SUP Lessons: How to Choose the Right Paddleboard
In this first video, Chuck Patterson—team rider for Naish and all-around killer waterman—talks about picking out a stand up paddleboard. Whether it’s a rental or a first-time purchase, here are some excellent guidelines from a veteran of the sport:
Get Acquainted with Paddleboards
If you’re totally lost, try going into a shop and see what they’d recommend for your height and weight. Sometimes you can figure it out on your own, but you also might just want an extra set of eyes to help you establish your basic needs. These measurements are important because your height (but mostly your weight) dictates how much water will be displaced when you step onto the board. You may need a wider, longer, or thicker board in order to compensate for your body type. If you don't hit the correct ratio, you're likely to either drag in the water or never quite balance correctly.
Width of the Paddleboard
Width is one of the most important measurements to look for as a beginning stand up paddleboarder. In terms of width, there is a lot of variety in SUPs to make sure people of all body sizes can enjoy the sport. Boards typically come in widths anywhere from 28"-36". Width of the board is all about stability. The wider and thicker that the board is, the more it helps to displace the paddler’s weight in the water. A wider board is also beneficial if you’re doing any open water paddling. Waves and wind can be hard to handle on a slimmer board unless you’re very familiar with board sports.
Length of the Paddleboard
Length is another measurement you’re probably concerned about as a beginning paddleboarder. According to our expert, you should start off with a board that is at least 9’6” long in order to achieve enough stability to feel proficient in the water. Combined with a good width (as addressed previously), this will make your rides easy and comfortable.
It’s important to remember that board length is not “one size fits all.” It’s critical to buy (or rent) a board that has a good length for your body size and is mostly based on weight. As previously mentioned, this is due to how you displace water as you’re on the board which is more significant the more you weigh. If it turns out this is a less-than-stellar ratio, the board will not support you in the water.
If you do go with a bigger board, keep in mind the difficulties that accompany a larger, and often heavier, SUP. They are often more problematic to transport, load into and out of vehicles, and cumbersome when trying to get them in the water, especially if it’s windy. If you don’t get a board that you can carry with ease, you’re not likely to use it as much. Make sure you’re comfortable with your board size.
Here’s a general idea of what kind of length you should be looking for based on your individualized needs:
- 10’-12’ board is a nice option for beginners to the sport who are looking for a relaxing experience on the water.
- 12’6”-14’ long boards are better for people looking to get into racing or touring. These boards are faster in the water than shorter boards and are also better for long distances.