Preparing For Your First Paddle Board Experience

Preparing For Your First Paddle Board Experience

Summer is here and it’s time to get out and explore. Sure you could hit the road and travel to some touristy spot that everyone and their cousin is planning on going, or you could try something new that is a great escape for the whole family that you can enjoy at your nearest lake or river! Don’t worry, you’ll still run into everyone and their cousin, but you’ll have a way to escape the majority of the crowds on the beach!!

Paddle Boarding or SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) is not only a good workout but being on the lake is a great way to unwind from the stress of the work week. I recently started this great sport and let me tell you, sitting on the water, feet dangling over the edge, your body moving to the gentle rhythm of the current… there’s nothing better. Instantly I could feel all of the stress built up during the week wash out of me as the waves rock me from side to side. I never thought I would find myself out on the water like this, thinking I would not be able to balance on the board, but here I stand, sit, and lay on my board relaxing under the summer sun. Next thing you know I’ll be doing headstands (after many failed attempts).

As you’re sitting here reading this article, what are your thoughts? Too expensive? My friends don’t do it? I don’t have a truck or SUV to carry the board? Will I ever win the lottery? Well, I can answer all but one of those questions. I’ve provided a couple of links to where you can purchase or rent a board. I would recommend renting first just to be sure you like it. Luckily enough after buying mine, I fell in love with the sport and I know you will as well.

If you are in the Phoenix area, check out NoSnow Stand Up Paddle Boards in Mesa off the 202 and Power. I purchased my board from them and Heather helped me gear up for my first paddle. They offer board rentals and group outings as well.
You can also find them on Facebook.

Before you go out and buy a board, rent one first. Go to any local shop that sells/rents boards and they can get you set up with everything you need for your first trip. Some places will even offer classes if you have never been on the water before.

When picking a board, you want to consider what you want to do. Casual paddler, weekend-long camping trips, riding the ocean waves, or yoga.

Here are a few facts to consider:

Planing Hulls are flat and wide like a surfboard and are very maneuverable. They are designed to sit on top of the water and perfect for beginners or those more interested in SUP Yoga.
Best Use: SUP Yoga, flatwater paddling, surfing, fishing

Displacement Hulls are narrow at the front, designed to cut through the water giving you a faster, and straighter ride. Think kayak or canoe as the narrow front allows for a more efficient paddle.
Best Use: Touring/Camping trips, racing & fitness

Depending on where you live and what you drive will help determine if you should go with an Inflatable or Solid board.

Inflatable boards are great for those who do not have a place to store a solid board or don’t own a car or truck. The shortest board on the market are 9 feet so you can imagine if you’re driving a Smart car you’re out of luck or will need to buy a rack. Inflatables are easy to carry and there are bags designed to carry the board, paddle, and pump like a backpack. If you have a secret lake you like to go to that requires hiking a few miles to get to, you’ll be much better off with an inflatable.

If you are worried about it popping when scraping the bottom or while carrying it, the boards are made with several layers of PVC Tarpaulin making it extremely durable. A major part of the construction is a technique called Drop Stitch. Drop stitching is a manufacturing process that creates two layers of material ‘tied together’ by an extremely large amount of thin threads. This allows for a more rigid board as well as better deflating as the drop stitching helps compress the layers together so you can roll the board up.

An H-valve makes inflating and deflating easier as the valve is mechanically sealed and you will not lose air when you take the nozzle off. When deflating, simply push in the pin and twist until it locks in place.

The only downside I’ve seen with inflatables so far is if you do not inflate the board enough, you will not be very stable. Make sure your board is properly inflated. I generally keep it at 18-23psi but check what your board requires and then increase as needed.

Solid boards obviously will need space for storage as well as a car rack or truck to carry them. What you lose in convenience in lugging your board back and forth you gain in performance. Made with foam core and surrounded with either fiberglass, carbon fiber, or plastic, the Solid boards have a steadier feel to it since it is rigid and sits low in the water. With less drag than the inflatables, these boards tend to allow you to go farther and faster, making them a better choice if you are on a long trip.

Board lengths vary between 8-14 feet.

A short board, 8-10 feet, are best for children. They are more stable and easily maneuverable.

The medium length boards, 9-12 feet are good for surf and calm lakes. Hitting some small rapids with these boards will be a lot of fun and are good for overnight trips.

The longboards, 12-14 feet, will allow you to go faster with less effort. With more storage area, you can take longer trips as you’ll be able to carry more gear.

The last thing to take into consideration is the fins.

Single fins will have one long fin that is detachable and will help with tracking and minimal drag, which is perfect for flat water paddling.

