Stand-Up paddle boarding has become the go-to watersport in recent years. Just a decade ago, the sight of someone gliding along atop what looks like a surfboard whilst brandishing an unusually long paddle, would have brought some strange looks. Now everyone’s doing it – and for good reason. Paddle boarding is one of the most rewarding ways there is to spend time on the water.


Why is that? Well for starters, the repetitive nature of paddling feels almost meditative. It’s still a sport that requires sustained concentration and effort, but we’re not talking backbreaking feats of endurance here (unless of course you want to push yourself with longer trips or touring and racing). Mostly, people love it for the simple pleasure of being on (and occasionally in!) the water. Get yourself a paddle board and you’ll find it offers its own unique form of escapism, drawing you in with the appeal of its slowed-down form of adventure. Sounds good right? Want in? Our expert guide will set you straight on all the need-to-knows and essential gear to get you out and about on the water.

What is Stand-Up Paddle boarding and where can you go on one?

Think of paddle boarding as a mix between surfing and kayaking. Stand yourself upright on a floating board (about 10-12ft long) then propel yourself along using a paddle. Simple. Really, it’s nothing more complicated than that, but what makes paddleboarding awesome is its versatility. Many people use their paddle board simply for fun times and to bomb around on, hanging out with mates whilst splashing around on the local stretch or secluded cove. But paddle boards are also great for working out. Testing yourself with an hour of strong paddling after work instead of your usual run and it will keep you on top of your game and provide an added excuse for adventure. You can even do yoga on a paddle board (yep, it’s a thing!). There’s also nothing stopping you spending a whole day (or even a whole week) on your board with more ambitious trips. With an average leisurely paddle speed of 3-4mph (similar to, or slightly faster than walking) you can cover a decent chunk of distance, making them a viable option for lightweight mini expeditions over multiple days. 

If you think they’re only great on rivers, think again. You can take paddle boards on lakes and, in the right conditions, coastal areas of the sea too. And although most people use theirs in the summer, you’re not necessarily confined to the warmer months. Grab yourself a wetsuit or a drysuit, and a few other cold weather gear essentials, and there’s no reason why you can’t get some solid use out of your paddle board all year round. 

What gear do I need to go Stand-Up Paddle boarding?

Here’s the good news. You only need a few bits of gear before you can hit the water and get paddling. Firstly, and crucially we’d say, you need a paddle board… and a paddle. Without these two, you are undoubtedly going to get wetter than you would otherwise intend to! But what kind of paddle board do you need?


When finding the right board, you’ll want to consider a couple of things. Primarily, where and what you are going to use it for (river touring, yoga, seaside jaunts etc) and how you want it to handle in the water. The hull shape of your board will determine how the board performs best in the water; most paddle boards have either a planing hull or a displacement hull. Either hull shape can be enjoyed if you’re starting out, but there are differences worth getting clued up on that make them better for some adventures than others.

Planing Hull

Paddle boards with planing hulls have a flatter, wider and rounder bow (the front end). They’re designed to ride on top of the water and be very manoeuvrable. This makes them a great all-rounder and a solid choice for any paddle board activity, but especially short social paddles, yoga, sea trips, and on gentle waves and white-water. Think of them a bit like the mountain bike of the water. If you’re looking for a board with unbridled access to any condition and for unlimited fun, go for one of these.

Displacement Hull

Paddle boards with displacement hulls have a more pointed nose,akin to that of a kayak. This helps the hull slice through water, pushing it around the bow to the sides more efficiently, creating a faster, smoother ride. As a result, displacement hulls require less effort to paddle, meaning you can go longer distances at faster speeds. They also track nice and straight but are generally a bit less manoeuvrable and feel slightly less stable than planing hulls. Again, displacement hulls are fine for most paddle board activities, but if paddling efficiency and speed are what you seek, go for a displacement hull. The road or touring bike of the water, they’re what you want if your idea of paddle board heaven looks like a long day’s paddle to build up your fitness, multi-day touring or racing.

