Would you consider purchasing a car before taking it out for a test drive? Silly question, right? Auto dealers would go out of business pretty quickly if they dropped the test drive option for potential customers. In fact, I would guess that most people would not buy a pair of running shoes without at least walking around the store in them for a while. And yet, most SUP providers don’t offer this option for their SUP boards. True, the cost of a stand up paddle board is considerably less than for most motor vehicles (though generally more than for a pair of sneakers!), but let’s be honest – it’s still a pretty significant investment for most people with even the most affordable inflatable paddle board costing upwards of a couple of hundred dollars and the premium upper end boards being in the thousands.
Each model of paddleboard differs in maneuverability, balance, glide, and buoyancy, and with so many brands, shapes, sizes, weight, and features of stand up paddle boards on the market for each of the various paddle boarding types and terrains out there, how do you find the SUP board that is the optimum for your experience level, size and weight, and desired outcomes?
A good paddle board shop should be staffed by knowledgeable experts who can take an estimated guess at answering the above question after thorough consultation with you, kind of like a true “footwear expert” might be able to guess at the right brand and model for your foot’s particular size and shape based on consultation and measurements. But you would still want to try that shoe on to make sure it fits right and is comfortable and compare it with some other pairs to find your favorite.
Ultimately, there is nothing quite like trying several demo boards to compare side by side. Until you take that paddle board out onto the particular type of terrain – be it in the open ocean or a lake – and try out the activity you would primarily want to use it for – such as SUP surfing, paddle board yoga, or just enjoying a paddle around a lake or harbor – it really is all just guess work! So, the moral of the story is, do yourself a favor and find a shop that lets you try before you buy. It really is the only way to buy a SUP!