The Great Paddle-board Caper

Well, some adventures are definitely easier than others! After a few runs on rented paddle boards with our kids, we decided to buy our own. Yeah, we know. We’re 50 years old – maybe a little too old for toys, right? Nope!  

Our family loves being on the water. Kayaking and white water rafting are our thing. But after our 22-year old daughter discovered the sport, we suddenly found we had the urge to join the nearly 3 million Americans who had tried stand up paddle boarding.

Why paddle boarding?

Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports. The boards, which are similar to surf boards, combine the balance of surfing with the paddling skills of a kayaker. In fact, most paddle boards can morph into kayaks with the addition of a snap on kayak seat.

According to a special report on paddle sports, compiled by the American Canoe Association, men and women are pretty equally ready to try out the sport, but the 45+ age group represents less than .5% of all users. Which is sort of understandable – paddle boarding can be intimidating at first glance.

Is paddle boarding actually difficult?

Reality? SUPs (stand up paddle boards) are pretty user friendly for most age groups. Why?

First time out!

Three reasons:

  1. If you are unsure or unsteady, you can start on your knees or even sitting down. Get a feel for the board and how it moves and then try to stand up. What’s the worst that can happen? You get wet, drag yourself back on your board and try again.
  2. Body size is not an issue. There’s nothing that says you have to be lean and mean to try paddle boarding. In fact, it’s great for anyone of any age, size or athletic ability. The sport itself is pretty easy on the body, yet offers a great way to build both core strength and balance.
  3. If there is water available, your SUP works. Unlike other water sports, stand up paddle boarding does not require deep water or even a lot of it. Small lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans ALL make for great paddling. Stick to calm water for recreational paddling, but know that there are other options as you grow in skill.

So we decided to take the plunge (Ha, ha! Get it?).  And once we did, the big question became, do we buy a hard surface paddle board or an inflatable? 

Pros & Cons

A hard surface paddle board is very sturdy, making it easier to balance on for beginners. Plus, you can put it in the water right off the bat. Show up, unload, and you’re good to go.

On the down side, a hard surface SUP is harder to transport. Unless you have a truck or a car with a large hatch, you need some type of roof rack.  As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases, so we went to Outside Pursuits, a website that dedicates itself to reviewing the best outdoor gear out there, for recommendations:

If you are looking for a cross-bar mount, try the YAKIMA SUPDAWG PADDLE BOARD CARRIER. This is a pretty standard rack, extending up to 36”, and holds up to 2 boards. There are integrated rollers to help with loading and unloading, and the straps help keep your board where it needs to be. It retails for around $299, but the price is worth it if you’re already spending $400+ for a board.

Another option for those with roof rails is the THULE SUP TAXI XT 810XT. It only extends to 34” and has a locking mechanism that holds your boards in place. Retail is slightly less at $269.

If you do NOT have roof rails, you might want to try the SEASUCKER SUP BOARD RACK, which was the top recommendation by Outside Pursuits. But with a hefty $400 price tag, that would not be our first choice.

Surfboard Soft Rack LOCKDOWN Premium Surfboard Car Racks by Curve is another top recommendation, and comes in at a MUCH more reasonable $60. You also have the option to connect through your doors or your roof rails, with a 1” padding to prevent damage. If we were to go this route, this is the system we would choose.

The inflatable option

But we’re not much on fiddling around with racks and rails and straps. So we took a look at iSUPs. Inflatable stand up paddle boards are easy to store and transport. They are more buoyant though, so they can feel less sturdy and make it harder to balance for beginners.

Board, paddle and pump – all in this backpack

With iSUPs, you generally inflate on site rather than carrying them already inflated. If you’re going to inflate it ahead of time, then why bother? The beauty of iSUPs is that they compact into a large backpack, making it easy to toss in the car and go. If you like the backcountry, take your iSUP on your hike into a middle-of-nowhere lake, blow it up and go!

The cost of an iSUP is similar to that of a hard paddle board, so that wasn’t really a factor for us, although either type of board can run into the thousands of dollars; I was absolutely not looking for that kind of investment.

All our gear!

After much debate, taking cost, lifestyle, transport and all of that, we decided to go with inflatables, and buy seats so we could use them as kayaks.


The SereneLife SLSUPST15 Serene Life – Detachable Paddle-Board Seat is designed to go with our boards, and is super comfortable. It attaches to the D-rings on the board, and the straps adjust pretty easily. There is a small learning curve, but not a big deal. The seat cost around $40 – much cheaper than if we purchased an entire kayak!

What did we look for?

We did a ton of research, and fyi? There are literally hundreds of iSUPs on the market. Do your homework. You need to think about the size of the person using the board. Some have a low weight rating, which makes it hard for larger individuals to stand up. 

You also want to look at how the seams are constructed, because patching a board is a pain, and you do NOT want to be dealing with that when you are out on the water.

Boards unpacked and ready to inflate!

In the end, we went with boards by SereneLife.

My board is the SereneLife Inflatable Stand Up Premium Paddle Board. It is 6” thick, and 10’ in length. As with most iSUPs, the adjustable paddle is included, along with a carry bag, patch kit and manual pump.

Kelly’s board is also from SereneLife, also the Premium model, but comes in at 10’ 5”. That 5” makes a considerable difference in her ability to balance on the board. She already has better balance than I do, but she doesn’t struggle at all on the water, and I think the extra length has something to do with it. To purchase this board from, click the link for Jeff’s board and choose the ‘aqua’ color.

Getting started

Our first try attempt in a local lake proved to be quite challenging, partly because we under inflated both our paddle boards. Don’t waste your time using the manual air pump. Despite what our daughter, Kassidy thinks, that is way too much labor!

The electric pump works fast and is quite easy. But you do need to be careful when you disconnect. If the pressure switch is pressed down, the air will escape in a rush, leaving you almost back where you started within seconds.

We chose the Sevylor 2000014066 Air Pump Sup 12V 15 Psi. For $60, we saved ourselves a whole lot of effort!

Get up, get up…and fall down

Kelly was able to stand right off the bat (again, I credit the extra length of her board!). Unfortunately I was unable to maintain my balance. I’m not much of a life jacket guy, but I have to admit that mine was very helpful. I kept trying until I got tired of climbing back on the board. 

Here is a good video of one of my failed attempts. Enjoy a chuckle on me.

Not a punk

Trying new activities demands you get out of your comfort zone. Working together toward a common goal builds that sense of togetherness all couples need. Kelly took to paddle boarding easier than I did, but that doesn’t mean I punk out.

I did get it…eventually. With Kelly cheering me on all the way. Well – singing. Which is distracting. But she’s trying to be supportive, so I let it go.

I may not have it down yet, but being with my wife on the water in the sun is always a blast!

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