What SUP? Stand Up Paddle Board Options

By Todd Caranto, First designer awarded Outside Magazine’s “Gear of the Year” for Stand Up Paddle Boards

SunsetSUPYou’ve probably seen a Stand Up Paddle Board somewhere on vacation, had friends tell you about it, or have even tried one out for yourself, and now — you want one.  But, walking into a store full of boards, flipping through a SUP magazine, or just browsing the internet can feel overwhelming when confronted with all the different choices. 

So, what do you need to know to choose right board for your needs?

That depends on the kind of paddling you want to do, your skill level, and your budget.  To help you sort through your choices, listed below are some of the most common types of Stand Up Paddle Boards and the basic information you’ll want to consider as you think through your options and make an informed decision. 

Recreational cruising is the most popular starting point for a beginner.  You’ll want to start off prepared for success and choose a wide board with a lot of stability so you spend more time paddling and less time swimming, the quickest way to develop your paddle stroke. Generally dimensions of 10’ or 11’ in length, 32” or more inches wide, and volume of 200 liters or more.

Paddle Surfing: Catching waves and playing in the surf will depend on you level of experience and skill.  Surfing is one for the most advanced forms of Stand Up Paddle Boarding and there is a lot to learn.  Start with a lesson in a beginners area and build your skills over time, gradually. It’s very important to understand the etiquette of the lineup and not to paddle into areas that are above your skill level, crowded, or water that you’re unfamiliar with.  To start, bigger and longer boards make it easier to catch small waves and get in early, but they take longer to maneuver.  As your skills advance, you’ll probably want to shorten your board for more maneuverability and performance which will require greater balance.  Beginners will want start with an all around board somewhere around 10’8” and 30” wide or extra stable at 11’0” x 32”. 

Training & Fitness:  Paddle boarding is a great core workout.  To really cover distance you’ll want a displacement board that cuts through the water.  A displacement hull board is more like a boat hull with a nose that comes to a sharp point.  The longer the board you get the faster you’ll go.  A good starting size is a 12’6”.  For something smaller and easier to manage there are displacements under 11’. For more speed you’ll want something larger, like a 14’.

Racing: Racing boards are like the training boards but usually more narrow and harder to balance on. They use more light weight composite materials like carbon fiber and are generally more expensive.  Training boards will give you all the performance you’ll need to enter races and be competitive.  If you really get into the racing, then you may eventually want to get an ultra light custom made race board, but be prepared to spend about two to three times the amount of a stock board.  The stock racing sizes are 12’6” and 14’.

Fishing: For fishing, you’ll want an extra stable board with lots of volume to carry gear.  You’ll want something that has multiple attachment points for rod holders, coolers, lights, tackle, and storage.  An 11’ x 32” or 36” is a good starting point.

• Touring:  If you’re looking for extended day trips or short overnights, you’ll probably want a displacement hull board with plenty of stability and solutions for gear.  An 11’6” x 30” displacement hull is a good size model to start with.

• Yoga:  Although yoga can be practiced on large stable boards, one designed for specifically for the purpose will made a big difference in the overall experience.  A wide symmetrical board with a full length yoga pad makes a good platform for poses and finding balance.  You’ll want a board in the range of about 10’ x 34”.