Tips for Buying Your First Stand Up Paddleboard…

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) has been one of the fasting growing and most popular outdoor activities of the last few years. In a 2013 report by “The Outdoor Foundation” stand up paddling attracted 1.2 million people participating in 9.6 million outings, the most participants in an outdoor activity in the U.S. in 2012. This included all ages from 6+ with the most participation being seen in men and women between the ages of 35-44. Wouldn’t you know it, my wife and I are smack in the middle of that demographic so it would make sense that we now own a paddleboard.

Stand Up Paddleboard Tahoe

In the 1940s, surf instructors in Waikiki like the famous Leroy and Bobby AhChoy would take paddles into the surf and stand on their boards to get a better view of the surfers in the water and incoming swells. When Bobby was injured in a car accident that prevented him from swimming or kneeling, he would stand on his board and paddle into the surf zone offering tips and advice to the younger surfers. In the 1980s popular pro surfers like Brian Keaulana, Rick Thomas, Archie Kalepa and Laird Hamilton began using SUP as an alternative way to train while the surf was down and it picked up the nickname “beach boy surfing”.

Even though stand up surfing with a paddle has a long history and has been popular in Hawaii for decades, interest in modern paddleboarding is relatively new outside Hawaii. SUP has grown considerably in the US mainland since it was transplanted from Hawaii to California in 2004 by surfer and Naval Special Forces veteran Rick Thomas. It solidified it’s place in the world of water sports in 2008 when the US Coast Guard officially classified paddleboards as a “vessel” (like a canoe or kayak) requiring use of a personal flotation device (PFD) when paddling outside of surf zones. The attraction is undeniable and the sport has near universal appeal to all demographics. There is something very seductive about the grace, strength and tranquility exhibited by skilled paddleboarders…even if reality for beginners is something very different.

My wife and I had our first SUP experience on the clear, blue waters of Lake Tahoe on her 40th birthday. That short afternoon on the water set the hook and it was only a matter of time before we invested in our own board. Having taken our time to go through the selection and purchasing process, I feel we can offer some sound advice to others looking to buy their first board.

Tips for Buying Your First Stand Up Paddleboard

1. Try Before you Buy


Once you’ve seen those sleek boards cutting smoothly through the water it’s hard not to want one. Before you run out and buy the next board you see, look for a good rental place to test a few boards out. There are multiple styles and sizes of SUPs and your ideal board will vary based on your style of paddling, your size, the type of water you’ll float as well as your skill on the board. Personally, I’m a big guy with a heavy upper body and an aggressive paddle stroke – I need a bigger, more stable board. My wife is half my size, has a Pilates-strong core and a relaxed paddle stroke. If I try to use the SUP my wife is comfortable on, I fall off pretty fast.

We rented several times trying out different board styles to figure out what we were comfortable with. Before we bought ours, my wife tried out a couple of different lengths to make sure she found the right ratio of speed, stability and manageable weight before we settled on the right one. Renting SUPs in most places is pretty affordable compared to other recreational options, so don’t be afraid to rent and rent often.

2. Do your Homework

Classic surf board construction is an art form requiring experience, skill and an instinct for hydrodynamic form. Modern paddleboards are an extension of that tradition and there are a variety of different construction methods used in making them. Just about everything out there will have an EPS foam core with sandwiched layers of fiberglass and epoxy. The number of layers and the quality of the construction materials are generally what will determine the cost of the board. Aside from the typical sandwich construction boards you will find pop-out production boards, made from mold injected polystyrene foam and heat treated epoxy and fiberglass. Pop-out boards are generally lighter and more durable and not a bad choice for the beginner. There are some really amazing custom-shaped, hand-glassed, hand-polished boards that would qualify as artwork and have the price tag to prove it. Since we’re talking about buying your first paddleboard, I would recommend going with something a little more economical that you wouldn’t mind getting a ding or scratch on.

Ultimately, you just want a board that you’re comfortable on and will hold up well as you learn to paddle. However, it is important to understand how construction effects pricing, maintenance and durability when selecting a board to purchase.

