Paddleboarding Paradise: How to Choose Your Perfect Stand Up Paddleboard

Choosing a stand up paddleboard (SUP) felt like a voyage into a new world. The first time I dipped my paddle into the serene lake, I knew I was on to something special. The gentle …

Choosing a stand up paddleboard (SUP) felt like a voyage into a new world. The first time I dipped my paddle into the serene lake, I knew I was on to something special. The gentle glide of the board across the calm waters was surreal. But, it all started with picking the right SUP, which turned out to be an enlightening journey in itself.

Understanding Your Paddling Goals

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of SUP sizes and types, it’s essential to get clear on what you wish to achieve on the waters. Are you looking to catch some waves, engage in a rejuvenating SUP yoga session, race across the lake, or simply have a leisurely paddle? Each activity requires a SUP with specific characteristics to enhance your experience on the water.

For instance, my love for tranquil morning paddles led me to choose a board well-suited for calm waters and leisurely paddling. Every SUP has a story, and the narrative begins with your paddling goals.

SUP Types and Sizes

Ah, the heart of the matter! When it comes to SUPs, size does matter. And so does the type.

SUP Length

Short boards, medium boards, long boards – oh my! Each has its realm of prowess. Short boards, usually under 10 feet, are nimble and fantastic for surfing or for the little adventurers in the family^1^. They’re your go-to if riding the waves is what gets your heart pumping.

Medium boards, ranging between 10 to 12 feet, are the jack-of-all-trades. Ideal for all-around use and SUP yoga, these boards provide a blend of stability and maneuverability. They’re like the friendly neighbor who’s always ready for a casual chat or a serious heart-to-heart.

Long boards, on the other hand, are the marathon runners of the SUP world. Stretching beyond 12’6”, these boards are crafted for fast paddling and long-distance touring^1^. They crave open waters and thrive on covering distances with graceful speed.

Your car, storage situation, and how far you need to carry the board to reach the waters are practical considerations that play into choosing the right SUP length. Long boards might test your patience in windy conditions or if you have a long walk to the water.

SUP Width

Width is not just about the board; it’s about how you fit on the board. A wider board spells more stability, which can be a boon for beginners or those looking to carry extra gear or perform yoga poses on the water^1^.

On the flip side, a wider board can be slower and might feel like paddling a small island if it’s too wide for your body. Narrower boards are speedsters and are often the choice of racers and seasoned paddlers chasing the adrenaline rush of speed^2^.

The key is to find a sweet spot where the width of the SUP complements your body type and paddling aspirations. You don’t want to end up with a board that feels like a floating dock or one that tips at the slightest movement.

SUP Thickness

After you’ve played the length and width tune, it’s time to hit the notes of thickness. The thickness of your SUP is the unsung hero that influences the overall volume and weight capacity of the board^1^.

If you’re eyeing two boards of the same length and width but different thicknesses, the thicker board has more volume, translating to more weight support. For the speed enthusiasts looking for a race board, a thinner board could be your ally, especially if you’re on the lighter side.

Hull Types

The hull of your SUP is like the personality of your board. It’s what defines how your board interacts with the water. And, like personalities, hulls come in different types.

A planing hull is flat and wide, akin to a surfboard. It rides on top of the water, making it a fantastic choice for leisure paddling, surfing, SUP yoga, and tackling whitewater^1^. It’s the life of the party, ready to mingle with the waves and have a good time.

In contrast, a displacement hull has a pointed nose, slicing through the water for a smooth, fast ride. These hulls are all about efficiency, allowing you to cover longer distances at a brisk pace without breaking a sweat^1^. They are the intellectuals, always seeking the most efficient path forward.

The choice between a planing and displacement hull boils down to your paddling agenda. Are you in for a relaxed, fun-filled day on the water, or are you chasing speed and efficiency?

