Testing times – the importance of stand up paddle board tests and reviews

As editor of SUP Mag UK one of my roles is testing the many bits of gear that come our way. I often get asked why test kit? Tez Plavenieks testing BIC's 10ft Air stand up paddle booard for SUP Mag UK When I first got hooked on SUP there was hardly any info knocking about regarding equipment. Tit bits tended to pop up in various places online – mainly via the American mags – and every now and again you’d spot a fellow paddler, at some UK put in, who would be using a unique bit of kit (or at least something you hadn’t seen before). A chat would usually ensue about the product in question resulting in a bit more info for the knowledge bank – this was back in 06/07.

Over the next few years more and more brands started filtering into the UK stand up paddle boarding market. Those involved became vocal about their bling bit of gear, just as social media was really starting to take off.

There was still a problem, however. Most of this content had an overseas bias. Pics and vids from Hawaii (or other far flung destinations), featuring the latest hot rider dropping bombs at some tropical reef pass are certainly inspirational/aspirational, but they hardly give insight to how these boards, paddles and associated kit would perform on our shores.

Fast forward to the present day and it hardly needs pointing out just how much SUP gear is available in 2015. Every day seemingly yields a new SUP toy for us to feast our greedy eyes on. And innovation has also started to pop up. By this I mean new stand up toys where the designer has thought outside the box or adopted a successful concept from a different discipline with synergy – think JP Australia’s Slate (see Matt Barker-Smith’s first look JP Australia Slate 7.2ft first look review) and ProHandle Grip’s quirky crank/bent paddle shaft add on.

Again, this is all good stuff for the UK stand up paddle boarding industry and proves that SUP is positively blooming. There still remains the age old problem of quality, impartial opinion based around these products though – which is where SUP Mag UK comes in.

Having previously edited Windsurf Magazine, where kit testing is standard fayre, one of the things I was keen to implement when initially discussing SUP Mag UK was a credible and in depth test/review section. When you scan other magazines, most of which are cracking reads in their own right, you’ll notice there’s a distinct lack of product reviews. Some have a stab at publishing tests, but for my money, none of these come close to what’s needed – a distinct lack of ‘meat’ is notable by its absence.

Since launching SUP Mag UK we’ve received plenty of positive and constructive feedback. Something we hear time and again from readers is how useful our SUP reviews are – which is great news! Each issue we try and offer a broad range of equipment and stand up paddling accessories to whet your appetites. Striving to put across info about this gear should then hopefully give you guys (the reader) a much more in depth pool of info to draw from when you next hit up your local SUP emporium.

And yet, as much as we think we’ve got a good thing going on, we’re nowhere near the level I feel we should be with our Gear Shed section. There’s so much more we can do to build and improve on what we currently deliver. Category tests, more equipment under the spotlight and the implementation of a SUP equipment test team are all things on the agenda.

I’ll not lie: SUP Mag UK’s Gear Shed section is one of the hardest things to sort out each issue. Liaising with brands, sorting kit deliveries, lining up each bit of gear with suitable testing conditions and nailing product and action shots is a seriously time consuming operation (what would we have done without POV action cameras?). And yet, I think these tests are necessary.

If you peruse SUP Mag UK’s website you’ll note there’s already an extensive list of write ups nestling in our SUP Kit Reviews section. After only four issues we’re steadily built a database of stand up paddle boards, SUP paddles and related accessories that should be a good resource for anyone in the market for SUP equipment and products. These reviews will also stand the test of time as UK SUP’s second hand market is burgeoning and therefore research on kit will always be carried out by punters looking to chuck readies at their next purchase.

Over the next few months SUP gear reviews will continue to play an important role in the mag’s evolution and hopefully we’ll get to a point where we’re more streamlined in our approach and how we do things.

If you’re a UK SUP brand and would like to reach the UK’s stand up paddle boarding fraternity then feel free to contact me for inclusion in our Gear Shed reviews section. Likewise, if you’re a reader with any related feedback then give me a shout also – we’re always happy to hear from you.

Tez Plavenieks

SUP Mag UK editor

Huge thanks to our advertisers

Leave a Reply