How to choose the right Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) for you

By Fraser, LOOKB4 Advocate

When I bought my first SUP, LOOKB4 didn’t exist, so I did what everyone does…

I started off by finding the cheapest option. Then I looked into what the difference was between that and a more expensive model. Then I started to search for writeups and reviews, which were hard to find from anyone except manufacturers.

Ultimately, I went to many different shops, eventually being upsold and buying a SUP three times more expensive than the one I had started out looking at.

Now, this wasn’t a disaster… I got a great SUP first time round, but it was luck more than judgment. It was a much faster process when I bought my second SUP, but I didn’t like it as much in the end.

I’ve learnt a lot from these two buying experiences, and I wanted to share some tips so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

I was not a competent SUPer – if that’s the right word? I fell off a lot… but enjoyed it. Because of that though, I wanted something stable more than I wanted something fast.

Rigid or inflatable?

The first choice to make is inflatable or rigid. Basically, you want to consider a rigid SUP if: you are a surfer, you are looking to surf or race a SUP, and you have plenty of storage space. Otherwise; if you’re looking for comfort, stability, easy storage or portability; get an inflatable.

I went with the latter: inflatable. They also come in several different shapes, but for general use, a rounder nose is fine. The pointier the nose, the faster it is through the water (but also harder to steer).

Price points?

Inflatable SUPs start at around $400 and go up to around $2,000. The main differences you’re paying for are in durability and load capacity. The expensive SUPs have heat-welded joints with thicker skins made of better materials. This means two things. Firstly, they’re less likely to puncture; secondly, they can be inflated to a higher PSI and hold more air. This second point is really important…

What about load capacity?

The litres of air a SUP can hold is directly proportional to the load it can carry, at a factor of 2 to 1. If a SUP can take 300 litres of air, it can carry a load of up to 150 kilograms. I’m not a small man at around 110kgs, so I wanted something that I felt could easily take my weight. And maybe another person at the same time.

The SUP I bought first time round was an NSP Allrounder F5. It can take 305 litres of air, pumped up to 18PSI. It’s 10 feet 6 inches long and came with a decent pump, good carry bag and carbon fiber paddle – which is rare.

It was around $1,300, which was a lot more than I planned to spend, but in hindsight it was worth every penny.

Any surprises found after use?

There are a few key things that make this SUP so good, and I was only aware of some of them (like its quality construction) at the time of purchase. It’s nice to be surprised in a good way after an expensive purchase, isn’t it?

  1. The fin is detachable. The steering fin on the bottom comes off, very easily. This means you can have multiple fins for different conditions and, when you pump it up, it sits easily on the ground until you flip it over and click in the fin.
  2. The ankle tie is elasticated. While it’s still long, it sits out of the way and doesn’t drag in the water, get caught on things, or make you trip over it.

The NSP is very deep, so it does sit quite high in the water, but it’s still very stable and very comfortable. My wife and I have been on it together, at a total of 180kgs, and it was fine.

It takes about 15 minutes to pump up by hand, which is quite hard work on your own, but you can always cheat and get an electric pump for around $100 to $150.

In short, I’ve never had an issue or complaint with this SUP.

What about the other SUP?

The second SUP I bought was a RED. The main reason for this was their reputation. When I bought the NSP, the shop also sold REDs but they were too expensive. They’re also the brand most good watersports venues hire out.

I didn’t really look into them that much… I thought, if they were better than what I had, and what I had was great, it was a no brainer. Not so much.

Firstly, the RED SUP has fixed dual fins. I thought dual fins would help it track better, and they do a bit.

My RED is shallower than the NSP, so it’s good in shallow water and reeds (lakes etc.), but it’s a big pain in another way…

Any worrying discoveries?

As with the NSP, the port to pump it up is on the top (but, as mentioned, the fins aren’t detachable), so you have to lie the RED on its fins to pump it up. By the time you’ve finished, they’ve gone out of shape!

The first time it happened I freaked out, but some quick Googling taught me this is OK; I just need to pour boiling water on them and reshape them each time… It works, but compared to the detachable fin on the NSP, it’s rubbish.

