Riviera Ron House Coastal Cruiser Standup Paddle Board

Pictured: With a shape that combines the best of surf and touring, the 12'6" Riviera Ron House Coastal Cruiser can do it all. ($1,535; rivierapaddlesurf.com)

1. Style – Although standup paddleboards are now built for every type of water from surf zones to river rapids, they come in two basic shapes or styles: all-around surf and racing/touring. As the name suggests, all-around boards, like the pictured Coastal Cruiser, are jacks-of-all-trades, with flat hulls that work for surf and touring the flats. Racing or touring boards are optimized for paddling efficiency with a rounded 'displacement' hull, more like a kayak, and a pointed bow. Inland boards are a third option, they provide a stable, durable ride for running whitewater rivers.

2. Length – The longer the board the faster it will go. The shorter the board the better it turns. Advanced surf-specific boards can be less than eight feet long, but most all-around SUPs are 10-12 feet, perfect for beginners and progression in a variety of con- ditions. Because SUP races are divided into categories based on board length, race and touring boards typically come in two lengths, 12'6" or 14 feet.

3. Width – Wider is more stable, but slower and less maneuver- able. A 30-inch wide board is a good place to start for most beginners and intermediates. Taller and heavier paddlers may want to go a few inches wider, while smaller paddlers may find a slightly narrower board easier to paddle and carry. The widest part of the board is usually where the handle is located.

4. Thickness – Another variable that affects stability, the thicker the board the higher if floats and the more stable. Heavier and less experienced paddlers will want a thicker board, but check the suggested weight and height range on each model. Deck lines – Handy for keeping drybags or packs onboard, bun- gee cords are often found on touring and some all-around boards. They're especially handy for extended day-trips and overnights.

5. Construction – Like touring kayaks, SUPs are made from a variety of materials. Foam wrapped in plastics or composites is the most common construction for all styles of boards. Because a wide variety of materials can be used, weight and price vary from mid- to high-end. Hollow plastic and soft-tops made of tex- tured rubber are often used on recreational boards for durability and low cost. Inflatable SUPs are all-around boards often made from rubber or stitched PVC.

6. Fins – Most SUPs have a removable single fin. More surf-specific designs may have a tri-fin or thruster setup. Inflatables and plastic boards typically have permanent rubber fins for durabilit