If there's a reason you shouldn't start paddle boarding, we sure can't think of it. Where else can you have loads of fun while strengthening your core, building stamina, and creating healthier joints? If that's not enough to get you paddling, consider that you get to enjoy it with friends out in nature. So, now that you're ready to take that first glide, you might ask "What size paddle board do I need?" You've come to the right place. In this article, we tackle that very question and some of the most basic facts about the sport. So, keep reading and get ready for the best hobby you've ever had.
What Exactly Is Paddle Boarding (SUP)?
Paddle boarding is just what its name suggests. You stand on a board, in a body of water, and paddle yourself around. While that's the simple definition for paddle boarding, there is so much more to this phenomenon that has taken water sports by storm. SUP, or stand up paddle boarding, has roots in Hawaii, where it is historically referred to by the natives as "Hoe he'e nalu". The first modern-day paddle boarders were typically photographers trying to get good videos of surfers.
If you are a beginner, there's a lot of information surrounding SUP that could overwhelm you. But, fear not, because in this article we will take you through all the basics of the sport. Here we explain all the elements to consider when picking out the right size board, go over different boards, and even give you the basic terminology any paddle boarder should know.
While most of the terminology used in paddle boarding is self-explanatory, some words differ from those used in other nautical sports. Here's a brief vocabulary lesson to get you ready for that first trip on the water. When deciding what size paddle board you need, these terms matter.
The nose of a paddle board is just what you'd think. It's the front tip. This is fairly easy to remember, but it's different from most water vessels where the front tip is referred to as the bow.
This is technically the last 12" of the board. The typical design is boxy and wide (for quick turns), or it can be rounded and smooth (for smoother turns). Both are like various surfboard designs.
Just like on a boat, the deck is the smooth surface on top of the board where you stand. Truthfully, you don't stand directly on the deck. All paddle boards have a deck pad, which is comprised of either foam or rubber, that gives your feet more traction than the smooth surface of the board.
This term comes straight from surfing and refers to the curvature of the board from nose to tail. For surfboards, the rocker is higher (curved up) so that when they are riding head-on into the face of a wave, the tip of their board isn't drug under. This is much more important in Surfing SUPs, which we will discuss later.
Fins and Fin Box
Like surfboards, paddle boards have fins on the bottom of the tail area. These aid with the stability of the board. If you want to sound like an expert, refer to the plastic pieces where the fins are bolted as the fin box.
Leash and Leash Cup
While it's a lot of fun to take your dog out on the paddle board, that isn't the leash we are referring to. Just like surfers, you want to recover your board or have it recover you in case of a fall. This leash attaches to the board (near the tail) where it's attached to the leash cup. The other end has an ankle strap that attaches to one of your ankles. This keeps you and your board together in case things don't go as planned.
Types Of Paddle Boards (SUPs)
The wide range of activities and options in paddle boarding may be one reason the sport is so popular. You will see below that there are just as many activities you can do on a paddleboard as there are paddle boards to choose from. Before choosing the right size paddle board, know what you will use it for. So, take notes on the following activities so you can answer the question, what size paddle board do I need?
All Around SUP
This is the most versatile of the boards, and it's the best for beginners. You can paddle an all-around board in smooth water or even take it out for some ocean waves. It's wide enough to give you stability in both. These boards are also family-friendly and are the best option for taking along kids or family pets. Just make sure that when considering the weight for choosing the proper board, that you take any extra passengers into consideration.
Surfing SUP boards are typically better for intermediate or advanced riders. Because they are typically more narrow, they are less stable than the all-around boards. Their narrow build makes them easier to maneuver, and they can shred through the water like a regular surfboard. They are built like a surfboard, with their rocker curve, and they work well with either pointed or rounded noses and squared or curved tails.
The touring boards are not for beginners. This is a wide board which makes it stable but harder to maneuver. The length of this board makes it great for gliding and going a long distance, but it also makes it heavier and harder to trek to the water. These boards are great in oceans, bays, and even lakes. If you are looking to get an intense workout when you board, this could be the board for you.
High Performance/Racing SUP
As you can probably guess by their name, they build these boards for flat water racing or even races held in the ocean. They are extra long and wide, which makes them perfect for fast sprints. They also give the rider a long glide. Because of their width, they are much harder to turn and control. While this is the best board for SUP sports, it is not recommended for a beginner.
As we said, you can get a board for almost any sport or interest. These fishing SUPs are perfect to take out on the lake to fish. These paddle boards have the most volume (we will discuss this further in sizing) and will keep your fishing gear higher and dryer. These boards also include Scotty mounts that can hold your fishing rods, fish finder, net, or anything else you might need for a day out fishing.
These paddle boards are shaped for doing yoga or any other exercises you'd like to try while floating around. They are very stable but usually work better on calm water. The biggest difference between these SUPs and others is that they are plenty wide for performing your yoga poses.
What Size Paddle Board Do I Need?
You know the basics about paddle boards, and you know the types. It's time to find the right size paddle board for you. You wouldn't try any other sport without having the right sized equipment, and the same should go for paddle boarding. To make your ride enjoyable, follow these guidelines in choosing the right size paddle board you will need.
The length of your board is where you get your speed and glide-ability, but with these, you give up some control in movement. Below are some standard rules for determining the right length of board for you. As you look through these great pointers, keep in mind that all boards have a weight capacity, and it is listed in the specifications for that board.
- Boards less than 10 feet long are great for surfing, including maneuvers like cutbacks, turning, and to catch a wave. These size boards always have a planing hull, which means the bottom is slightly tapered at the sides or curved.
- Boards ranging from 10 to 11 feet are the most popular and work best for beginners. This size is also good for all around use. You can even use boards with a length between 10-11 feet for yoga and fishing. These boards also typically have a planing hull.
- Boards that have a greater length than 12 feet are for the advanced paddle boarders. This size board is typically used for touring (long distance) and SUP racing. Most of these size boards have the displacement hull (flat all the way across). These size boards are faster and have better tracking.
- If you weigh under 150 pounds and are worried about storing your board, you can also try a board that is 9'6" in length. It's easier to store and maybe even a little more fun to paddle.
- If you plan on running rapids with your board, a shorter board works better, usually under 9 feet.
Choosing the right width for your paddle board is very important in deciding what size paddle board you need. The width will determine how easy your board is to steer, but also how stable. Below are some facts to consider about the width of your paddle board.
- A wider width board will be harder to paddle and steer, especially for a smaller rider. Just like the general length of a board is between 10 and 11 feet, the general width is between 32" and 34".
- If you are looking for a boat that is better at racing, you need a width between 26" to 28". Keep in mind these boards are much harder to keep stable and are not recommended for beginners. For a paddle board built for speed, but not winning races, try a board that has a width of 30".
- A good point to keep in mind is storage. Just like with a longer length board, wider boards can be more cumbersome to store.
- If you plan on hitting the rapids with your paddle board, you will want a board is around 36" wide.
This is probably the least important measurement of your board, but it still should be considered. The thickness of the board is usually between 4 and 6 inches. If you choose an inflatable board (one that you air up), it will typically be on the thicker side of that range.
The volume of your paddle board is the most important element when you are considering what size paddle board you need. If you are a beginner, it is important that your board have a volume of 170-190 Liters for an epoxy (fiberglass board) and between 220-280 liters for an inflatable board. Having a volume within these ranges will ensure your board is durable and easy to ride.
As you can see, there's a lot more to choosing the right size paddle board than just taking the first one you see in the store. While there are many things to consider, you are now armed and ready to walk into any shop and pick out the right size paddle board to fit your needs. So, get shopping and then get out on that water.