Your Second Board
Adding to your quiver
This feature originally appeared in our 2016 Skills Guide. This article is the fourth installment of a weekly six-part series focusing on six equipment solutions for six different scenarios.
So you have the standup paddling bug. You took up the sport relatively recently, and you feel that you're getting pretty good at it. The far side of the lake is now within reach. You can paddle through the shore break, falling only half the time and maybe even riding a wave on the way in. Step by step you went from learning to standup paddle to becoming a standup paddler. So now it's time to take perhaps the next most important step: your next board.
Let's start in the realm of flat-water fitness, fun and touring. Chances are the big board you started out on was approximately 11' x 31"x 4". In other words, long, wide and slow. Great for balance, not so great for efficient paddling. When you're ready to make the jump from plow horse to thoroughbred, think longer, as in a 12'6" stock class race or touring board.
Here's the thing: once you master the basics on relatively calm water there's no reason to paddle a slow board. Unlike surfing, where too quick a leap to more sophisticated equipment can hinder progression, flatwater paddling of any sort can only be made more enjoyable by being made easier (read: faster.) This isn't to suggest that you're ready for a superlight, carbon fiber rocket ship. But if you really want to take advantage of all that standup paddling has to offer, you need a board that moves through the water quickly and efficiently.
Almost every major manufacturer offers an accommodating 12'6" (the Naish Glide, Riviera Voyager, Starboard Elite Touring and the BOTE Traveller are all good examples) and most SUP outlets offer demos. Give a fast board a try and you'll be amazed at how good a paddler you've become. Just make sure you stay above 28" wide unless you're looking to get heavily into racing.
In the surf, the opposite applies. As you get better, and your board handling in and out of the surf and on the waves improves, the natural progression is to a shorter, more maneuverable board. The key: not too much shorter.
Say you started out on a 10'6" X 31" X 4.5"and have things pretty well figured out, meaning you can now paddle out, catch waves and ride most of the time without falling. The next step in your progression is to get a board with a similar outline, but to drop the length by approximately one foot, the wide point by approximately two inches, the thickness just a touch to, say, 9'6" X 29" X 4". Change less than this and the effect on performance will be negligible, change more and you'll find yourself struggling to relearn everything, having no fun at all.
Regardless of your size and weight it's important to remember that this is only your second board and you've still got a lot more learning—and boards—to look forward to.