Choosing Your New Stand Up Paddleboard

(Updated 3/10/2015)

Choosing your next SUP can be a daunting task. For those of you new to the sport, the choices can seem (and are!) endless. At Big Winds, we have been into Stand Up Paddleboarding from the beginning, when the first production boards arrived in North America some 10 years ago. Since then we have seen, and been a part of the explosive growth of this great sport. We are fortunate to partner with the very best brands in SUP and have committed a ton of energy and resources into the sport. Where many shops have jumped on the bandwagon and are more than happy to sell you whatever they happen to have on the rack, here at Big Winds we want, first and foremost, to make sure you get the absolute right board, that will make you smile every time you go out for a casual paddle or a hard fitness workout, drop into a long point wave, or fly along on an exciting downwind run. We are a large staff (up to 50 in the summer and 9 year round) most all of whom paddle and many of whom have gravitated to SUP as their primary sport. We do it all: race, surf, fitness, whitewater, and yes, even casual social paddling. We do downwinders every chance we get, which is often here in the Columbia River Gorge. We are confident we can steer you into a great board for your needs.

SUP LessonsBig Winds operates the largest Stand Up Paddleboard Lessons and Rentals program on the west coast. We teach a ton of lessons each summer, from first timers to advanced stroke technique clinics. We have over 90 SUP boards of every variety at our exclusive on the water location just 5 minutes from our shop in downtown Hood River, Oregon..

Big Winds JET Team-67


We also proudly have built the largest Junior SUP Race Program in the US, with Team Big Winds competing throughout the US, Mexico and Hawaii. At the 2013 Battle of the Paddle in California, the largest SUP race in the world, the Big Winds Junior Elite Team (JET) swept the podium in the 18 and under boys, taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The JET Girls matched the boys, going 2-3-4-5 in the 18 and under. And Big Winds JET has been going strong ever since.

So, what does that mean for you, someone looking for a new (maybe your first) SUP board? Our depth of experience translates directly into our unique expertise in gear selection and recommendation. We have a HUGE selection of SUP boards and paddles in stock and we know the gear because we use the gear. We test, analyze and criticize the choices out there so that we stock the correct variety of types, sizes and price levels of boards and paddles. We GUARANTEE your satisfaction with the products we sell. If you are not 100% happy with whatever you buy from Big Winds, we’ll take it back and work to get you something else. We understand buying a new Stand Up Paddleboard is an investment and we will do whatever it takes to ensure you are totally stoked.

Here are some tips to help guide you into a smart buying decision:

Think of SUP boards in terms of two large categories: Round Nose boards and Pointed Nose boards. If you want to go surfing with your SUP, you need a round nose board. If you don’t intend to ride ocean waves, then we recommend you consider a pointed nose board. Round nose boards are more maneuverable and pointed nose boards glide better and paddle in a straight line (track) better.

What about Inflatable SUP Boards?

The quality and performance of Inflatable SUP Boards has improved dramatically in the past five years, as well as the choices. As a rule, rigid boards will still offer a bit better performance in terms of glide and efficiency. However, Inflatables can be the right choice for certain situations. They pack down into a large duffel style bag, which is included, along with a pump. This makes them relatively easy to travel with and store in your garage or home. However, it is generally impractical to assume you will pump and deflate your SUP each time you want to go paddling! It takes a fair bit of effort to inflate them properly, unless you have one of the spiffy new electric pumps, which we sell at Big Winds. If you’re considering an Inflatable SUP, give us a call and we can talk you through all the choices and help you decide if this is the right way to go for you.

Round Nose boards can further be broken down into:

1. All Around Boards. The All Around boards will generally be over 10’ long and at least 30” wide. They will paddle fairly well in flat water, gliding and tracking fine, and be quite stable. In this category we suggest you consider: Amundson Source, Amundson Cross, Starboard Drive, Starboard Blend, Naish Nalu, and Surftech Generator.

2. Easy Surfing. These boards are designed for the novice and intermediate SUP surfer. They will be shorter than the All Around boards, usually between 9’ and 10’6”, and fairly wide (30”+) for stability. If Easy Surfing looks like your thing, consider the Naish Mana, Naish Nalu, Quatro Glide, Starboard Whopper and the Starboard Wide Point.

