Many of us who are in or from the heavy impact service professions have been beat up, kicked, dropped or even shot a time or two. Staying active and fit can be a challenge for anyone, especially for those with old battle wounds. If your ability, passion or will to get outside and get active has wavered, this sport may just save your life.

There could still be a few of you out there who’ve never stood atop a board floating in a body of water. It doesn’t matter if you don’t live by an ocean or even know how to swim. Standup paddle boarding can help you get more fit, flexible and relaxed.

Paddle boarding provides a low-impact, core-focused workout that lets you turn the intensity up or down at will. The sport requires you to balance and propel yourself across a body of water, a feat that will engage enough of your muscles, balance and brain to provide a complete workout and recreation experience.

A Man, a Dog and their Paddle Board

I’ve surfed most of my life, so I didn’t think jumping on a paddle board was going to be that big of a deal, but once I stood on top of the board and looked forward across the water, I was hooked forever. Besides getting a good workout and giving what’s left of the cartilage in my knees a break, I found cruising across the water while on my own two feet to be incredibly relaxing and downright spiritual.

Because of the incredible demand and versatility of the sport, we have plenty of options to choose from when it comes time to rent, buy, borrow or steal one of these things. The board designers are innovating quickly, but there are 4 basic categories of boards you can access to suit your pleasure, purpose or shenanigans.

All Around Paddle Boards

These boards are typically wider, with a rounder nose, and are best for beginners. If I was going to make one suggestion about what type of “All Around Board” to use, I would say to go wide so that you’re stable and don’t fall in. I have a board that is 33 inches wide and perfect for spear fishing or taking a newbie out for their first time.

Lakes, slow moving rivers, canals or oceans work the same with a board like this. Once you get comfortable enough, snow won’t even stop you.

Paddleboard snow

Performance Boards

These boards are typically lighter weight, much narrower and more expensive. If you’re looking for something to take you places, say a far-off island, you’ll want to use a long, thin board designed for speed and cutting through water chop, seaweed and small children floating in your way.

If it’s surf performance you’re after, you can use a shorter “All around board” or a purpose-built, light-weight, short and fat Paddle Surfing board. Of course, if you think you’re going to stick with the sport, you will have to make the decision as to whether or not to start with a less stable “Performance board” and risk a few frustrating falls into the drink.

Special Purpose Boards

Courtesy Imagine surf

This category is where I put the inflatable boards, as well as some of the durable plastic boards that are built for riding river rapids. Another plus to boards like these is that they can be very utilitarian. I’ve had my eye on some of the inflatables so that I can store one in my truck as an added tool for preparedness and survival.

No matter where you start, if you stick with it, I know where you’ll finish: On the water staying active and having fun. Now, surf or die!