3. What Kind of Paddleboarder will you be?

SUP with dog

Stand up boards are used pretty much everywhere these days from quiet paddles on the lake to running whitewater. Different regions offer various SUP opportunities and your activity of choice will have some influence on the type of board you’ll need and how it’s set up. Many of the recreational whitewater SUPs look and ride very different than the sleek, thin boards designed for flat water. Even the paddles for whitewater paddleboarding are different. Having to carry your board into remote areas might lean you toward trying an inflatable version. Planning on boarding with your dog? You’ll want more stability and traction pads so your dog doesn’t slip and slide on the board.

Whatever you end up with should reflect the direction you plan to go with the sport. The activity defines the board type:

  • Surf: shorter boards that turn well and are naturally at home in the waves
  • Family recreation: durable boards with width for stability
  • Cruise: long boards, often with room for cargo; at home on flat water
  • Fitness and race: long, narrow boards built for speed in any water conditions
  • Yoga: wide, stable boards; often made with full deck pads for better grip in various postures

You’ll also need to make sure that your selecting the right sized board based on your experience and size. Longer, wider boards can be more stable and carry more weight, but might be too wide to paddle comfortably or too long to maneuver. Larger paddlers on smaller boards can find them pretty unstable. Think about who will be using the board and where to determine what size will work best. The chart below is a guideline used by many of the SUP dealers to determine proper board size for individuals.

Beginner Advanced
Weight: 120-150 lb.
Length: 10 ft. 6 in.-11 ft.
Width: 28-30 in.
Weight: 120-150 lb.
Length: 9 ft.-10 ft. 6 in
Width: 26-26.5 in.
Weight: 160-190 lb..
Length: 11 ft.
Width: 29-32 in.
Weight: 160-190 lb.
Length: 9 ft. 6 in.-10 ft. 6 in.
Width: 27-28 in.
Weight: 200-230 lb.
Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29-32 in.
Weight: 200-230 lb.
Length: 10 ft.-11 ft.
Width: 28-28.5 in.
Weight: 240-270 lb.
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.-12 ft.
Width: 32-33 in.
Weight: 240-270 lb.
Length: 11 ft.-11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29.5-31.5 in.
Weight: 280+ lb.
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 33 in.
Weight: 280+ lb.
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 32 in.

4. Budgeting for Accessories

As is the case with many sports, getting into SUP requires a small collection of specialized equipment. While the board itself is the most expensive item ($700 and up) it really can’t be used alone, so you’ll need to take into account all the other equipment needed when planning your budget. Many places will sell a board and paddle combo package, the bare minimum to get started, but you can’t assume your board will come with a paddle. A SUP paddle will cost somewhere between $80 and $250 with the average basic paddle somewhere in the $140 range. Other typical accessories you’ll need are a board leash ($30), a decent low-profile PFD ($80-$200) and a board bag ($150-$250) for keeping your investment protected. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have some good personal sun protection with a high UPF long sleeve shirt and a good hat, maybe even a wet suit if you plan to paddle in the winter. It adds up quick, just be prepared for it.

Once you’ve used your board for a while you might start thinking about other, more specialized accessories like a traction pad (if yours doesn’t have one or your dog needs one), gear storage, spare fins or a helmet (for whitewater).

5. Transportation

Stand Up Paddle Board on Roof Rack

Another logistic and cost to consider is how you plan to get around with your new paddleboard. Inflatables offer a nice, easy option as you can toss the rolled up board and pump in the back of your car and off you go. With a rigid board you’ll need to consider a roof rack setup, preferably with foam padding to keep the board from getting beat up. Long cam-straps work best for lashing your board down to the roof rack, look for padded cam-straps ($20 pair) to reduce the chance of scratches or gouges. If security is an issue consider buying cam-straps with an interior steel cable and locking cams ($90 pair). Having a good board bag also helps with transportation, guarding your new baby from scratches and road debris and keeping it out of direct sun.

6. Care and Maintenance

Luckily, care and maintenance on your new paddleboard is pretty easy and straight forward but there are a few key things you need to keep in mind when you’re buying a new board. Most importantly, do not keep your board in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. When you’re not using your board it really should be kept in a shady spot, or covered with a light-reflective material. The extreme heat that builds up inside the layers of your board when in direct sun can cause damage to the EPS foam core and delaminate the board. Many boards have built in valves to help mitigate gas buildup, but direct exposure should still be avoided. Extended exposure to UV rays can also ruin the finish on your board.

