Photos by Nate Parmentier and Kevin Ulep

Tis the joyful season to choose a SUP for someone you love, or if you wish to give yourself a personal gift. Whatever the decision is, if you hone in on the reason for using your SUP, you will have years and years of outdoor pleasure! This is Nate’s most important tip when choosing a board. I believe the next most important factor is your body size or weight, because it is key to have a SUP that will float you the most efficiently and comfortably, for hours of paddling enjoyment.

Some other factors to consider when selecting the right board:

Recreational/Inflatable/All-Rounder: Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Or perhaps a beginner paddler? Nate and I love spending fifty percent of our time outside. We use this type for river runs, camping, leisure, and SUP fitness. We even paddle them tandem occasionally, because these models have sufficient volume, making them quite stable. The inflatable boards are excellent for portability, stability and if you like to travel. Pack it up and go!

Race/Touring SUP: Are you competitive and enjoy speed? Racing is a fantastic way to stay in shape and enjoy the camaraderie of other paddlers. The narrower and lighter the board, the faster you will go. Our friend and Hobie Athlete, Kione Dahlin, mentions several factors when choosing a race SUP. “What conditions I’m paddling in, width, thickness, volume, nose and tail rocker. Some people may prefer a sunken in deck. I like a regular flat deck,” Kione says.

Surf SUP: Enjoy riding waves and live near the ocean? A wider, lightweight board is a great choice. Weighing in between 14-16 pounds, the Colin McPhillips series (Colin is a three time longboard world champion), is recognized as one of the best performing surf SUPs. *Note: a smaller frame person could paddle these on flat water, as well.

Also take into consideration body weight and the volume of the board desired. If you are able to demo a SUP, try different types, sometimes it is like trying on shoes. If you are a beginner, the wider, the better your balance. If you have AMAZING balance and like a challenge, like Nate or our friend, Kione, you could have a great time on a narrow SUP. *Note: our hot Arizona environment is not conducive to dark colors or black SUPs that absorb heat. With so many fun, and varied models, styles, and colors, if you know what you will be using it for it will help to narrow the decision making process.