Size—as in, your weight—matters when it comes to buying SUP boards. If you weigh less than 180 pounds and plan to paddle mostly flat water, but want a board tough enough to take on waves—a great board for you is the C4 Parmenter/Kealuana 10-6 Classic ($1,634; c4waterman.com). The stable, steady 10'6"-long, 28.5"-wide Classic has a double-wall TEC (thermal epoxy compression) construction, which makes it plenty strong to withstand waves when you want to take it to the next level. The Classic has a flat deck and bottom, but also a progressive rocker and a rounded diamond tail, so you feel stable starting out, but won't feel stodgy with this board once you start riding big waves.
C4 Waterman Board
C4 Waterman Board
Surftech's Pearson Arrow 11' Laird ($1,790; surftech.com) is an inch wider and a little thicker than the C4 above, but it's also a great board to grow into: You can paddle long distances in flat water, but it also turns well, making for a smooth transition to trickier paddling in the surf.
If you're landlocked like me, consider C4's iSUP 10-6 ATB ($1,125). Made from almost indestructible rubber, including the fins, this all-terrain 10'6"-long, 30"-wide inflatable board—popular with river paddlers—comes rolled in a travel bag with a hand pump that's easy to operate solo. Weighing a mere 22 pounds, the board is so light and maneuverable that you don't need a car rack or a burly companion to help you haul it from car to water.
You won't get very far on any board without a paddle, so you might want to add the C4 Stand Up HD Fiberglass Kahui paddle ($240) to your virtual checkout cart. With an easy-to-grip oval shaft, an ample eight-inch blade, and a fierce-looking tattoo design, you'll look, if not feel, like a pro. One last thing: When you finally get out on the water, always gaze out at the horizon rather than down at your board.