So what size paddle board do i need?
With myriads of choices, finding the right-size paddle board can seem overwhelming, especially if you are new to the sport. A quick search on the internet will turn up hundreds of paddle boards in different lengths, widths, shapes and colors. So, how do you figure out just which one is right for you? In this article, we will help you determine the right-size paddle board for your needs.
Types of Paddle Boards
In order to determine the best paddle board for you, it is important to know a little about the different types of boards available. Likewise, the way you plan to use your paddle board will help to determine the right size for you.
Paddle boards can generally be divided up into four main categories that we will cover in detail. There are Surf Boards, Touring Boards, All-Around Boards and Fitness and Yoga Boards. Read on for more information about each.
- Surf Paddle Boards These are not surfboards, but paddle boards designed for paddling through areas of surf. These paddle boards are usually under 10-feet in length, narrow and both the hull and the tail tend to be pointed. They are designed for quick turns and short distances making them easier to maneuver the waves near shore.
- Touring Paddle Boards These boards are usually 12-feet or longer and narrower than other boards. These long boards are usually rigid and great for traveling long distances and racing with few technicalities. The hull is pointed to help with displacing the water allowing for faster speeds.
- All-Around Boards These boards are the most versatile and are available in standard rigid models or inflatable models. They are ideal for a variety of activities like fishing or touring and work well in most water conditions. They are between 10- and 12-feet long and come in a variety of widths. These boards are a great option for beginners trying to learn to paddle.
- Fitness and Yoga Boards Fitness and Yoga boards are often inflatable and designed to be the most stable paddle boards for keeping balance while participating in fitness-related activities. They are usually the widest boards and range from 10- to 12-feet in length.
Paddle Board Dimensions
Several factors come into play when choosing the best paddle board for your needs. The dimensions of paddle boards include length, width, thickness and volume. As mentioned, length and width play a part in maneuverability with shorter, skinnier boards being easiest to maneuver and control.
Paddle Board Length and Width
Most paddle boards are between nine and 14-feet in length and between 29- to 36-inches in width. Shorter boards are easier to use for quick turns and maneuvering near the shoreline. Longer boards are capable of reaching greater speeds for distance touring and racing.
Narrow boards assist with maneuverability but are less stable than wider boards. Narrow boards are ideal for riding surf and racing. Wider boards have plenty of room on the deck and are ideal for beginners to learn to balance. They are also great for activities like fishing or if you plan to take along a child or dog.
Paddle Board Thickness, Volume and Weight Capacity
The board’s thickness along with volume and your own weight will determine how high you float on the water. Most inflatable boards are six inches thick and rigid boards are between four and six inches in thickness. Thinner boards will have you riding lower in the water creating more drag and slowing you down. Thicker boards will feel more stable and hold you well above the water line.
Volume is measured in liters and directly correlates with your weight or the total weight of you and your cargo (dog, cooler, kids) on the board. Generally speaking, beginners should start with a board volume that is equal to 200% of their body weight in kilograms. For example, a 150-pound person should find a board with at least 136L volume (150lbs=68kg multiplied by 2). This can change significantly based on your activity and expertise level.
Another factor to consider is the board’s weight capacity. Balance, maneuverability and stability will not matter if the board cannot support your weight. Be sure to account for everything you plan to take along when you go paddle boarding before choosing your maximum weight capacity. A full cooler or your dog could add up to 50 or more pounds to your own body weight.
Choosing a Beginner Paddle Board
Now that we’ve completely confused you with all that paddle board dimensions talk, we will give you a few specifics of what to look for in your first paddle board. As a beginner, it is unlikely that you will be attempting to surf the North Shore in Hawaii or venture out on a distance race. Maneuverability and speed are going to take a backseat to stability and buoyancy at this point.
Inflatable or Rigid Board
First you must choose between an inflatable and rigid paddle board. Inflatable paddle boards fold up compact and fit into a backpack. This backpack, adjustable paddle and two-way pump are usually included with the purchase of the inflatable board. They are ideal for traveling and you can toss them into nearly any vehicle. They are a great choice if you do not have a place to store a rigid board. They are made of durable PVC plastic and unlike rigid epoxy boards, they will not dent or nick when dropped.
Rigid paddle boards are made of epoxy and require ample storage space as well as a way to transport it to your paddle boarding destination. However, these boards offer a larger range of maneuverability. Usually, more advanced paddlers prefer rigid boards. They are ideal for those that live near the water and have extra space in the basement or garage to store them.
Though inflatable paddle boards make a good option for all skill levels and activities, the choice between the two is a personal one. We would definitely recommend an inflatable board for beginners due to its conveniences and versatility.
Length, Width, Buoyancy for Beginners
As a beginner, the length of the paddle board will probably be the least important factor in determining the right board for you. Still, since we are focusing on stability and balance, we suggest at least an 11- to 12- foot board to start out. Ideal volume will vary per individual but a good starting point would be between 140- and 170-liters. Width should be at least 32- to 35-inches for the best balance.
A great beginner board in my opinion would be a wider inflatable board. They tend to be the most stable and forgiving as well as comfortable on the feet and easy to haul around. One of my personal favorites would be the ISLE Explorer (pictured above). It has great stability, performance, and can really be used in almost any style of paddle boarding. It is also reasonably priced and one of ISLE’s best selling boards for a reason.
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We recommend an adjustable paddle when you are first starting your paddle boarding adventure. Adjustable paddles are usually included with inflatable paddle boards for an added bonus. Adjustable paddles give you a chance to experiment with different lengths. It is generally recommended that your paddle is 4- to 6-inches taller than you.
Choosing a Paddle Board for Intermediate to Advanced Users
Once you have been paddling for some time, you might want to upgrade to a paddle board more specified to your particular activity. For example, you might be looking for a shorter, narrower surf paddle board or a wider all-around paddle board with storage room for your fishing tools.
By now, you have a better idea about buoyancy, and you do not necessarily need to focus on balance and stability. You will be able to closely fine-tune the paddle board’s dimensions to suit your needs. This will be more of a personal choice, and your options are nearly endless.
A great advanced touring paddle board would be the Tahoe SUP Zephyr (pictured above). This is a very light weight touring board that is narrow and very fast. You must have good stability as you will likely fall in otherwise with this board. I personally own one and use it when I want to have fun and go fast. With that said, it is also quite long (12’6″) yet very light and easy to carry around. It has plenty of D-rings to fasten things down with and is built for touring.
Again, I would only recommend this to a seasoned boarder. I own 3 Tahoe SUP boards and love them all!
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Facts About Paddle Board Sizes
Here are a few general facts that sum up what we have covered in this article. Ultimately, the best paddle board is the one that works best for you. These facts can help you get started on choosing your first paddle board.
Short Boards (Under 10-Feet)
- Ideal for kids starting out in paddle boarding
- Most maneuverable board
- Available with displacement hull (V-shaped for cutting through water quickly) or planing hull (rounded for balance)
- Great for surf activity
Medium Boards (Between 10- and 12-Feet)
- Most versatile board size
- Ideal for beginner through advanced paddlers
- Great for fishing, yoga and non-competitive touring
- Most often available with planing hulls
Long Boards (12-Feet and Above)
- Ideal for touring, distance paddling and racing
- Fastest boards with the best tracking (ability to stay straight in the water)
- Mostly displacement hulls for speed
- Preferred by advanced paddlers
Paddleboard Needs Conclusion
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