Updated: May 12
Written by: Julie Merrill, aka The Paddleboarding CPA
A few days after the holidays, Alex and Lisa visited their local paddle shop to browse and shop for new stand up paddle boards. Initially, each was drawn to a specific board and had planned on purchasing it if they found it at the right price.
Instead of being treated like an outsider which they had feared, they were instead welcomed into the shop as if they were part of the shop family. They weren’t pressured but rather had welcoming conversations with the owner.
Quickly, Alex and Lisa realized that the type of water excursions and activities they planned to take part in with these new paddle boards dictated which type of board to consider buying. In fact, the original boards they had picked out weren’t best suited for that paddling activity; and well, Alex needed a different size of board and paddle compared to that of Lisa. Both Alex and Lisa ended up being “fitted” into the best boards for each of them, their experience level and for the flat water touring they planned to add into their exercise routine.
While big name retail stores offer introductory packages to stand up paddle boards, kayaks and surf boards, these types of craft are not a one-size fit all, nor are they best suited for ALL activities and ALL body types.
Getting custom-fitted into the right type, size and shape of water craft for YOU is one of the 6 reasons you should skip the big retail stores and visit your local paddle shop instead.
1. Get Fitted With Right Equipment for YOU
Would you buy an all around swimsuit for you, your partner and your kids? Maybe it will get you a deal, but you may end up being uncomfortable, with a wedgie and not enjoying swimming anymore at all.
So my swimsuit example may seem a ways off from buying a paddle board, but getting the wrong size equipment can likewise leave you uncomfortable and possibly even underwater.
Paddle boards seem like they can do-it-all for anyone. Don’t get me wrong, there are “all around boards” that can be used for many activities. However, nothing compares to getting equipment fitted for you, your size, your experience and designed for the type of activities you plan to explore.
For a video on the various types of activities you can do by SUP, click here.
Paddle shop owners everywhere truly want you to have the best experience possible on the water. If you have a great experience, you become part of the local paddling community and come back for more.
At big retail stores, it’s about the sale and getting that board out the door, even if the one-size-fit-all board doesn’t truly fit all OR maybe it “could” fit all body types but would be way too much board for your smaller frame. It may also be so heavy that you will have trouble carrying it to and from the water, let alone lifting it on top of your car.
Local shop owners everywhere want you to get the right board and equipment so that you end up loving the sport and become part of the paddling community. Their passion and love of the sport will be contagious and truly sets you up for the best experience.
A local shop will never fit you for a board that is too much or too little volume for your body type or better suited for someone else who has much less or much more experience. The expertise and care given to the buying experience will have you loving the sport and have you looking for more time to enjoy it.
2. Try Before You Buy
Even experienced paddlers like to demo or try equipment out before they buy it. Looking at a board never compares to riding it and trying it out first. Many local paddle shops will allow you to try out a new board first before you shell out the cash. There is nothing better than feeling it first hand on the water to REALLY see if you will love it.
3. Find Out Where to Go
After you buy equipment, the first question you may ask yourself is where exactly to go. By taking your recreation to the water, you are adding numerous variables like tides, currents and wind into the equation. It may seem like you need numerous apps and a degree in meteorology and navigation to figure where you should launch from.
Paddle shop owners know the local water areas like the back of their hand. They can direct you to the best locations, launch points, routes and scenic venues for your excursion.
If it’s windy, paddle shops can help you decide an alternative route or help you make the decision to stay off the water that day.
If there’s a local sea lion or turtle that frequents the area, they will help you get a view. Plus local paddle shops love talking about paddling and all the places they’ve been. They’ve built a business around this passion and can tell you as much as you want to know. Give them a call, a message or stop by the shop and get insight on places they recommend.
4. Get Tips on Storage, Transport and Safety
“How am I going to get my new boards to the water and where am I going to put them? They don’t fit standing up in my garage!”
Simple rack systems, storage ideas and tips can help protect your investment. Keep your equipment in good condition and stay safe both on the road and on the water.
You can spend hours doing the research yourself or just ask the question. Paddle shops will help you out at every turn, even if it’s your first time.
Some waterfront locations also offer storage, so you might avoid damage to your equipment at home or the dilemma of finding a place to put your new bigger-than-you-imagined-it-being board.
Many shops offer a “New Board Owner 101” night or introductory class. Inquire about these opportunities to set yourself up for success. If your local shop doesn’t offer a formal class, drop in on a weekday and they’ll help advise you 1:1 to find the answers you are looking for.
5. Connect With the Local Paddling Community
“I want to paddle board, but I don’t want to go by myself”
Paddling with a buddy makes the sport more social, safe and frankly, more fun.
Most shops host or coordinate regular community paddles. Make sure to participate in a few group paddles to network and meet others who share your love of the water. You may decide to become a regular at these meetups or simply make connections with a f