The guide to finding the best paddle board size
Figuring out what size stand up paddle board you need can be overwhelming, but worry no longer — we’re here to help! We’re going to give you all the information you need to find the perfect size inflatable paddle board or hard paddle board specifically for you. Pay attention because the most important information is coming up next.
WHAT SIZE PADDLE BOARD DO I NEED?
The key to finding the best paddle board size is choosing one that carries your weight efficiently, provides you with enough stability, and suits the style of paddle boarding you plan on doing. Got it? Probably not. We’re going to go over each of these topics right now, so you can feel confident with the paddle board you decide to buy.
There are four paddle board dimensions that you must know to find the right size:
- Volume — a measurement of your board’s buoyancy in liters
- Length — a measurement of a board from tip to tail in inches
- Width — a side to side measurement of a board
- Thickness – the distance between the top and bottom of a board
WHAT SIZE PADDLE BOARD DO YOU NEED FOR YOUR WEIGHT?
The most important thing to consider when choosing the right size paddle board is how much you weigh, especially if you’re a beginner. Your weight and skill level will determine the volume your paddle board needs to be.
If you weigh less than 200lbs, you’ll be able to float well on any standard paddle board. If you weigh up to 235lbs, look for a board with at least 175L of volume to ensure your stability on the water. If you’re over 275lbs, you’ll want a board with at least 242L of volume. And if you’re over 300lbs, you’ll find great stability on a board with at least 272L of volume.
If you have a paddle board that is not the right volume for your weight, it will ride too slow in the water, feel super unstable, and have way too much drag in the water.
BEGINNER PADDLE BOARDS
Let’s start with beginner paddle boards. If you are new to paddle boarding and consider yourself a beginner, you want to make sure the SUP you get is durable and as easy to ride as possible, aka: a beginner paddle board. Keep in mind, if you plan to go paddle boarding with your dog, kids, friend or significant other, please make sure to consider their weight as well.
Ideal beginner paddle board volumes:
- Ideal beginner hard paddle board volume range: 170-190L
- Ideal beginner inflatable paddle board volume range: 220L – 280L
INTERMEDIATE TO ADVANCED PADDLE BOARDS
If you have been paddle boarding for over a year now and are considering buying a paddle board that is more advanced, you can ride a board with less volume. There is no single equation for inflatable paddle boards because most inflatable paddle boards are for all skill levels (beginner – advanced).
Different paddle board styles
- SUP Touring
- SUP Yoga
- SUP Fishing
- SUP Surfing
Once you have your ideal volume range, you will find that paddle board companies will have the volume of each board listed on their individual SUP product pages. You will also notice on most sites that they will have a rider weight capacity. A paddle board’s rider weight capacity is also an excellent indicator of whether a paddle board is the right size and shape for you. Please keep in mind that you should allow some margin between the max rider weight capacity because you never know when you might bring someone along on your SUP to share the fun.
WHAT LENGTH SHOULD YOUR PADDLE BOARD BE
Now that you understand the volume and maximum weight that your paddle board needs to be, the next dimension to figure out is what size length (or how tall) your SUP needs to be. The length of a SUP is important in determining how your paddle board can withstand a variety of water conditions. Typically, longer paddle boards are faster and shorter paddle boards are more responsive/maneuverable. Ultimately, the ideal length SUP you need will be based on the type of paddle boarding you plan on doing.
Paddle boards under 10 feet
- The best choice for SUP surfing
- Since shorter SUPs are more maneuver, this makes them great for doing bottom turns, cutbacks, and turning around to catch the wave of the day
- Always have a planing hull
- Great choice for kids 13 years old or younger
Paddle boards 11 feet and under
- Ideal for beginners – advanced
- Most popular SUP size (10-11 feet)
- Great for all-around use
- Great for recreational paddling, SUP yoga, SUP fishing
- Commonly have planing hulls, but some do have displacement hulls
Paddle boards 12 feet and above
- Ideal for advanced paddlers
- Great for long-distance paddle boarding (SUP touring) and SUP racing
- Generally, most long paddle boards will have a displacement hull
- These SUPs are faster and have better tracking (stay straight for longer)
HOW WIDE SHOULD YOUR PADDLE BOARD BE
A paddle board’s width also plays a role in finding the right size SUP for your needs. Your paddle board’s width should be in the 30-35-inch range. Most paddle boards (inflatable SUPs and hard paddle boards) will have a width between 32 and 34 inches. For beginners, stay within the 32-34 range. For advanced paddlers, you can drop to the 30 -32-inch range. However, some companies make multi-person paddle boards that are 45-56 inches because they are designed for 4-7 riders — the Megalodon is one great example.
Beginners: 32-34 inches
Advanced: 30-32 inches
HOW THICK SHOULD YOUR PADDLE BOARD BE
Board thickness also matters. There’s a huge difference in a SUP’s thickness when comparing inflatable paddle boards to hard paddle boards. Generally, all inflatable paddle boards are 6 inches thick and epoxy SUPs are around 4 inches thick. What does this mean? This means that inflatable paddle boards are more stable than hard SUPs. Discover the difference between inflatables and hard paddle boards here.
Inflatable paddle boards have a consistent thickness from the nose to tail, which gives you the feeling of sitting high up on the water and makes you feel more stable. Hard paddle boards are shaped to reduce weight and have more rocker (curve on the bottom) to optimize for performance — meaning you stand slightly above the water level which makes a SUP feel less stable.
In today’s market, there are a lot of inflatables that are poorly made which means they are low quality. Beware of any inflatables that are less than 6 inches thick. A 5-inch inflatable paddle boards can be rigid enough until you put too much weight on them. All 4-inch inflatable paddle boards are becoming obsolete because they are not functional for most people. Read the 5 Myths About Inflatable Paddle Boards to learn more about finding the best inflatable paddle boards.
There is a lot to consider when choosing the right size paddle board for your lifestyle and needs. You need to consider your weight to find your ideal SUP volume. You need to consider what type of paddle boarding you plan on doing to figure out what length you need. Lastly, you need to consider how stable you want to be on your SUP when choosing your boards’ width and thickness.