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April 15, 2024 5 min read

Paddleboards have revolutionized outdoor recreation on water. Inexpensive, small enough to put in a backpack, durable enough for expedition adventures, and all around fun, these watercraft are a mainstay on Durango’s lakes and rivers.

Is a paddleboard right for you? And what should you look for when buying one? The pros atDurango’s best outdoor store, Durango Outdoor Exchange, have plenty on hand to sell this summer and can help get you into a SUP that fits your needs.

What features to look for in a paddleboard?

When purchasing a paddleboard, whether new or used, several key features are essential to consider to ensure you get the right board for your needs and preferences. Here are some important features to look for:

  1. Type of paddleboard:
  • All-around: Versatile boards suitable for various water conditions and activities, such as flatwater paddling, yoga, and light surfing.
  • Touring: Designed for longer distances and enhanced tracking, ideal for exploring lakes, rivers, and coastal waters.
  • Surf: Shorter and more maneuverable boards specifically crafted for surfing waves.
  • Inflatable vs. hardboard: Decide whether you prefer the convenience and portability of an inflatable paddleboard or the performance and rigidity of a traditional hardboard.

  1. Length:
  • Longer boards (10 to 14 feet) offer better tracking and stability, making them suitable for touring and longer paddling excursions.
  • Shorter boards (under 10 feet) are more maneuverable and better suited for surfing and recreational paddling.

  1. Width:
  • Wider boards provide more stability, making them ideal for beginners, yoga, fishing, and paddling with pets or children.
  • Narrower boards offer increased speed and agility, suitable for experienced paddlers and performance-oriented activities like racing and surfing.

  1. Thickness:
  • Thicker boards offer more buoyancy and stability, particularly for heavier paddlers or those carrying extra gear.
  • Thinner boards are lighter and may provide better maneuverability but may lack the stability of thicker boards.

  1. Volume and weight capacity:
  • Consider your weight and the amount of gear you plan to carry to ensure the board's weight capacity meets your needs.
  • Higher volume boards can support more weight and offer better stability, particularly for beginners or those carrying gear.

  1. Construction material:
  • Hardboards are typically made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, wood, or foam core, offering superior performance and durability but may be more expensive.
  • Inflatable boards are constructed from durable PVC materials and are lightweight, portable, and often more affordable.

  1. Fin setup:
  • Single-fin setups offer better tracking and stability, ideal for touring and flatwater paddling.
  • Multiple-fin setups (thruster or quad) provide enhanced maneuverability and are suitable for surfing and navigating shallow waters.

  1. Deck pad and accessories: 
  • Look for a comfortable and grippy deck pad that provides traction and stability while paddling.
  • Consider additional features such as bungee cords, D-rings, and cargo areas for securing gear and accessories like water bottles, coolers, and fishing gear.

  1. Brand reputation and reviews:
  • Research reputable paddleboard brands known for their quality craftsmanship, performance, and customer satisfaction.
  • Read reviews from other paddlers to learn about their experiences with specific boards and brands.

  1. Condition (for used paddleboards):
  • Inspect the board for any signs of damage, such as cracks, dents, or repairs.
  • Check the integrity of the board's construction, including the seams, fin boxes, and deck pad.
  • Test the board's inflation (for inflatable paddleboards) and overall stability in the water before making a purchase.

Can I buy a used paddleboard?

Buying a used paddleboard can be a great way to save money while still enjoying this popular water sport, but it's essential to take certain precautions to ensure that you're making a safe and wise investment. The SUP experts atDurango Outdoor Exchange can help. Here are some factors to consider when buying a used paddleboard:


  1. Condition: Carefully inspect the paddleboard for any signs of damage, such as cracks, dents, or repairs. Pay particular attention to the board's hull, rails, and fin box. Minor cosmetic imperfections may be acceptable, but structural damage could compromise the board's integrity and safety.

  1. Age and usage: Older boards or those that have seen heavy use may be more prone to wear and deterioration. If possible, try to get a sense of the board's history, including where and how it was used, to assess its overall condition.

  1. Stability and performance: If you can, test the paddleboard's stability and performance by giving it a float test in calm water. Stand on the board and paddle around to see how it handles and whether it feels stable and balanced. Keep in mind that different paddleboard designs and sizes may offer varying levels of stability and performance.

  1. Accessories: Remember you’ll need more than just the board. Look for paddles, pumps, leashes, fins, and storage bags. Assess the condition of these accessories and whether they are compatible with the paddleboard.

Where can I paddleboard in Durango?

There are several fantastic spots nearby where you can enjoy paddleboarding. Here are a few popular options:


  1. Animas River: The Animas River runs right through Durango, making it a convenient and scenic spot for paddleboarding. While sections of the river may have rapids unsuitable for paddleboarding, there are calmer stretches where you can enjoy a leisurely paddle. The river meanders through picturesque scenery, including forests and meadows, providing a serene backdrop for your paddleboarding adventure. Be sure to check local regulations and water conditions before setting out.

  1. Vallecito Lake: Located about 18 miles northeast of Durango, Vallecito Lake is a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by the San Juan National Forest. The lake offers ample opportunities for paddleboarding, with its calm waters perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. You can explore the tranquil bays and coves or venture out to the center of the lake for stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

  1. Lemon Reservoir: Situated approximately 15 miles northeast of Durango, Lemon Reservoir is another popular destination for paddleboarding. The reservoir offers pristine waters framed by towering pine forests and rugged peaks, creating a picturesque setting for your paddleboarding excursion. Enjoy the tranquility of the reservoir as you paddle along its shores, taking in the natural beauty of the Colorado wilderness.

  1. Navajo Lake: While a bit farther from Durango (about an hour's drive to the southwest), Navajo Lake is well worth the trip for paddleboarding enthusiasts. This expansive reservoir straddles the border between Colorado and New Mexico, offering miles of open water to explore. With its clear blue waters and stunning red rock cliffs, Navajo Lake provides a truly memorable paddleboarding experience amidst breathtaking scenery.

  1. Lake Nighthorse: Located just a few miles southwest of Durango, Lake Nighthorse is a relatively new reservoir that opened for recreational activities in recent years. The lake offers opportunities for paddleboarding, kayaking, and other water-based activities. Enjoy paddling across the calm waters of Lake Nighthorse while soaking in the views of the surrounding mesas and mountains.


Chase LaCroix
Chase LaCroix



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