There’s a reason why stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest-growing sports all around. I mean, once a fan of SUPing, always a fan of SUPing. It’s a fun, entertaining way to get a workout in while enjoying the waves, no matter where you are. Also, trust me when I say it is super-easy to learn. All you need is a little courage to stand on your paddle board, and the water will do the rest.
With that said, being into stand up paddle boarding for years, I know from experience that people oftentimes make rookie mistakes when buying their first stand up paddle board. They either don’t buy the right one for their type of paddle boarding or they overpay on something they could have spent less instead. I mean, who doesn’t like a good bargain?
Well, here, I’m going to talk all about how to choose a paddle board based on your specific needs. Selecting your first paddle board doesn’t have to be challenging at all! In fact, it all depends on your lifestyle, the waters you will be using it in, and of course, your budget. So, let’s make the shopping for your first board fun and easy!
Whether you are using your paddle board to catch waves in the ocean, relax your mind after a long day, or get a good yoga session in the morning, having the right paddling board is key to your enjoyment. With that said, here are some of the basics we will be discussing in this text that will help you tremendously when picking your first paddle board.
Let’s start with a solid stand up paddle board, shall we? Namely, solid paddle boards, even though they look quite sturdy and big, they are made of fiberglass and epoxy and are quite lightweight. The durable materials also make this a reliable construction that will a little care in the offseason will last you for a long, long time.
Of course, if you are looking for a more bang for your buck, you can opt for those made of carbon fiber, which will be even lighter, hence easier to store and transport. They do come at a higher price, though. As the third, cheapest option, you have the plastic paddle boards which you might find a bit heavier than the other two, and you might find them a bit bulky and without the performance of the other materials.
Until now, these different types of materials may not tell you much, but if there’s one thing I would like you to get out of it at this point is that you have to pay attention to the overall weight. It determines your movability and your performance on the water.
So, to make your choice an easier one, here are some significant reasons why getting a solid SUP may be right for you.
Now that you know more about solid paddle boards let’s talk about the inflatable ones. Firstly, they are mostly made of PVC exteriors with drop-stitch construction. Make sure when you’re buying your inflatable paddle board, it comes with a pump for inflating the board and a useful storage bag when deflated.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at all the reasons why an inflatable board, on the other hand, may be an excellent pick for you.
Regardless of whether you choose a solid or inflatable paddle board, you will be presented with the choice of picking between 2 hull types. The planning hull and the displacement hull.
Just to clear things up here, when I say hull, I mean the body of the stand up paddle board. The reason why we are discussing this, is that the shape of the body determines how the board performs when in use.
A paddle board with a planning hull tends to be flatter and wider than the displacement hull. Therefore, it is excellent for whitewater paddling, SUP yoga, or leisure paddling.
On a displacement hull board, you will see that it has a pointy nose, just like a kayak or canoe. This makes the board narrower and helps you to slice through water and slide without much effort. If you are looking to go far and fast, a solid construction with a displacement hull is the right choice for you!
The most important thing when paddle boarding, regardless if you’re a newbie or a pro, is to feel safe when on your paddle board. This is why you need to pick the board with the right size and volume that will displace the correct amount of water for your weight.
Volume: On the specifications of the paddle board, you will see the volume expressed in liters. The higher this number, the more weight it can carry for its paddler.
Weight capacity: This number represents how much total amount of weight capacity the board has. It is important not to go over this number because if you are too heavy for your paddle board, you won’t be able to paddle sufficiently. This is why you need to consider your body weight along with any gear or additional items you may be carrying on board when paddling.
When it comes to length, a great deal of what you pick lies in the experience you have and the places you’ll be using your board in. For instance, longer boards sail smoother and are faster, while shorter boards are easier to maneuver and handle, especially suitable for rookies.
Furthermore, short boards (under 305cm) are an excellent choice for my fellow paddlers who want to try surfing instead. Have kids? These boards are perfect for introducing them to the world of SUPing. However, if you are looking to buy specifically for children, you will find those boards at around 244cm long.
Then, medium boards of 305cm to 366cm are quite flexible and can be used for any paddling type, including yoga.
Long boards of 380cm and above are great for those long-touring adventures. They can hold a significant amount of space for any additional gear, food, or anything else you need for hours and hours of paddling. Plus, they are quite faster and more stable and comfortable than the other two.
