Touring Stand Up Paddle Boards
As paddleboarding has grown in popularity, so too has a paddler’s ability and desire to go further, covering more distance and seeking adventure at new locations. It could simply be exploring a new river or coastline or even traveling point to point with overnight stops along the way. Whatever it may be, touring on a stand up paddleboard is growing more and more.
While you can look to tour on any paddleboard; covering distance on the most popular segment of paddleboard known as an ‘all rounder’ ranging from 10’4 – 11’ foot in length, requires more effort and energy when compared to a longer style of paddleboard of say 11’6 or more in overall length. This is simply down to the fact all stand up paddleboards are displacement craft. As displacement craft waterline length is key to performance as it dictates the amount of glide per stroke. As waterline also increases, so does tracking. This results in paddling a straighter and truer course meaning you reach your destination sooner and increasing the number of strokes per side of your paddleboard (fewer changes per side means more efficiency overall). Another big advantage of a touring board is a by-product of its increased length overall; that it’s simply more surface area and volume. Combined more surface area and volume dramatically increase the carrying capacity of a touring paddleboard making it perfect for stowing more kit on deck for new adventures.
So what is the downside of a touring paddleboard? Well it is its size. Paddling a larger board means that they take longer to turn as they are slower to respond to steering inputs. This can be mitigated through technique, such as a step back turn but unless surfing or paddling a slalom course, it’s all gains even when paddling recreationally. Out of the water and particularly in windy conditions, longer boards are more cumbersome to manage and carry. But if parked near a launch spot, a 5-minute walk to the water is a small price to pay for the gains when paddling.
When considering a touring paddleboard, in general terms long is better as it always yields more glide. While with an overall outline shape dictates stability, with a larger width meaning more stability especially when carried forwards to the nose and rear towards the tail. The only caveat to width is the wider the board, the more wetted surface and therefore drag. Also the paddle is further from the paddleboard’s centreline and therefore inducing more of a turning moment on the board.
Once length, width, outline as well as the nuances of volume and shaping (ie; flat water dedicated boards versus all water focused paddleboards) are considered, construction is key. While budgets can dictate how exotic the materials used in a paddleboard make up are, the most common question is inflatable or composite / hard stand up paddleboard.
The advantages of Hard Stand-Up Paddleboards when touring:
- Durability: Hard paddle boards are made from solid materials wrapped around an EPS foam core. While they are less likely to puncture when compared to an inflatable, they can and do mark easily, quickly showing signs of wear and tear.
- Performance: Hard paddle boards are known for their excellent performance in terms of stability and speed. They not only offer a more rigid and responsive feel but also because they can truly be shaped, a designer can truly build in handling characteristics that make a paddleboard well suited to a particular task or intended use.
- Versatility: Hard paddleboards are generally more versatile than their inflatable counterparts and all water paddle boards can be great all-around options.
- Longevity: Hard paddle boards are built to last and will retain their shape and performance over time. A well cared for paddleboard is something that can really prove to be a great long-term investment.
Disadvantages of Hard Stand-Up Paddleboards when touring are:
- Cost: Hard paddleboards are often more expensive than inflatable boards, making them less accessible for some people. They are also far more susceptible to light damage such as scratching and grazes.
- Transportation: Hard paddleboards are without a doubt bulkier and more difficult to transport, especially if you don’t have a roof rack or storage space.
- Weight: Hard paddleboards (depending on the construction and materials used) can be heavy, making them more difficult to handle and transport than an inflatable paddleboard.
The advantages of inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards when touring:
- Portability: Inflatable paddleboards are lightweight and compact, making them easy to transport and store. This portability means that when access remote or hard to access launching or recovery points is so much easier than with a composite stand up paddle board.
- Convenience: Inflatable paddleboards can be inflated and deflated in minutes, making them a great option for people who want to quickly and easily get on the water. This convenience again means that those are hard to reach and arguably more adventurous routes can be accessed with ease.
- Durability: While inflatable stand up paddleboards on the face of it might seem vulnerable when compared to their composite / hard paddleboard counterparts, actually inflatable SUP’s stand up to the use and abuse extremely well, particularly those of a more premium construction. Launching and recovery, as well as transiting small rapids or tricky sections requires much less consideration and care when compared to that of a hard board.
- Affordability: Inflatable paddleboards are often less expensive than hard paddleboards, making them a more accessible option for many people.
Disadvantages of Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards as a tourer:
- Durability: While they are less susceptible to scrapes and knocks, inflatable paddleboards are more liable to puncture and potentially fail completely; something not really ever experienced by a composite board when touring. While a small leak on an inflatable paddleboard can be repaired mid journey (assuming you’ve not left the repair kit at home), it is an inescapable truth and should be a consideration.
- Performance: Inflatable paddleboards simply do not perform as well as hard paddleboards of similar dimensions. In terms of stability and speed, as well as in water conditions that call for more shaping / volume distribution, a hard board will always outperform an inflatable paddleboard.
In summary, both hard and inflatable stand up paddleboards have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a paddleboard that is durable, stable, and provides excellent performance, a hard paddleboard may be the best option. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a board that is portable, slightly more affordable, and convenient, an inflatable paddleboard may be the way to go.
Regardless of the construction of your paddleboard, what stands out when touring on a SUP is it’s a great way to see new areas and explore the natural beauty of the water and surrounding landscapes. It’s also a great workout and a way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Whether you’re exploring a lake, river, or ocean, touring on a SUP is a unique and exciting way to experience the water and the great outdoors.
Once you select your touring paddleboard, you need to consider planning your tour. When planning a touring trip on a SUP, it’s important to consider a few key factors, including your skill level, the weather conditions, and the water conditions. Before setting out, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast and water conditions to ensure that you’ll be able to safely complete your trip. You should also consider your physical abilities and the distance you’ll be covering, as touring on a SUP can be a physically demanding activity.
For many paddlers, the idea of paddling distance then making an overnight stop on a river bank is a box they would like to tick. This type of overnight camping trip provides an even greater sense of adventure and allows paddlers to fully immerse themselves in the great outdoors. This requires not only the right touring board but also more planning than that required for a day on the water.
If you’re planning an overnight trip, it’s also important to think about where you’ll be camping and what type of gear you’ll need to bring. You’ll need to bring all the essentials, such as food, water, and spare clothing, as well as any additional gear you’ll need, such as a tent, sleeping bag, and camp stove. A mobile phone and secondary means of charging can also prove to be invaluable. You may also want to consider bringing a map and compass, or a GPS device, so that you can navigate and stay on course.
Once you’ve considered all the necessary factors and have packed your gear, it’s time to hit the water. Touring on a SUP is a unique and rewarding experience that allows you to explore new areas and see the world from a different perspective. Whether you’re paddling through calm waters or navigating small rapids, touring on a SUP provides a sense of adventure and excitement that’s hard to beat.
In conclusion, touring on a stand up paddleboard is a fantastic way to explore new areas, get a workout, and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re planning a day trip or an overnight camping trip, touring on a SUP provides a unique and challenging experience that will test your skills and push you out of your comfort zone. So, grab your board, pack your gear, and get ready for an adventure on the water!
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