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I'm considering stand up paddling as a sport for rest periods for my legs (running, hiking, cycling) and a way to train upper body muscles.

I've checked the prices, of course the cheapest are the ones from local Walmart-equivalents (300-400$). Those from local reputable sport market costs about 700-800$. The ones from local stand up paddle trainer/reseller starts from 1500$. Of course they are much better quality (more layers etc) but... as a beginner, would I notice a difference?

I would paddle on calm waters (a lake) without rocks or other obstacles that could damage the board. Under that circumstances, could I reasonable profit from better, but more expensive boards?

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  • I've only used a higher end board so don't have the comparison for you, but those pricier boards do move nicely through the water. – Dan Jul 30 at 20:00
  • I've only used extremely low-end boards and found them to be quite fun (and a good workout) in most calm conditions. I'd argue that quality (or price) basically doesn't matter for SUP, apart from aesthetics and speed. – jhch Jul 30 at 20:23
  • "rest periods for my legs": I doubt that SUP will really rest your legs as they are crucial both for balancing and to transfer the forward force to the board. Still, you may find it sufficiently different for your purposes. I find kayaking nicely complementary to biking. I paddled dragonboat before that: that had the advantage of being able to do a whole lot of upper body training when still being a beginner in terms of technique. With the kayak, I spent considerable time to get my technique to the point where I can actually put some force into getting along... I expect the same for SUP. – cbeleites Sep 13 at 12:21
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Out on a calm lake with minimal adverse conditions, you're not going to notice any real difference as long as you're above the absolute baseline in equipment. As with most sports equipment the difference in quality only shows when things start to become challenging and you're describing the baseline situation for a paddleboard.

What you'll notice more is design, primarily length and width. A wider board is more stable, a longer board is faster.

You might also notice the weight, but lower end boards are usually inflatable and hence lighter. Hard boards aren't relevant until you're starting to push your limits or going surfing.

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If you goal is muscle exercise, a stand up paddle board may not be the best choice.

I stand up and paddle all the time in my 17 foot coleman canoe. I use the same 5 foot paddle sitting or standing.

When standing the physics of applying pressure to the water with the paddle means you can not apply as much force.

When sitting you have a much lower center of gravity, and options to use leg pressure against the side of the boat to drastically increase your stroke power.

In most kayaks and canoes you have the option to sit and paddle or stand and paddle. You also have the option of sitting and exercising much harder in either of these. A sit on top kayak is about as easy to transport as a stand up paddle board. A canoe is a bit more challenging to transport, but offers more options for water adventures.

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    Oh absolutely, paddleboards are an even slower pace of life than open boating, as an activity it has absolutely nothing on proper kayaking for a workout, but it's cool right now. – Separatrix Jul 31 at 13:08
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    @James I feel like this would make more sense as a comment, since it doesn't answer the question. That being said, it's a good point! – jhch Jul 31 at 15:03
  • Are there inflatable kayaks? SUP can be transported in a dedicated backpack, I have neither pick-up nor place to store kayak on the coast. – Danubian Sailor Jul 31 at 15:13
  • @DanubianSailor yes there are inflatable kayaks, one brand is Sea Eagle. There are others. Your question does not indicate that you are looking at inflatable SUPs. – James Jenkins Jul 31 at 15:17
  • @JamesJenkins honestly I thought that all SUPs are inflatable... – Danubian Sailor Jul 31 at 17:05

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