It’s important to wash your board after every use, especially when using it in the ocean. Sea water can corrode metal parts and break down plastic seals and o-rings. Be sure to rinse with clean fresh water paying particular attention to any metal or joints in your board and paddle. Even in fresh water it is still important to wash the board down so that you don’t inadvertently carry contaminants to other bodies of water. Lakes like Tahoe have suffered from the introduction of foreign algae from recreational watercraft brought to the lake dirty.

If your board does have a vent plug, it’s important to check it often to make sure it’s working properly. Get in the habit of loosening the vent plug when the board is not in use so the board can breathe. If you store your board in it’s board bag, make sure both are bone dry before storing. Any dampness in the bag can create an environment for mold and mildew which will wreck havoc on your board.

Following these tips should minimize frustration and set you up for maximum enjoyment in your new found sport. Find a good local retailer, get the board of your dreams and get outside!

 

30 Days of Running – Day 6…

Day six was a very busy day!  Saturday was spent all day traveling to Tahoe.  By the time we made it up to South Lake, we were both exhausted and I really wanted to spend a night getting used to the elevation change.  So instead of going for a late run, we decided to walk to dinner.  It wasn’t a run, but it was something…

South Lake Tahoe

Today’s Run…

Left the hotel at 7:30PM.

The weather in Tahoe last night was AMAZING!  Nice, clear, cool, slight breeze…perfect.  Walk (mostly) on pavement.

Total run was 4.2 miles.

My left foot is a mess since I got here.  I don’t know what is going on with it this time, but it really sore.  The walk helped.

South Lake Tahoe: Wedding Planning…

“We’re getting married here.”

These are the words my beautiful fiancé whispered in my ear as I held her in my arms on the grassy hill overlooking Regan Beach.  We have researched for months trying to find a location for our wedding ceremony.  Tahoe is a beautiful place, but finding just the right location for our wedding had proved difficult.  We had originally settled on a beach location just outside our reception venue, but once we physically visited the beach we were concerned about too many problems and the search continued.

Other decisions were easier and our trip last week was mainly to see if we had made the right decisions.  I think we did well.  We had found 968 Park Hotel online.  The hotel is a renovation of an older establishment.  The new owners had a vision of creating the first Eco-Hotel in South Lake Tahoe.  The new “Green” Hotel was created with the environment in mind.

“Since day one of the renovation every effort was made to reduce, re-use and recycle as much of the existing materials as possible.  Any materials and furnishings that could not be reused were either donated or recycled for other purposes and the new materials used in the renovation were specifically chosen for their sustainability.”

Lobby of the 968 Park Hotel

Lobby and Bar at 968 Park Hotel

We both fell in love with the concept of the hotel immediately.  But concept and practice are two different things.  We made reservations to stay at 968 Park Hotel on this trip to make sure the hotel would fit our needs to house our guests for the wedding.  There were a few minor issues, not much different than you’d find in any busy hotel (it was the weekend after the biggest snow of the year and they were packed).  We had rooms for us and our parents, and the general consensus was that the hotel would fit our needs nicely.  We had a great stay and we highly recommend them if you are in the area.  Even if you don’t stay there, stop in to the little bar for Happy Hour and just check the place out.

The other easy decision was the venue for the Rehearsal Dinner.  Almost every time we visited Lake Tahoe we would be in Tahoe City on the north side of the lake.  Our favorite spot on the north side is Rosie’s Cafe.  Rosie’s is fantastic and a perfect little local restaurant.  When we got engaged, they worked with me to set up a special dinner for Merelyn and they even brought us Champagne, on the house, and insisted on serving us cake for Merelyn’s birthday.  It’s a great little place with TONS of personality and we wanted to share it with our friends and family.  So we had breakfast at Rosie’s and met with the manager, Deanne, who cheerfully talked to us about how easy and fun it would be to have our rehearsal dinner there.  It’s the only part of our wedding that will not be in South Lake, but it’s well worth the drive.

