Paddle boarding is a water sport which is becoming more and more popular. A stand up paddle board, or SUP for short, is similar in style to a surfboard, but you stand on it and move along using a paddle. They are a great way to travel along all waterways and they can be used for travelling, relaxing, fishing or racing.
If you are serious about your paddle boarding, you will need to make sure that you get the right SUP or you may find you don’t get the experience you want. It’s worth taking the time to check out the different boards available and what they are used for so that you get the benefit right from the start. Many beginners ask ‘what size paddle board do I need?’ and in this article, we’ll attempt to answer that question. Before we do, we need to look at the different types of board and what they are used for.
Types of Paddle Board
The most common SUPs are surf, allround and flatwater or race SUPs. As the names suggest, these all have their own uses and it’s important to know the difference between them.
Surf paddle boards are the best choice for those who want to ride the waves, but who maybe aren’t fit enough for a surf board or who maybe want different surfing options. With practice, the right surf SUP can give you just the same thrill as a normal surfboard.
A surf paddle board is often shorter than other paddle boards, and the nose and tail are more pointed to help the SUP move through the water faster. The SUP is generally narrower and more maneuverable in the surf.
If you use this board on flatwater, it will be slower, less stable and may not prove very easy to move it in a straight line.
- Excellent maneuverability on waves
- Good choice who want to use their SUP for more sport based activities
- For intermediate and advanced paddlers.
- Not very stable on flatwater
- Easier to fall off due to the width
- Better on faster water
Allround paddle boards offer a wider variety of activities. These SUPs are thicker than surf SUPs, as well as being longer and wider. They are a good choice for beginners as their size makes them more stable and they offer the chance to experience more on the water.
Allround boards are stable on flatwater, and are easier to paddle in a straight line. They can also be used for touring around different waterways and on the ocean and they can handle different water conditions easily. They can also be used for surfing and some come with the option to adapt to a windsurfer, with a fitting which allows a sailing rig to be mounted.
Sizes of all-round paddle boards vary from 10’and 12’ in length, to 29”and 32” in width.
If you want an SUP which has versatility, then this is the one to choose.
- Stable for beginners
- Designed to a number of activities from touring to surfing
- Suitable for families and dogs.
- Not the best board if you’re looking to specialize
Flatwater or race SUP
As the name suggests, these boards are best used flatwater, and also ideal for paddling on the open ocean and racing, or down winding. The design is a combination of the surf SUP and round board, being longer and with a pointed nose end. This helps the board to travel in a straight line while gliding smoothly through the water.
The side of this board are rounded to help it move easier.
The width of the board makes it a good choice for beginners as it is very stable. Race boards, which come under the flatwater type, are narrower in designed to help the board go faster. This narrow design makes it less of an option for beginners as they are a lot less stable.
The size of a flatwater SUP varies from 30” to 34” wide and the length can be 10’ and over, so they have plenty of room for paddling alone or with family.
- Flatwater boards are stable for beginners
- Excellent on flatwater and for touring
- Designed for racing and downwinders
- Race boards are not recommended for beginners
Other uses for SUPs
Given how versatile paddle boarding can be, there are certain activities you need to consider when you are looking to purchase your SUP. The most common ones are:
While these generally come under the flatwater category, you do need to consider the design if this is what you will be predominantly using your board for.
A good touring SUP will be between 12’6” and 14’ in length, and they are generally narrower than other flatwater boards. The nose is pointed and designed in such a way that it displaces water. This helps you to maintain a set course easier, so the board can be used for travelling over longer distances, and on open oceans and lakes.
These are a good option for beginners because their overall size adds much needed stability.
A very popular past time and one which paddle boarders are enjoying more and more. These SUPs have lots of volume, which means you can stand high enough out of the water to enjoy your fishing. They also usually come with some optional extras, such as rod holders and fish finders.
What could be more relaxing than taking your SUP in to the middle of a lake to practice your yoga? If you’re a serious yoga practitioner, balancing on a paddle board adds to your work out, giving your muscles more strength.
Due to the fact that you will be moving around and balancing, a yoga SUP is wider than other boards, between 32” and 36”, providing extra stability and ample room for completing all your exercises.
Solid or Inflatable?
One thing to consider before you find out what size paddle board to you buy, is whether you want to buy an inflatable board or a solid one.
Solid SUPs are made from a number of materials including fiberglass, Kevlar, plastic and epoxy. These materials are lightweight so it is easy to transport the board on a vehicle, and easy to carry. One advantage of a solid paddle board is that you are ready to go as soon as you reach the water. You don’t have to spend any time inflating it first.
Inflatable paddle boards are made using a combination of PVC plastic layers which have woven fibers inside the board which connects the top and the bottom. Although the word inflatable gives the impression of something flimsy, when they are inflated they are rigid and sturdy.
