The amount of times I have been asked this when people are new to the sport, and it’s no wonder, it’s a minefield out there! Here’s my attempt to help you decide what’s best for you when deciding between an all round board and touring board.
Please note, I am talking about iSUPS only here, I don’t know too much about hard boards. However, if you do have room for a hard board then do consider one. The pro of an iSUP is the ease of storage and transport but hard boards are awesome in terms of performance, I wish I had one, I just don’t have the room! I have not talked about yoga, race, surf or white water sups, just the two ones people often can’t decide between – the tourer and the all round.
SO, How will you be using your paddleboard?
Will you be using your paddleboard mainly on flat water such as lakes, rivers and canals and going the distance? Or, will you be wanting to use it a range of conditions, messing about on the sea, perhaps doing a bit of SUP surfing and sharing it with the family?
The reason this is important is because this can impact what type of board is best for you and it’s better to get the right board straight away rather than outgrowing it quickly (this happened to me). People tend to say all round boards are best for beginners but I disagree slightly, I think first you should look at what you are using it for.
Scenario 1: Let’s say for example I lived in the Lakes or a landlocked area, I’m going to be doing flat water paddling 80% of the time on canals & lakes and want to do distance paddling. I would be looking for a board that glides through the water at speed and manoeuvrability isn’t such a concern. I want an efficient SUP for long distances – This is when you would perhaps look at a touring board.
Scenario 2: If I live by the sea, I might be mixing it up a little when starting out. Perhaps doing a bit of sup surfing, paddling on choppy water but also visiting canals & lakes. I would want something that can handle chop & surf so something that is more manoeuvrable than a touring board. This is when you might go for an ‘all round’ board, they tend to be 9’6 through to 10’8 and do what they say on the tin – good for all round conditions. All round boards are also great if you are sharing with the family because the size of these boards make them a good choice for sharing with people of different sizes and heights (more on all round board sizing here).
Scenario 3: Let’s say you are distance sea paddling and paddling on lakes canals etc but you’re not interested in sup surfing and therefore not so fussed about manoeuvrability, a touring board might be a good option, you can take plenty of kit with you on the board for long distances, and have a speedy, chilled ride.
Scenario 4: Now to complicate issues, you can now also get ‘performance all round boards’ and this is what I have with the Sea Lion RAPOKA. I mix my paddles up between the sea and lakes, often exploring caves etc so I wanted something that has some manoeuvrability but also something a bit speedier when I am on flat water with room for kit (and dog) when I am going the distance. I like to call them ‘a hybrid’ of boards! They tend to be 11ft – 11ft’ 6” and will provide you with stability but a bit more glide and speed while keeping more manoeuvrability than a longer touring board. When you’re looking online, these tend to be under the ‘touring’ category because I suppose they are a small touring board.
Now this is a very high level overview, your height and weight need to be considered when buying a board but I hope it helps some of you who are a bit confused. The best thing to do is ring your local SUP shop or preferred brand and ask them what they think would be best for you once you have an idea of what you will be using it for!
They can then help with all the different sizes of all round and touring boards to to make sure you get the right length for your size and weight, to make it the most comfortable ride for you.