What to Look for in a High Performance Inflatable SUP Board

Table of contents

Board ShapeFin ConfigurationDeck PadsMaterials, Cargo Tie-down System and Accessories

You might be planning on using your board for a more demanding task, sharpening your skills, challenging yourself, and getting competitive with your paddling. 

There are a lot of reasons for wanting a board with higher performance and it’s normal.Here are a few things to look for when trying to pick a high-performance SUP board.

Board Shape

A lot of paddlers started with an all-around board and as they get better, they started to seek higher speed and performance in a board. If you are really looking to buy a high performance board, you’ll want to know how the outline, dimensions, and rocker curve of a board come together to affect its speed and agility.

Boards designed for speed tend to have a sleek profile that narrows at the nose. Boards optimized for agility are typically shorter and more rounded. A stability board is usually wider, especially closer to the tail.

There are boards that excel in more than one aspect and they usually have a shape that is a hybrid of board shapes designed for speed, agility and stability. 

Such type of board is the most challenging to design and build because there are compromises to make, and it needs to be carefully balanced to get the right blend of performance. But if it’s done right, the result is a board that’s fun to ride and performs well in more than one aspect.

Fin Configuration

If you’d like to tune the performance of your board, there’s one easy way for you to do that. You can actually change the performance of the board by using fins in different sizes and shapes.

If you want to do that, you are going to need a board with a cnofigurable fin system that would allow you to swap out the fins to adapt the board for different paddling styles and personal preferences. 

A board that comes with a US fin box and FCS compatible side fin boxes will allow you to use different fins for different purposes and not be limited to a single fin setup that come with your board by default.

A performance-oriented paddle board should at least have a center fin box that would allow you to tune the performance of the board by using different types of fins, and moving the fin forward and back. 

A US fin box is the best center fin option to go with as it’s the most versatile and common one. You can find all sorts of fins that are compatible with a US fin box.

It will allow you to use different fins for different SUP activities. For instance, you can use a shorter center fin for whitewater paddling or in shallow water, and a longer one with a larger surface area for better track and stability.

Deck Pads

If you are going surfing or whitewater paddling, then you are going to need a lot of traction from the deck pad on your board. 

The best kind of deck pad would be the one with a diamond or square grid pattern with deep grooves. This will give you sufficient amount of traction to tackle surfing and whitewater paddling. 

Some performance board might also have a raised rear edge at the tail of the board to provide support and keep your back foot from sliding off the board when you execute tail drops or pivot turns.

Materials, Cargo Tie-down System and Accessories

High performance boards are designed to excel at more than one aspect and perform better in more demanding conditions than ordinary boards.

Some board manufacturers will use removable battens along the edges or strips of rigid material like carbon fiber on the top and bottom of the board that act as stringers to stiffen certain areas of the board.

Some brands will bond an extra layer of material to the entire board to improve the board’s rigidity and durability at the same time. It’s an effective and costly way to improve the board’s overall rigidity.

Performance boards will also come with upgraded accessories in the kit. You might find a rolling travel case with wheels, a dual-action air pump or even an electric one, and perhaps a carbon blend or even full carbon fiber paddle.

So what is a suitable performance board for you? It really depends on how you intend to use your board. It could be an all-around board, a touring board or even a race board.

If speed is your main consideration and you will only be using it on flat water with no strong currents, chop or wind, then a race board with a sleek outline and a single center fin would be an ideal performance board for you. 

If you enjoy paddling in different places and experiencing different conditions, you might need a versatile board that allows you to tune its performance and is able to handle different conditions nicely.

So before you place the order, you should probably figure out where you want to paddle, what kind of water you will be paddling in, and what kind of design and features you need. A board that can be used in the locations and environment where you plan to paddle and have the level of adaptability you are looking for can be your true performance enthusiast/sport board.

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