SUP Fins

Your SUP isn’t complete without its fins. They add that extra bit of stability and tracking, making your paddling experience a smooth sail. Larger fins with wider bases and longer front edges are the stabilizers, helping your board track straight, while smaller fins up the ante on maneuverability^1^.

The fin configuration on your SUP can vary from a single fin setup, promoting straight tracking on flatwater, to a 3-fin setup or a 2+1 setup, which offer a balance of control, tracking, and surf performance. The fins are like the steering wheel of your SUP, guiding you gracefully across the water’s surface.

Extras and Accessories

Now that we’ve navigated through the fundamental dimensions and features of SUPs, let’s delve into the cherries on the cake – the extras and accessories that can elevate your paddling experience to a whole new level.

Bungee Straps and Tie-Downs

Ever thought of paddling your way to a secluded beach, unloading a picnic setup from your SUP, and enjoying a serene meal amidst nature? Bungee straps and tie-downs on your SUP make this picturesque scenario a reality. They are your best pals when it comes to securing dry bags, coolers, or even a tent to your board^1^.

On one of my memorable paddles, I strapped down a cooler and a compact tent to my SUP, paddled to a quiet lakeside spot, and had a mini adventure. The freedom to carry essentials opens up a realm of possibilities for your paddling escapades.

Attachment Points/Mounts

Fancy capturing your SUP adventures on camera or trying your luck with fishing while on your board? Attachment points and mounts on your SUP are the gateway to these exciting ventures. You can attach fishing rod holders, seats, cameras, and more, transforming your SUP into a versatile companion^1^.

I remember the thrill of catching a fish from my SUP, amidst the gentle ripples of the lake. The versatility that attachment points offer can turn an ordinary paddling day into an extraordinary adventure.

Essential Accessories

Beyond the extra features on the SUP itself, there are a few accessories that are almost non-negotiable for a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.


A SUP paddle is your engine on the water. Choosing the right paddle, that reaches up to your wrist when you stand it up in front of you and raise your arm above your head, ensures you have efficient power to glide across the water^1^.

PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

Safety first! The U.S. Coast Guard classifies SUPs as vessels, mandating the use of a PFD when paddling outside swimming or surfing areas^1^. Besides, wearing a PFD is a wise choice regardless of the law, keeping you safe as you explore the waters.


A leash tethers your SUP to you, ensuring your board stays within reach if you decide to take a dip intentionally or otherwise. Choosing the right leash for the type of paddling you intend to do – be it surf, flatwater, or rivers, is crucial for both your safety and enjoyment^1^.

Car Rack

Unless you’re diving into the inflatable SUP territory, transporting your board to your paddling destination requires a reliable car rack. A good rack secures your SUP and makes transportation a breeze.


  • What’s the ideal SUP size for beginners?
    For beginners, stability is key, which makes a wider, longer, and thicker board an ideal choice. An all-around SUP that’s at least 10 to 12 feet long and 30 to 34 inches wide tends to provide a stable platform for learning the ropes^2^.
  • How do I choose between a planing and displacement hull?
    Your choice hinges on the activities you envision. A planing hull is versatile and playful, great for surfing, whitewater paddling, or SUP yoga. A displacement hull is your ally for long-distance touring or racing, offering a smooth, efficient glide over calm waters^1^.
  • Are inflatable SUPs a good choice?
    Inflatable SUPs offer portability and are easier to store and transport. They are a solid choice for those with limited storage space or those who travel frequently.


Choosing a stand up paddleboard is an exploration of both the external world of waters and the internal world of your paddling desires. The right SUP is not just about the dimensions or the type; it’s about how those factors resonate with your paddling goals and your spirit of adventure.

Whether you’re paddling towards the golden hues of a setting sun or racing against the crisp morning breeze, your SUP is your companion in these beautiful moments. The waters are calling, and with the right SUP, you’re all set to answer that call with zest and zeal.

So, gather your paddling gear, pick the SUP that sings to your soul, and paddle on towards new horizons.

Leave a Comment