Most asked SUP Questions
Stand up paddle boarding has absolutely exploded in the last couple of years so we're here to answer your most common questions. Although we deal exclusively with inflatable stand-up paddle boards (iSUP), the information below can also be used when buying solid boards.
What safety measures should be taken before heading out?
The RNLI have a few steps that should be taken to insure your paddle boarding experience is as fun and safe as possible.
- Safety in numbers - Where possible you should go boarding with another boarder. It's more sociable and you can help each other if you get into trouble
- Heading out alone - If you're heading out alone be sure to tell someone where you're planning to paddle and always have some way or contacting the emergency services. This can be a VHF radio or mobile phone in a waterproof case. A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is also a good idea. This will send out a distress signal, along with your GPS location to the emergency services
- Check weather and Tides - If the water is too rough or choppy, you might find it difficult, especially if you are a beginner. And be aware, the conditions can change quickly
- Avoid offshore winds - They will quickly blow your paddleboard far out to sea, which can make it extremely tiring and difficult to paddle back to shore.
- Flotation devices - A suitable buoyancy aid should be worn any time you're on the water. Even if the conditions look good, you can still get into trouble in no time. Choose one that still allows you plenty of movement so you can paddle freely. Not only will it keep you afloat, but it will also help give you time to recover should you fall in – and chances are you will!
- Suitable clothing - You should dress in clothing that is suitable for the time of year. In winter this should be a drysuit or 5mm wetsuit. In summer, you might get away with just a swimsuit but if you're planning to be out for some time, warmer clothing is recommended.
What size paddleboard (SUP) is right for you?
When it comes to paddle boards there can be a few numbers that you need to get your head around in order to get the best experience.
Most boards will have something like the following printed on the side of the board
This gives you the full size breakdown of the board. But what do the figures mean? The first will always be the length, this will be in cm’s or feet & inches (sometimes both), next figure represents the width of the board at its widest point and last figure is the thickness of the board.
Long v Short boards
When picking the length of the board you will need to ask yourself if it’s speed & handling you’re looking for or cruising & stability. Long/wide boards tend to be better at long distance cruising but won’t be great for turning or accelerating. Turning will be harder as you will need to reach further around the board. Short/narrow boards are best for speed and turning but will be less stable due to their smaller size.
If you are a taller rider, have a higher body weight or if you’re bringing a child or a dog with you, a long board will have a higher weight limit so would be a better choice. That being said, an inflatable SUP will have a huge amount of buoyancy. For example, a relatively short board of 10’4” x 31” will have a max payload of 140kg. Keep this in mind when buying your board and try not to over compensate
The thickness of the board is less relevant and not a major concern when choosing a board. As a rule of thumb, double skin boards will be thinner than single boards. This means that they are a bit neater.
If you’re new to paddle boarding we would recommend getting a mid length board 10’5”-12’
Experienced, Advanced Riders
If you’ve been boarding for some time you may want to try a shorter, racing board for increased speed and turning 9’8”-11’
If it’s distance you want a longer, touring board is best suited 12’6”-14”
A short and thin board is best for fun in the waves 8’8”-10’
Why is the pressure of my inflatable board important?
Inflating the board is only going to take around 10 minutes. The last couple of those minutes is a bit a chore. The reason for this is that you need to inflate a board anywhere from 15-20psi. But what even is PSI?
PSI is the pressure resulting from a force of one pound-force applied to an area of one square inch.
If you prevent that air from escaping as you continue pumping, the pressure inside the object increases. This increasingly dense air gets hotter and pushes, or exerts force, on the surface of the material the inflatable object is made from. So, the higher the PSI the more rigid the board will be.
- As a minimum, in temperatures less than 25 degrees, approx 15 psi is about right for most paddle boards.
- If you’re a heavier rider, or are looking to carry a little more weight, then inflation up to 18 psi should be okay.
- Greater than 18 psi is possible. But, unless you’re a pro SUP racer, or require the ultimate in rigidity and stiffness, there’s no practical benefit for the average paddle boarder.
What’s wrong with under inflating my board?
A paddle board will begin to take on it’s final shape around 1-2psi and begin to feel solid at around 4-5psi. With the pumping becoming increasingly harder you might say to yourself “ahh sure that’ll do”, but that will not do. If you go out on a board with 5psi of pressure you quickly realise why. Trying to put all your weight on an area of the board taken up by just your feet will make the board flex, wobble and bend in the middle. You will feel every ripple of water under the board and find it incredibly difficult to keep your balance.
SUP Board Pressure Test by Viking Marine
The key is to find the right ratio of air pressure to rigidity for your weight, the conditions and your board. Not too much, not too little. You won’t damage your paddle board if it’s under inflated, but it certainly won’t work as well as it's designed to do.
Can I over inflate my board?
Yes, you most certainly can. While you won’t do much damage to a board while under inflating, you can do a lot of damage by over inflating. You can even burst your board if you use the wrong type of pump or use an electric pump and exceed the paddle board manufacturer’s psi recommendations. This is quite unlikely however, catastrophic over inflation is unlikely to be an issue unless you use an air compressor, rather than a manual or electric sup pump. If you can burst your paddle board with a manual pump you should enter the worlds strongest man competition.
You don’t have to burst your board to do real damage from over inflating. If you severely over inflate your paddle board, seams may split, or the highly pressurised air will find a weak spot in the material and create a hole. Highly pressurised air can very quickly and explosively turn a small hole into a large tear causing potentially irreparable damage to your board.
If you over inflate your board by just a few psi above the recommended psi levels, it’s unlikely to cause any damage unless you leave or store your board in a hot environment. Heat causes air to expand, increasing the air pressure (psi) in the board. That additional natural psi may cause an already slightly over-inflated sup board to go POP!
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