How to choose a Paddle Board

How to choose a paddle board that suits you best, so you can enjoy it for many years

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!

My girlfriend with the Bluefin Cruise, my best paddle board

How to choose a paddle board: The basics of buying a standup paddle board

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.

  • First, you have to consider how you will use your paddle board.
  • Furthermore, we will talk about the two construction types of boards, the inflatable ones, and the solid ones. This depends on the transport and storage space you have.
  • This will help you determine some of the basic features of the board like its shape, correct volume and capacity, length, width, and thickness.
  • Lastly, we cannot conclude without the mention of the much-needed accessories such as fins and other paddling gear that will make your SUPing extra enjoyable.
MOAI-SUP-Collectie How to Choose A Paddle Board
There are many different shapes and sizes of paddle boards

How to choose a paddle board: Solid paddle board or Inflatable one?

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.

Solid paddle boards on a paddle board rack

So, to make your choice an easier one, here are some significant reasons why getting a solid SUP may be right for you.

  • A variety of sizes: Manufacturers offer more paddle board sizes and lengths for solid boards than they do for inflatable ones. So, by choosing a solid one, you are more likely to find the perfect match for your needs.

  • Optimal performance: If performance is your priority, then a solid paddle board is what you need. They offer a smoother sail with a low effort, and they travel faster than the inflatable ones. If you’re looking to paddle fast and far, this is your best pick.
  • Solid stability: Of course, performance is nothing without stability. Since solid boards are sturdier and more rigid than the inflatable ones, it is normal that you will get better balance out of them.
  • Storage space: Here, we come to a point that does not necessarily have to be good. It is true, solid boards tend to catch up more space. So, consider this before you get one since storing it properly in the off season determines how well your board will serve you and how long you’ll have it.

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.

These boards can be inflated in as quick as only 3,5 minutes!

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.

  • You tend to travel when paddle boarding: Some adventurers like to hike to a nearby lake and paddle there. This is when an inflatable paddle board beats a solid one for all the right reasons.

    Even if you are traveling long-distance or even boarding a plane, you can still take your favorite paddle board with you, deflated, of course. It still might be heavy, but hey, better than paying one more sit on the plane next to you and getting those weird stares from the people around you.
  • You like paddling whitewater: If you are the ultimate adventurer and want to try whitewater paddling right from the start, kudos to you my friend! But you will definitely be better off with an inflatable paddle board since it offers more stability and flexibility with all the rocks and logs in the water.
  • Yoga SUPing: If you didn’t know people did yoga on a paddle board, well, congrats, now you know. But if you did and you wanted to try it out for yourself, congrats again. I can tell you from my personal experience it is one heck of a way to start a day! Being a bit softer and absorbing, an inflatable board is a much better choice than the solid ones.
  • Storage space: One thing that the inflatable board surely wins is the storage space. Being deflated, it becomes a much smaller chunk of plastic that can be stored away in its bag without taking up too much of your space.
Inflatable boards are very easy to carry in the supplied backpack

How to choose a paddle board: Hull types of paddle boards

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.

Planing Hull

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.

You can see the nose of the board has a round shape

Displacement Hull

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!

MOAI 12'6" Paddle Board Nose
You can see the nose here is pointy and suitable for higher speeds

How to choose a paddle board: SUP Volume and Weight Capacity

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.

Aqua Marina Mega Family SUP Group Action
There are some very big paddle boards on the market for groups

How to choose a paddle board: Stand up paddle board length

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.

As you can see my girlfriend looks tiny next to a 12′ Paddle Board

How to choose a paddle board: Paddle board Width

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.

Yoga boards are often extra wide for additional balance

How to choose a paddle board: SUP Thickness

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.

MOAI 12'6" Paddle Board Side
Most inflatable paddle boards are 6″ / 16 cm thick

How to choose a paddle board: SUP board fins

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.

  • Single fin set: Many paddle boarding packages include a fin that has a channel for the fin to slide back and forth in. Having a single fin provides good tracking at a minimal drag, which is a great choice if you go flatwater paddling.
  • 2+1 fin set: These fins have one larger with 2 smaller fins on each side of it. This type of setup is much preferred by surfers.
  • 3 fin set: You get 3 fins of the same size. Also known as a thruster, this setup of fins is great for both surfing and flatwater paddling.
  • Inflatable board fins: Although they are the same, fins for inflatable boards have either flexible rubber fins attached to the board or detachable semi-rigid fins.
A system with one big fin and two small fins is common and provides good traction

How to choose a paddle board: Stand up paddle accessories

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.

I am always attached to my board with a leash, so even if I fall it will stay near me

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.

I might earn a small commission when you make a purchase through my link, so that I can keep my site running and pay the hosting bill. Read my affiliate policy to learn more.
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2 responses to “How to choose a Paddle Board”

  1. 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?

    • Hi Katrina,

      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?


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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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