Having been bitten by the SUP bug the next step was purchasing your own stand up gear. You’ve been enjoying sloshing around your local with no bother ever since. That day suddenly dawns when you take stock of your situation. A realisation there being more to SUP than simply pootling hits you like a ton of bricks.
Bashing up and down your local lake or canal – while perfectly fine – won’t really broaden your SUP horizons. Unfortunately, everything in life gets stale unless you switch things up, and stand up is no different. It may be one of the most accessible and instantaneously stoke inducing watersports out there – you remember that first glide feeling, right? – but sticking to the same routine will eventually become, dare we say it, boring.
The same but different
That round nose board you paid oodles of cash for does have some part to play in the equation. While we wholeheartedly rate many of these boards, the fact remains a pointy nose race or touring sled gives so much more versatility and efficiency – especially on flat/choppy water. Even in small waves touring/race boards have their place. While you’re never going to rip huge turns, you can still pick up swells and glide happily along – all the while your muscle memory dialling in those paddle surfing fundamentals, ready to be utilised at a later date, if needed.
Visit any stretch of UK waterway, where SUPers congregate, and the most abundant board shape you’ll see is the round nose all-purpose stick. Most paddlers, by default, tend to cover a certain amount of distance. The fact remains, however, all round stand up paddle boards aren’t the most efficient at cutting through the brine.
Forget the terms ‘race’ and ‘touring’ for a moment – we appreciate these may be off putting. Instead simply think pointy nose. You know, the SUPs that resemble kayaks up front. Now you may be thinking: I don’t possess the skills to pilot these sleds correctly. Well, you’d be ill advised. A large proportion of touring SUPs are suitable for beginners as well as intermediate and progressing paddlers – certainly the wider models at least. A good many offer stability and performance that makes them applicable for all SUPers. Add to the mix their increased glide characterises and efficiency through liquid and you have to ask yourself why more paddlers haven’t switched to this style of SUP craft?
Thinking in terms of race SUPs and it’s the same story. OK, we appreciate a full on thoroughbred race sled won’t be applicable but certainly the wider, higher volume racers are accessible to those with a degree of skill – i.e. anyone who can already paddle comfortably.
Pic: Joe Thwaites
Won’t race/won’t tour
Labels can cause so much confusion and the perceptions of race and touring SUPs can be off putting. Those very descriptions suggest a higher level of skill is needed to drive them – which is simply not true. The SUP industry works on classification and categorisation of its products and rightly or wrongly has settled on these generic titles for pointy nose SUP boards. As a punter not interested in either racing or touring (or at least not carrying out mammoth distance paddles) you should simply consider them to be efficiency machines.
Coping with a wide range of conditions UK paddlers are confronted with – either coastal or inland – race and/or touring SUPs are poised to make your paddling sessions more engaging, interesting and therefore more fulfilling.
Pointy nose SUPs cut through chop and flotsam like a hot knife through butter. They slice upwind better and a good many offer a proper buzz on the way back downwind – traits you simply don’t get with all round SUPs.
Your trusty round nose board will most likely handle waves better, although touring and race SUPs are still surfable. You won’t be hacking cutbacks though, but it doesn’t matter. After all if you want this type of performance then you should be riding a dedicated wave board.
So what of my all round SUP?
You’d be forgiven for thinking this article sounds the death knell for your all round stand up paddle board – not so, however. Every style of SUP has a place in your quiver. We’re simply suggesting that for those paddlers looking to spice things up a more efficient machine would serve the purpose. Especially as the majority of UK SUPers tend to (mainly) paddle on flat, bumpy/choppy water.
SUP Mag UK’s summer issue focused entirely on flat water boards – many of which were touring, race and hybrids of the two. Off the back of this we had lots of questions about this style of kit and how it affects performance on the water. There’s so much gear in the market today that the best course of action is hit up your local SUP emporium, demo some kit and find out.
If you’ve never used a pointy nose SUP before then you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Paddling one could inject a new lease of life into your on water antics and maybe inspire a new avenue of SUP to be discovered. Touring and race SUPs, for instance, can be used for moderate downwind paddling – a discipline which isn’t widely practiced in the UK, yet. And while that’s a more technical area of stand up, touring and race SUPs will happily help you ramp up your every day paddling sessions.
And if it’s the length of these boards putting you off, then have no fear, as inflatable versions will give you the same experience just in a more transportable fashion.