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SUP On Board

SUP On Board

Just a few years ago most of us hadn’t even heard of stand up paddleboarding (SUP), but now people ‘doing it standing up’ are a common sight along our shores, and ever more boat owners are discovering and enjoying the advantages of having a board (or two) on board. A very useful second tender, they’re also the ideal craft for exploring the anchorage, the marina, the harbour, a fun platform for youngsters to mess around on, and a great way of keeping in shape too.

The story goes that around 15 years ago, a few Hawaiian surfers decided that they wanted to get on the water to stay fit and have some fun when the sea was flat. So they grabbed a few large Malibu style boards, lengthened a paddle, stood up and paddled the ocean. Little did they know the escalation to come in the sport they had just invented.

Possibly the main contributing factor to growth is it’s ‘sociability’ and safety.  Unlike windsurfing or kitesurfing – it is not a ‘billy-no-mates’ sport on the water, it appeals to all ages, and both sexes alike.  It is one of the few watersports where participation between the sexes is equal.  You can chill and take it easy whilst watching the dolphins, or take it to the highest level of World competition and race between the Islands off the Hawaiian coast.

The boating fraternity is witnessing a huge take up of SUP and the main reason is the advent of high quality inflatable paddleboards, which are far more friendly on the paintwork and fittings, and of course much easier to transport and store. Inflatable boards have been around for a while, but the early offerings were generally a pretty poor experience; low in performance, and easily punctured. Now however, the inflatables from brands like Red Paddle Co offer such great performance and robustness that (unless you’re looking for top-shelf surfing capabilities), the question has become why wouldn’t you get an inflatable! And for boating, it’s really a no-brainer, as inflatables are just so much more boat-friendly. The well-made ones are way more robust than solid boards too; they can be bounced off rocks and run up the beach with impunity.

If you are looking to start a new adventure on board, and invest in possibly your most used play and fitness accessory, here are a couple of key questions answered:


Why have a paddleboard – I already have a kayak on board!   A paddleboard is simply more versatile. For starters, it’s not compulsory to stand up – you can sit down and paddle it like a kayak, if that’s your thing. But it’s also far lighter, and much easier to get on and off the boat. It’s a lot more stable, too – you can step down from your boat onto the paddleboard and off you go.  You can load a paddleboard up with multiple people and/or cargo. It’s a great boat maintenance platform. Paddleboards give a much better view down into the water, and you don’t get a wet bum and a sore back like you do from kayaking if your technique is anything other than perfect. It’s a fantastic sunbathing platform, perfect escape from the rest of the family on a small boat!  They’re great for fishing from too – you can see the fish rising, stand up to cast, use a full size rod, and have a nice big deck area to sort out your tackle on. And above all, a paddleboard is just a great general purpose toy for youngsters; it’s amazing just how creative they get and how much fun they can have with them. And there’s no risk of ‘collateral damage’ – the kids are out there bouncing off boats, swimmers, rocks etc., and no-one is going to get hurt .

Which board should I choose – so many options? Paddleboards come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, so to keep it simple, let’s just focus on boards for all-round use, the sort of thing you would choose for your boat. These generally have that ‘mal’ surfboard shape, with rounded nose and tail (although a square tail is fine too).The board’s width is the important number when it comes to determining stability. The wider the board, the more stable it is and the more weight it can carry. The length really just determines where the board is on the spectrum of manoeuvrability (shorter) vs straight-line speed (longer).  Anything in the 9’8-12’6 length bracket is essentially an all-round board, and will be fine for general purpose use on a boat.

Choosing the right width for your requirements basically means ensuring the board has enough width to support the heaviest person that will be using it.Generally, if the heaviest user is sub 80kg a board of around 30” wide will be fine. Up to 100kg, go for something 32” wide, and 100kg+, look for something wider.

If the board is to be used by more than one person (kids and dog on too!), or for loading up with Eskies, shopping, jerry-cans etc., then again, err on the side of extra width for stability.

SUP boards for boats need some specific fittings. Look for a big solid towing point on the nose and tail; ideally a steel D-ring with a plastic or hard rubber mount to the board. (Avoid webbing fittings, they degrade pretty quickly in sun and salt). Other fixing points on the deck are always useful, either for bungees to shove stuff under, or for strapping down cargo.

Removable fins may seem like a good idea, but actually, the glued-on slightly soft fins are most ideal, as they’re pretty indestructible and can be abused on beaches and rocks all day with no ill effects, and there are no hard bits to bang on legs etc.

Why such a variation in price?: Not all inflatables are the same in quality or performance.  Red Paddle co has been making boards for over 10 years.  For more info on build quality and options to demo a board visit:



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