Given the popularity that SUP has achieved in the recent times has resulted in the production of a variety of kinds and shapes in which these boards are made. So, it is quite normal for you get a little confused by the array of different types displayed on the shop front! However, it is essential that you get the board that fits you and your needs well and we are here to help you chose.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you go to pick up your first board.
Here are the key factors that should decide the size of your board:
- Volume: The buoyancy of your SUP, measured in liters.
- Length: Your SUP’s measurement from top to bottom.
- Width: Your SUP’s measurement from side to side.
- Thickness: The distance between the top of your SUP and the bottom of your SUP.
- The Weight Factor: It is essential to take into account not only your weight but also the weights of your accompaniments, whether that may be a dog, another human or just equipment.
To find out a SUP’s weight capacity, you’ll need to know your board’s volume. Volume is the liter-based measure that determines your SUP’s buoyancy based on length, width, and thickness.
The higher the volume a board has, the more weight it can support. If you go for a board that’s too low in weight capacity, you’ll be in for a long, unstable ride that feels more like a drag than a breezy paddle.
Inflatable SUP Volume:
People under 200 lbs: You'll be fine on any standard paddle board
People 200-235 lbs: At least 175 L of volume
People 235-300 lbs: At least 242 L of volume
People over 300 lbs: At least 272 L of volume
Hard/Epoxy SUP Volume:
People under 200 lbs: Any standard SUP will float you
People 200-235 lbs: At least 175 L of volume
People 235-275 lbs: At least 181 L of volume
People over 300 lbs: At least 230 L of volume
And do not worry, there is a board for every weight, so no matter what size you are, you’ll have a board for yourself.
- The Height factor: When it comes to SUP functionality, your height is far less important than your weight and the weight of your gear. If anything, your height will play a role in how you size your paddles, but most paddles are adjustable to just about any height.
- Are you just starting out?
In case you are just getting started with SUP, find a board with a width of 31” or more, and a volume that can support your weight. An inflatable board, because of its stability might just be a great option.
Ideal Beginner SUP Size
- Inflatable SUPs: 220-280 L, 10’6 to 11’ long, and 31” to 35” wide
- Hard/Epoxy SUPs: 170-190 L, 10’6-11’ long, and 32” to 35” wide
- Best Sup for Intermediate and Advanced Paddlers:
The main features of the board, once the basics have been learnt should be the activities that you plan on performing with the board. More advanced paddlers thrive on boards with less volume. While any width is doable for a well-versed paddler, many prefer narrow boards for their speed.
Ideal Intermediate/Advanced SUP Size
- Inflatable SUPs: 200-250 L, 10'-12’6 long, and 30” to 33” wide
- Hard/Epoxy SUPs: 165-195 L, 10'-12’6 long, and 29” to 32” wide
- The Volume Factor: the volume of your SUP determines your board’s buoyancy (measured in liters). This is calculated by multiplying the board’s length, width, and thickness. The higher your SUP’s volume, the higher its weight capacity. Higher board volume also equates to more overall stability.
Generally, if you're less than 200 lbs, any standard paddle board will be able to float you just fine. If you're over 235 lbs, you'll want a board with at least 175 L of volume in order for increased stability. For the over 275 lbs, grab a board with over 240 L of volume. If you're over 300 lbs, choose a board with at least 270 L of volume for the proper stability and control.
- The Length Factor: The most popular length range for a paddle board is between 10’ to 11’ long, and that range is a great choice for an all-around SUPS. While weight can play some factor in how your board length pans out for you, the SUP activities you prefer are much more important.
If you plan to SUP surf or have a smaller body type, a shorter board (10’ or less) is your best bet. Shorter boards are more agile and move swiftly in choppy waters. They’re also a great option for kids. If you mainly want to paddle long distances or go SUP touring, seek out a longer board (11’ or longer) for smooth, efficient paddling.
When considering length, also keep the your storage capacity in mind. Inflatable paddle boards are less of a storage concern than hard boards, and generally, a shorter SUP is easier to store. Another thing to keep in mind: longer boards can be harder to carry, especially in windy weather. If you have to trek a long way to the water, you’ll get sick of dragging a longer board pretty quickly.
Paddle Boards Under 10’
- Excellent for SUP surfing
- Super maneuverability for catching waves and performing bottom turns
- Awesome for kids 13 or younger
- Have planing hulls
- Good for intermediate or advanced paddlers and SUP Surfers
Paddle Boards over 10’ to 11’6
- Most popular SUP size
- A fantastic choice for an all-around SUP
- Usually 31” to 35” wide
- Great for all paddlers from beginner to intermediate and advanced skill levels
- Ideal for recreational paddling, SUP fishing, and SUP yoga
- Most have planing hulls, with a few exceptions
- Our favorite fishing SUPs (ideally with a width of 32” or more)
Paddle Boards Of 12’ Or More
- Best for intermediate to advanced paddlers
- Good choice for long-distance paddling, racing, and touring
- Fast moving, efficient SUPs that slice through the water
- Most have displacement hulls
- For SUP racing, choose one less than 31” wide
- For SUP touring, choose one that is 32” wide
- For SUP fishing Choose a board at least 32” or wider
- The Width factor: Paddle board width, or its side-to-side measurement, should be between 29” to 35”. A wider board will be more stable on the water, while a narrower board will move faster. It all depends on your skill set and again the kind of activities you’ll be engaging in. A wider board will be advisable for a beginner.
