The Manual’s Stand Up Paddle Board Guide

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As we’ve covered before, the sport of  stand up paddle boarding has experienced a surge in popularity over the past two to three years.  That explains why you’ve probably seen both men and women alike with long, beautifully designed boards  on your trips to your local beach, lake or ocean this summer.

Because the demand for stand up paddle boards has become so high, the market is filled with a variety of brands, which can make it hard to navigate. The Manual reached out to Stu Schuck of Charleston’s Ocean Fitness to provide us into some insight as to what boards he thinks are the best.

Stu Schuck and his brother, Brian, started Ocean Fitness three years ago and give lessons in paddle boarding and kite surfing. Schuck exuberantly extols the virtues of paddle boarding as one of the best types of “core” exercise that a person can do. He has also noticed that the sport has become extremely popular with woman—there is generally a 60/40 ratio of women to men in Ocean Fitness classes. And those are numbers that should encourage any guy to try one out.

For paddle board beginners, Schuck recommends that you start on flat water. For the standard flat water board, Schuck suggests that a rider start with something like a Boga El Rey 12, which is a premium brand with great durability.

A recent trend in flat water paddle boarding is the use of “displacement hull” boards. These boards have a hull that is more like a canoe and allows the board to slice through the water with greater ease. Shuck says that Joe Bark has been a trustworthy name in displacement hull paddle boards for years.

As the sport has grown in popularity, so has the amount of paddle board racing that occurs worldwide. For racing, Schuck told The Manual that he believes MHL, a brand based in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, is making some of the finest boards available—including the Unlimited Race and the 12-6 Custom Race.

Then, for those seeking a real thrill, there are “ocean downwinders,” which is where a boarder will ride the wind and paddle through open ocean swells. For this type of advanced paddle boarding, Shuck likes a Hawaiian brand called SIC and their Recon Series Boards, which he says are simply the “best ocean downwind boards in the world.”

However, despite his preferences, Schuck is still in awe at what has occurred with the sport of paddle boarding. “The bottom line,” Schuck says, “is that there are just so many great brands out there. All a consumer has to do is figure out their goals for getting into the sport and it’s really tough for them to go wrong from there.”