How to Choose the Right Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) - Includes Quiz

*Scroll to bottom for quiz.

There's something really great about stand up paddle boarding. What I love is that it truly is for everyone. You can use a SUP for yoga, a casual paddle to clear your mind, a fast paced ride for a solid workout, or even surfing! If you already know how great SUP's are and you're ready to buy one but you just aren't quite sure how to choose one, you came to the right place. Lets's get to it, 

There are four main points to consider when you are in the market for a paddle board:

  1. Hull Type
  2. Inflatable vs. Solid
  3. Volume & Weight Capacity
  4. Board Length & Width 


1. Hull Type

The hull refers to the shape of the underside of the board. There are two types: planing, and displacement. 

Planing hulls are flat and wide, like surf boards. They are designed to ride on top of the water and allow for maneuverability. These types of boards are best for...

  • Leisure paddle boarding 
  • Yoga SUP
  • SUP surfing 
  • Whitewater paddle boarding 

Displacement hulls have a more pointed nose, kind of like a kayak or canoe. The purpose of this type of hull is to cut through water with ease, creating a more efficient, fast, and smooth ride. It takes less effort to paddle a board with a displacement hull as you glide in nice quick, straight line, however, they are generally less manueverable than a board with a planing hull. Displacement hull baords are best for...

  • SUP racing
  • Touring
  • Fitness paddle boarding 

2. Inflatable vs. Solid

Why get a solid board?

  • You have storage space - To be frank, if you don't have the space to store a solid board, then none of the other benefits even matter. You need somewhere to put the board when it's not in use, simple as that! 
  • Performance - Solid boards typically travel faster and smoother with less effort than an inflatable.
  • Sizing - Solid boards offer a wider range of sizes, so you're likely to find the perfect fit for your particular body. 

Why get an inflatable?

  • Limited storage space - As previously mentioned, if you don't have much storage space you won't be able to get a solid board, but don't worry. Inflatable boards can be just as good and sometimes better!
  • You are an adventurer - Inflatable boards are perfect for travellers. Roll it up into a compact storage bag that can easily be transported on planes, buses, cars, etc.
  • You're hiking to your destination - This ties into the previous point. If you're heading somewhere to paddle like a gorgeous lake that's only accessible by hiking to it, then an inflatable board is what you want. 
  • Whitewater SUPing - Inflatable boards are better suited to handle bumps and crashes against rocks and logs when you're doing something like paddling whitewater.
  • Multiple users at once - Inflatables can be better at holding more than one user at once compared to a solid board. This past summer my boyfriend and I went to visit my dad in Vancouver. The three of us went paddle boarding, using two boards. My boyfriend and I (a total of roughly 300 lbs) used the inflatable board, while my dad (under 200lbs) used a solid board. My boyfriend and I were more buoyant on the water on our inflatable than my dad was on his solid board!
  • SUP Yoga - Again, this ties into the previous point. Inflatable boards can be more buoyant than solid boards, making them a potentially better option for those wanting to do yoga on their SUP. They also tend to be softer, making them more comfortable for doing SUP yoga.

3. Volume & Weight Capacity

Essentially, the weight capacity of a board and the boards volume are going to determine your stability on the board, as well as how the board will travel through water. To go into a little more detail, this is important for a couple of reasons...

  1. Support - In order to determine the boards ability to float, you need to look for the paddle boards volume (typically expressed in litres). The higher the volume allows for more weight to be supported.  If the amount of water displaced by the board is incorrect for your weight, you won't be supported. In turn, this will probably make you feel unstable on the board. 
  2. Efficiency through water - If you are too heavy for your board, this will cause the board to ride lower in the water, therefore making it inefficient/more difficult to paddle. It's a good idea to include the weight of yourself, your gear, food, water, and whatever else you may be bringing when calculating weight capacity.  

It's also worth noting that the volume and weight capacity matter in relation to the hull type as well. Generally, planing hulls are quite forgiving, meaning as long as you are below the weight capacity, the boards performance should be fine. However, with displacement hulls the volume and weight capacity are more significant factors. If you are over the weight capacity and the board sinks too low, this will cause the board to drag feel slow. If you aren't heavy enough, the board will be hard to control and feel heavy. 

4. Board Length, Width & Thickness 

Length - In general, longer boards are faster than shorter boards, however, shorter boards are more maneuverable than longer boards.

  • 10' & Under - Great for kids and/or SUP surfing.
  • 10' - 12' - Best for all around use.
  • 12'6" & Up - Mainly for racing/fast paddling, as well as long distance touring.

Width - The width of a board is another factor to consider, as it will affect how the board handles. A wider board will always be more stable than a slimmer board, however it will also be slower. Also, a board that is too wide can become strenuous to paddle. When deciding on the width of your board, keep the following points in mind...

  • Use of the board - If you plan to use your board for things like racing or surfing, a faster, more manueaverable board will be better. A narrower board will work best for this. On the other hand, if you're planning to go on longer trips that require you to be lots of gear, you will want a wider board. Wider boards are also best for things like yoga. 
  • Body type - Generally, a narrower board will be better for a smaller person, and a wider board will be better for a larger person. A smaller person will usually find their balance with more ease on a narrow board than a larger person. Also, if you have a small body type and you choose a board that it too wide for you, you might find that your reach to paddle is awkward, resulting in an inefficient stroke. 
  • Skill level - If you are at a higher skill level on a SUP, you may be fine on a narrower board. In contrast, if you are new to stand up paddle boarding you will probably feel more comfortable on a baord with a little more width. 

There you have it! Now, to make things even easier for you, click the link below ⤸

***Click here for quiz on which paddle board to buy!***