Summer is here, and it’s time to bust out the paddle boards! If you don’t have one already, there’s no doubt it’s on your wishlist. It seems to be on most people's wishlists these days. That might have something to do with the fact that it’s the hottest water sport at the moment.
Paddleboarding has some similarities to kayaking since it usually includes one person peacefully floating along with a paddle in hand.
A lot of people hold back, uncertain of whether they want to try paddle boarding themselves. Usually, that’s because it looks like surfing, more than kayaking. That’s understandably daunting.
While surfing takes a lot of skill and endurance, paddle boarding is for everyone. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, and whether you’re active or not, paddleboarding is a great way to get some exercise in a relaxed setting. You can learn by paddling around in calm lakes or rivers. Eventually, you might even consider SUP surfing, fishing, or yoga.
First, you can start by picking out the perfect paddleboard size for your activities and hitting the water!
What Is Paddle Boarding?
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is the most common form of paddle boarding nowadays. It is otherwise known as SUP boarding. It has been around for thousands of years, in one way or another. Back in the day, it was used for fishing, like canoes or kayaks.
The mainstream paddle boards on the market now have been around since the 1900s. They originated as an offshoot of surfing in Hawaii. In the early 2000s, paddle boarding came to California and began spreading worldwide from there.
After about two decades, it only continues increasing in popularity. It has evolved through that short timespan, and now you can use them for paddling on oceans, lakes, and rivers. Since then, people have also been using paddle boards for yoga, fishing, racing, and touring.
They are still used as a form of surfing, but the growing range of activities make them more useful for those of us who aren’t blessed enough to live by the ocean. It's worth keeping in mind that there are whitewater models that are the next best thing for anyone living near rapids rather than waves.
Paddle boards are similar to surfboards in many ways and have a similar shape. The difference is understandable when you see them side by side. A paddle board is typically thicker and broader than a surfboard. They generally have more volume than the typical surfboard as well. Plus, you can use a paddle to move through the water with them, rather than merely relying on waves, currents, or your own two hands.
Surfboards and surf paddle boards aren’t suitable for use on still water because they don’t like to track in a straight line. It’s harder to maneuver them around if you’re exploring along lakes and calm rivers.
Exploring Your Options
There are essentially six types of paddle boards, and they will differ in length, width, and features. The board you should choose will depend on the activities you’re planning. Different boards will work best in particular environments.
The size of the paddle board will heavily depend on the type of board you pick and the passenger riding it. We’re going to get to the individual <details next. First, we wanted to cover the paddle board selection on the market now and what the best uses happen to be.
All-around paddle boards
All-Around paddle boards are the most common and versatile, which make them the best for beginners and a wide range of activities. They are typically thicker, wider, and longer than surf models. Their size and shape make them extremely stable, and they are easily identifiable by their rounded nose. Plus, they’re ideal for use on flat water, like ponds, lakes, and calm rivers.
You can get solid or inflatable all-round paddle boards, depending on your preference. Inflatable paddle boards are an excellent option for many people because they are incredibly buoyant with virtually no rocker. They’re light, easy to maneuver, and a great choice if you plan to bring a passenger with you. Plus, you can easily pack them into a bag for transport or storage.
Overall, this paddle board design is excellent if you plan to paddle around and take your time. All-around paddle boards aren’t quick or great for long-distance paddling. However, they are perfect for SUP yoga, fishing, and if you want to try your hand at surfing.
Windsurf paddle boards
Windsurf paddle boards are another type that can be grouped in with the all-around paddle boards. Some of the all-around boards have a mast foot fitting on the deck of the board. That will allow you to set up a windsurf sail rigging.
Windsurfing is a lot of fun if you live in the right area. However, it’s going to take quite a bit more practice than your typical board. It might be a good idea to start by getting accustomed to the standard all-around paddle board because adding a sail.
Flatwater paddle boards
Flatwater paddle boards are for open ocean paddlings. They are longer than the all-around paddle boards, with a pointed nose to slice through the water effortlessly. The rounded sides offer more glide and speed with a deck that’s big enough for beginners.
Surf paddle boards
Surf paddle boards are shorter with a narrow nose and tail. They also have more rocker, which is a curve on the bottom of the board. Overall, they are slower and don’t track in a straight line on flat water. Keep in mind that surf paddle boards are less stable than many of the other options on the list because they have more rocker. So they are not an excellent option for beginners.
