Buying a new paddleboard can feel like a major decision, especially if you think of it as an investment in future fun. Getting a board that’s the right size will help you love SUP’ing now and for years to come. Here are all of the aspects in play when choosing the size of your next board.
Most paddleboards fall between 9’6″ and 13′ long. In general, longer boards are more capable of reaching higher speeds on the water while shorter boards are easier to turn or maneuver. If you are planning to do some specialty paddleboarding, skip to the end of the article to find out how SUP length can impact your specific goals. If you’re just planning to do general boarding, you’ll want one that is somewhere in the middle of that range—probably between 10′ and 11’6″.
Wider boards are more stable but harder to maneuver. Boards come anywhere between 26″ and 36″ wide but, again, the most popular ones are in the middle of that range. Most general use paddleboards are between 30″ and 32″ wide. This allows for a balance between stability and maneuverability.
The more advanced a rider is, the narrower the board that he or she can likely handle. Newer paddlers will want wider boards, at least up to a certain point. After all, they still want to be able to turn their boards fast if they need to get out of trouble.
Hard paddleboards don’t have a uniform thickness. They will usually be thicker in the middle than they are on each end. Their shape is generally molded to make them good for whatever purpose they were designed to serve.
Inflatable paddleboards will have one thickness throughout the length of the board. Smaller riders—under 125 lbs.—can use boards that only inflate to 4″ thick, but larger riders will find that these boards “taco” when they try to use them. A 5″ thick board is standard for most inflatables, though some riders prefer 6″. Thicker boards can be good for heavier riders (over 220 lbs.) or for those who want a little bit more distance between their deck and the water.
If you want a SUP to ride in specific situations, you’ll want to invest in a board whose size has been specifically chosen to make it successful in those situations. Here are some general size parameters based on how you’re using your paddleboard.
SUP yoga classes are getting more and more popular, especially now that there are boards specifically made for this activity. Yoga boards are usually inflatable and are wider than standard boards. Their length and thickness matter less, though they may also be longer than usual. The wide deck allows for stability and also gives more space for complex yoga movements.
Want to hang 10 with the best but never learned to surf? Now you can do it on a paddleboard. Surfing SUPS tend to be shorter than most boards. In fact, some come in lengths shorter than 9′! This makes it easier for them to catch waves but they lack the stability necessary for general paddling. Surf SUPs also tend to be hardboards, though some surfers make inflatables work, too!
SUP racing is a blast, but you’ll do better if you have a racing board. You can try your hand at it on a general board, but you won’t get the full sensation of speed without a racing board. These tend to be hardboards that are long and thin. They are usually at least 12’6″ long and may be only 26″ or 28″ wide. This shape gives them speed but makes them harder to turn and maneuver.
Interested in taking on that river on your board this year? Opt for an extremely wide board – up to 36″. This gives you added stability so you don’t tip over, though you’ll have to keep your stroke extremely vertical. These boards may be shorter, too, giving them a more oval shape than most SUPs have.
Want to take your board out on the water to catch fish instead of getting a boat? Fishing boards tend to be thicker than other boards, so your gear is less likely to get wet. These boards often come with detachable seats and mounts for rods, bags, and more.
If you want to take a longer trip on your SUP, make sure your board is the right shape for the job. Many standard-sized boards are fine for touring, but you may want to invest in one that is both longer and wider than normal. This gives you plenty of space to attach your gear while still leaving room for you to sit down, stretch out, and relax when you get tired.
Get the right board for your goals and your size, then have a blast out on the water this summer! No matter what you want to do, there’s a paddleboard the right size and shape for you to get it done.