SUP Newbie Chronicles: How to Pick Your Board

Picking a SUP Per­haps you’ve tak­en a few rental SUPs out for a spin and you’re ready to invest in a board of your own. Maybe you’re not quite ready to com­mit to just one board, but want to know which type might best suit your needs in the future. Either way, if you’re get­ting into pad­dle­board­ing (or are already into it and ready to make the next move), it’s ben­e­fi­cial to under­stand the dif­fer­ent types of stand-up pad­dle­boards. In order to find your per­fect match, you need to know what board suits you best. While there are many dif­fer­ent styles of SUP out there, here are the five most com­mon:

All-around
Size range: 9’-12’ long, 29”-32” wide
These boards are char­ac­ter­ized by a plan­ing hull, which means that the board’s front end rides on top of the water and is slight­ly round­ed. All-around SUP boards look a lot like surf­boards, though they are craft­ed to have much more sta­bil­i­ty and buoy­an­cy than a tra­di­tion­al long­board. As the name sug­gests, these boards are for the pad­dler who wants a board that can do a bit of every­thing. 

Tour/Race
Size range: 12’6” ‑14’ long, 26”-30” wide
Designed to trav­el long dis­tances quick­ly, tour and race boards have a  dis­place­ment hull, which enables the board to slice through the water. As Tahoe SUP puts it, these hulls are “designed to effi­cient­ly part the water as you pad­dle,” much like a kayak does. Tour and race SUPs are typ­i­cal­ly lighter and a bit nar­row­er than oth­er boards. Many tour boards also have the capac­i­ty to car­ry gear for SUP camp­ing or the space to bring your dog to rest on top of the board at the front or back end. 

Surf or Open Ocean
Size range: 12’6” — 17” long, 27”-30” wide
The shape of these boards often mim­ics the shape of a surf­board, though the surf SUP is designed with less vol­ume in order to have more maneu­ver­abil­i­ty in the ocean. These SUPs can have plan­ing or dis­place­ment hulls, but always have added sta­bil­i­ty in order to keep the pad­dler on the board in rough water or while catch­ing small waves.

Inflat­able
Size Range: Varies
These boards are designed with the trav­el­ing pad­dle­board­er in mind, as they pack down for easy mov­ing and stor­age. Most inflat­able SUPs are made of durable, mil­i­tary grade PVC, which allows them to be extreme­ly rigid when inflat­ed while also enabling them the flex­i­bil­i­ty to fold down. These boards are extreme­ly ver­sa­tile, as they’re designed to be used on every­thing from white­wa­ter to flat­wa­ter, and any­thing in between.

Women’s Spe­cif­ic
supMany SUP com­pa­nies have women’s spe­cif­ic boards, which are slim­mer than a stan­dard SUP in order to accom­mo­date for less reach when pad­dling. Women’s spe­cif­ic boards also tend to be slight­ly lighter, thus eas­i­er to car­ry. The Tahoe SUP Bliss is a great exam­ple of a fine­ly designed women’s spe­cif­ic board (it’s the one pic­tured in the post).

Con­sid­er Your Objec­tive
Now that you know what kinds of boards are out there, the next step is to fig­ure out what you’ll be using it for. Ask your­self these two ques­tions: What kind of water will I be pad­dling in (flat, ocean or riv­er)? And how will I store and trans­port my board? Answer­ing them hon­est­ly will help you decide what kind of board you want, lead­ing you to the board you need to hit the water hap­pi­ly!