Paddleboard Buying Guide: How to Choose a Stand-Up Paddleboard
Whether you like to paddleboard as a full-body workout or as a way to simply enjoy being out on the water, you’ll want to consider several factors as you go through how to choose a paddleboard. There are different hull shapes, board types, sizes, fin configurations, materials, and prices that will all determine the board’s overall performance. Additionally, you should think about your skill level and how you plan to use the board.
To make your decision easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for buying a paddleboard. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents:
- Learn the Hull Types
- Evaluate the Different SUP Types
- Understand SUP Length, Width and Thickness Requirements
- Determine What Size is Best for You
- Decide on a Fin Setup
- Assess the Benefits of Solid vs. Inflatable SUPs
- Consider SUP Costs and Your Budget
- Remember SUP Accessories
- Maintain Your New Equipment
- Explore EZ Dock Options
1. Learn the Hull Types
The hull of any personal watercraft determines its strengths. There are two main hull types when it comes to stand-up paddleboards — planing and displacement. Some versatile boards may take traits from both types, as well. Ultimately, your hull choice should be based on how you plan to use your paddleboard.
A planing hull gives a paddleboard a flat bottom. These boards are designed to ride on top of the water and be easy to maneuver. A planing hull stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is shallow, wide and more stable than a displacement hull board. It’s a smart choice if you’ll be on rougher water or need the extra stability. Typically, planing hulls are chosen for leisure paddling, surfing, SUP yoga or whitewater.
These paddleboards have a pointed nose designed to slice through the water to increase efficiency and speed. A displacement hull pushes the water around the board’s nose, which creates an opportunity to go faster with less effort. Choose a paddleboard with a displacement hull if you plan on using it for fitness paddling, touring or racing.
2. Evaluate the Different SUP Types
There are several types of SUPs that leverage different traits to serve various purposes. Like a board that’s best for surfing won’t be useful for touring, a board that’s good for racing won’t work for fishing. Consider what activities you want to participate in to pick the paddleboard that suits your needs best.
These boards are usually 10 to 11 feet long, 32 inches wide and have a rounded nose. All-around stand-up paddleboards combine multiple traits to create a board that works for numerous situations. All-around boards are wide enough for stability, long enough for easy gliding and easy enough to use for beginners. These paddleboards are perfect if you’re not sure which type to buy. With an all-around board, you can test out which paddling activities you enjoy most.
A touring board is typically 12 to 13 feet long and 30 to 32 inches wide and is constructed for maximum glide. These boards are made for traveling long distances and exploring large bodies of water such as lakes, bays and oceans. Additionally, touring boards are great for downwinders, as they’re long but offer enough stability. Their slight displacement hull allows them to glide on the water faster than many other types of boards.
A surfing SUP is shaped more like a surfboard but is wider and thicker. These boards are made for wave-riding, featuring easy maneuverability. That’s due to their planing hull that allows for banking and sharp turns. Because they can be challenging to control, surfing paddleboards are better suited to intermediate or advanced paddlers.
These are the longest SUPs available, typically measuring over 12 and a half feet. These boards are also quite narrow, only being around 24 to 27 inches wide. If you want speed or plan to trek across open water, a racing board may be perfect. Keep in mind that they’re not very stable, so they’re a better fit for experienced riders. This board is for going places fast!
A fishing board tends to be 11 to 12 feet long and 34 to 36 inches wide. This version of paddleboards is very stable and designed to keep you standing up higher than other boards. These boards also have extra space so you can store your tackle gear — some boards even have rod holders. Additionally, fishing boards are typically less expensive than a fishing boat or kayak, so if your main goal is fishing, you’ll want a fishing board.
Doing yoga on a paddleboard is an excellent way to work on your balance. SUPs for yoga are designed for flat, calm water and provide excellent stability. The board deck extends across almost the full length of the board to provide plenty of room for yoga stretches. Since stability is the most important factor for yoga on the water, pick a bigger board whenever possible.
SUPs meant for river running in whitewater are short yet wide. These boards are typically 9 and a half feet long and 36 inches wide and are always inflatable. That’s due to the fact that the board needs extra flex and durability that comes from multiple layers of PVC plastic. A whitewater board is very stable and easy to control so that you can avoid rocks.
3. Understand SUP Length, Width and Thickness Requirements
SUP volume indicates how buoyant the board will be and how much weight it’ll be able to support. When choosing the right stand-up paddleboard, you have to consider these factors to ensure your board works for your intended activities. A board’s volume and weight capacity are determined by its length, width and thickness.
