Choosing the right wave riding/ paddling equipment.

Ivan van Vuuren

By Ivan van Vuuren
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Stand Up Paddle Boarding is the fastest growing Watersports in the world. Cindy Crawford’s doing it; Kelly Slater’s doing it as well as many top kiters and windsurfers around the world. It is without a doubt one of the best forms of Cross- Training as it works the Core, legs and upper body all at the same time- plus it’s tons of fun.

Now when starting, there are 101 different configurations as far as fins, boards, paddles, deck pads and leashes. So let’s take a quick look at some options that will get you out on the water with the most amount of fun.

Lets start with the big boy first, or what we’ll refer to as a “Cruiser”. This is a board in the 11ft 6- 12ft6 category. Suggest that it be at least 30 inches wide as this will allow added stability especially for first time riders.  Good for riders weighing over 100 kgs.
Don’t let the size put you off if you want to go out and have some fun, nose riding or cross stepping these boards are ideal. On smaller days this can be a great tool in the quiver and when the wind picks up great for down winders.

As you progress, or when the surf picks up to say 4-6 ft faces, you’re going to want to have a board that will be able to hold a rail and not nosedive as much as the larger “Cruiser” type boards. So here you have a few options ranging between 9ft6- 10ft6 boards. Much of this depends on your weight, for example if you are 100kg+, you’re going to want a board with more volume (10’6x 30 inches wide), and if you’re a lighter rider, you’ll be able to get away with a smaller (9ft6 x 28 inch wide) board.

Ivan and SUP board selection
Ivan and SUP board selection

In this range Tail configurations and fin set ups will change between, swallow, round and square with quad, thruster twin or single fins. Experiment to see what works best on your board.

Board designs are changing daily and with this so are the sizes with different manufacturers developing smaller boards. These are generally between 8ft- 9ft and 30 inches wide, more “fish” type of design. Great option if you’re going to be riding smaller waves and want something that turns quick. These boards are sometimes more unstable and can be harder to ride especially in choppier waters so possibly a good second board option.

So you’re up and ready for some larger surf. Big wave guns are an option and range between 11ft3 and 13ft, These boards are narrower (27-28 inches wide) so harder to ride but allow for better control especially on big wave faces where there is more apparent wind and larger chop on the face.

With the sport being so new, what is in today might be outdated tomorrow as footstraps are being added and riders experimenting with interesting shapes. Bottom line is that if it floats you, then get out there and make it work and have fun.

Cruising on a beautiful wave
Cruising on a beautiful wave


There are about as many paddles on the market as there are boards, so the wide range can easily confuse the average customer. There are wood paddles, fiberglass, carbon, plastic and aluminium paddles. Each one with its own price point which will ultimately determine your paddle of choice. Carbon is generally stiffer and will be stronger but more expensive. Fiberglass shafts are an excellent option as they can be strong enough yet quite a bit less expensive. Blade shape and the blades angle are the most important aspects. We suggest a blade that has about a 12 degree angle with a clean profile. Width is once again personal preference and range between 7and 9 1/2 inches. Narrower blade will allow for quicker strokes and wider blades stronger more powerful strokes LENGTH- Rule of thumb is to have a paddle that is 6 to 8 inches above your head.

Deck Pads.

Deck pads are a great way of saving your car from wax and at the same time offering comfort on the feet and more grip depending on the type of grip. Some riders prefer the old school wax option which is totally acceptable and great to feel the board especially when cross stepping.


Choosing the right leash is as important as choosing the right board- A leash that is too short could result in the board shooting back after a wipeout and piercing and at the same time prevents you from getting up on the front when nose-riding. A leash too thin will snap under pressure due to the added weight of the larger SUP boards. So we recommend purchasing a leash minimum 10ft x ¼ inch. 

So once again, get out there and experiment. Mix it up and be open to trying different styles of riding, be it on an old windsurfer board using a plastic paddle or a hot new hybrid with top of the line carbon paddles, enjoy the ride and be safe.

Ivan pulling some air time in the surf
Ivan pulling some air time in the surf

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