Just like the length, the width is a crucial factor in how your paddle board performs on the water. Logically, the wider the board is, the more stable it will be. However, that does not come without a price, though. And what might that be? Well, you are paying with speed. The wider your board is, the slower it will be. And if it’s too wide for your build, it will be difficult to paddle. SUP boards come at 64cm to 92cm width.
Type of paddling: If you are going on a long but slow and steady tour with your friends and need extra gear on board with you, a wider board is advisable. Also, for those avid Yogis that like to stretch out with yoga on their boards, a wider board will provide more stability for a variety of poses. Shorter, fast-paced paddling trips will require narrower boards since they will be faster to paddle with.
Type of build: Your body type or build plays a role here too. If you are a tinier person with a smaller build, then you may find it easy to balance yourself out on a narrower board. However, if you’re someone with a larger build, I strongly suggest going with a bit wider board because it will be easier for you to manage.
Experience level: For pros who have many hours of paddling experience, it will be suitable to get a narrower, faster SUP. If you are just starting out tho, then I would advise you to take a wider SUP to get more comfort and stability out of it.
After determining the length and the width of the board, the thickness may seem like an extra feature than can be forgone, but I would like to point out some good that comes from selecting the right thickness level. You see, it affects your overall volume and weight capacity, which then determines the maneuverability and performance on the water.
For instance, the thicker the board, the more volume it can handle. And the more volume, the more weight it can support. However, if you are a smaller person, choosing a lower thickness will keep the overall volume lower so that you’re properly weighting in on the paddle board for the best performance.
Fins aren’t a new thing in the paddling world, but they aren’t so long ago invented either. They are a fairly new addition to the SUPing, but let me tell you something. They are a great tool for increasing your tracking and stability on your paddle board.
If you pick larger fins with wider bases and longer front edges, you get a straighter tracking on your board and a better stability than smaller fins. This is great for newbies who are just starting to get a hold of the standup board paddling, and this is their first or second board. However, if you are a more experienced paddler, smaller fins give you better maneuverability. Of course, you can try out either way, as fins are removable.
Since this is a trendy sport, companies are trying to get ahead, producing a plethora of extras and accessories that make a paddler’s life easier.
Bungee straps/tie-down: You can tie these in the front or on the back of your paddle board for extra storage when paddling. These straps are stretchy and can hold any extra gear safely.
Attachment points/mounts: If you’re fishing on your paddle board or you like to capture all your paddling adventures on camera, attachment points and extra mounts can be bought separately for these purposes solely.
Personal Flotation Device or PFD: You need to wear a PFD in certain places when outside the narrow limits of swimming or surfing areas according to the country’s regulations. You also need a safety whistle and light if paddling after sunset.
A paddle and a leash: Paddles for SUP often have a tear-drop-shaped blade that angles forward. This allows for maximum paddling efficiency. When choosing a paddle, you need to have its length reaching up to your wrist when you stand the paddle up in front of you and raise your arm above your head.
The leash is often included with the board, although in some cases you have to purchase this separately. It is excellent for keeping your stand up paddle board near you if you fall off. Note that there are many types of leashes depending on how you paddle your board. Some are designed for surfing, some for flat water and rivers.
Now that you know how to choose a paddle board, you can find plenty more accessories like unsinkable glasses, storing racks, and other extras here that will make your paddling more enjoyable.
Lastly, remember that choosing the right equipment for your paddling is key in having fun and staying safe. Because when you’re out in the open water, it’s all you have!
Have you decided on your paddle board already? Let me know in the comments what is your pick and why. I’d love to know your opinion. Also, don’t forget to visit my Facebook and Instagram account for more cool tips and recommendations on paddle boards and accessories.
Hi there. I want to buy a paddle board for use on rivers and bays in Maine. I’m 65 years old, female, 6’2”, 180lb. Been paddling for about 10 years, so not a total rookie. I’d like to go on longer paddles, possibly with minimal camping gear. Looking for something sleek and fast. Any suggestions?
With your paddling experiences there are a lot of options! I think a board like a Bluefin Cruise 10’8 would suit you well, not too big and it can carry your camping gear easily.
Do you have any preferences for boards yourself yet?