How to Choose a SUP Board

There are a lot of choices and making the right choice counts!

You’ve been out on a stand up paddleboard at Quinn's Pond paddling or doing SUP Yoga. Or out on the Boise River getting the hang of SUPing ni moving water. You have fallen head over heels for the sport and want to to make the experience personal by owniing your own SUP board. It’s certainly nicer than being stuck in the office at any rate!

Before you get too deep into looking at all the various stand up paddleboards that are available, consider the following tips you will need to take into consideration in how to choose a stand up paddleboard - keep in mind, not all SUP boards are created equal.

What’s the SUP board For? Paddle surfing, touring, cruising, boards on waves, boards on flat water – there are a lot of things to consider, and a lot of board types out there, even specially designed paddleboards for women and kids.

Understand the Different Types of Paddleboards

First things first, before you choose a stand up paddleboard, decide where you are going to be using your board, and the decision is a lot easier. Stand up paddleboards are made of different materials depending on the type of activity, so be sure to understand how the paddleboard is made. The two basic types are inflatable & rigid or hard boards. From there the choices get a little more complicated. If you live in Idaho and you will be using your stand up paddleboard on a pond, lake or river, a different board will be required from someone in California who will be using it on the ocean.

A touring or cruising board will generally be used on more flat water situations; lakes and rivers, and will typically be wider and longer to provide more stability to the paddler. Flatwater SUP boards will often come with some tie downs but are also segmented into groups of boards designed for racing, recreational use, SUP fitness styles and cross-over for fitness and recreational SUPing.

Tie downs are basically secure areas on the front of your board, you can then use para-cord or bungee cord to secure your stuff to the board. This is really helpful if you want to bring a backpack or some gear on your board with you, it will be much easier to strap down than on a board that will be used more for surf.

You also want to make sure that you get a SUP board that is going to be comfortable for you to maneuver and get down to the water. There’s no point in getting a board that is so big and heavy for you that you can’t carry it out of your house without the help of two friends. A board like that will be spending most of its time as decoration not getting used!

Thankfully, there are some tools to help with that, which we’ll cover in the Essentials section.

Know Your Body Type

It’s important to take into consideration your height and weight when choosing a SUP board, this chart displays how the Guild Factor works for calculating the board volume to ride weight - it shows you just how important buoyancy can be.

Where to Buy and Why

It’s easy to get all hopped on adrenaline and excitement when you see all these ads for SUP boards for sale online or on Craigslist, but don’t get something just because it’s cheap and looks cool, it has to work with your body type and you will want someone locally who will help you if you have a problem or want to learn more. 

American Canoe Association or ACA SUP Instructors, like the staff at Idaho River Sports, will spend time during each class discussing the many SUP board choices, essentials and safety. ACA certified instructors are professionals who will help you get the most out of your SUP experience. 

This is a crucial step, so it’s really important to make sure you do not overlook it, because making a bad decision here will dramatically decrease the amount of enjoyment you get out of your board.

Each board is designed to hold a specific weight range. If you get a board that is too small, your SUP board is going to ride too low in the water when you get on it. It’s not fun to be out on your SUP and have to struggle paddling because your board is not supporting your weight properly. If you are someone who has a bigger build, then it is smarter to get a slightly bigger (longer and wider) board, this will provide you with more buoyancy and you will glide along the top of the water.

What is Your Level of Experience

  • Have you ever stepped on a SUP board?
  • Have you used your friends SUP board for a year and now you really want your own?
  • Your experience will make a different on what kind of board you want.

The larger boards will provide you with more stability and a smoother ride, which is something that could be really great for a beginning SUPer.

If you've been out on a SUP boards a few times, and feel you have intermediate to advanced paddleboarding skills, then a smaller and lighter board may be an option. It will be quicker and easy to maneuver, it will also be less stable, which is a consideration. The good thing is, there's literally a paddleboard for everyone: boards that get used once a month, boards that get used 2 hours a day, boards that people do SUP Yoga or SUP Fitness on, boards you can bring your dog for a paddle, boards for catching waves and boards for the glassiest water you can find.

Stand Up Paddleboard Essentials

You really don’t need too many accessories beyond just the basics.

Once you've got the board, all you need is a PFD (personal flotation device/life jacket) and a paddle. Then once you get more into paddleboarding you can of course supplement a million different accessories, the possibilities are endless.

Just like stand up paddleboards, SUP paddles are typically made of fiberglass or carbon fiber, but can also be made of aluminum, plastic or even bamboo, with the carbon fiber being lighter, but more expensive and probably more durable. 

Size matters, even with paddles

If you are going to be on flat water like lakes or ponds then a longer paddle will be a better option. Conversely, if the plan is to be on waves or the ocean then a shorter paddle will work. If you plan on doing both, an adjustable paddle may be the ticket!  In any event, you will generally want a paddle that is is long enough to reach from the floor to your wrist. Sizing is very important so check with the local shop who carries several lines of SUP paddles to get the right one.

Make sure the paddle is not an afterthought, it is a very important component of stand up paddleboarding, and it is especially important that you are comfortable with the paddle. Your arms will thank you!

Buy Local & Save

We're a big fan of shopping local and giving back to the shop that got you hooked on SUP will go a long way to ensuring you have someone that is eager to help you take care of your investment and will understand your unique needs. Stores that carry SUP boards next to spark plugs should be avoided. Our partners at Idaho River Sports have a great track record with SUP classes, SUP Yoga and Fitness as well as some of the very best products available anywhere. The added value comes from the ability to walk in and get help with your equipment or learn more about your new, favorite pastime!