What Size SUP Board Is Right For You? - 2019 Update
While shopping for a paddle board, you will want a board that provides enough flotation and stability for your skill and body weight, but paddles fast enough for a satisfying experience and suits the type of paddling you will be doing.
- The most popular SUP boards for general use are 10-11 feet in length and between 32 and 34 inches wide. If stability is a high priority for you, you'll want to look for a board that is 33-34 inches wide. You can go wider, but you may end up with a board that is sluggish and less fun to paddle.
If portability and maneuverability are priorities, or if you weigh less than 150 lb, you may want to go shorter than average and opt for a board in the 9’6” length range. 9’6” boards are a lot of fun and can be plenty stable if the design is right. Just make sure the width is appropriate for the length, about 30-32 inches. A 9’6” board that is wider than 32 inches will be slow to paddle.
If speed and straight tracking are priorities, consider a 12’6 touring or race board. 32 inches is a good width for a stable touring board. Race boards can be 28” or even 26” narrow, which makes them very fast but less stable. 30” is a common compromise width for a 12’6 board that may be used for both touring and racing. Given the popularity of SUP touring, 12’6 should be a very popular length, but some buyers shy away from this length due to storage concerns. However, if you go with an inflatable model, the extra length does not pose a storage issue and you can expect excellent performance from a quality inflatable touring SUP.
There are also specialized shapes for specific uses. 36 inch wide boards are commonly used for running rapids but are too wide for general paddling, as they are slow and you have to reach over more to keep your stroke vertical. Boards under 9 feet in length are usually designed for ocean or river surfing, but the lack of volume makes it harder to stay balanced for general paddling.
Board thickness is a key parameter. 6-inch thick inflatables can be very rigid if properly designed and constructed and can carry a lot of weight. 5-inch thick inflatables are rigid enough for all but the heaviest paddlers and feel more stable due to a lower center of gravity. For boards under 12 feet in length, we generally recommend 5-inch boards due to their more grounded feel when compared to thicker boards. 4-inch inflatables are becoming close to extinct due to the “taco effect” (use your imagination) but can be suitable for very light riders, including kids.
You should also be aware of the stability advantage of inflatable boards over hardboards. Inflatables have a uniform thickness from side to side and nose to tail, making them considerably more stable than similarly sized hardboards. Hardboards are sculpted to reduce weight and optimize race and surfing performance, but they provide less stability and buoyancy for the recreational paddler. Read our article on inflatable vs. hard paddle boards for a deeper understanding of the differences between the two main categories of SUP boards.
Want more expert advice on choosing an inflatable SUP board? Check out our 2019 Inflatable Paddle Board Buying Guide.
Pumped Up SUP is an online store specializing in high-performance inflatable stand up paddle boards and accessories. We're always happy to answer your questions - just give us a call at 1-877-777-1769.