It’s going to be a very different summer this year. While many of the familiar signs are there, the sun is higher in the sky, the air is warmer and buds and flowers are showing—it’s all too clear that things aren’t the same this time around. Travel plans have been altered, summer camps have been closed, and many of the festivals and events that we have come to count on won’t be there for us. It’s times like this that we have to get a little creative, we have to step out of our comfort zone and try new things. We will need to find new ways to entertain ourselves, stay healthy and enjoy the great weather that summer brings. One of the places we know we will be spending a lot of time this summer is out exploring our local waterways. While access has been a challenge for the past couple months, there are early signs that guidelines are changing and many restrictions will be soon lifted. This summer, one of the best places to keep a little distance between you and the next person will be out on the water.
We are very lucky in Canada to have some of the greatest access to natural bodies of water in the world. The coastal provinces west and east have limitless coastline both near and far away from urban centres—with open ocean and protected inlets to explore. Our northern territories form our third coast and with nearly 24 hour daylight, this summer, the sky truly is the limit! For those of us a bit geographically removed from the ocean, we are blessed with crystal clear lakes rushing rivers, meandering creeks. While our national heritage would identify the canoe as the most Canadian way to explore, stand-up paddleboarding has presented a fresh vantage point and new-found potential for adventure. Traditional hardtop paddleboards can offer incredible in-water adventure, but storage of the board when out of the water can be a challenge. The evolution of the inflatable stand-up paddleboards (iSUPs) has revolutionized the sport, offering all of the excitement of a conventional board, without the practical challenges.
The technology of iSUPs has come a long way over the years and Red Paddle Co has been leading the way for over a decade. Red Paddle has focused all of its efforts into making a wide range of iSUPs for a multitude of paddlers and specific uses. The revolutionary construction of their boards and the power of the high pressure pumps has made the ride characteristics indistinguishable from their solid counterparts. The advantages of an inflatable are numerous and have convinced us as a company to drop hardtops from our offerings completely. If you are looking to travel with your board, either by land, water or air—an inflatable SUP will become your new favourite travel companion. With increasing population density and smaller living quarters, it sure is easier to find space for a wheeled duffel bag than a unwieldy 12 foot board in your condo or home. As an added bonus and perhaps counterintuitively, iSUPs are far more durable than hardtops and can easily handle a few hard knocks against the rocky shores of our lakes and rivers.
While the enjoyment of owning an iSUP is irrefutable, the prospect of choosing the right one can be a little daunting. This may be your first time considering a SUP, or you’ve had a chance to try a few and are ready to pick out your own. To assist in choosing the right board, we’ve put together this guide to help navigate this big, but very exciting, decision.
This category of board is perfect for the first time paddleboarder or an experienced paddler who is looking for the greatest versatility. These boards offer the greatest stability due to their width to length ratio, so if you are unsure about your balance, they are a great choice. This stability is also a great feature for those who are looking to try some SUP Yoga. While there are single-purpose boards on the market for Yoga, the dimensions of these boards are identical to this family of general purpose board. This would also be a great option for those who are looking to handle some moving water and run some gentle rapids. These boards offer the greatest ease as their fins are built in—so there’s no fiddling with extra hardware or parts to lose! The board comes in a variety of lengths, which serve to accommodate the anticipated rider weight. For children or a lighter rider, you’ll want to choose the 9’8 or 10’6 Ride. For heavier riders or those that want to bring along a co-pilot (four legged or otherwise) you the 10’8 Ride will be one for you. You’ll just need to pair this board with a leash and a paddle, and you are all set to go.
For those that are looking to go a little farther, the size and shape of these boards will help you go the extra mile. These boards will have a reduced width to length ratio and a different nose shape to help it slice through the water with greater ease. When paired with their longer waterline, the single long tail fin will help with tracking in a straight line over longer distances. This is a great board for paddlers looking to head out on paddles in excess of 2km and are great for day or overnight trips. Don’t forget your fishing rod, as the vantage point from a standing height will give you a whole new perspective on the underwater world. You’ll also want to pack a mask and flippers as you are likely to find some new snorkeling spots along the way! The larger models will offer greater cargo capacity and be best able to accommodate the added weight of food, drinking water or camping equipment. As with the Ride family of boards, smaller riders will be looking at the 11’0 length while the 12’6 board would be a better fit for larger riders.
This family of boards is less about the shape of the board as it is the size of the bag when the board is deflated. While most iSUPs will roll up into a duffel bag reminiscent of a large hockey bag on wheels, the storage size of the compact boards is half that size. These boards are built in such a way that the board can be folded in half lengthwise before being rolled up and they come with a special 5-part paddle which breaks down to fit inside this nearly carry-on sized bag. In 2019 the 9’6 Compact broke on to the scene and completely changed the game. The lightweight and compact back-pack can easily be brought on a short hike or bike ride and they are incredibly easy to travel with. For 2020, Red Paddle has added the 11’0 Compact which can accommodate a rider weight of up to 110kg. Remember these boards come with a paddle and leash included!
While it’s clear that purchasing a SUP is a big step, it should be considered an investment in your own physical and mental health. In order to make you feel more confident in your new purchase, Red Paddle is standing behind their 2020 collection with a market leading 5 year warranty. A warranty like this will give you the confidence that this summer will be the first of many where you will be out enjoying all the incredible waterways that our country has to offer. As always, our knowledgeable and experienced staff are available to help through the online chat or feel free to reach out via e-mail. While this summer is shaping up to be a bit different than the last, plenty of adventure still awaits for those that are willing to find it. The places you’ll go with your new board are limitless and bound only by your imagination and willingness to explore.
Lucas is an orthopaedic surgeon, accomplished freediver and triathlete, and photographer. He was born and raised in Ontario and studied at Queen's University and the University of British Columbia. Lucas is the co-owner of Surf the Greats along with his partner Antonio. Find him on Instagram.