SUP gear is not just a board. Here's what other equipment you need

SUP gear is not just a board. Here's what other equipment you need


A SUP board is the main thing you need to practice stand up paddle boarding. However, it is not the only one, as you might think.

First, boards come in various kinds. Paddling on the wrong type of board is a guaranteed way to ensure more wipeouts. Second, not having the right accompanying SUP gear will also lead to a rather uncomfortable day at the beach. Third, it's important not to go broke going to the surf store for your first board and other SUP equipment. Here’s what you’ll need to enjoy this water sport.

Stand up paddle board

SUP board is the most significant gear investment. SUP’s growth in popularity has been matched by an increased number of board shapers and producers. Currently, there is a bewildering number of boards available and — as with surfing — a plethora of different tail shapes and fin configurations too. Your board choice should be determined by the combination of paddler weight, height and skill, their intended use, and the local conditions.

The key variables for your choice are the length and width of the board that you need. This depends on what you plan on doing with your SUP board (shorter boards are recommended for Wave SUP while longer boards are for Flat Water SUP).

In general, the recommended size for all-around SUP is from 10'5'' to 13' in length and from 30'' to 34'' wide.

There are five basic types of SUP boards:

  • Surf/wave stand up paddle boards. They are usually narrower, shorter, lighter, and have a nose and tail. They are designed for quick turns, and high performance, and are used primarily narrower in the surf zone.
  • SUP yoga/pilates/fitness boards. SUP yoga boards are wider and longer than wave boards. They usually have a soft top and places to hook up various tools like anchors.
  • All-around/touring SUP boards. These multipurpose boards are generally much wider and longer. They have a greater volume, and typically a pointed nose. Their size and volume make them much more stable than wave boards. Touring boards are great for beginners, as well as for flat-water paddling on lakes or cruising outside of the surf zone.
  • Inflatable stand up paddle boards. They are much lighter and easier to transport, thus allowing easier storage and transportation. However, they sacrifice the stiffness of a regular board, making wave riding a challenge but doable under light conditions.
  • Racing SUP boards. They are much longer, and narrower, and have an extremely pointy nose and a very long fin. They are designed to allow staying on one track and cutting through the water as fast as possible. These boards are very unstable unless you are moving forward at a relatively fast speed. These are more advanced boards that take some getting used to.

Once you know what type of board you want to go with, the next step is figuring out what size is best for you.

One way to think about board size is in terms of volume. The wider, longer, and thicker the board, the more volume it will have. The more volume a board has, the more stable it will be out on the water. New paddlers should first choose a board with more volume until they get used to the sport and then downsize from there.

One thing to note is that bigger boards are typically less responsive in the water, meaning they will not turn as quickly as a lesser smaller wave board.

Summing up, to get the right SUP board you should choose a board that is the correct volume for your height, weight, and paddling style.

SUP paddle

There are many different types of SUP paddles to choose from. The best stand up paddle should be light enough for you to use all day and strong enough to handle any conditions you get into. It should be comfortable, with the right grip and length for you to enjoy your time on the water.

The most crucial part of choosing a paddle is getting the right length. Paddle length greatly depends on the type of paddling you intend to do. 

In general, the paddle should be:

  • 10''–12'' taller than you for racing
  • 8''–10'' taller than you for cruising on flat water
  • 6''–8'' taller than you for surfing

SUP leash

A SUP leash is one of the most important pieces of SUP safety equipment. It attaches your SUP board to you, keeping it close by if you fall off the board. Your SUP board is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for your safety. In addition, a leash is very useful when practicing SUP yoga as it helps to keep the paddle under control during the session. There are leashes designed specifically for surf, flat water, and rivers.

SUP fin

Stand up paddle surf fins are an essential part of the SUP board. Without a fin your board would start to turn radically with every stroke, making the whole paddling experience pointless. The fin allows you to move forward in a relatively straight line, or “track”. It does this by preventing the tail of the board from slipping sideways when you put pressure on either side of the board as you go through your stroke. The design of the fin also affects speed, stability, and how easily you can turn your board.

Large fins help stabilize the board making it feel less tippy side-to-side and more predictable in choppy water and swell.

PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

The U.S. Coast Guard classifies Stand up paddle boards as vessels, so always wear a PFD when paddling in the U.S. One popular option is an inflatable PFD, which is lightweight and compact until it is inflated. A PFD will help to keep you afloat and it will offer you some time to recover from your fall. You should also carry a safety whistle and use a light if you are paddling after sunset.

SUP clothing

When choosing your SUP clothing, you should consider every weather and condition that you could encounter. For cool conditions where hypothermia is a concern, it is recommended to wear a wetsuit or dry suit. In milder conditions, wear shorts and a T-shirt or just a bathing suit.


Text: Ana “Shankara” Santos, a certified SUP, SUP Yoga and SUP Pilates instructor by the Spanish Federation of Surf (Fesurf Federación Española de Surf, FES) and the International Surfing Association (ISA) based on the Ibiza Island, Spain. She is a founder of Paddle Surf Spain and Sup YogaPilates. They provide a wide range of stand up paddle boarding activities from events and classes to holidays, camps and tours. Ivan Kuznetsov contributed to this post

Cover photo: Francisco Deane / Unsplash

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