Different types of Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards
In part one of our buyer’s guide, we talked about the quality and price of inflatable stand up paddle boards. Here in part two, we’ll look at the different types of paddle board available on the UK market at the moment.
So many activities, so much choice of ISUP's
When it comes to Stand Up Paddleboarding, there’s loads of different activities to take part in and enjoy. As this water sport becomes ever-more popular, paddlers are heading out in the surf on their inflatable paddle boards to explore rivers and coastal creeks, run river rapids, race competitively, head out on expeditions on a paddle tour or cruise, practice yoga or even go fishing.
There are three key board types which are suited to the type of paddleboarding we do here in UK waters: All-Rounder, Surf and Touring (or flatwater) paddle-boards. If you’re buying your first board we suggest having a good idea of the sort of paddling you might want to do. Entry-level, All-Rounder ISUPs offer a great deal of versatility. As you get into your chosen area of the sport, you may want to invest in a board that suits your specific interests, such as paddle surfing or flatwater paddling.
The All-Rounder - a versatile design
We’ll have a look at All-Rounder boards first, as these are generally the most popular boards, particularly for those new to paddle-boarding. Why’s this? Well, All-Rounder ISUPs are really versatile. They’re designed to be ridden in a variety of conditions; if leisurely paddling for a few hours on flat water exploring rivers, lakes or coastal creeks is your thing, you’ll find an All-rounder board will suit your needs perfectly. They offer the right balance of efficiency and stability - wide enough to give you plenty of balance but not so wide that you have to reach out too far to paddle. Their standard length is enough to offer an even glide so you’ll cover more distance between each stroke without too much drag, especially on flatter water. Finally, they track well so side to side movement is minimal and you’ll find yourself heading in straighter lines. All of these attributes will mean that you can spend longer out on the water and paddle further, without suffering early fatigue.
An All-Rounder’s also great for surfing. We mentioned the board’s versatility - not only does it have a comfortable base for flatwater and open water but it’s also been designed to perform well in light surf conditions. Take a look at a high quality All-Rounder iSUP’s rockers (the board’s profile shape) and sidecut (the shape of the board from nose to tail) and you’ll be looking at some of the technical design features that go into creating movement and good handling for many surf paddle boards.
And if you fancy giving Yoga boarding a go, All-Rounder boards provide a good, wide base to practice your fiercest Warrior pose before committing to buying a specialist Yoga SUP. If you’re just starting out in paddle-boarding, the All-Rounder design of the ISUP should give you plenty of confidence on the water and the chance to try out different activities. But even as a seasoned paddler, a quality All-Rounder will often be the go-to board in your collection.
If you plan to spend your time out in the surf, then an ISUP that’s been specifically designed for this activity will be a good buy. Surf paddle boards are generally shorter, have less volume (and therefore buoyancy), a curvier rocker and aren’t as thick as All-Rounders. These features make them more manoeuvrable in the water so you’ll be making better, more aggressive turns and carving those juicier waves! The downside of the Surf design is that it’s not quite as stable as an All-Rounder making these boards less well suited to the absolute beginner. And as they don’t track so well in flatwater they’re harder to paddle over distance. So Surf ISUPs offer high performance in breaking water, but for those who prefer flatwater paddling over surfing, the board you’ll be looking for is the Touring inflatable paddle board.
Touring (flatwater) ISUP
Can there be a better way of spending time exploring the watery byways of the UK than on a Touring board? Sometimes known as flatwater boards, these soundless, non-polluting boards are designed specifically to cover long distances and will take you to parts of the coast and the riverbank that other boats simply can’t reach. And, because you can travel standing up, paddle boarders get a different view from the water to your kayaking colleagues!
It’s easy to spot the difference between a specialist Touring paddle board and the more generalist but versatile all-rounder. Firstly, Touring boards have a much pointier nose and squarer tail than the All-Rounder. This makes them stable, but not so good at making the quick rear-end turns that, for example, the Surf SUP is designed for. Coupled with a lower-rise rocker, Tourers are built for covering longer distances with better straight line speed, will easily slice through calmer waters with greater efficiency, and with much better tracking than boards designed for surfing. To give even more assistance in the water, the sides (rails) will often be more rounded than less-specialist boards.
Within this category of inflatable stand-up paddle boards, there’s a wide range of different sizes, volumes and styles. On offer are skinny racing-style boards which feature a narrower tail and slimmer deck for covering longer distances with speed, paddle boards that respond well in choppier coastal waters, to ultra-wide, ultra-long leisure explorer boards designed to take two paddlers in tandem with all their camping kit and clothing. The choice of flatwater boards that sit between these two extremes will really depend on your own size, preference and paddling experience.