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As the number of SUP enthusiasts has grown, so has the number of choices for boards. Paddle boards come in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right one can be a daunting task for a beginner. One of the most important questions to ask when purchasing your SUP is “What size paddle board should I buy?”
What Decides Your Board Size
The three most important factors for choosing the size of your board are rider weight, level of experience, and purpose. Taking each one into account will give you the best paddle boarding experience.
Rider Weight and Board Volume
The weight of the rider is crucial in finding the right SUP, since that will determine if you can complete the first step of paddle boarding: floating. A board allows you to float by displacing the water, and the ability to do so is determined by the volume (measured in liters). In order to stay dry, your board’s volume has to exceed your weight. For example, a 100kg rider would need a board with a volume over 100 L.
Many companies do the math for you in terms of weight/volume compatibility, and will provide their customers with the board’s maximum weight capacity. If not, a quick search of the board model online could find you a product review with that information. If that fails, check the dimensions of the SUP. In general, the thicker and wider the board, the larger the volume.
ALSO: When considering weight, don’t forget everything else that will accompany you on the board, whether it be a child, dog, equipment, etc.
Level of Experience
Your level of experience could not only decide the volume of the board, but also the width and hull type.
Earlier, I mentioned that a 100kg rider would need a board with a volume over 100 L to just stay afloat. When searching for your SUP, you also have to factor in your experience. A general rule of thumb for beginners would be to buy a board with a volume 2 times your bodyweight in kilograms. According to Blue Planet Surf, in order to calculate your optimal volume:
- Beginners: weight (kg) x (2.2 to 3) = approx volume (L)
- Intermediate: weight (kg) x (1.8 to 2.2) = approx volume (L)
- Advanced to Expert: weight (kg) x (1.1 to 1.8) = approx volume (L)
The stability of the board is also determined by the volume (mostly from thickness and width). The larger the volume, the more stable the board.
As mentioned above, width is one of the key factors in determining the stability of the SUP. The wider the board, the larger the volume, the more stable it is. That said, a beginner would be better off with a wider board (30”+), which will keep them dry as they get accustomed to the sport. Those looking for a challenge should go for a more narrow SUP (21-30”).
The right hull for you depends on your level of experience and type of paddling you intend to do. There are two different kinds of SUP hull: planing and displacement.
A planing hull is the most common type among beginner boards, since it is very stable and versatile, but reaches a maximum speed. Planing hulls are large and wide, making them great for recreational and surf paddling.
A displacement hull is similar to that of a kayak or canoe. It cuts through the water, making this hull ideal for racing. Because of its narrower frame, it is less stable than the planing hull and is recommended for more experienced paddlers.
While width and thickness are crucial to volume and stability, the length of your board will determine its type and performance, as well as storage and transportation. The different types of paddle boards (all around, yoga, touring, and surf) have varying size ranges. In general, longer boards are usually faster, less maneuverable, and better in flatwater, while shorter boards are slower, more agile, and better for waves.
All Around SUPs
All around SUPs are typically between 10 and 12 feet in length, and 29” to 30” in width. While not the best at anything, they are great at everything, providing a learning experience for beginner paddlers, and still providing some level of challenge for more advanced riders in rougher conditions.
Yoga SUPs are typically much thicker (4-6”) and wider (32-36”), making them much more stable, easy to balance on, and provide plenty of room for your exercises. If you are a seasoned yoga paddle boarder looking for something more challenging, try a slightly narrower board!
Touring SUPs are longer (ranging from 12’ to 14’ in length), and are built for speed and maintaining course. They typically have a displacement hull, making these boards narrower and slightly more difficult to balance on than all-around SUPs.
Surf SUPs are the shortest boards, typically not exceeding 9-10’ in length. This small size makes the board less stable, but a lot easier to navigate on the waves. Recommended for intermediate to advanced paddle boarders.
There are a lot of points to consider when buying the right sized paddle board, but the three most important are:
- Rider weight – determines volume of the board
- Level of Experience – determines width and thickness
- And the type of paddle boarding you intend to do – determines the type of board and length
The volume (L) of the board has to be greater than the weight (in kg) of the rider. How much greater? That’s determined by your level of experience. The thicker and wider the board, the larger the volume, the more stable the board. That said, beginners should look for SUPs with larger volumes. And, while thickness and width determine the stability of the board, the length will decide where the board will perform the best. Shorter boards are easier to maneuver and are ideally used on waves, but can be more challenging. Longer boards are better for flat water, while maintaining course and higher speeds.
Finding the perfect-sized SUP may be an intimidating undertaking, but once you find that board and take it out on the water, you’ll see that the efforts paid off. Happy paddling!