The ankle leash on the RED is also not elasticated. It’s very long, drags in the water, gets in the way, and really just screams lazy design. Not a fan.

What you do get with the RED is a dual chamber pump compared to the single chamber pump of the NSP. It’s much better and faster to inflate.

Did it meet your needs?

The RED is 10 foot 8 inches and takes 297 litres of air, so it has a larger surface area with slightly less air. This means it sits a bit lower in the water, which makes it feel slightly more stable, and maybe slightly quicker, but both gains are really negligible; and no one buys an inflatable SUP to race.

It comes in a better bag that has wheels as well as carry straps, which would make it better for holidays, but the bag and pump being of better quality is offset by a really cheap paddle.

The carbon fiber paddle on the NSP is exceptional. The plastic RED paddle is so bad you need to replace it. It literally rattles. So while the RED wins on bag and pump, are these the things you want to prioritise? They aren’t for me. Having the superior paddle and fin on the NSP far outweighs what the RED has to offer me.

Storage tips?

I leave both SUPs fully inflated in the garage most of the time as I now live near the water. You need to give them a quick air top up once a month, but you’re all set after only a minute or so of pumping.

They’re quick to deflate, and both are easy enough to carry as backpacks. If you were going for a short holiday, you could easily pack your travel stuff around the SUPs and take them as your travel bags.

Final verdict?

I hope this helps. Both are good SUPs, but for me, the lesser-known underdog NSP has it.

If I’d been able to speak to people on LOOKB4 about their firsthand experiences with various SUPs first, I think I would have bought two NSPs and avoided any post-purchase regrets.

That’s where I think this app will really help. For me, it’s not so much about stopping people making a bad purchase as much as it is helping them find their ideal product fit. Something that will bring hours of joy on the water hopefully for years to come.

Maybe I’ll see you in an Advocate call soon!

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Meet the team: Jacob Henwood

What’s a typical day for you at LOOKB4?

As Head of Technology, I oversee the development of the LOOKB4 app. I’m responsible for the product roadmap and ensuring the team is aligned on what we’re building right now and why. Everything I do involves looking to the horizon to make sure that we have the right foundational pieces in place for where we plan on going.

A typical day can involve: testing new features, liaising with the dev team, application design, research, development, advising the team on technology or feature ideas, copywriting, and a host of other things. In typical startup fashion, sometimes it’s “all hands on deck” and I find myself doing something completely different!

Describe your career journey to this point.

I’ve been working in tech since I was in high school when I took freelance work for everything from installing printers to legacy migrations. I spent years in development and data before getting heavily involved in e-commerce backends. Eventually, I made the move to retail and hospitality data, as well as enterprise application management, but I could always hear development calling me back.

My journey through the technology and e-commerce landscape has meant I’ve worked with a lot of nooks and crannies that are often overlooked. I have a holistic perspective on where we are and where we’re going, which I hope will make a big difference to LOOKB4’s growth.

Favourite purchase and/or biggest purchase regret?

My very favourite purchase is my genuine 1993 Sega Astro City 2 arcade cabinet with a Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact CPS-3 arcade board. Unfortunately, it also started out as my biggest purchase regret.

I wish I had known more about arcade cabinets at the time I bought it. I paid too much for it, especially considering its condition. There were a lot of things wrong with it, but I turned my lemon into lemonade and made a hobby out of it. Now it is a one-of-kind modified arcade cab that lets me play my favourite classics with a lot of modern conveniences.

While I love it, there are still some things about it I can’t fix. This could easily have been avoided if I knew more at the time.

How did you come to be a part of the LOOKB4 team and what inspired you to join?

From the moment I first heard about LOOKB4 I was enthralled. After only a brief explanation, I think I may have frightened one of the founders with the number of technical questions they woke up to the next day. I have for a long time felt there was something missing in the market. Something more transparent that gives back to users. I think that LOOKB4 is that something.

The thing I was most drawn to is easily the passion that the founders have for what users are going to get out of LOOKB4. Working in a team that wants to move away from traditional solutions and just providing a service, towards improving the experience of e-commerce for millions of shoppers worldwide while sticking to our shopper-first values including independence from brands, is something I’m really excited to be a part of. 

