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How To Choose The Right Stand Up Paddleboard

by Kelly Vance on June 29, 2016

Stand Up Paddleboarding has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, from lakes to beaches to rivers, you'll see people paddling these surfboard-like boards pretty much wherever you go.  Check out the first article in this series for more about paddleboarding disciplines and styles. 

Guide For Choosing The Right Stand Up Paddleboard

But with the explosion of popularity and the diverse uses for paddleboards come a lot of questions for first time buyers.  How do you pick the paddleboard that's right for you?   The first step in board selection is figuring out what you want to do on your stand up paddleboard.  Are you after some easygoing family fun, or do you want to do long tours and camping excursions.  From materials and construction techniques to size and shape, each board has advantages and disadvantages for different uses. 

How To Choose The Right Stand Up Paddleboard


Paddleboards For Beginners

For your first time out, don't try to push a huge board around! You and your arms will be tired in no time. In the learning stages it would be easiest to have a shorter but wide board (not too short for your weight!). This will allow the paddle boarding muscles to adjust before moving up to a longer, heavier board. Width is super important. Especially for those without prior balance practice, having a wide board will make it more stable so you can focus on paddling technique instead of standing. I have a friend with a smaller, narrow board, and I can confirm that the board is much easier to navigate but also a whole lot harder to balance on!  - Ambassador Brianna Smith


Choose Beginner SUP Board
Ambassador Ava Cook on her paddleboard.

Paddleboard For the Kids

I have a fiberglass board (10 foot) and a soft foam board (7 foot)- I use the foam board the most. I am really light (50 pounds), so this is actually a foam surfboard that I use for paddleboarding - it was much cheaper than a real paddleboard and for my size it actually works even better. Much more maneuverable and faster because it is easier to paddle.  I have used it in a race before and did really well with it. - Ambassador Kira Lewis

Our picks: 




Connelly Soft Top SUP

A soft top foam SUP like this one from Connelly is a good choice for affordable, lightweight fun. 


Connelly Softy SUP with Paddle

Available in several sizes for kids through adults, this paddleboard is lightweight, affordable and fun. 

Paddleboards For Fishing & Yoga

I personally I prefer a longer board, about 11ft+ long for taking out to fish or practice yoga on flat water. It's slower in the water (so not the best for exploring and covering large distances) but it's much more stable and forgiving if you shift while casting OR you just aren't that great at yoga yet like me!  And make sure your board has bow deck rigging. That way if you want to bring a cooler or some personal items in a waterproof bag you can secure them under the rigging. I took on a large boat wave the other day... and the wave won.  I was very glad I had secured my bag to the board instead of having to dive to the bottom for my keys! - Ambassador Brindley Faile
Our picks: 





Naish Alana SUP

This well-built and beautiful SUP is a great all-around option for the ladies who want to do flatwater activities and yoga.

Boardworks SuperNatural SUP

This wide and long single fin cruising paddleboard is perfect for all your flatwater fun. 

Paddleboard for Fishing or Yoga
Ambassador Brianna Smith is ready for a paddle. 

Paddleboard for Fun and Fitness

When using the board for fun and fitness, the shape of the board and it's accessories are important. Wider boards with a wide nose are ideal for travel. More space means more camping/hanging-out accessories, and more exploration! Boards with a narrow tip, no matter the width in the middle, will travel faster through the water, if longer trips are your goal. However, I have a pretty fat board from tip to tail, but am able to keep pace with narrower boards.  The most diverse boards are long and wide because they can carry all your adventuring gear and still be used for fitness.  A cargo net is key for these uses - some boards have bungee cords or nets on the front and back, and some have the attachments embedded in the material but lack the actual cord.
Above all others, I recommend foam or fiberglass material SUPs.  Inflatable paddle boards are intriguing because of their storage advantages and easy transport. An avid paddle boarder will quickly tire of the time-consuming pumping, and these boards don't move through the water nearly as well. But for an occasional paddleboarder, inflatables are a great solution to the enormous board issue!    - Ambassador Brianna Smith
Brianna Smith recommends a board with lots of space for your adventuring essentials.

Yoga Focused Paddleboards

Last summer I had the privilege to demo the inflatable Lotus Yoga SUP from Glide. I had only practiced yoga on a hard shell board previously and the difference on this inflatable board was pronounced! It is hard to practice yoga on my basic board (but that might be the point, right?) because the wobbles are nearly impossible to eliminate. This inflatable board was ideal for yoga - the almost complete circular shape kept me way more balanced! Specifically designed for yoga, the inflatable board did not cut through water well and it was difficult to catch speed. I would only buy a yoga specific board if that is all you will use it for. Otherwise, a wide all-around board can be used for yoga as well as other fun.  - Ambassador Brianna Smith
Built with yoga in mind, this SUP has a full sized yoga mat, lots of options for gear tiedown, and is designed with directional stability in mind.

Whitewater/Downriver Paddleboards

The inflatable is great for traveling and ease of putting in a car. It's also a good option for downriver paddling since it will hit many rocks, but you need an inflatable that is good quality.  I've ridden an inflatable by Fisher based out of CA. HALA makes some great downriver boards as does Starboard. Badfish has a really nice inflatable board as well made with Boardworks. Some of the boards have a front protector on the front that helps to give it extra protection from rocks and debris.  Currently, I own a Badfish board that is 9 feet and a hard board. It's more of a downriver board but I manage to surf with it too.  The board has handled well but has taken many many bumps and bruises. Hitting rocks is quite a hard thing to avoid so I'll run it into the ground until it sinks.  - Ambassador Jessica Oatman
This rugged inflatable will take a beating in the rapids, but it's also erfect for getaways where space is limited, or for casual paddlers. 

Paddleboards for Affordable Fun

Although hollow hard plastic boards don't have the best reputation, they're a great option for those looking for afforable family fun, and depending on the manufacturer, can offer a decent ride and excellent durability.  Imagine makes several boards in different styles that are great for a lot of uses. 


Imagine Surfer V2 SUP

This surf style board is the perfect choice for the family to share at the beach house.  Small enough for the young paddlers to enjoy, and shaped to ride on small waves too. 

Imagine Fit SUP

This paddleboard has a touring shape, great for paddlers who want to float rivers or explore local lakes. 

Fast Paddleboards: Need for Speed

The fastest paddleboards are better for advanced paddlers because they can lack stability, but they're certainly fun - and great for long distance paddles and exploring big lakes and calm rivers. 
With a beautiful native american inspired design, a long, sleek profile and plenty of tiedowns for gear, this paddleboard will track powerfully through the water and help you explore uncharted waters. 

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