The length of the board determines how the board handles in the water. While shorter boards are more maneuverable and easier to control, longer boards are faster. Additionally, longer boards increase the volume and capacity, making them feel more stable. Keep in mind how you plan to store and transport the board, too.
SUPs under 10 feet are on the shorter end of the spectrum. These boards typically have a planing hull, are easier to handle and are ideal for surfing waves.
Any medium-sized board, between 10 and 12 feet, works well for all-around use. These SUPs have a balance between maneuverability and speed and tend to have planing hulls, though some may have displacement hulls.
At more than 12 and a half feet, long boards are made for racing and touring as they can go faster and track straighter. These boards most often have a displacement hull.
Generally, paddleboards range from 25 to 36 inches wide. A wider board will be more stable and slower, so thinner boards are best for speed-related activities. A board that’s too wide may be difficult to paddle, as well.
If you’ll be going long distances or plan on being out for long periods of time, a longer board will help you to carry some extra gear. On the other hand, a longer board can be trickier to store when you’re not using it. Be sure you have enough room to stow your board before you make a purchase.
Consider your body type when it comes to the width of the board. If the board is too wide for you, you’ll have to reach out to the side in order to paddle. This length may be uncomfortable and inefficient. Always pick a board that feels easy to maneuver.
Regarding skill level, beginners will want to choose a board that’s as stable as possible, so a wider board may be better. If you’re an experienced paddleboarder, you likely already have an idea of which width works best for your needs.
The thickness of the board mainly relates to weight capacity. After choosing a length and width, you can use thickness to determine the final volume. Pick a thickness that’s relative to your own weight.
4. Determine What Size Is Best for You
Select a stand-up paddleboard that has enough buoyancy based on your weight and the weight of any gear you’ll be carrying. The general rule is that 1 liter of volume floats 1 kilogram of weight. If the board isn’t buoyant enough, the board will sit too low in the water, which creates excess drag.
Choose the length based on the type of paddle boarding you want to do. The width should be based on your size and experience level. The most popular SUP boards are 10-11 feet long and 32-34 inches wide. If stability is a priority, try a board that’s 33-34 inches wide. If portability and maneuverability are important to you, opt for a shorter board. If speed and straight tracking are your priority, go with a longer board.
5. Decide on a Fin Setup
When it comes to fin size, you may have to choose between higher stability or being able to glide at faster speeds. Additionally, you’ll have to choose your fin configuration, which is one of the most important factors for how the board handles. The fin configuration and placement can drastically affect the performance of the board. For the best experience, make sure to try many options to find what works for you.
Many paddleboards have one large fin located in the center of the tail-end of the board. This single fin provides good tracking with little drag. However, a board with a single fin positioned at the rear will typically have less stability and will be less easy to control. For agility and high maneuverability, you’ll want a single fin near the nose of the board.
2 Plus 1
This configuration of fins is often found on surfing boards but is also great for beginners since it offers much higher overall stability. It’s made up of a large center fin that has a smaller fin on either side of it. This setup creates more drag since there’s a large middle fin and two additional ones.
The three-fin setup helps with straight tracking in flat water while still offering control. The three fins are typically the same size.
This four-fin configuration consists of a medium and small fin mounted on both sides of the tail-end of the board. This setup provides a balance between stability, speed and control. The four fins stabilize the board and the lack of a large center fin means there’s less drag and more control. However, it can be challenging to use for beginners.
When searching for the right fin configuration, you may come across these words, which are helpful to know:
This term relates to the angle of the fin. A fin at a 90-degree angle from the bottom of the board has zero cant, which means it’s better for speed. For more control, you need canted fins that angle toward the outer rails of the board.
The drag is how much the fin slows the board down — the larger the fin, the more drag there will be.
This term refers to whether the fin is stiff or flexible — stiffer fins are better for stability, while greater flex will make the board more maneuverable.
6. Assess the Benefits of Solid vs. Inflatable SUPs
After you decide the type and size of SUP you need, you’ll have to determine if you want a solid one or an inflatable one. If you’re a beginner or want to travel with your board, you’ll likely need an inflatable one. If you need a performance bored for racing or touring, you’ll want a solid one. Here are the main differences:
If you need a high-performance board, you’ll typically need a solid one made from epoxy, carbon or fiberglass. These boards will almost always outperform an inflatable board when it comes to speed and maneuverability, and they don’t require time to set up.
