Perhaps you’ve experienced standing on water through the ever-growing sport of stand up paddleboarding (SUP). If you are like me when I started, you just want to get a board and go. Either way I hope the info in this article helps you make a decision on a board, and gets you quickly out on the water. Before you can answer “what size paddle board do I need?”, or choose a board, you have to be aware of the following conditions, which can each effect how you size your paddle board.
- What style of paddling do you want to do?
- What bodies of water are you going to frequent the most?
- How are you going to transport your board?
- How are you going to store your board?
Different Types of Paddle Boards
Before you size up your board, you need to know your purpose. The purpose of a paddle board can be broken down into these 6 categories. Keep in mind that certain boards blur the line between the categories.
1. Inflatables – Inflatables come in a wide range of sizes, which essentially cross all categories. The downside is their lack of rigidity in comparison to a standard board. Don’t get me wrong, the advances in inflatable technology is impressive. The quality inflatables are quite rigid. Inflatable SUP’s are great if you have limited storage space at home. Also, if you don’t have a vehicle, or a vehicle without racks. Most of the inflatables come with a bag that acts as a backpack. They are not entirely compact, but allow you to use public transport, if that is your means. Inflatables are also the go to board for river paddling, removing the stress of dings and damage.
2. Yoga – When looking for a Yoga SUP, what are your conditions? The more volume the board has (length, width, thickness) the more stable it will be. Balance this with your yoga skill level
3. Surfing (around 9’ in length) – Surfing SUPs are lighter, narrower, and shorter boards that allow maneuverability in waves. A surfing SUP is not going to track well over lakes, at least not without a considerable amount of
4. Touring (9’-12’ in length) – A great board class for exploring lakes and salt-water areas outside of the surf zone. This is the intro board. Generally wider and longer, touring boards track straighter and offer more stability than surf SUPs and more speed than a yoga board.
5. Downwinding (12’ – 14’ in length) – A blend between racing and touring, these boards gain their name from riding with the wind at your back. The stronger the wind the faster the ride, and better chances to catch wind swells. Downwinding is a point to point ride, as you generally don’t want to attempt to paddle back into the wind. Great on lakes, open ocean and channels.
6. Racing (12’ – 14’ in length) – For your competitive side, its all about speed and distance with these boards. Longer and narrower gives you the speed while being slightly tippier.
A simple breakdown is as follows.
The shorter the board:
- More maneuverability
- Better in surf
- Less tracking
- Less stability
- Less paddle speed
The longer the board
- Less maneuverability
- Straighter tracking
- More Stability
- More paddle speed
- More weight capacity
- Less Stable
Paddle Board Weight Limits
The ability of a paddleboard to carry weight is dependent on its volume. The larger the volume, the more weight it can carry.
- Your weight (the rider weight).
- Are you planning on bringing any gear (camping, fishing),?
- Any passengers? (kid, dog)
- Leave yourself a little room for weight fluctuations.
Once you’ve added that all up, look at the type of board you want based on your purpose, and find a model that fits your weight. In most case, board manufacturers have a weight capacity chart for their models. Most of these are available online.
Purchasing Your Board
When purchasing your board, support your local board shops if possible. Do your research and know what you are looking to get out of your experience. Test boards if you can. Depending on how much you enjoy the sport, you may eventually want a quiver of boards. Start out with the board that is going to get you out there the most. As long as you follow the key guidelines in this article, you are not going to regret your purchase. Only time with the sport will help you find your ideal setup, until then remember that paddleboarding has been traced back hundreds of years (in some likenesses, thousands of years), to Polynesian, African, and Peruvian cultures.
Don’t sweat it if you are off a couple inches off on your board length or height.