Learning to use a paddle board is exciting, but finding the right paddle board for you can be difficult. If you want to get the best from your SUP, you need to know how to choose a paddle board which is right for you.
There are a lot of things you need to consider before you invest in a board.
First let’s look at the types of board available, based on what you will be using your board for.
Type of hull
There are two types of hull for paddle boards: planing and displacement.
- A planing hull is the best choice for recreational paddling, SUP surfing, SUP yoga and whitewater.
- A displacement hull is the best choice for SUP touring and racing.
Choice of board
Now you know which type of hull you need, you need to know about how boards vary for each activity.
If you plan to surf on your paddle board, you will need one designed for the sport.
These boards are usually shorter, as you don’t need a lot of space, and the smaller size makes them easier to control in the surf so you can maneuver these easier than a normal surfboard to take advantage of more waves. The nose is narrower, allowing it to glide through the surf, while the tail is more curved.
If you’re new to paddle boarding, you will need to take the time to get used to the board before you try surfing, as it is designed to move swiftly through the water.
On the negative side, If you try to use the board on flatwater, they will be harder to steer and slower. Their smaller size can also make them a little unstable and are a better choice of board for those who have good paddle boarding experience already.
These are a good choice for beginners and experienced paddle boarders alike.
These are bigger than surf SUPs and allow you to carry out more activities. The board is thicker, wider and longer, giving you more room and more control. The extra width makes them more stable in the water and they are good for recreational paddling and touring.
Allround paddle boards are so named because they also have a design which you can used in the surf if you want more versatility from your board. Some allround SUPs even have the option to add a mast so you can use them for wind surfing. The bigger size even means you can take your dog so they can enjoy being on the water too.
If you want to enjoy paddling on the ocean or racing with the wind behind you (downwinding) then a flatwater SUP is the right choice.
The width allows good stability for beginners. They are longer boards and they have rounded sides and a pointed nose to help them move easily through the water. They are also good for recreational paddling and touring.
However, when you’re considering how to choose a paddle board, you should be aware that racing SUPs are also flatwater SUPs.
The difference is that racing boards are narrower to help them go faster. While a flatwater SUP is good for beginners, a racing SUP is less stable and not suitable for those new to the sport.
This is another flatwater board. It has a good area with better width and longer length to allow you to stretch and bend on the board while keeping it stable.
For beginners, the larger size makes it a good choice of board, as it is designed to be stable.
You can get boards which are designed specifically for SUP fishing, but you can also use a flatwater or allround board. Extra width is useful for standing up with your rod, and a larger board also allows you room for your tackle as well.
Some fishing SUPs can be adapted to you can add a kayak seat.
Solid or inflatable board
Once you’ve decided on the right type of board, you then have to decide whether to invest in an inflatable board or a solid one.
Beginners generally favour an iSUP, but this is mostly because of the cost. The size and shape of the boards is the same, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Solid paddle board
Solid boards, or epoxy boards, are made of a combination of materials. These can include foam, fibreglass, plastic and Kevlar. More expensive boards use carbon fiber. The boards are rigid and strong enough to cope with all conditions and lightweight to carry. They can be used for any SUP activity and are available in different sizes and shapes.
Inflatable paddle board
Inflatable boards, or iSUPs, are designed to be tough. They have layers of PVC which is connected to the top and bottom with layers of woven fibres. When fully inflated, they are rigid and stable and a little lighter than solid SUPs. They are easy to carry when rolled up and are used for all SUP activities. They need to be inflated before they can be used and they usually come with a pump, take a look at the best inflatable paddle boards here.
- Cost. The big advantage of an inflatable board is the cost. They are cheaper than solid boards which is why they are favored by beginners and those on a budget. Both types of board are very tough and designed not to fall apart.
- Transport. This is an important consideration when choosing the right type of board. A solid paddle board needs a rack or trailer to transport it. An inflatable SUP can be carried in a rucksack or bag, so it is far easier to carry. It can be taken on holiday or to places where it might be difficult to get a solid board. An inflatable SUP is also far easier to store, as a solid board takes up far more room.
- Ease of use. When you get to the water, you can simply place your solid SUP in and away you go. Before you use your inflatable board it will need to be pumped up so you will lose some time when you arrive.
- Speed. Both types of board are suitable for surfing and racing, but the solid board provides better maneuverability and glides more smoothly through the water. This is a big advantage to more experienced paddlers.
- Beginner v experience. Beginners generally feel more comfortable on an inflatable board, as it is easier to get used to balancing and paddling, although a solid board does provide a more rigid feel. Experienced paddlers, particularly surfers and racers, enjoy the extra speed provided by a solid SUP.
- Choice. While inflatable boards are available in a wide choice of sizes and shapes, hard boards offer a wider variety of sizes so they can provide a much better fit.
When you’re trying to find out how to choose a paddle board, this is where you may need help and advice. The size is important as it will affect your balance and maneuverability on the water. Volume and length combine to give you the stability you need in the water.
There is a formula to use when you are looking for the volume of the board you should buy.
- For beginners – take your weight in kg and multiply x 2
- For intermediate paddlers- take your weight in kg and multiply x 1.7
- For advanced paddlers – take your weight in kg and multiply x 1.3
Paddle boards come in different lengths, widths and thicknesses, and to get the right paddle board, these should equal the volume you need for your size. The dimensions of the board are what determine its maneuverability, speed and stability.
When it comes to the length of the board, there are guidelines, but in general longer boards will be faster while shorter boards are easier to maneuver.
If you’re buying a solid board, consider transport and storage when you think about the length.
- Less than 10’ long – these are good boards for children and surfers. Their shorter length makes them easier to control in the surf.
- 10’ to 12’ long – medium sized boards, these are good allround boards and make good SUPs for practicing yoga.
- 12’ 6” and over – Longer boards are good for touring and faster paddling. The design makes them easier to move in a straight line.
As well as length, you need to consider the width of your board. As a general rule, the wider the board, the more stable it will be. SUPs usually range from 25” to 36” in width, with the wider boards being slower ones.
When you consider the width of the board, think about what you will be using it for. Yoga SUPs need to be wider so that they have room to bend and stretch on them. A fishing paddle board will need to be stable and have room for tackle, and touring boards will need space to carry everything you need to take with you. Wider boards are also easier for beginners as they are more stable.
Narrower boards are faster, and so are better choices for surfers and racers. They are also good for those who are more experienced paddlers.
You should consider your own size too. If you are small, then you don’t want a huge board, and if you are a large person, you won’t want a small one.
Thickness is the third factor which affects which paddle board is the right one for you. Having worked out your overall volume, found a board of the right length and width, you then need to decide on the thickness.
If you have your width and length, work out how thick you need the board to be so that it will adequately hold your weight and size.
As a general rule, the thicker the board, the more weight it will carry, though most boards come with a guideline for how much they can hold.