3-fin setup, also known as Thruster is good for straight tracking on flat water and good handling in the surf.

2+1 setup is the most common setup you’ll find on most boards. You’ll have two smaller fins on either side of one long fin, that is usually detachable. This type of setup is best for flat water and surf.

Race fins, as you might suspect are for faster speeds. These fins are very stiff and longer than the others. Generally, they are used for the longer boards to help them track better in wind waves and big swells.

Whatever your choice of board type, remember to talk with a specialist at a store before buying. Or find a Paddle Boarding group on Facebook and talk to some of the members. They will know what you need to start out with and will most likely invite you along to their next get together.

I can’t wait to take my board out in the Grand Canyon and do a weekend camping trip. This will require a lot of planning and I will cover everything that’s needed for a successful weekend-long paddle trip in another article.


The aluminum rigid paddles are the cheapest of the three types that I am listing here and good for just starting out. You will want to make sure the size is right for your height and if adjustments are needed, most local paddle shops will have the equipment to resize these paddles.

Adjustable paddles are great for traveling with your board. You’ll want to double check the dimensions of the paddle to make sure it will fit your height. Also, check the reviews or talk with the experts at your local shop to see if there are any problems with the paddle collapsing during use

All the great benefits of an adjustable paddle with the lightweight feel of carbon. These paddles will be higher priced than the aluminum paddles, but when paddling for long distances, you will enjoy the lighter material. Make sure to check the dimensions of the paddle to make sure it will fit your height. Most paddles will fit heights from 4’10” to 6’7″



This pump is great for filling up your board (or other inflatable items) in a short amount of time. Plug it into the power outlet in your car or you can hook it up to a battery with the included clamps. Turn the dial to the PSI levels you want and sit back and wait. When it nears the max level it will make a loud buzzing sound. Turn the dial to zero and it will power off. NOTE: When using this pump it will turn off before it reaches the correct PSI level. You will want a High Pressure Hand Pump to fill the board to your desired level.

Bravo Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard High Pressure Double Action SUP Pump

Great hand pump and perfect for topping off your board with extra air. This pump can deflate as well. Simply remove the plug near the top of the pump and you can use it to deflate your board or other inflatables. The pump is lightweight and fits easily in any SUP carrying bag (see Bags below).


Bags & Coolers:

Keep all of your valuables dry and safe with this waterproof dry bag. There is a front pocket for keys, cell phone, etc and you can get these bags in a variety of sizes. There is a strap that you can use to carry as a shoulder bag or tie it to the board. I’ve used this bag before with no problems, but always test first in a pool or bathtub before you go out onto the water.

This bag is perfect for carrying everything you need to hit the water. Great for those hard to reach rivers and lakes or just to store it when not in use. This bag has room for all of your accessories including a High Pressure Hand Pump. Perfect for weekend-long paddle trips. Depending on the size of your board, make sure that you buy a bag that will fit the length of your board.

If you own a solid paddle board there are plenty of bags to choose from to help carry your board. Be careful when purchasing your bag to make sure you get the right length. A lot of these bags will have extra pouches to carry other gear and pumps. If you are unsure what type of bag will work for you, talk to your local paddle shop to get some suggestions.

There are a variety of deck bags to choose from and it will depend on where you plan on going. If you’re just going to be on the water for a few hours, a bag such as this one will give you plenty of storage for all of your items. Drinks, snacks, towels, etc. Be sure that your board has the tie downs available for any deck bag you choose.


This is a cool little kit that I plan on buying soon. The kit includes the deck bag carry strap dry bag (2-liter size), hook-on stash bag (16 oz.), and a neoprene water bottle cooler. I am including a link to the company website in case you want more info on this bag.



You’ll want to get a leash on your board as you don’t want to fall off and risk the chance of your board floating away without you.


Find a vest that fits you best and stick with it. Better to be safe than sorry


For when you go on those extra long trips, it’s good to have extra tie downs to keep your gear safe. Most of these kits do not come with the glue, so you will need to buy that separately.


If you think paddling with your cell phone is a bad idea, you’re probably right, but with all of the waterproof cases and bags out there, plus if you’re on a lake or river close enough you’ll have cell service and be able to make all of your friends jealous as you send pics and videos while still on the water.


For your Furry Little Friend! Help them stay comfortable on the board while you paddle around for the day or weekend.


A must Buy if you’re going to be bringing your four-legged pal along.Make sure your pup is comfortable on the board first before heading to the Great Outdoors. If you have a pool, get the pup used to being on the board first. Your stress levels will thank me.