Race paddle boards
Race paddles boards are long and narrow. The design of the board is meant to make them faster. Due to the length and shape, they are not easy to use for beginners.
Racing boards might not be easy to use, but the various models will give you options if you are a beginner. When you’re more experienced, you might be willing to get a very long board and sacrifice stability for speed. Until then, you could choose something that isn’t quite as long or narrow to get comfortable on your board.
Touring paddle boards
Touring paddle boards are similar to all-round boards in many ways. However, they have a pointed nose to help them cut through the water, and they track in a straight line. That will make it much easier to travel long distances with less effort.
If you want to start racing paddle boards, touring boards give you a great place to start. They are as stable as an all-around board but cut through the water with ease. So if you want to get used to going fast and practicing your technique, without sacrificing stability, this is a great place to start.
Narrowing Down Your Paddle Board Size
We have been trying to determine the best way to tell you which paddle board size you should choose. It really isn’t that complicated, but it will vary a lot depending on the paddler and the model they’re using.
First of all, the volume of your board is going to make a huge impact. By “volume” we mean the buoyancy which is measured in liters. Standard hard paddle boards typically have a volume of 170 to 190 liters. Inflatable paddle boards commonly have a volume of 220 to 280 liters.
These standard sizes will work perfectly for most beginners. However, there are a few factors that can affect the volume you need. You will need a more buoyant board if you are a heavier rider or plan on bringing passengers.
The standard volume will work for anyone up to 235 pounds. If you’re heavier, you can look for boards with a higher volume. You will need 242 liters for over 275 pounds, and 272 liters for over 300 pounds.
This is a great guideline to keep this in mind if you plan on bringing a passenger for most of your trips. You can add up your combined weight to find the appropriate volume for superior performance.
Finding the perfect paddle board size for the ultimate stability
There are mainly three measurements to think about when you’re picking a paddle board size; the length, width, and thickness, all of which will depend on the model.
The width will usually depend on the length and style of the board. For example, a racing board will be long but narrow, built for speed but not stability. A touring board can also be used to practice racing. It will be broader and more stable, but slower.
Paddle boards can be between 9 feet and 12.6 feet long. Standard or all-around boards are usually about 10 or 11 feet long. Shorter boards are better for surfing, and longer boards are better for racing and touring.
Make sure that the width of your board matches the length for the best performance.
Under 10 feet
Best for SUP surfing, more comfortable to maneuver, and a great size for kids. Should be between 29 and 31-inches wide.
Under 12 feet
The most popular length and great for beginners. Should be between 32 and 34-inches.
12 feet and up
Best for racing and touring, built for speed, tracks straight, and not as easy to maneuver. Should be between 30 and 35 inches depending on the model and activity.
The thickness of your board
The thickness of your paddle board is relatively straightforward. It will depend more on the rider, passengers, and whether you’re using a hard paddle board or an inflatable board.
Standard paddle boards are about four inches thick and will work for most paddlers. If you plan on bringing an extra passenger, or select a board with a higher volume due to your weight, you may need a five-inch board.
If you are using an inflatable board, it should never be less than six inches thick for proper performance. Cheap models may be thinner and will not work as well. So watch out if you think you’re getting a fantastic deal; you might find out why it was such a bargain when you hit the water and can’t steer.Laura Stanley, via Pexels
Time to Paddle off to Your next Adventure
Picking the right paddle board size and style might seem confusing, but it’s pretty straightforward. At least, if you know which activities you are interested in and the conditions of the waters you will be paddling in the most. You might only want to do some recreational paddling, or you might want to branch out and try SUP surfing or fishing.
If you aren’t sure which paddle board is right for you, you might want to settle for an all-around paddle board at first. It will give you plenty of options, is extremely stable, and is ideal for beginners.
If you’re still uncertain about what style you want and the paddle board size you need, don’t hesitate to find an expert. There are plenty of shops around in most areas, especially now that paddleboarding has become so widespread.
If you don’t live close to any stores, you could always contact someone through a store website. They should be able to give you great advice, and you can ask specific questions.
Luckily, it probably won’t need to come to that. Whether you have experience or not, there are plenty of paddle board options to choose from.
We would love to hear about your favorite paddle boards in the comment section below!