How to Choose A Standup Paddleboard
Are you buying your first Standup paddleboard?
There are a ton of different options out there when looking at paddleboards, and it can be a bit overwhelming. This page should serve as a basic guide to help navigate you through the process of choosing and buying a board. We'll keep it pretty basic here to help lay the ground work for buying a board, but would love for you to call, email, or better yet, visit us at our retail shop to see the range of boards and help pick the one that best suits your paddling needs. Read through the whole guide, or click the links below to jump to the section you're most interested in!
What Are the Different Board Styles?
Boards generally come in three different styles: All-around/recreational, racing/touring, and surfing. These are very broad categories, and there are sub categories within each of these, as well as boards that serve as cross-overs between two or more of the categories. Keep in mind, these are not hard definitions, and you are likely to find boards that have some, but not all, of the following characteristics.
These boards are the style that look most like a traditional surfboard, but bigger. They have a rounded or slightly pointed nose, typically round or square tails, and flat bottoms (though many now have a slight concave or double concave bottom). If you plan on a variety of paddling and areas, these are probably the best type of board for you. They are perfectly suited lakes, slow moving rivers, and near-shore ocean paddling. They are stable (when sized correctly) and offer paddling for recreation, fitness, fishing, exploring, and paddleboard fitness classes like yoga and pilates. They generally come in lengths of 9.5 to 12 feet, and their flat bottom and shorter length makes them very maneuverable. While you can certainly surf, race, or tour on them, if you're looking to get seriously into one of these disciplines, you might want a board more specifically designed for that purpose.
Racing and touring boards are designed for efficiency (speed) through the water. They have generally longer lengths (12.5' to 14') and narrower cross sections. Racing boards are very narrow, and require a higher degree of skill to handle. Touring boards are wider than racing boards, and seek to achieve a balance between speed and stability. Unlike all-around boards, which have planing hulls (flattish bottom and rockered nose), racing and touring boards have displacement hulls, with longer, pointier noses meant to cut through the water and a v-shaped bottom. While they are not as maneuverable as all-around boards and sacrifice a bit of stability, they track well (travel in a straight line), take less force to move through the water, and can attain higher speeds. Touring boards have greater width and volume, which allows for the paddler to take extra gear for longer expeditions. If you're looking to cover greater distances and explore further, touring boards are a great option. If you're looking for speed, you'll definitely want to be on a racing board.
Surf standup paddleboards are designed for one thing, and one thing only: catching and surfing waves. Surf standup paddleboard designs vary widely, though the trend has been for shorter and shorter boards as the skill of standup surfers has grown with the sport. While top level surfers are often on boards between 7 and 8 feet long, most average surfers will be looking for boards in the 8 to 10.5 foot range, or larger for larger paddlers. Keep in mind, when you are first learning to surf, you should be paddling in waves away from crowded areas. Standup paddleboards are large and can be hazardous to other surfers in the water if not under control. Always wear a leash while surfing.
What Size Board Should I Buy?
**In discussing the sizing of boards, we'll focus mostly on all-around/recreational boards. While sizing is important in racing/touring and surf standup paddleboards as well, sizing these boards tends to be more individualistic in nature, based on the needs of the paddler.
When looking at the size of the board, you'll be looking at length, width, and thickness, which when taken altogether determine the volume of the board. In general, a larger board will feel more stable than a smaller board, and when trying standup paddling for the first time, whether renting or borrowing, it is wise to grab a board that is slightly bigger. This will give you greater confidence when learning and will keep you from getting frustrated by constantly falling off a board that is too small.
However, when buying your first board, the decision on size can be a little trickier. Most boards come with a recommended weight capacity, which is a great metric to consider. This is basically how much weight the board can carry while still floating reasonably well on the surface. It is important to recognize however that this is a strict physical measurement, and does not take into account the skill level of the paddler. The closer you are to the capacity of the board, the less stable you will feel. For example, our 10'6 Flood model has a max weight of 230 lbs. An experienced paddler that is 210-220 may feel comfortable on the board, while a less experienced paddler would be better off stepping up to a larger board. You should also consider what other items you might be bringing with you. If you are 180 lbs, but bring a cooler, water, snacks, and you're 80 lb German Shepard on board with you, you are going to quickly go over the max weight. We find that most max weights are a bit overrated, and suggest subtracting 30-50 lbs from this number depending on your skill level, intended use, and other physical characteristics. If you plan on dabbling in some surfing, you will want a slightly smaller board so that it is more maneuverable on a wave. If you plan on taking the board on longer trips, you'll want a little extra volume to carry more gear with you. Taller paddlers have a higher center of gravity and may want a slightly bigger board. Likewise, if you are someone who identifies as having poor balance (though standup paddling will help this), you may also want a slightly bigger board.
A final word of caution on sizing your new board. It is important to recognize that your skill as a paddler will grow quickly the more you're out on the water, which means that, even though you may feel less stable when starting out, you will quickly get comfortable on your board. While it is tempting to grab a larger board for its stability, you may end up finding that it's too much board. The extra wetted surface area means more friction with the water and more drag. This is fine for larger paddlers, where the ratio of surface area to size is smaller, but for smaller paddlers, a large board can take a lot of excess energy to paddle. Your goal should be to buy a board that is just big enough to make you feel stable and carry any gear (or pets) you may take with you, but no bigger.
What Are Boards Made Of?
The majority of standup paddleboards on the market today have an EPS foam core with a sheets of fiberglass and epoxy resin forming a hard outer shell. Many companies use other materials instead of, or in addition to fiberglass, such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, Innegra, as well as others, all of which are fiber weaves and have different advantages. Lower-end boards might have a plastic shell, though these are often heavier and more prone to pressure denting where the paddler stands. Higher end boards may be hollow and made entirely of carbon fiber. These are light and stiff, but much more expensive.
Inflatable standup paddleboards are another great option. These are typically made of a military-grade pvc and are extremely durable. They use a drop-stitch technology that allows the boards to inflate to a very rigid board, and are great options if you have limited storage space, travel often, or want a very stable board with a high capacity. They allow for very creative adventures and are perfect for families. Cheaper inflatable boards should be avoided, as they will not hold up well under normal wear and tear.
Now that you've read all about the different types, styles, and sizes of boards, click here to check out our line of standup paddleboards!