In case you are planning on using your board for SUP yoga, SUP fishing, or general recreational paddling, choose a board that’s at least 31” wide. If you’ll be SUP surfing or doing a speed-focused activity like racing, grab a narrower board: 29” to 31” wide.
Consider your body type as well when deciding on width. If you’re taller or heavier, a larger width is easier to balance on. If you have a small frame and some paddling experience under your belt, a narrower board is more fun to maneuver.
Beginner SUP Width: 31 to 35 inches
Advanced SUP Width: 29 to 33 inches
- The Thickness Factor: Paddle board thickness is the distance between the top and bottom of the board. Inflatable paddle boards should be at least 6” thick. (All GILI boards are.) Inflatable boards with a smaller thickness than that will lack the stability and performance quality you need.
Do not go for a 4”-5” board for even though they seem functional, they will eventually cave under your weight!
Hard paddle boards are typically between 4” to 4.5” thick. If you’re choosing a hard SUP, know that thinner boards are usually faster than thicker boards. For a hard/epoxy SUP, thickness is more application-specific, and you’ll need to pay more attention to volume than thickness.
When riding an iSUP, you’ll notice that the thickness is the same throughout the board, whereas hard boards have a bit of curve underneath (rocker) to reduce weight. Because of this, iSUPs are more stable.
- Board by Activity:
All Round Paddling:
or general recreational SUP, get an all-around board that’s versatile while still being stable and maneuverable. The most common size range of SUP boards for general use are 10’ to 11’ long and 31” to 35” wide. All Around Paddle Boards make excellent beginner SUPs.
If you love SUP yoga (or SUP pilates!), find a board that is wide enough for you to balance as you work on that warrior pose. Choose a width between 31” to 35” and a length of 10’ to 11’6.
You’ll need extra space for gear, so SUP fishing is best on a board that is between 10’6 to 12’ long and 32” to 36” wide. Make sure your SUP is ready for the catch with extra bungees, d-rings, and Scotty mounts.
If you mainly want to go touring on your SUP, seek out a longer board (11’ to 12’6) for easy gliding. A displacement hull and a width between 30” and 33” will help ensure a smooth journey. Touring SUPs also make great adventure SUPs.
For SUP surfing, choose a shorter board of 10’ or less. Choose a narrow board (29” to 32” wide) so you can seamlessly paddle among the waves. This is best for more advanced paddlers!
Hybrid paddle boards are wider than a typical all around SUP and usually feature a pointed nose. These paddle boards are extra stable for exercise, SUP Yoga, riding with your dog and/or kids. These boards are super versatile and growing in popularity.
Hit those fast-moving waters with an extra small board: between 6’ to 8’ long is ideal. You’ll need a super-wide SUP, 34” to 36”, to navigate all that whitewater!
- Quick Size Tips: The most popular SUP sizes for all-around paddling are 10’6 to 11’ long and 31 to 35” wide.
Specialized SUP Sizes
Specialized SUP sizes are ideal for special activities like surfing, racing, or whitewater SUP. You can maneuver deftly on these boards because they’re shorter than an all-around board. If your favorite SUP activity is speed-related (like surfing or racing), shorter boards are best.
Inflatable SUPs Are Ideal
Inflatable SUPs are much easier to store and transport than hard boards. iSUPs have a uniform thickness, while hard SUPs have a curve in the middle where the thickness changes. This is meant to reduce overall weight of hard boards and make them board faster, but the tradeoff is a loss of stability for beginners. If you want a stable ride, iSUPs are generally the way to go!
Remember board thickness is as important as other factors as they might be the reason that your SUP adventure comes to an end.
Choose iSUPs that are at least 6” thick, like all GILI boards are, or you’ll struggle to stay afloat. For hard SUPs, look for a thickness around 4 to 4.5”, but this will depend on your application and use of the board.
Size is important when choosing a SUP, but other details like construction, hull type, and fin systems are important too. The construction of your board ( whether it’s inflatable, soft top, or hard/epoxy) makes a difference in how smoothly it rides and how you intend to use it.
Also, be aware of your board’s fin system. A SUP needs at least one main fin to track in a straight line. The most popular fin setups are one single fin or a 2+1 setup, where you’ll have two side fins in addition to your center fin. There are also more complex setups, like quad fin systems, for specialized activities like surfing. For most paddlers, a 2+1 is ideal.
Keep these points in mind while getting your board and you’ll be adventure ready! Well go on then, get that perfect board for yourself!