3. Performance Surfing.

If you want to crank off the bottom and smack the lip, here you go. These boards are designed to perform in the hands of skilled surfers. They will generally be under 9’6” and narrower than 30”. The Naish Hokua, Starboard Airborn and Starboard Pro Series, and Quatro Carve will satisfy the hard core SUP surfer.

4. Inflatables. The choices in quality inflatable SUP boards has increased exponentially in the past two years and at Big Winds we have stayed on top of it, relentlessly testing new models. Here are our favorites in the All Around category, the Naish Mana Air10’, Naish Nalu Air11’, Naish Alana Air 10’6” (Women’s Specific) Starboard Astro Blend, Starboard Astro Whopper.

Pointed Nose Boards can further be broken down into:


 1. Touring. These are the cruisers that everyone will enjoy in smooth and bumpy water. They are user friendly, track and glide well and are suitable for distance, fitness and social paddling. They are usually over 10’6”, around 30” wide and stable. Lighter paddlers can have more fun on the smaller models in this category, while heavier paddlers should steer towards the larger volume choices. Great choices for the lighter paddlers are the Amundson 11’6” TR and TR-X, Starboard Freeride, Bark Appleby 11’ Cross. For heavier paddlers we recommend the Naish Glide 12’6”, Tahoe SUP Zephyr, Starboard Freeride XL, Amundson 12’6” TR and TR-X, Amundson 14’ TR-X and TR-T, SIC Bullet 12’6” and 14’ the SIC X12’6” and X14’. We also stock the Naish ONE, and the Starboard Astro Tour series, both excellent touring/race inflatable choices.

2. Racing. If you want to experience really efficient gliding and tracking, you should consider a model from this category. Several of us here at Big Winds have been racing and coaching SUP for a number of years now and we pride ourselves on being up on the latest, fastest boards available. Some of these models are accessible to a fairly broad skill level and some require a significant level of expertise to enjoy. We break these down into two main sizes: 12’6” and 14’, since those are the two most popular race classes. We’ve personally tested almost every one of these boards, so please CALL US! Choosing the right race board requires more than just reading a website or a catalog. In season, we have a ton of demos available, so if you are in the Northwest, it’s worth a trip to our shop and Demo Center in Hood River.

Here are our favorite choices to consider:

  • In the 12’6” size, the Naish Javelin LE. Starboard All Star and Bark Appleby.
  • In the 14’ size, the Naish Javelin and Javelin LE, Starboard All Star, Bark Dominator and D2 and Amundson 14’0” TR-X.3.

Women Specific Touring. About half of the staff at Big Winds is female, so we are totally plugged in to the specific requirements many of our lady customers are looking for. Women's Specific SUP We suggest ladies look for boards that are sized for them, be it petit or larger. There are a few boards that really stand out as great choices for ladies due to their very lightweight and slightly smaller dimensions. These include the Amundson 11’6” TR and TR-X, Bark Appleby and the Naish Alana series.

4. Downwind/Open WaterThis is a category close to our heart here at Big Winds. As mentioned previously, we are smack dab in the middle of the most consistent, windiest spot in North America.


Our prevailing summer 25-35 knot west winds oppose the current of the mighty Columbia River boosting the river swells to often overhead in size. I can say with confidence our staff has more experience paddling downwind and has tested more downwind, open water boards than any staff at any shop in North America. With our Guided Downwind Tours and Shuttle Service, we have a unique opportunity to see what boards work best for varying sizes and skill levels. We stock the very best of the boards in this category, including the Naish Glides, SIC Bullets and F-16, Kalama Connectors and the Bark Downwinder 14 among others.

If you’re in the market for a Downwind board, call us! We are your downwind SUP experts!

5. Inflatables. The choices in Pointed Nose inflatables have also gone through the roof in the past year. Now we offer high performance Touring and yes, even Race inflatable boards. If you are in the market for an inflatable Touring or Race board take a look at the following models: Naish ONE 12’6”, Starboard Astro Tour 12’6” and 14’, Starboard Astro Race 12’6” and 14’.

PHEW! There are obviously a myriad of choices. Let us take the frustration out of getting the right board for you. Give us a call (1.888.509.4210) or shoot us an email and we’ll help you get the right board for you and have fun in the process!

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Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031