If you've looked at stand up paddleboards, you've seen the variety of shapes and sizes, Some are long and narrow, others are short and wide and the rest reside somewhere in between. Solid or inflatable, the bottom line is you'll need to know what you're going to use it for: From swelling ocean cruises to inland lake tours, to catching a wave or a little bit of everything, there's a board for the job.
We checked in with Alex Garhart of Hala Gear paddleboards, a company known for durability and innovation on the SUP scene, to get some basic fundamentals of the tools for the trade.
“The rule of thumb with paddleboards is the long narrow shapes are going to be great for lake or ocean touring or fitness,” Garhart said. “If you want to go down river, get a little whitewater, you're going to have a wider board that's a little bit shorter, to give you a lot of stability.”
For real river excitement, he suggests a rocker shape - sort of like a skateboard.
“You can take a step back on this thing, take a hard paddle stroke and it's going to pivot turn off of the tail, which allows you to avoid rocks and features in the river.”
A growing trend in the SUP world, Hala Gear boards are inflatable for a number of reasons – durability, and weight among them. They also travel well, squeezing into specialized backpacks.
“They're very portable,” Garhart said. “You can check them on an airplane or just throw then in the back of your car.”
The boards come with an electric pump to get inflation started, then a hand pump to finish it off.
Garhart, a climber and SUPer based in Colorado, learned to surf working as a geologist on the coast of Southeast Alaska. “Five millimeter wet suites, grizzly bears and orcas every day – it was a good time,” he said.
His favorite board is the Hala Luya, think creek kayak meets SUP. “It takes big lateral hits in the river,” Garhart said. “Makes you go from zero to hero in the whitewater world,”
Many SUPers go for an all around use board, not too long and not too wide, but one that works well across all platforms.
To many SUPers, beginning or the best thing about stand up paddle boarding is that it's available to anyone.
“Everybody can do it,” he said. “It's so easy. Anybody from five to 105 can get on one of these things and go out and have a good time.”