Most paddleboards have the dimensions written on the bottom or side. Length, width, and thickness are pretty standard, but there’s also another important attribute that new buyers should be aware of- we’re talking about paddleboard volume.
A paddleboard’s volume is measure in liters and it generally refers to the amount of space any given object occupies. The basic principal is that the more liters of volume a paddleboard has, the more weight it can carry while performing up to spec.
But more volume doesn’t always mean more stability. For example, a race board with very high 5 or 6 inch rails may have more volume than a regular cruising board of the same length. But the race board might only be 24 inches wide, and for the beginner or even intermediate paddler it will probably feel very unstable. Whereas the all around, planing hull paddleboard will feel very comfortable early on.
It’s important to keep in mind where that volume resides on the board. Is it concentrated in the middle of the board or farther forward towards the nose? Is it dispersed evenly throughout the length of the board? The shape of the board will tell you how the paddleboard designed to perform and point to what type of paddleboarding it was intended for.
Most all around paddleboards are thicker in the middle and then very gradually taper off toward the nose and tail. This allows the board to be stable where you stand (in the middle) while also allowing the board to turn easily.
Touring paddleboards that have displacement noses also tend to be very stable. The volume in a touring board is not tapered but spread more equally throughout the length of the board with a little taper toward the tail. They are designed to be comfortable to ride for longer excursions.
If you’re looking for a comfortable and stable board to start out on you want one that has plenty of volume to carry your weight and sit high on the water. When a paddleboard sinks down into the water under your weight it will become less stable. If it resists sinking down when you stand on it then it will be more stable.
You want to match the board’s volume to your size and ability. You can get an idea of the minimum amount of volume you will need by doing this calculation. Convert your weight to kilograms by dividing it by 2.2, and then multiply that figure by 2. So if you weigh 160 pounds:
160 / 2.2 = 73kg, 73kg x 2 = 146L
As a 160 pound novice you would want to start looking for a paddleboard with a minimum of 146 liters of volume. You can, and probably should, go quite a bit higher and reap the benefits of extra stability, but going lower will be more challenging.
This information is geared toward paddleboard volume for beginner to intermediate riders engaged in flatwater paddling. If you plan on standup surfing then you might be looking for a smaller board with a lesser amount of volume.