There are three key points to keep in mind when shopping for a stand up paddle board specifically for running whitewater.
1. Stability (Width and Thickness)
This is the first and most important thing to look for when shopping for a board. A wide board will be more stable and allow for more room to move your feet–something we do often on the river. Standard widths for whitewater range from 33-36″.
We’ve seen a lot of companies go different ways when it comes to thickness. Many inflatable boards made for whitewater have opted for a 6″ thickness. This will be the most stable and have the most floatation. For the smaller or more advanced paddlers companies are realizing the benefit of going with a thinner rail of somewhere around 4.75″. Two benefits of this would be for better board feel and easier maneuverability.
Rocker is the curve a board has from nose to tail. In this case we will be looking at the nose rocker. Nose rocker comes in handy by helping you get up and over the rapids instead of submerging which creats instability.
Notice the rocker on this Badfish Stand Up Paddle ‘River Shred’
One thing we all know about rivers is that their bottoms and banks are covered in rocks. Rocks form rapids after all. Using composite lightweight boards is not recommended for running rivers, they’ll easily get dinged and damaged.
We recommend inflatable stand up paddle boards or a composite board designed specifically for rivers and durability.
Inflatables are great because they’re lightweight, extremely durable, easy to store and travel with. The downside to inflatables is their surfing capabilities are rather limited and you may sacrifice rigidity and responsiveness. But inflatable technology has come a long way in the past few years with different technologies to increase rigidity.
Check out the Badfish SUP’s new River Shred a whitewater specific inflatable.
Composite & Plastic There are composite options for whitewater as well. You’ll find some boards that are made of plastic (similar to a kayak). These boards are very durable but often times clunky.
Badfish has designed a composite board specific for running whitewater called the MVP . This board is made out of a durable material called Innegra. With durability you often times will sacrifice weight. The benefits of the composite is its rigidity resulting in being more responsive and better for surfing waves on the fly while traveling downstream.
Remember, if you’re new to the rivers we always recommend taking a course whether it be a river sup or river safety course, such as swift water rescue.Look for our 2017 schedule launch in December to see if we’re coming to a river near you. Please feel free to contact us with any gear or paddling questions!
Happy board shopping paddlers!