Stand up paddleboard technology has progressed quite bit over the last 6 or 7 years. More recently, there has been a trend to make boards with a wider waist width. The idea is that a wider board is more stable because the extra width across the middle prevents the board from tipping onto its’ edges as easily as a narrower board. This is true in part, but there is much more to take into account before considering only wide stand up paddleboards if you want stability.
Beginners normally want to be on a stable board to more easily get the feel for standing up and maintaining their balance as they start to paddle. A lot of rental boards have a mid-wide design because beginners tend to rent before purchasing their own board. If you are beginner and plan on mostly doing flat water touring you may want to find a board the 30-33 inch width range. Keep in mind, your size is a consideration in choosing a board. For someone on the shorter side, it can be hard to reach your arms around a wide board and your paddle will be entering the water on an angle sacrificing power and making it difficult to paddle straight. This can make paddling a wide board difficult because you will end up putting your paddle in the water on an angle. In this case, you will lose power and it will be harder to stay on course and paddle straight. It is always wise to demo a board, if possible, before you commit to buying it. Even a board of the same or similar width will help you get an idea of whether or not it is a good fit for you.
There are also other factors in SUP design that allow for stability. For example, a board with a flatter bottom will be less likely to roll from side to side. And a board with a concave (scooped) bottom will be more stable. Some stand up paddleboards have a double concave shape that balances turning agility and stability, as well as allow the board to take off quicker and maintain speed on waves. Whereas a board with a convex shaped bottom will tend to tip more easily.
Another attribute of stand up paddleboards is the shape of the rails. The rails form the sides of the board and transition into the bottom at a particular angle and shape. Rounded rails make turning the board easier and more forgiving, whereas square rails help keep the board steady and tracking straight. You will see most boards have rounded/fat sections of rail that transition into square sections. This mixed design gives the board a certain amount of stability and speed while also making it more agile for turning. The main point here is that stand up paddleboards usually employ a combination of different shapes that work together in specific ways giving the board whatever amount of stability it is designed to have.
Shapers are now developing stand up boards that have a moderate degree of extra width in conjunction with other features that make them stable but also performance oriented. Don’t invest in a paddleboard that feels good for the first month because it was so stable and easy to learn on, but then you find that it has very little glide, speed and feels generally sluggish. Think of the width of wide stand up paddleboards as just one design that works only as well as it does in conjunction with the rest of the designs in that board. A good board will sacrifice some stability for glide, or speed, or tracking capability. As always, ask your local SUP shop what the best options are for your style of riding and don’t just settle on one design feature because it is the latest new thing.