2019 was likely the year of the SUP (for me at least). I raced stand-up paddle boards (SUP for short) in France and took a 140-mile trip down the Yukon River in Canada in addition to all of the extra time I spent paddling from March to November.
I’ve been a whitewater rafting guide and enthusiast as well as a sea kayak guide who has paddled on four continents (including Antarctica). You’ve likely even read some of my other paddling stories from paddling in Greenland to extreme whitewater paddling in West Virginia. With all of this paddling experience, paddling a SUP has become my favorite form of water travel in recent years.
In recent years, the sport of SUPing has become one of the fastest growing pastimes and aside from being a unique form of travel, it’s also a great workout. Standing on the board while paddling engages an array of muscles throughout the body and is a great workout for your core.
Once relegated to select locations in tropical regions, SUPing has become an almost household term across the world. It’s easier than ever to find outfitters that offer rental options.
Unlike kayaking, paddle boarding offers the options of sitting, kneeling, or as in the name itself, standing. It’s also more forgiving than kayaking. If you do fall, the water is a great reprieve on a hot day and it’s easier to get back on the board than to get back into a kayak that has flipped.
Before you hit the water, here are a few things to consider before paddling off into the sunset.
Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Board
There are advantages to both. However, inflatable boards tend to edge out the hard boards when it comes to all-around compatibility. Here are a few factors that make inflatable boards ideal for beginners and veteran users.
- Durability: Inflatable boards tend to be more durable and are more forgiving when bumping into rocks and other hard objects that might otherwise damage a hard board. They can also be used in a variety of conditions from flat water to whitewater paddling.
- Convenience: Inflatable boards, when deflated, take up less room and most fit into a bag for storage and transport. This is ideal for people without the ability to transport a hard board atop their car. They easily fit into the trunk and when done with a particular outing, they can be stored in a closet until ready to be deployed again for another adventure. Also, the inflatable board in its storage bag can also be checked for airline travel. This can save money that you might otherwise have to spend on rental fees.
- Weight: Inflatable boards are typically lighter which can make the difference in the frequency that a board is used.
- Comfort: Inflatable boards can be more forgiving when used over long periods of time. Standing on a hard board all day can cause extra fatigue.
- Stability: When compared to a similar sized hard board, an inflatable board can possess greater volume therefore making it more stable. You can even do yoga on a SUP.
- Safety: Falling onto a hard board can be less forgiving than making contact with an inflatable.
The Best Stand Up Paddle Board Gear for Men
Stand-Up Paddle Board
The first couple of times you go out, it’s advantageous to rent or borrow gear. This will allow you to determine whether you enjoy it enough to invest money into your own gear. Depending on the board, it can be a significant investment but a quality board will last for years.
Red Paddle Co. offers a variety of inflatable boards for just about any adventure. We paddled the Voyager series (12’ 6” and the 15’ tandem) on a self-supported trip down the Yukon.
A SUP paddle looks similar to an elongated canoe paddle with an angled blade. An adjustable paddle is perfect as it will accommodate a range of paddlers and will allow for lowering the length when sitting or kneeling.
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
Stand-up paddle boards are considered vessels by the U.S. Coast Guard and users are required to have a PFD on board. Adults don’t have to wear them but children are required to wear them at all times. It’s best to check regulations as age requirements vary by state.
A low profile PFD, like the Kokatat Hustle, works well whether standing, kneeling, or sitting.
The U.S. Coast Guard also requires each boater to have a safety whistle which can easily attach to your PFD.
Who doesn’t want to get a little sun-kissed on a nice day out on the water. However, spending all day in the sun can do more than harm your skin. It can leave you physically drained and potentially dehydrated. Here are two great options for providing a little sun protection for a full day on the water:
Duck Camp Lightweight Bamboo Hoodie
Made with a super soft bamboo fabric, this hoodie also provides UPF20+ sun protection.
Howler Brothers Loggerhead Henley
When paired with a hat, the henley is a great option for those who would prefer not to wear a hoodie. Made of 100% polyester, this henley also provide UPF45 sun protection.
A good pair of polarized sunnies are worth their weight in gold when spending time on the water. The Smith Castaway is a perfect choice as it also comes with a proprietary and adjustable eyewear retainer so you don’t drop them overboard.
The Protekt Sunscreen Stick
Aside from a PFD, this may be the single most important piece of gear. And while it’s important to apply prior to hitting the water, carrying additional protection is essential. The Protekt sunscreen stick will easily fit into your PFD pocket.
Kokatat Dirt Bag
Before heading out, stash all of your gear in the Kokatat Dirt Bag. For the trip home, place all of your gear (wet or dry) in the bag. As a bonus, the bag contains a floor mat that easily deploys to keep your feet clean and debris free while changing.
Sealine Gear Dry Bag
If you’re going point to point along a river route, it’s great to have a dry bag to store your extra apparel, wallet, and keys. These dry bags from SealLine come in a variety of sizes and are see-through for easily identifying and retrieving your gear as needed.
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