Which Paddle Board is Right For You?
Now that spring has come in North America, people are buying paddle boards. A regular question I get from customers is “What type of paddle board should I get?”. Paddle boards vary in length, materials, shape and width. With all these variables to be considered during the shopping process, no wonder customers aren’t sure what to get. Well, let’s consider these variables, compare them with your needs and try to answer the question.
Stand up paddle boards can range from 7-21 feet long. That’s a huge variance, and the reason for it is the function the board was designed for. For adults, any paddle board shorter than 10’ tend to be paddle surf oriented. Boards 10-12 feet long tend to fall into the All Round category. 12-14 foot long boards are often oriented towards touring or racing. Paddle boards greater than fourteen feet are designed for open ocean downwind paddling.
The largest segment of the paddle board market is the “All Round” segment. All round paddle boards are very stable, can be used in flat water, chop and even small surf. It is the perfect style of paddle board for people looking for their first SUP.
There is at least two feet of length variance in each function segment. This is your opportunity to get the right size for you. The longer a paddle board is, the greater its volume. The greater the volume the more weight can be supported by the board without losing stability. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs, will find at 10’6” board with 190L of volume will find the board more stable than a person who weighs 250 lbs. The heavier you are, the longer the board should be in its function class.
As a general rule, the wider the paddle board, the more stable it will be. That’s why All Round boards tend to be the widest. Most are 32” wide, but they vary from 3o”-36” depending on the manufacturer and model.
Surf oriented paddle boards tend to be 28”-31” wide. Touring boards 29”-30” wide. Racing boards are the narrowest at 26”-28” wide. These boards are narrow in order to reduce drag so they can slice through the water like missiles.
Clearly, a stand up paddle board’s general length and width is related to its function. It only makes sense that the shape of the board should vary as well.
Touring and racing paddle boards have noses to cut through the water, and hull shapes to help lift the board out of the water to reduce drag and increase speed and efficiency. However, the trade off for speed is instability.
Surf oriented paddle boards look awesome. With a sharp pointed nose and short length, these boards look awesome and are tempting to the novice paddler. However due to their small size, low volume and design, they are unstable on flat water, and require the power of the wave to create lift.
All Round boards tend to have a curved nose and may look like a traditional long board surfboard. They are not the fastest paddle boards on the water, but you can do everything with them. Paddle 10K’s, surf waves up to 6 feet in height or teach grandma SUP basics at the lake. All Round boards can do it all.
What a paddle board is made from affects its price. Inflatable paddle boards are easy to manufacture, made from inexpensive materials and are generally the least expensive boards in the marketplace. Carbon fiber boards on the other hand use advanced materials and complex technology which is directly reflected in its more expensive price.
Before you pull the trigger and make that purchase, you need to ask yourself what you do want from your new SUP? Envision what you would like to do with it, and then look at boards with the appropriate shape. If you don’t see yourself surfing all the time, there really isn’t much point in getting the awesome looking board from a brand’s surf series.
Do you need the 18 lb. carbon fiber board that costs $2500 or will a 24 lb bamboo stand up paddle board that costs half the price with close to the same strength to weight ratio work just as well?
If this is your first board, you probably need stability. An all round SUP would be better for you then one of the sleek racing designs. However, if you see yourself, getting into racing or long distancing paddling ASAP, then you may want to consider a touring or racing design and deal with the steeper learning curve.
Determine your needs before you go shopping for a new paddle board. This will help guide you through the proverbial SUP forest to find the one that is right for you.
When you know your needs, look for paddle boards that have the variables to meet them. Make sure the volume is correct for your weight and experience level, and the SUP is built from the best materials you can afford. Once you have done this, you will have found the stand up paddle board that is right for you.
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.
board performance explained
board care & maintenance
great for families
SUP for women
want a deal?
wholesale paddle boards