How to Choose a Stand Up Paddleboard

With so many different stand up paddleboards, or SUPs on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which one is best for you.  There are so many different sizes, and construction materials, brands, and price points, it can be hard to know where to start.  Not to mention how your skill level affects which type of board you should purchase.

Well, the aim of this article is to educate you on the different options available so that you can make a more informed choice when you go to buy your SUP.


It all starts with the size of a board.  How big of a board do you want?  Generally stand up paddleboards are much longer compared to surf boards.  Where they are similar is in short versus long boards.  A short board is slower in the water and a long board is much faster.   This is true of both surf boards and SUPs.

That is why if you are surfing in small waves, say knee to chest high, you will want a long board, because it travels faster and you can get the most out of a small wave.  If you are surfing in big waves, say overhead to double overhead or bigger, you’ll want a smaller board to slow things down and also because a smaller board is easier and quicker to maneuver and to cut, or turn, on the face of the wave.

Both surf boards and stand up paddleboards hold true to these size requirements.

This is while you will seen most racing paddleboards are about 14 feet in length.  They are much faster than a smaller SUP.  If you have to race against someone on a 14 foot SUP and you are on a 9 or a 10 foot SUP, it is almost guaranteed that you will get smoked, because longer boards are that much faster to paddle through the water.

Surfing SUPs

Since we are talking about board lengths, it’s good to have a quick mention about a specific type of paddleboard, a surfing SUP.  You might have been told, this SUP is for surfing or this SUP you can’t surf with.  The truth is that you can paddleboard surf with SUP.  You can surf with an inflatable 14 footer or a specifically designed for surfing waves 10 footer.  It all just depends on the skill of the rider.

It is important to know, that while all boards can surf, there is a reason why purpose built boards exist.  A board that is superficially designed for SUP surfing will likely have a shorter shape and more aggressive lines.  These type of surfing SUPs are built for performance.  You won’t be able to do performance maneuvers on a 14 foot inflatable, but you can still surf it.

The type of paddleboard that will work best for you depends on the types of paddling you plan to do the most.  Here we’ll list a few of the most popular SUP styles of boards.  We will leave off surfing SUPs, because we’ve already mentioned that.

All-Around Paddleboards: These are the most popular styles of boards, and an all ’rounder is also best for a beginner.  They are generally wide and stable and can be used for a variety of water activities like yoga or surfing small waves.  If you’ve ever been at the beach and rented a paddleboard it is guaranteed that you rented an All-Around Board.

Touring Paddleboards: These are also known as expedition style paddleboards.  These types of boards can get real interesting because they become like the Overland 4X4 of SUP.  These types of boards are longer and slender and designed to hold a lot of weight in the form of gear for extended and even overnight camping tours.  You can go from mild to wild with these SUPs.

Some people go for super long adventures.  Check out this discussion on to learn how far you can go in a day:

Although, in reality, very few people go on extended camping expeditions on a paddleboard, but it is cool to know that some adventurous people do.

Yoga Paddleboard: I have not idea how the sport of yoga on a stand up paddleboard got started, but it did, it is a thing, and it is also growing in popularity.  So to meet this demand most SUP manufacturers build a yoga SUP.  The shape is closest to that of an All-Arounder.  They usually have wide rounded noses and a wide center of at least 32 inches or more.  A yoga SUP will usually have a larger pad that covers a larger percentage of the deck, to provide a soft service for yoga poses.  The grip of the pad will also make yoga a little easier.  And the width of the board means that it will be stabile enough in the water.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about deck pads by watching this video:

Fishing Paddleboards: Paddleboards designed for fishing can be tame, like an All-Arounder, or wild almost like a fishing boat.  Fishing boards need to be able to carry more gear for fishing like rods, reels, nets, and coolers to store your catch in.  Some of the more expensive fishing SUPs can even be purchased with an eclectic motor and then there is a style that is a blend of a SUP and a kayak.  Fishing boards tend to be more expensive than a regular paddleboard.

Inflatable Paddleboards: iSUPs are a great option, especially for beginner to SUP.  Inflatables have made vast improvements in quality in the last five years or so.  Now, some of the inflatables are good enough that they can even be used for surfing and in some cases, inflatables are the preferred way to go.  River or whitewater requires an inflatable SUP, because a traditional rigid SUP would get destroyed from hitting rocks.

Another benefit of an inflatable is the ease of transport and storage.  When inflated, they are a big, 12 – 14 feet, as a regular SUP, but when deflated they can fit into something as small as a backpack.  And every inflatable comes as a complete package with everything you need to get on the water, right out of the box, including the pump, a backpack and a paddle.  This makes iSUPs a great option for families piling into the car for a weekend trip to the lake or beach.

Hopefully you have found this information helpful in making your decision to buy a SUP.  There are a bunch of different options.  If you are new to the sport, and you probably are if you’re reading this article, then it’s a good idea to rent a SUP the next time you are at the beach.  Or if you have a friend that already has a board, ask them if you can try it out.  That way you’ve got some idea of what you’re looking for before you make a purchase.

How to Choose a Stand Up Paddleboard
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