What you need to know about the SUP (Stand Up Paddle)
The Stand Up Paddle (SUP) has finally gone mainstream here in South Africa and specifically here in Port Elizabeth!
It took a while, mainly due to the high cost of boards putting it out of the reach of many watersport enthusiasts. This has thankfully slowly been changing as volume of board sales has grown. This is thanks to decent Inflatable Stand Up Paddles ( iSUPs ) and the introduction of a plastic (roto-moulded) Stand Up Paddle. The price of rigids has improved just to compete.
Stand Up Paddle Boards
The inflatable boards use Drop Stitch construction – this is what allows an inflatable SUP to maintain its shape when it is inflated to high pressure (around 15psi is common). Without drop-stitch, the board would bulge out in the middle like an over-inflated air mattress.
The latest iSUPs also have welded seams, instead of glued seams – which tended to delaminate after a number of years. All these technologies along with improvements in materials means that today’s iSUPs are extremely durable and perform very well.
The added benefit of storage and ease of transport make a very compelling argument for buying an inflatable SUP board over a rigid.
Roto-moulded products are extremely durable and can handle a lot of abuse. We at Nautical Sports sell a board that retails for under R8,000 – making it currently the most cost effective option on the market.
The disadvantage is weight and performance. These are a great option for resorts who hire out craft and for tour operators as well as first time buyers.
The plastics and inflatables are not considered performance boards. They are aimed at the novice who wishes to get on the water and experience this derivative of paddling and for first time buyers. We would recommend you stick with these (or buy a second hand rigid).
Rigid boards are the most expensive and vulnerable to damage. They are, however, the best performing and designed according to the type of paddling one wishes to do. This may include flat water paddling for outdoor recreation, long distance racing or surfing on ocean waves.
These boards are traditionally made from laminated layers over foam cores.
A SUP paddle basic construction is a T-handle, a symmetric blade and a long shaft. The overall length of the paddle is a topic for many an argument and is determined by:
- the paddler height,
- the length of board,
- the type of paddling (recreational, racing or surfing).
However, without getting too technical, a pretty good all round rule of thumb which works for the majority of paddlers is:
An entry-level ADJUSTABLE paddle’s a great option for a novice so you can adjust it till you find your sweet spot. If a family member or friend wishes to paddle, one can easily adjust for them. It will typically have an aluminium shaft and a rigid plastic blade.
Buying a performance paddle can only really be justified if you have a rigid board. This is because these paddles are typically a carbon fibre blade with either glass or carbon fibre shaft and can be very pricey. They are usually made to a fixed length suitable to the paddlers needs.
Once you have a board, a paddle and we recommend a leash and a life jacket/PFD – the next thing you are going to need to do is dial in your stroke.
Here’s a great video to explain the basic paddle stroke to propel you forward.
Jay Wild continues his technique clinic with Morgan Hoesterey at SUP magazine with a stroke tutorial. He covers four basic principles: the catch, power, exit and recovery phases. While there are varying theories on paddle stroke fundamentals, Wild nails his with clarity, all while demonstrating in perfect form. Check it.