Inflatable boards tend to be the most popular as they can be carried in cars, backpacks and even on bikes and they are suitable for paddlers of any experience.
So.. What size paddle board do I need?
The size of SUP you need depends on a number of factors, and for men and women the equation is exactly the same. Once you know what you will be using your board for, you can find the right size depending on your own height and weight.
How to work out the right size of paddle board
When you purchase an SUP the manufacturers may include guidelines to tell you the maximum weight that the board can hold. If this information is not included then it’s handy to know how you work it out for yourself.
The things you need to use to work out what you need, are your weight, height and paddling experience. Beginners will often need slightly larger boards, while more experienced paddlers will be able to use narrower ones.
Here is a quick equation to help you calculate what you need:
- For beginners: Take your weight in kilograms, and multiply by two
- For intermediate paddlers: Take your weight in kilograms, and multiply by 1.7
- For experienced and advanced paddlers: Take your weight in kilograms, and multiply by 1.3
The equation is the same for everyone no matter what their age or gender, as you simply need to make sure that the paddle board is the right size for your body. Those new to paddling will need a larger board which provides them with more stability.
Choose your board based on your activity
As we’ve already discussed, how you plan to use your board is an important factor when finding the right one for you.
Here are a few charts to help you based on your intended usage. Remember: the less experience you have, the larger the board you will need. Similarly, the taller you are, the longer you will want your board to be.
- Weight: 22-68kg – Board length less than 9’ 10”
- Weight: 68-113kg – Board length 9’ 1” – 10’ 6”
- Weight: 113-125kg – Board length 9’ 1” – 11’ 6”
Flatwater / race SUP
- Weight: 22-56kg – Board length 9’1” to 11’ 6”
- Weight: 56-68kg – Board length 10’ 7” to 11’ 6”
- Weight: 68-79kg – Board length 10’ 7” to 12’ 6”
- Weight: 79-91kg- Board length 11’ 7” to 12’ 6”
- Weight: 91-102kg – Board length 11’ 7” to 12’ 7” and over
- Weight: 102-125kg – Board length 12’ 7” and over
- Weight: 22-56kg – Board length less than 9’ 0” to 10’ 6”
- Weight: 56-68kg – Board length 9’1” to 10’ 6”
- Weight: 68-79kg – Board length 9’ 1” to 11’ 6”
- Weight: 79- 102kg – Board length 10’ 7” to 11’ 6”
- Weight: 102-113kg – Board length 10’ 7” to 12’ 6”
- Weight: 113-125kg – Board length 11’ 7” to 12’ 6”
Choosing Your Paddle
Now you know what you’ll be using your board for and what size you need, you need to make sure you have the right paddle. The paddle is made up of a handle, shaft and blade.
The main thing to remember about the handle is that it should fit neatly in to the palm of your hand. Some paddlers prefer a normal grip while others prefer to have a ‘T’ bar grip. It doesn’t matter which handle you choose as long as you are comfortable with it, and you have a good grip.
Shafts are an important part of the paddle and are made from a number of different materials: aluminum, glass fiber, carbon or Kevlar. The material used will affect the overall performance of the paddle.
- Carbon: This is the most common material used and it creates a stiff paddle.
- Glass fiber: This is a cheaper option, but it is more flexible than carbon and can make it softer in the stroke.
- Aluminum: This can make the paddle heavy and rigid.
- Kevlar: This is very similar to carbon, but it also has good resistance to high impacts.
The size of your blade will depend on how you use your SUP. Larger blades can create more power. They will move a large amount of water and this can be quite heavy, so they can also cause pain in the shoulders if you are not used to using them. These blades are used for touring or for downwind paddling.
If you are surfing on your SUP then a smaller blade is better in the surf. These are also gentler for beginners and for some women.
The height of the paddle you need depends on your own height. You need to be able to stand up properly and balance, so if you have a paddle which is too short, this can negatively affect your paddling. Again, the height will also depend on your chosen activity.
- Surf SUP: Paddle height should be 6-8 inches above the paddlers head.
- Flatwater SUP: Paddle height should be 8-10 inches above the paddlers head.
- Racing SUP: Paddle height should be 10-12 inches above the paddlers head.
If you switch between activities on your SUP, you can buy paddles which have an adjustable height.
There is a lot to consider when you’re trying to work out what size paddle board do I need, but once you concentrate on the activity you will be doing, it is a lot easier to find the right board for you. As you progress from beginner to intermediate to advance paddling, you will find you change your board to reflect skill.
As you start out on your SUP, don’t be tempted to get a smaller board than you need. You’ll find the larger size a great way to learn how to balance and not fall off quite so often.
Check out this video for a bit more information on choosing the right paddle board for you!