However, heavier boards will be more difficult to transport and store. Usually, you’ll need a large vehicle or a rack to help transport the board, especially when you’re planning to transport a particularly wide or long board. These boards are also more easily damaged on rocks and can hurt you if you fall on them.
These paddle boards are best for beginners, as they’re more resistant to damage, less expensive to purchase and can be transported and stored easily. If you drop your board or bump into a rock, it won’t ding or scratch — and higher-quality ones can be just as rigid as solid paddleboards.
The biggest appeal of inflatable boards is that they deflate and roll up to the size of a sleeping bag. It only takes a hand pump or electric pump and a few minutes to inflate or deflate one.
7. Consider SUP Costs and Your Budget
A quick search for a stand-up paddleboard can bring up a price of anything from $180 to $2,000. What’s the “right amount” to spend when choosing a stand-up paddleboard?
Solid Board Prices
The price for a solid SUP can range from around $700 to $2,000. However, boards on the lower end of this range are typically still quality, durable boards, and SUPs in the lower price range tend to be the most versatile. Epoxy SUPs in the price range of above $1,300 are for serious paddlers who specialize in one type of paddleboarding. These boards are designed with one thing in mind, such as surfing in rough waves or competitive racing.
Inflatable Board Prices
Overall, inflatable boards are less expensive than solid boards. These SUPs can range from $180 to $1,300. Generally, boards priced from $180 to $400 are going to be low-quality and may not perform well. When it comes to inflatable boards, it’s best to search for ones that have multiple layers, so you should look in the range of $500 to $1,200. There are a variety of versatile and specially designed boards in this price range.
8. Remember SUP Accessories
While some paddleboard accessories are necessary, others can greatly improve your experience.
Of course, the most essential accessory for your paddleboard is the paddle. Make sure the paddle is long enough. When you stand up and raise your arm above your head, the paddle should be long enough to reach your wrist.
Additionally, you’ll have to choose a paddle material — carbon paddles are lighter than fiberglass or aluminum but are also more expensive. For the size of the blade, smaller paddle blades are better for general users, and larger blades are mostly used for distance paddling.
Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
It’s always important to wear a PFD when you’re out on the water. SUPs are classified as vessels by the United States Coast Guard, so it’s mandatory to wear one. There are many options for certified PFDs, so you’ll easily be able to find one that works for you, whether it’s a standard life jacket, an inflatable PFD or a floatation vest.
The last thing anyone wants is to fall off their board and have to worry about getting back to it. A leash helps keep your board close to you if you happen to fall off. SUP leashes are typically coiled so they don’t get tangled up while you’re paddling.
Safety Whistle and Lights
If you’ll be paddling somewhere with other boaters, it’s smart to carry a whistle. This way, you can alert others to your presence as you pass by them. It’s also smart to put reflective tape on your board and/or life jacket. If you plan on being out before sunrise or past sunset, you should have a light on your paddleboard for added safety.
Depending on where you’ll be paddling, you may need a wetsuit or drysuit. If you’ll be transporting gear, you may need straps or spots to tie down bags. Consider buying a dry pack to store your valuables.
Additionally, you may need an anchor for certain activities, such as fishing or yoga. If you have a solid SUP, you’re going to need a car rack to transport the board. If you have an inflatable SUP, you may need an electric paddleboard pump.
These miscellaneous accessories will help improve your paddleboarding experience.
9. Maintain Your New Equipment
A paddleboard and other equipment are investments that require certain protective and maintenance measures to keep them in great condition.
After paddling, especially if you paddle in saltwater, you’ll need to wash all of your SUP equipment and wait for it to dry before storing it. This gear includes the board, your wetsuit and paddle. Occasionally clean the board with a mild detergent to remove salts and prevent bacteria and mildew.
After cleaning and allowing the board to dry for 24 hours, you’ll need to store it. Remove the fins from the board and open any air vents. Place the board into a protective storage bag and store it in a cool, dry place.
Explore EZ Dock Options
Paddleboarding is a fun way to stay active and get out on the water. Our floating docks make it easier than ever to launch at your private or public property. They’re slip-resistant, heat-resistant and splinter-free, making it simple to get on your SUP and head out.
EZ Dock products are designed to require minimal maintenance so you can spend your time enjoying the water rather than tending to your dock. We’re proud to offer products that are a great investment for your waterfront property. Explore our products or contact us today!