SUP -- the good and bad

Switching over from kayaking, here are the advantages and disadvantages I’ve noticed so far.

SUP advantages

–very lightweight (typically 20-30 lbs.) so easy to load and carry

–easy getting on and off the board at shore; easier at difficult launch sites

–easy rescue; just swim back onto the board

–easy to stay cool in warm weather

–especially fun on waves and in surf

–can move around board, kneel, sit, lay down

–great perspective and visibility, especially for seeing below water surface

–less equipment needed because they can’t fill up with water - no skirts, pumps, floats

–very safe because they have a foam core and are a life raft even if broken in half

–inflatable SUPs available that function nearly as well as a hard board

–uses whole body and helps develops balance skills

SUP disadvantages

–slower by 1/2-3/4 mph compared to kayaks of similar length and design

–fin needed for tracking so more potential to hit bottom or catch weeds

–more fragile because of light layups

–don’t respond to as wide a variety of turning strokes

–except while surfing, very little edging ability for turning

–less suited for cold weather or water

–less cargo capacity

–more difficult up-wind paddling

–need to develop balance over time

SUP advantages

– Last Updated: Mar-23-12 7:12 AM EST –

Very comprehensive list... good job!


sup paddling
thoughts this was a shutup yak or paddling… oop,oh well there always new toys out ever day

SUP – the good and bad
My 2 cents per your list -

i’m also a cross over kayaker - sup’er, still do both equally, thoughts…


–slower by 1/2-3/4 mph compared to kayaks of similar length and design

Depends on paddler and their forward stroke, displacement vs planning hull, and I can go as fast if not faster than a kayak at the same length.

–fin needed for tracking so more potential to hit bottom or catch weeds

Weed cutter style and flexible rubber fins do wonders in weeds, milfoil and kelp. I use the Protek rubber fins on all boards. I can take the board into 4" of water without balance or fin box issues. 3 fin setups also allow for shallow paddling as well as each fin is shorter than a longer single fin.

–more fragile because of light layups

Really? How about Bic’s plastic boards, Tahoe’s thermoform Bliss, Surftech’s heavy layups on the French Universal sups and the new very stout B-1 exterior, Starboard’s nearly bombproof technology, etc…

–don’t respond to as wide a variety of turning strokes

Maybe not respond to every kayak stroke, but when’s the last time you did a cross bow or pivot turn on a kayak?

–except while surfing, very little edging ability for turning

depends on the board and paddler. I edge all the time without any problem. boards with a lot of rocker turn on a dime edging. i also use edging to paddle on one side for long distances - try that on a kayak.

–less suited for cold weather or water

really, why? I paddle in cold weather daily in the Pacific NW in water as chilled as 42F which also includes surfing and tidal rapidsl. I’ve paddled a sup both upwind and down up to 35kts of wind. You’re just as cold in a kayak as you are in a sup if you don’t wear the right clothing. but you stay warmer on a sup since it’s a full body exercise.

–less cargo capacity

using tie-downs and glassed in leash plugs the capacity can be the same. new boards are coming out with hatches. many are already doing self supported long expeditions on boards.

–more difficult up-wind paddling

only if standing. sit, knee, or prone paddle for upwind. prone paddling if you’re in practice can be more efficient than kayaking as you have an even lower profile in the wind.

–need to develop balance over time

with a proper sized board for the ht and wt of the paddler balance shouldn’t be a problem at all. my students get right up on boards i’ve matched to their size and have no balance issues even in bumpy water. it is however a passive way to build better balance for other things you do in life. moving to shorter boards for river or surfing does require developing balance - but good paddle technique helps you stay stable in various conditons.


my take on a few negs
As far as speed vs. other boats (yaks)…depends on the paddler and how efficient his skills are. I’ve blown by some…lagged a bit behind with others. But I’m never in a race, so I don’t care. I’m not much into social and groupy trips.

I can carry everything I need but firewood.

I use a variety of turning strokes and all work as well as I execute them. I’m far from perfect, but I have never been frustrated because my SUP didn’t act the way I told it to.

Yes, the fin…arrrrgh. I hate worrying about that thing.

do both?
There is an article in the latest issue of California Kayaker Magazine on why kayakers should try SUP. Talks about the pros and cons a bit, but more about doing one helps the other.

Can be read online at

Size for heavy paddler
What size would you recommend. I’m 5’8 and about 200 lbs. I’ve tried a very big SUP and had no isssues with it. A few weeks ago I rented a fairly short and lightweight SUP for my sons and my sons girl friend to try out, they all weigh less than 140 and caught on real quickly, it was really hard for me to keep balanced in choppy waves. I’m looking at getting one to have around when my sons are home but that I could paddle too.

I guess I’ll try this one just to keep it moving along. I don’t think you are “heavy”, I am exactly your size. There are plenty of people much heavier than 200 paddling SUPs out there and there are plenty of 200 pound guys surfing very small, “unstable” SUPs.

There are a bunch of design features of a board that affect how stable it feels. The most significant are width, volume, thickness, and length. I think the two most important features affecting stability are width and volume. Look for a board that is at least 32 inches wide. For volume, at your weight, look for something that is at least 180 liters, 180 may feel a little tippy at first but you’ll get used to it. My 70 year old mom with two fake knees paddles a 32 in wide, 167L board in flat water. A board that is, say, 34 inches wide and around 200 liters should feel pretty solid in flat water. Length is not super critical; most boards will be between 10 ½ and 12 feet long and all other things being equal you won’t notice much difference.

There is more to the story when talking about chop or waves. The above factors are still in effect in chop but your own skill level, balance, core strength etc are very important in chop or waves. That only comes with time on the water, but in my experience it comes quick. So get out there, don’t be afraid to fall in and have fun.

No way can a SUP keep up with a kayak of equal length. Ive sold 15,000 kayaks in my shop and have been selling SUP’sfor about six years now. The lower center of gravity and narrorer profile of the kayak will always slip through the water faster but the big diference is the two bladed paddle never stops producing energy and forward momentum keeping the kayak on plane at all times and reducing the drag asociated with the delay as the the SUP REACHES FORWARD FOR THE NEXT STROKE.

Speed, you sure?
I’ve used my 14’x28" wide Tahoe Thunderbird amongst other 14’ day touring kayaks that were at widest 25" and had no problem keeping pace if not going a bit faster, on a touring pace not racing. Something to do with a longer lever, quicker stroke and full body engagement I’d think. Now I’m not going to guarantee those results over an entire day for a 20+ mile paddle. SUP is a rather good work out and after 6 miles I need to be fed.

YMMV (with caffeination and snack levels of course)

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY