A common question that we get in the shop is “What size paddleboard do I need?” There’s no easy answer to that question because everyone is different. And there’s no one right answer…there are a lot of boards out there to choose from. But if you consider the questions below you will be a lot closer to picking one that is going to serve you well for years to come.
- What type of paddling do you want to do? Flatwater, yoga, racing, surfing, a little bit of everything?
- What is your skill level? Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced?
- How much do you weigh?
- Do you have storage limitations? There’s a pretty big difference between storing a 10’ board and a 14’ board (4’ to be precise)
- What about transporting it? It can also more cumbersome to transport a 14’ board than a 10’ board.
You should discuss all of these factors with your local paddleboard shop so they can help pair you up with the right board for you. But here are some general guidelines.
1. What type of paddling do you want to do? If you want to surf you will want a much smaller board than if you want to race. If you want to do a little bit of everything you will want something bigger than a surf specific SUP.
- Surf specific paddleboards are usually under 10’. The better lot of surfers get, the smaller they tend to go.
- All around boards are typically 10’-12’6. These boards can be surfed, paddled on flatwater, paddled in open water, and can be used for fitness paddling or activities such as fishing or yoga. They generally are not going to be the best choice for any particular activity, but will be decent at a variety of things.
- Race boards are typically 12’6 and larger
2 and 3. Your skill level will be a factor in determining the size of board you need. More advanced paddlers don’t need as much “volume” in a board as less experienced paddlers. A board’s “volume” is a measure of the amount of water that the board displaces. In practical terms it is the amount of weight the board can float. If you are a new paddler and you are on a board with too little volume for your size, the tail of the board will sink and it will be much harder to move through the water. If you are a more advanced paddler, this is less of a concern because you will be able to handle less board above the water. Sinking the board tends to be more of an issue with surf style boards since they are inherently lower in volume. Touring and race boards generally have enough volume for most riders, but the narrow width of race boards can make them very tricky to paddle, so consider the width and shape in addition to just the length. Width can add a lot of stability. You want a big enough board for your weight and paddling level that you will spend more time on the board than in the water.
4. For some people paddleboard storage options are a limiting factor. If you have a 12’ shed, a 12’6 board will present some interesting challenges. You can get creative with how you store a paddleboard, but keep in mind that epoxy boards need to be kept out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time, so you will need a place that you can keep the board sheltered. And while they are built to be durable, they still need to be handled with care.
5. Depending on how you get your board to the water, the size (and weight) can be a big factor when making your choice. If you put your board inside of your vehicle there is probably a limit to what will fit. If it is going on your roof, there could be limitations to what you are easily able to get up there. Obviously longer boards are tougher to maneuver, but width thickness and weight can also be considerations. At 5’2 I have trouble getting a good grip on a 33” wide board. I also have small hands so getting them around the rails of a thick board can be challenging. If you are right on the water, and don’t have to load your board on a huge SUV, lucky you! The options are limitless.
These are not the only factors that will help you determine the right board for you, but they should give you a place to start. Keep in mind it’s not just about length…width, shape, rails, and style also have a big effect on how the board will perform and what will feel stable to you in the water. If you start by answering these questions and you will be well on your way to finding a paddleboard that you will enjoy for years to come.
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