When Should You Consider Buying A 6-Inch Thick Inflatable SUP?

When Should You Consider Buying A 6-Inch Thick Inflatable SUP?

If you’ve read our other articles on the importance of inflatable paddle board thickness, you know that, for most riders buying a board for all-around use, we consider five inches to be the sweet spot for board thickness

Increasing the thickness of a board beyond 5 inches has some drawbacks in terms of stability, portability, inflation time, ease of climbing on from the water, and “feel” on the water, so it’s important to know when it actually makes sense to consider buying a board with six-inch thickness. 

This article is significantly shorter than our article detailing the advantages of 5-inch thick SUP boards, because the uses where a 6-inch board has advantages over a 5-inch stand up paddle board are much more specific and limited.

Here are some of the situations where a 6-inch board may be the right choice for you:

6 inch thick touring SUP on a river

  • Heavy riders.  Paddlers over 225 lb, depending on skill level and intended usage, may benefit from the additional buoyancy and potential rigidity of a thicker board.
  • Most boards over 11 feet in length.  A longer board will require more rigidity to avoid flexing, and increasing the thickness of a board generally results in added rigidity.  This is why most inflatable touring boards, which usually range from 11’6” to 14 feet in length, are six inches thick.
  • Special-purpose boards, such as boards designed for running heavy whitewater rapids, where a thicker board has specific characteristics for the intended use. Crossover river / performance boards may also utilize 6-inch thick designs as a design choice that compliments the outline shape. 
  • Tandem boards designed for two or more riders paddling at the same time.  These boards tend to be over 11’ in length, and the weight of multiple paddlers often requires the buoyancy of a thicker than usual board.
  • The argument is sometimes made for Yoga specific boards being 6-inch thick to keep the paddler dry though this comes with disadvantages. We routinely work with experienced SUP Yoga teachers and schools that use 5-inch SUP boards in their programs because of their inherent stability, and keeping dry is not an issue. Using a 6-inch board for Yoga comes at the cost of far less stability than a 5-inch board of comparable size that has an affect on balance and poses. Though since it isn't directly related to paddling or performance a 6-inch board can be used for Yoga activities as a personal preference. 
  • Boards that will be used for floating a lot of cargo or other utility uses.  A board intended for overnight camping trips where a tent, sleeping bag, and food for multiple days are needed may benefit from the extra weight capacity and higher deck of a six-inch board.

    Ariel Photo of touring SUPs on a river

    It is important to realize that no single board thickness is best for every situation, so you really need to consider the specifics of the board type and how you will be using your SUP to decide if choosing a board with more than five inches of thickness has benefits that outweigh the negatives of a thicker board.

    Related: What Size SUP Board is Right For You?


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