‘You’ve purchased your first inflatable SUP…now what?’ – inflatable stand up paddle board versatility

Words & pics: Tez Plavenieks

There are loads of stand up paddle boards kicking about as I write. With the good weather we’re currently enjoying (as of July 2018) the heat’s definitely encouraging hordes out onto the water, enticing new paddlers to the fold. SUPs strapped to car roofs; lurking inside vans; being inflated and deflated; kids paddling; adults paddling; you’d think stand up was enjoying yet another spurt of growth – maybe it is. And yet, it’s still the air board that’s popular. Why? We’ve heard all the reasons and answers to this question before – ease of storage and transport and so on…Whilst all this is great for SUP there’s also another obvious (at least to those of us seasoned paddlers) point to consider: having blown up your iSUP all that’s left to do is go for a float. But then what?

Time and again you see newbie sweepers mere yards from the shore not really doing anything other than floating in the sunshine (no bad thing in itself). Maybe the kids will use it as a diving platform. Maybe dad will head a little way along the beach for a look/see. Maybe mum will have a dabble. There’s so much more to this diverse sport though. So without further ado here are a few ways to progress with your stand up paddle boarding and keep those interest/stoke levels up.

SUP touring

Touring, by the word’s definition, means: ‘a long journey including the visiting of a number of places in sequence, especially with an organized group led by a guide’. Yet where SUP’s concerned it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Also, you DON’T need a dedicated touring board. Your all round SUP will suffice.

Even if it’s only a few miles along the coast, up a river, along a canal, round a lake or exploring further offshore than you’d normally go this can be described as ‘SUP touring’. Don’t let the perception of certain terms/phrases put you off. (As with everything in life stand up is littered with jargon). Obviously if you fancy lashing camping gear to your board and heading off into the wilderness then don’t let us stop you though…Just send us some pics, we’d love to see.

SUP surfing

Probably the most obvious niche of SUP yet still the one that really doesn’t attract large numbers of paddlers. Maybe surfing is considered too hardcore. Or maybe it’s the perception (that word again) you have to be charging ‘scary death bombs’, which simply isn’t the case.

SUP’s beauty in waves is the board’s additional momentum. There’s been an argument banded around for years that you get more waves with a stand up, which isn’t strictly correct. An old school nose rider surfboard will catch just as many. SUP, however, has a greater terminal velocity which allows longer rides and making sections you wouldn’t otherwise pull into. Plus the additional propulsion you get from paddle power makes ripplets, barely over ankle high, extremely fun.

SUP racing

Recently I did a bit of SUP racing again – it’s been a while. I appreciate that just as with the word ‘touring’ ‘racing’ can induce cold sweats and trembling knees for some. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Entering any kind of comp can help improve your paddling no end – it’s true! You may not be vying for podium finishes but that’s not really the point. Simply getting involved is uber fun and you’ll learn heaps.

The race I did was a super low key affair overseas but there was definitely a race face demon within me that suddenly reared its head. Post-smash round the course and it was all smiles, adrenaline, banter and beers. If you’ve sort of considered racing then why not have a dig, you may be thankful you did?


Some SUPs (inflatables as well) come equipped with the means of attaching a sail, ala windsurfing (windSUP) style. There are loads of times you’ll turn up at the beach only to be confronted by an annoying breeze – especially at coastal venues.

Affordable windsurfing rigs are readily available these days, some brands often including them in package bundles. As with SUP surfing you’re not aiming for the high performance end of sailing. More over you should see it as extra ammo and a way to increase your time on the brine and make use of a wider range of conditions. If you get bug bitten then of course head down the windsurfing road proper. There’s serious mileage in having ‘tools for the job’.

River SUP (or mellow white water paddling)

Initially I hesitated adding this one as flow in rivers can be as hazardous as tidal currents for those not armed with the correct knowledge/info. But just as with paddling on the sea you can find stretches of white water that are surprisingly mellow and relatively stress free. It may be wise to get some guidance if you’re serious about sweeping hefty WW though.

Inflatables are actually good for messing about on the river. You still have to be careful of dings and punctures if running over rocks but by and large inflatables from reputable brands should be able to withstand a little bump and grind.

Running rivers and playing on standing waves is huge fun when done via SUP. Check my first experiences of mellow white water stand up from a few years ago by hitting this link –


These are just a few ways to make use of your SUP and take advantage of its versatility. Stand up paddle boarding isn’t just one up from a lilo, it’s much more than this. If you’ve recently got hold of your own then hopefully you’ll stick with SUP for many years to come. If you know of others who have also got their own kit then show them this article and help spread the SUP stoke further. Happy paddling!

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