I get about 5 requests a week about which board to buy, where to purchase it or to compare boards found on Craigslist or elsewhere. Sometimes folks ask me to help sell boards they bought online or at Costco that didn't work for them. Here's a few tips to be more knowledgeable about the process of finding gear as well as how to avoid getting the wrong board.
- Always try before you buy. I say this to most of my students but still see folks going to Costco
- Don't buy a board just because it comes with a free paddle. Most package deal paddles suck! Sorry for the language, but we've seen it over and over again. Most package deal paddles are aluminum and are super heavy. If the foam core in the shaft comes out, they'll sink (seen it). Heavy means it's hard to paddle and will add weight thus stress on your shoulders. Usually you can't tell which way the power face is. Free carbon paddle? Have you tried it? Carbon doesn't mean it's a good paddle or is light. I've seen heavy and/or stiff carbon paddles. Most package deals don't come more important items, a PFD or leash. Buying a paddle is a personal thing. Most paddlers want a good paddle that feels good to the hands, has a nice shaft flex, fits their budget and/or has a certain type of power face or blade width. Inflatable paddlers want a light paddle. Many paddles that come with inflatables are surprisingly super heavy (one student donated her paddle to me as a result).
- Boards Cost too Much - Yep but both inflatable and fiberglass board are very expensive to make and are usually shipped here from elsewhere. It is a problem since a family of four can't buy 2-4 boards for less than a grand. Inflatables are the most affordable option if you're buying a few at a time. Late summer to early fall is the best time to buy as retailers are dumping their 2016 boards to make room for the next year's boards. The soft foam boards such as the one pictured leak and may only last you 1-2 seasons before it gets super heavy (see it). They're also super thick thus tippy for taller folks. \
Tip for Families: Buy only 1-2 boards as several kids can be on one board a time and usually only use it as a floating platform. Teach your kids how to paddle tandem (2 on a board). This works well and some families we know even race with one of their kids on their board. During a 6 kids class I had this year, we brought only 3 boards and put 2 kids on each board. Worked great!
Don't Always Believe the Manufacture's Specs - A student approached me the other day and noticed that the board he bought floats people up to 230lbs. I looked at it and replied - no way! I'm a big guy and sink most boards that are not 5" thick and 32" wide. Some board specs may say a board isn't good for surfing but better for this or that. That's a marketing ploy to channelize their marketing efforts. All boards surf, tour, race, etc.
Why I don't do Retail - Many ask why I don't do full retail. Truth is, margins are super small and it's very difficult to make a profit. Plus with so many online options, most buyers will go for the cheapest board vs the best, and often will skip loyalty for price. For example, I've been trying to sell one of the fastest and more efficient downwinder boards on the market for an amazing price of just wholesale (Imagine Connector 14'). But folks prefer to buy what they see the pros on or what their friends use even if it's not the best board for their needs. The rep took the board back this week to try to sell in Hood River this weekend. I'll miss it, an epic ride. And there's no money in selling leashes and smaller items unless you're doing high volume. My dyslexic mind doesn't allow me to cross that bridge (not good at math or money mgt).
Other Gear to Get - After you get your board, remember to get a lifejacket (PFD) and leash. These are very important items that even us pros use daily. I'm never good to paddle either item! Generally we go with a coiled leash (non surf) and vest PFD for the pockets, warmth, visibility to boaters (don't get black). Kayaking PFDs have many options. Co2 works if you know how to use it - fire one cartridge before going offshore. Most haven't done that.
Here's an in depth video about Buying a SUP from Blue Planet's Robert Stehlik. Definitely watch this! http://blueplanetsurf.com/pages/choosing-the-best-stand-up-paddle-board-for-your-needs
Any Questions? Give me a holler, always glad to help. Check out my lessons in Seattle too.