Almost every store that sells SUPs will have demos. If not, the owner should have some of their own. If not, don’t buy from them. Not all boards will have demos. I’m not saying every store should have a C4 demo version of every size and shape. You should get on a board first.
2. Look for used boards.
Your first board will not be your last board. Most likely, it won’t even be the board you’re riding in 6 months.
3. If you buy new, buy smart.
If you are beginning, get a board that you can then use for friends, kids, whatever. A big first board will get you stoked on paddling, but still give you something to lend out when you move to a more advanced or specialized board. Buying a SUP from a shaper/company with a good reputation will help resale value.
4. If you buy new, protect it.
Get rail tape so it doesn’t chip. When you first learn, you hack the crap out of the rails. When you resell a board, the chips, even cosmetic, are what the buyer sees first. They aren’t big enough to fix, but too big to hide.
5. If you just want to SUP, go all-around.
At first, you don’t know what you’re going to do, so try to find a good all-around board. One that surfs and is good for paddling the flat water.
6. If you’re getting into it for a specific reason, be specific.
If you’re a surfer and you want to surf a SUP, look into entry-level surf SUPs. If you’re looking to race or tour flatwater, look for a entry-level flatwater boards.
7. If you’re starting out to race, start stock.
You need to learn to handle a 12’6″ board before you can handle a 18′ board. There is a learning curve. It takes time. You need to learn how to pull yourself through the water first, then you can work on technique. Going to the open division without learning the basics on a stock board will hinder your growth.
8. Get an appropriate paddle that fits you.
A paddle should be 8-12 inches above your head depending on the use and the theory. They are expensive, too. If you’re starting out and are swapping paddles with members of your family, an adjustable version isn’t a bad option as an interim step towards getting your own. Don’t let someone cut your paddle down and set the handle who doesn’t know what they’re doing. The last thing you want to have happen is to cut a paddle down to a size that doesn’t fit you. Find someone with experience customizing paddles.
9. Borrow Boards.
There are plenty of people around who have SUPs and who would be willing to let you try them. Also, the forums on this site and Standup zone are amazing. If you have questions, ask them. The top pros and super experienced paddlers in this sport are surprisingly accessible and willing to share info.
10. Take things from whom they come.
I know I’ve said to make sure the seller practices what they preach. You wouldn’t go to an obese physical trainer. Don’t get surf advice from a non-surfer, race advice from someone who doesn’t race, fishing tips from someone who doesn’t fish. Find the people who are doing what you want to do and ask them, buy from them. Unless you know exactly what you want and it’s a good price. But price isn’t everything. For instance, I’m not a pro, but I’ve taken the time to learn to SUP in surf, downwind, flatwater and races. I’ve bought my first board, made good and bad decisions and have learned a lot from really great paddlers, from all over the US. However, I don’t know everything.