Solid vs Inflatable

If maximum performance or paddling fast and far is your absolute top priority, then solid boards offer the best results on the water because they travel faster, more smoothly and with slightly less effort than an inflatable. However, solid paddle boards are seriously big items of gear. You’ll want to be sure you’ve got sufficient room at home to stash it (in a way that doesn’t involve using it as a spare bed!) and a viable means with which to transport it. Basically, if your car or van doesn’t have a roof rack, your paddle board is unlikely to ever leave your house.

You can avoid most of this hassle by opting instead for the versatility of an inflatable paddle board. Bought as a full package, it comes with a storage bag for when it’s not in use, making it easier to store away at home, stow in a vehicle whilst travelling, or even carry on your back if you are walking in or out of the location you intend to go paddling. For comparison, if you own a set of golf clubs, it’s a similar size and weight when packed down. They come with a pump, still feel very rigid when fully inflated (which takes about 10 minutes to do), and although slightly softer than a solid board, are highly durable and more than capable of covering long distances. They are also better suited than solid boards to activities like going over bumps in white-water and offer a bit more comfort if you intend to use your paddle board to pull some of those yoga poses.

Paddles and other accessories

Once you’ve chosen your board, there are just a few more things to consider, first and foremost being your paddle. Because you are standing upright, SUP paddles are longer than those used for canoeing. To get the right length, if you stand with the blade resting vertically on the ground and your arm raised slightly bent above your head, the t-grip of the paddle should sit in the bend of your wrist.  Adjustable length paddles are great because they can be tweaked to suit different users, and paddles that have a tear-drop shaped blade provide lots of surface area which translate to a more powerful stroke. 

A single fin on the underside of your paddleboard helps provides good tracking and minimal drag, so you can maintain a straight course on the water, whilst an ankle leash means that when you do inevitably take a plunge, your board will remain tethered to you and won’t float away. Having a SUP that allows you to secure a waterproof dry bag to it to carry some lunch, camping supplies, or even just a waterproof phone case, are also nice additions that can help expand your paddleboard horizons. We’d always advise wearing a life jacket too, especially out on the sea.

Still unsure? Give it a go.

If you’re still unsure what type of paddle board you want, it’s worth trying some out first to help you decide before investing. There are loads of courses in the UK where you can hire a paddle board for relatively little cost. If you love it (and let’s face it, you’re going to) you’ll feel a lot savvier as to what’s right for you. Failing that, just come and speak to one of our in-store experts. We know investing in a quality paddleboard means quite a significant outlay, so we’ll make sure you make the right choice for you. The good news is, you’re very unlikely to regret it. Our inflatable paddleboard brands are versatile, long-lasting, durable and come with all the accessories you need to get straight out on the water. They’re also pretty much guaranteed to bring you endless hours of fun for many years to come. 

If you’ve already got in on the paddle board action, or recently bought one, here are some simple tips for planning your first trip:

  • Start small. Choose a calm body of water, like a lake or pond or quiet stretch of gently flowing river for you first trip - one that’s free of obstacles like boats, weirs and buoys
  • Look for an easy place to launch like a shallow sandy beach or bank you can wade out from into the water with your board
  • Pick a nice day with little to no wind. Wind is not your friend on a paddle board (unless it’s behind you.) If there’s a bit of a breeze, paddle into the wind first so you get a boost from it on the way back when you’re getting tired 
  • Go with mates for your first outing, so you can look out for each other
  • Get wet. It’s going to happen at some point so practise falling in and getting back on until you can do it like pro

Lots of waterways in England and Wales do not require a licence to paddle and many others do. GoPaddling is a great resource to use to check if the waterway you plan to use requires a licence or not. The easiest and simplest way of obtaining a licence and secure paddling insurance is by joining British Canoeing which also has a helpful guide around the waterways licence - explaining what it is, when, and if, you need it, and how to get your hands on one!.


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