What is your superpower?

I can see around corners. Literally. OK, not really. My strengths are in anticipation and preparedness. It’s one thing to look forward and plan for the path you’ve chosen, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to imagine and plan for the obstacles and detours that lie on that path. We’ve been able to move quickly on new paths and ideas without hesitation because the framework we’ve built is already there to support it.

What products are you most looking forward to booking an Advocate call about?

Right now, at this very moment, it would be a coffee machine. That might be because I’ve only had one so far today! I might feel differently this afternoon.

There are lots of things that my wife and I are excited to start looking at. For a start, we‘ve decided there is definitely going to be a recreational kayak in our future.

And the Jetsons fan deep inside really wants a vacuum robot, but the Terminator fan in me has a lot of questions!

What’s your big vision for LOOKB4?

I can clearly see LOOKB4 supporting users and businesses across retail, commercial, wholesale, and service delivery with a variety of tools and platforms. I can’t wait to see it come to life!

Follow us for more ‘Meet the team’ stories and updates: Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

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Meet the team: Anthony Dean

What’s a typical day for you at LOOKB4? 

My day usually begins with a very strong cup of coffee before digging into a couple of the more mundane tasks on my to-do list. I find that ticking off a couple of the things I don’t like doing, like admin or accounts, at the beginning of the day gives me a sense of achievement and then allows me to get into the ‘fun stuff’. The ‘fun stuff’ for me are the creative pieces and anything that involves client contact. 

I generally set some time at the end of the day to look at where the business is headed. This helps me to guide the rest of the team and to see where I can provide individual assistance. 

Describe your career journey to this point?

I started out studying business management while working in hotels and resorts. During my spare time I created a couple of startups that I poured most of my salary into. This taught me some valuable lessons (lesson #1: don’t pour all of your salary into a startup)! 

I have created, operated and exited successful businesses in finance, technology and hospitality. 

The common thread for each business has been to fill a service gap that other companies either didn’t notice or ignored. Identifying customer pain points and working to eliminate them has been key to all of my past successes. Losing sight of this has been the downfall in other, not so successful, ventures. 

Favourite purchase and/or biggest purchase regret?

I purchased a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, sight unseen, for a Route 66 road trip. Turns out there are a lot of questions that you should ask before buying an unregistered vintage car in another country… I did not ask any of them.  

This could have easily turned into my biggest purchase regret, but friendly locals, a TV pilot episode, a good sense of humour and a mate with a Leatherman saved the day. 

We completed Route 66, featured in a US reality program, and shipped the Cadillac back to Australia. 

Where did the idea for LOOKB4 come from?

LOOKB4 came about after seeing the growth in online purchases and realising that there was nowhere to get real, unbiased answers to individual product questions. People were spending thousands of dollars based on sales spin, fake reviews and misleading advertising. The purchase regret that resulted was eroding confidence and driving a wedge between shoppers and brands. 

Over the past year or so, we have tested our ideas with real shoppers and brands. This has helped us to shape LOOKB4 into its current form and develop an easy-to-use customer app. 

What’s the most important thing about LOOKB4 to you?

LOOKB4 provides authentic connections and real opinions. Brands are unable to influence what advocates are saying about their products. 

We are not a space for salespeople or influencers. 

Are you planning on booking a call with an Advocate?

I am in the market for a new Surfski. I know quite a bit about a couple of brands as I have paddled these in the past but there are new models and brands on the market that I am keen to find out more about. I want to speak to a few people before narrowing down my list. 

What products will you be an Advocate for?

I own an Epic V10 Sport and an Epic V9. I have paddled both Surfskis in all sorts of conditions and love to share my experiences to help people get involved in paddling. 

What’s your big hope for LOOKB4?

I would love to see LOOKB4 become the go-to community for pre-purchase discussions between real shoppers, exchanging firsthand experiences with products they know and use. A safe place where people help each other to avoid purchase mistakes and find the right product for them.

In the same way that people ‘Google’ something to find information, I hope that the future will see us all ‘LOOKB4’ prior to any big-ticket purchase!

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