We were also in town for the important business of settling on our reception venue.  More than anything else, this had us worried because these places book up FAST in Tahoe and we had chosen our venue without ever having visited them.  We were worried about the decor, the space, the food…

interior of Riva Room at Riva Grill

Interior at Riva Grill Event Room...

Riva Grill sits at Ski Run Marina right on the beach in South Lake Tahoe just behind the dock for the famous Tahoe Queen paddle boat.  We loved the beach front location and it’s only about a mile away from the hotel, an easy walk.  Sunday afternoon we stopped in with our parents in tow to have lunch and meet with the event coordinator there.  We all made sure to order something different off the menu so we could get a good picture of the quality of the food.  The food was amazing!  Their Conchiglie Pasta was fantastic and you can have it with grilled vegetables instead of chicken (for the vegetarians!)  They will also do a vegetarian Risotto (rich, creamy and delicious).  The food turned out to be incredibly good and once we got a look upstairs at the room reserved for our event, we were sold.  It’s a beautiful space, and there is tons of room.  The entire wall facing the lake is glass and the glass doors open to a narrow balcony overlooking the beach.  Their event coordinator, Amanda, was very friendly and helpful.

But we still needed a place for the ceremony.  Our contact at 968 Park Hotel, Cristina, listened to our dilemma one afternoon and recommended we look at Regan Beach.  We separated from our parents after lunch the next day and decided to swing by and take a look.  The beach looked ok, parking was sufficient, it wasn’t ideal…but better than the beach in front of Riva.  Then as we started to drive away we saw a small posting about a wedding.  The small hill above the beach, lined with trees and overlooking the lake, must be the spot.  We kicked below the icy snow and discovered grass and a small brick patio in the middle of the space.  With our imagination we shook off the cold of winter and could see the space as it would look in Ooctober…the trees full and green, maybe just starting to turn color…the grass and shrubs green and full and the beautiful blue lake in the background of it all.

view of Lake Tahoe from Regan Beach

We brought our parents back to show them and get their opinions. But as we stood there in the middle of the snow-covered knoll, we knew this was the place.  Merelyn reached out and grabbed my hands, and whispered, “We’re getting married here…” and I knew by the smile on her face that she was right.

We fell in love in Tahoe…we fell in love with Tahoe…and we can’t wait to start our lives together in Tahoe.

Getting closer to the Big Day…

Lake Tahoe from Heavenly

We’ve been working toward this trip for months now.  Countless emails, phone calls, spread sheets, and folders have gone in to setting up this trip.  It’s the Wedding Planning trip to Tahoe and it’s a big one!  We are finalizing decisions on the ceremony location, the reception dinner location and menu, the rehearsal dinner location and menu, the photographer, DJ and potentially making decisions on the florist and stylists.  We are also staying in the hotel we’ve chosen for our wedding party so we can decide if they will fit our needs.  We have so many things to consider and so many decisions to be made in a three-day time frame next week.  So much time and planning has gone in to this, and so much rides on this week’s trip, it feels like it should be stressful.

But it’s not stressful.

First off, it’s a trip to Tahoe.  I don’t care what you’re going there for, it’s really hard to feel stressed when you go to Tahoe.  It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet and right now it’s covered in fresh powder.  Even though we are not going to have time for skiing or snowshoeing, I’m still looking forward to being in the mountains.

Merelyn and I on Mount Rose...

The day she said "Yes"...

Another thing that makes this trip exciting is that my parents and my soon-to-be-inlaws get to finally meet in person.  I’m very excited about the opportunity to bring our families together, even if for a short trip.  I really do love that we’ll all get a chance to enjoy Tahoe together and having them both there to help us with some of these important decisions is priceless.

The wedding isn’t until October, but time seems to be flying by and the Big Day will be here before we know it.  I know I can’t wait.  Even though it has made things more difficult to plan, I think Tahoe is the perfect place to have our wedding.  We began our romance in Tahoe, I proposed last year in Tahoe and, in October, we will be married in Tahoe.

Now we get to start thinking about where to have the Honeymoon!