After a year with a GUL inflatable SUP it is time for a newbie SUP owners round up.
The GUL Cross SUP is a compelling price and an all inclusive package, everything fits nicely in one bag and for less that £400 you are out on the water.
Why the GUL Cross SUP as a first board?
A little bit of online research shows there are a so many SUP’s out there and you can pay anywhere from £250 to £2,000. I wanted to test the concept out a bit before investing heavily in to a SUP. The lower end of the market if full of mixed reviews and unheard of names - a lot can be found on ebay. Asking around it seemed that the general feeling amongst experienced SUPers was that if you pay too little you get a banana board - when you stand on it the middle sinks down - clearly not ideal!
The GUL SUP was the only one available from a manufacturer I had heard of, trusted and actually had good reviews. So budget choice made.
Getting it out of the bag.
My first outing was a stunning afterwork evening on a perfect sandy bay in Cornwall, it was however down a lot of steps at the end of a track. The GUL Cross SUP comes in a backpack style holdall so on my back it went. It is not super light but the pack adjusts and as a 5’10“ man (in no way ready for an iron man) I managed to get a comfortable position and it was actually much better than expected.
Arriving at the beach I realised one thing, it is all packed in plastic, I looked silly for 5 mins taking everything out of plastic and stuffing it back in to the bag - worth doing this before your first outing - GUL there was no need for most of this plastic!
Setting up the SUP is easy, no instructions required really (there are some in the bag). You get a pump, the SUP, a two part paddle which they call three parts (more on that later), leash, centre fin and repair kit (unused to this day).
The paddle slots together, the fin slides in and the leash attaches very easily. Then you attach the pump….. OK so there is no gain without pain. The pain for an inflatable SUP it seems is pumping, be prepared for this bit to take a while with the GUL pump. 5 mins of sweat later you realise maybe the gym is a good idea after all. The board should get to around 12PSI, my first attempt fell well short of this, maybe 8PSI. It does get easier.
Starting out on the water.
Moving the board around on land involved grabbing the central handle with long arms, pop it on the water and it becomes much easier, light, easy to handle and relatively stable. The surface is grippy and leg friendly so within 30 seconds I was happily sat down or kneeling on the board and having a great time.
Then came standing up, to this day after many more outings I have never fallen off the board. Dinghy sailing and skiing, my two favourite sports involve a level of balance so I know I am not a total disaster at staying upright but certainly very far from a gymnast.
Standing up that first time was wobbly, very wobbly, it was a flat calm evening with very gentle waves at slack water. I have since learnt these gentle conditions made my life a lot easier. First paddle trip I was able to go off the beach out about 30 yards and turn back, wobbly as hell but successful.
The next big outing was with a friend on the east coast where the water is more murky, the waves are short chop and the bottom is more mud and grave than Cornish sand. Similarly I had a wobble and style judges would have awarded me 2 out of 10 max.
Roll on a trip to Scotland, I had hidden the SUP in its bag under various bits of camping gear and two dogs in the car waiting to see if I could find the ideal spot. Oh my goodness did I find it! Shieldaig on the west coast, complete with an island to SUP around. There was no chance I was going to fall in here, the water was full of amazing jelly fish to look down at. I also learnt to not wobble, the answer being look forward not down. Then my second vision came from above and I found out the paddle is adjustable, so with the paddle now actually allowing me to stand properly upright life was much easier. My favourite SUP moment and a turning point in balance and style, from here on SUPing has been a breeze.
Review from a beginner.
Inflatable SUP'S are a really great option for getting afloat, they pack down and can be stowed onboard a yacht, stuffed in the back of a car or even carried on your back. My experience of the GUL Cross SUP has got me addicted, not like I am to sailing, but there is no boat to set up and within minutes you can be off the beach on the water. These days I cheat, my SUP is inflated all the time, on the roof, inside my van or on the deck of my boat.
I am not sure if paying more gets you a faster, more stable or thinner SUP, that may well be my next consideration but for getting afloat, having a laugh and being able to get ashore £400 seems to have done the job.