No doubt you’ve seen a stand up paddleboard (SUP) on your favourite stretch of water, and wondered what it’s all about. So we jumped at the opportunity to test a few inflatable boards from the market leading Red Paddle Co.
Paddling these boards is fun! They offer a great vantage point to quietly explore the shallows (and depths), can provide a solid workout if you choose, and are an easy way to keep the more active family members busy when your boat is moored. It’s really not nearly as difficult as it looks but rather a matter of choosing the right board and then getting out on the water for some paddling. In the beginning, stability is definitely your friend – the rule of thumb is that a longer and wider board offers more of this. Long and narrow boards equate to greater speed, while conversely a short board is generally slower and more manoeuvrable. It’s always best to try before you buy and chat to an experienced SUP’er, or the folk at Red Paddle Co.
WHY AN INFLATABLE BOARD?
Packed away it’s considerably more compact than a hard board and doesn’t require a vehicle roof rack. A sturdy backpack contains the board and all its accessories, and can easily be transported in your car, inside your boat, on your back, or in the hold of an aircraft as you head off on a boating holiday.
A SET UP TO GET YOU UP
Inflating the smaller SUP’s with the supplied pump is relatively easy, taking about five minutes to reach a decent pressure, and few more to get it really firm. The stiffer the board, the better it responds and the easier it is to paddle. The four-person board (14’0” Ride MSL) is supplied with three pumps and valves is made easier when roping in the services of the entire family. With a further minute or two to insert the plastic fin (some models), attach the leash and you’re good to go.
These Red Paddle boards are built tough and made to last. They consist of a double layer of hard-wearing and extremely durable polymer. This is a big plus when paddling in rocky areas and launching off jetties and piers because they’re able to withstand and absorb more knocks and drops than a hard board. Both the kid’s board and family board have indestructible fins, so you don’t have to worry about kids dragging or jumping on the board.
HITTING THE WATER
I spend a fair bit of time on the water, so I was more than happy to volunteer – no need to draw the short straw for this one! We headed to Quaggaskloof Dam in the Western Cape with a bakkie full of SUP’s and paddles. Truth be told, with the number of boards needing to be inflated, we also took along a car battery operated air compressor. Our test fleet consisted of 9’4” Snapper MSL kid’s board, the speedy 11’0” Sport MSL, and the family sized 14’0” Ride MSL. All the gear soon drew attention in the campsite, and we had some envious onlookers as we prepared to hit the water. These boards are of course air-filled and have multiple grab handles, so they are easy to carry allowing two of us to comfortably manage the 4 person board with paddles.
In the water, the 14 foot Ride is large and stable enough to allow a family (and their gear) to easily paddle at a reasonable speed, and even to be used as a fun water platform for the kids. Our 10 year old companion loved the 9’4” kid’s board and happily handled the multiple boat wakes that criss-crossed the dam. I spent time on the 11 foot Sport, which is designed to be a little faster without compromising too much on stability. It’s a very comfortable board to cover a fair distance and perfect for a paddler weighing up to 90kg.
Red Paddle Co stock a wide range of top quality inflatable SUP’s, including shorter surfing boards, longer narrower racing boards, white water boards, touring boards, kids’ boards and more. The newest models include a special screw thread that allows for secure attachment of a range of accessories, from GPS devices and cameras to fishing rods and cup holders. So there’s a board to suit all sizes, abilities and paddling ambitions. Have a look at their website to see the full range. The boards are supplied standard in the spacious backpack, along with the Titan pump, leash, repair kit and a water resistant phone case. Package prices including paddle start from R 12 999 and rentals are also available.