SUPpers, beginners and everything in between. Observations that keep being repeated by experts and beginners alike are:
- Board shape. We keep getting great reviews which comment on the stability and true tracking of our boards when stood midboard, but really welcome the additional responsiveness that the pintail shape bring when you step back. Rider after rider report that step back/pivot turns are easier than on a big brand equivalent like for like size board
- Fins: It is a recurrent theme in reviews of our kit that real fins really set us apart in our price range, and really improve tracking and surf sup ride.
- The carbon fibre paddles are really very, very good. Just enough flex, just enough power, just enough drive, subtle dihedral, comfortable paddle without needing foam or padding to make the ride comfortable
- Quality: Manufacturing quality is the same as the best of the best, but comes with a much affordable price tag.
We always intended 2016 to be a slow year with organic growth. We wanted to make sure that our supply chain could cope with demand, and that we could achieve the very highest quality consistently. We’ve made no secret of the fact that our kit is made in China (although we’re hoping at some point to be able to manufacture at least some of our products in the UK), and getting supply chains set up over such a distance is time consuming and challenging. And we had a few false starts, due to last minute changes in design and supply chain ability, and we have struggled at times to meet demand.
If we had got all our ducks in line earlier in the year, we could probably have sold more boards and got more people on the water on quality, affordable kit. However, our customers have been so engaging and interested, and have asked lots of questions that take time to answer well; Where can I go paddleboarding? What should I wear when SUPing? Can I paddle on any river? What kit should I wear? Can I just paddle on any lake? (answers to these questions plus all of the other every day questions we get asked coming up in our next blog). It’s been a privilege answering these questions, and helping some slightly nervous beginners get on the water for the first time. After all, getting people who otherwise wouldn’t get on the water is what McConks is all about. Judging by the great feedback and reviews we’ve had from customers about our quick responses to queries, and our non-judgmental responses, two very important thoughts come to mind.
The first is that we need to make sure that our team is big enough to always answer those queries as well as just ship the products. We won’t be dismissive or judgmental when answering your questions. We never want you to be scared to ask a question. If you have a question, rest assured there is someone else who wants to ask the same question, but is too worried to; there’s no such thing as a silly question, just silly answers.
Oh, and to this purpose, we’ve just overhauled our website to make it easier to use.
The second thought is about inclusiveness. We hear time and time and time again that the riders and reps for the big brands are only interested in you if you’re young, pretty or rich. I don’t know how much this is intended, but the perception is real. One of our customers recently travelled from Scotland to the Lake District to meet some SUP heros and some Brand Reps.
“After meeting with (big brand team rider, name removed to protect their identity)” he reported “and having met countless (big brand inflatable SUP) reps in the past, you’re only ever a name on a list, and they don’t have that personal connection to the customer. They’re only your mate for the 5 minutes before you buy a board. I travelled all the way from Scotland to the Lake District yesterday for Sup, Run, Bike, and no-one even offered me a trial of their kit. They’re not interested because I’m old, on the heavy side, and not a pretty young thing, and because I work with a charity with not much money. McConks is punching its weight with the big guys. You keep it real and continue to value your customers”
McConks aim is to get riders on to the water. Big, small, pretty, ugly, good, bad, indifferent. We don’t care. We don’t take strength from how cool or pretty or handsome our riders are, and therefore we’re not going to be damaged by someone with Downs Syndrome on our boards, or hapless beginners. And in fact, nothing makes us happier than seeing people of different abilities or different background using our kit. Two great charities for disadvantaged people, The Princes Trust, and Beyond Boundaries East Lothian are currently trialling some of our demo kit. The managers and technical advisors have bought their own personal kit from us, and we’re now thrashing out a deal for the charities as a whole. And because we’re small, and don’t spend fortunes on marketing or on team riders, and because our passion is to get people on the water, we are surprisingly affordable.
So, has the first year been successful? We think so. Customer feedback has been great. Expert feedback has been great (shout out to Tez Plavanieks and Stand Up Paddle Mag UK, and to the team at our demo centre at Cotswold Water Park Hire). We’ve delivered to happy customers all over Europe; including Finland, Spain, France, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Jersey. And we’ve shipped to the USA. We’ve also donated some ex demo stock to some great charities, and we’re still going to make a small profit in our first year. After we have deducted taxes and stuff, and the cost of new stock for next year, we will give 100% of the profit to our charity for 2016 Surfers Against Sewage. Because we’re still growing and expanding our range, most of our income is ploughed straight back into more kit and more prototypes. But we will make sure that SAS has a cheque for at least £200 by the end of 2016.
And what about 2017? Keep your ears to the ground. I hear rumours of a McConks dedicated Surf SUP and a McConks White Water SUP in 2017, once we have got our new Go Explore board out there.