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SUP Guide: Inflatable SUP board or hardboard; touring or all-rounder board?

Stand-Up Paddling – Which SUP Board Should I Buy?

SUP, or stand-up paddling, has something to offer for everyone: Whether on the sea, river, or lake – whether endurance training, relaxation, or action, the varieties are manifold. But if you want to buy a SUP, you first have to ask yourself: inflatable or hardboard? And should it be a touring or an all-rounder board? We answer these two questions in the first part of our SUP Guide.

Mit dem Fanatic Fly-Air-Board paddelt es sich auch vor schöner Kulisse ruhig.
With the Fanatic Fly-Air-Board it paddles quietly in front of a beautiful scenery.

SUP has found more and more fans in the past few years. No wonder: After all, the relaxed feeling of gliding over the water on the board is as much fun for beginners as for experienced paddlers. This is because the sport is easy to learn, most lakes and rivers are right on your doorstep, and SUP enhances your fitness. The variants of stand-up paddling are extremely versatile, in any case. But which board is ultimately suited the individual categories?

The fundamental decision - hardboard or a fit-to-travel inflatable board?

Before deciding on your personal favorite board, you should be sure of whether you prefer an inflatable or a hardboard. Leisure paddlers mainly choose inflatable boards because they are easier to transport and more stable in the water than hardboards, so especially inexperienced paddlers can achieve quick success. Inflatable boards are the epitome of easy paddling. They do their convincing with their light weight and robustness against stone and rock. In addition, the risk of injury is usually lower in the event of a fall.

At Starboard, for instance, the demand is directed much more towards inflatables. The advantages in terms of handling, transport, and storage are obvious, according to the manufacturer, as the boards fit into a comfortable Starboard backpack, which even has wheels. Fanatic is also seeing their greatest growth in this area. Karin Gertenbach, Marketing Director at Fanatic: “In the SUP sector, inflatable boards are still very much in vogue, especially in touring and all-round applications, such as the models Fly Air and Ray Air. These are then available in various technologies and price ranges, depending on their ability.“Parallel to this, the demand is growing for high-quality, lightweight paddles that are adjustable in length and can be used by the whole family.

Beginners can have a lot of fun with a hardboard, too

A hardboard is especially suitable if you have a direct storage place at the lake, river, or sea, and don’t have to transport the board. An SUP hardboard provides a good riding experience and stability in the water. Solid SUP boards are often made of wood or high-tech materials such as carbon, polyester, epoxy, or polyethylene. Since inflatable SUP boards are often recommended for beginners, many are afraid of buying a hardboard, as they’re often notorious as professional equipment.

Nevertheless, beginners can have a lot of fun with a hardboard, too. The boards are known for extremely good turning characteristics and grip on turns on the wave (for those who wants to let off steam while SUP surfing), promising a direct driving feeling, and minor damage is easier to repair. For an airboard, the top inflatable products are extremely stiff, but they never reach the stiffness of a hardboard, which of course is also noticeable in the feel of the ride.

Price range of inflatables or hardboards: between 900 and 1,400 euros

Nash Quest Softtop 11.2 (hardboard all-rounder) approx. €1,249; BIC 11.6 Ace-Tec Soft (soft-top hardboard for families) approx. €1,049;  Starboard Serenity Drive iSUP (special women’s board) approx. €1,179; Indiana Touring iSUP Board (complete set with backpack, pump) approx. €1,249.

Touring or all-rounder board?

While touring boards ensure speed on the water, the all-round version is also suitable for beginners and universal use. Touring boards are long, tapered boards with good directional stability, making them ideal for lakes and slow-flowing waters.

An all-rounder is the typical SUP board for beginners. These SUPs are easy to recognize by their names and are suitable for various applications. The boards are rather bulbous and often equipped with three fins, which also make them more stable and agile. The tail is wider than in the other classes, often rounded and sometimes slightly cut off. The soft edges and the rounded shape give the all-rounders very balanced riding characteristics, making them ideal SUP boards for beginners.

Price range for touring and all-rounder boards

The boards usually start between 700 and 1,400 euros. Those searching for an affordable beginner SUP board should keep an eye out for used boards instead of cheap discounter offers. Starboard Touring Zen iSUP approx. €1,149; Fanatic SUP Board Diamond Air approx. €900.

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