To choose a paddle board, you will have to consider the board type, shape, price level, included gear and board features.
Paddleboarding is getting more popular. Many people look to enter this amazing sport and get their own paddleboard. That’s great because paddleboarding is a very easy way to enjoy the water, stay fit and train your balance.
One of the questions we get most often is how to choose the right paddleboard. We will help you find your perfect board by explaining what factors are most important, but also give you some tips on finding good information about the different boards.
If you are short on time, click here to find our recommendation on the best paddleboards available on the market. For our blog, we’ve reviewed 50+ paddleboards, and the ones listed in this article here are the very best ones.
Table of Contents
- 1 Where Can You Find Information About Which Paddleboards to Choose?
- 2 9 Things to Consider When Choosing a Paddle Board
- 3 Which Paddleboard Should I Choose?
- 4 Final Words
Where Can You Find Information About Which Paddleboards to Choose?
The number of websites and online forums dedicated to paddleboards is growing.
With stand-up-paddling.org, we’ve built a large presence for ourselves. We started our website in 2016 and write much about the different boards, other gear and provide much information to paddleboarding beginners.
First, we offered our site just in German, but saw questions coming in from other places. That’s why now we operate our magazine in multiple languages.
At stand-up-paddling.org, we’ve personally reviewed 50+ paddleboards and all kinds of paddleboard gear. Our team looks up new models and brands every single day.
Also, we run a blog section, writing about all things related to paddleboarding.
9 Things to Consider When Choosing a Paddle Board
Buying your own paddleboard is a great investment.
However, with prices in the hundreds of pounds, you should make sure to choose the right board for your needs.
That’s why, here are the most important factors to consider before buying your first board.
#1 Board Type
There are two basic types of paddleboards:
- Inflatable boards: You inflate those with a hand pump or electric pump, the latter being slower and louder, but you’ll save yourself the struggle. Inflatable paddleboards are by far the most popular type of boards.
- Hardboards: Those are rigid boards made out of different materials. They are faster and better to control, but way more expensive, really difficult to transport and to store and just 2 to 5% of all sold paddleboards are rigid ones nowadays.
Our stand-up-paddling.org team prefers inflatable boards, as storing and transporting is super easy.
However, if money is not an issue for you, you’ve got some place to store and transport a hardboard, and you want to train like a pro, rigid boards are the way to go.
The shape of a board is hugely important. After you found out which type of board fits your needs, it’s time to consider the shape itself.
The most common models are all-rounders and touring boards.
All-round boards are good for beginners. They are wide enough to stay stable. Therefore, those boards are great to start with. However, with their wider shape, they are not as fast as touring boards.
Touring boards are narrower and faster than all-rounders. That’s why skilled riders prefer them, especially if you want to train, but the choice of board is up to you.
You can find inflatable or hard boards in either shape type (all-rounder or touring). If you just look for a paddleboard to relax with your family on the water, go with an all-rounder.
Paddlers looking for doing paddle tours and exploring the area, should take a look at touring boards.
For beginners and those who aren’t sure, there are also so-called cruising boards, which combine the wider shape of all-rounders with a sharper nose. Cruising boards are both stable and quite fast.
You can find more about the different kinds of boards in our post about the best paddleboards out there.
#3 Fin Setup
The fin setup is the next very important aspect to consider, when choosing a board.
Paddleboards usually come with one, two or three fins.
There are two common systems:
- 2+1 fin setup: Two (often smaller) side fins and a large central fin. Typically, the side fins are fixed, while you can take off the central fin
- Single fin setup: Just one large central fin.
Nowadays, there are also some brands making 2+1 fin system boards where you can take off all three fins.
That is great when packing the paddleboarding the backpack. Also, it allows you to vary up the fin setup.
Just using a central fin is better for tracking, and, therefore, longer tours. On the other hand, using three fins is great for stability and maneuverability.
#4 Paddleboard Size
Let’s take a look at the average paddleboarding beginner who picks an all-rounder to start with.
In this class of boards, the size of 10’6” x 31.5” x 6” (3.20 m x 80 cm x 15 cm) is the most popular.
For the average adult with a weight of 80 to 90 kilograms, a paddleboard with those measurements provides enough buoyancy and stability.
Just pick a shorter board, if you weigh less than that. On the contrast, for people heavier than that, go for a bigger board.
How thick a board is has a huge impact on its stiffness and how much weight it can carry. We strongly discourage adults from buying any 4 inch thick boards for that reason.
The longer a paddleboard is, the better it tracks in the water. That’s why touring and race paddleboards are so much longer than the average all-rounder.
You can find more about paddleboard sizes here.
#5 Weight Capacity
Weight capacity is a tricky subject, as you can’t trust much of what the paddleboard brands say.
E.g. for many of those standard all-rounders with the size of 10’6 x 35” x 6” and their realistic max paddler weight of 80 to 90 kilograms, you can find sellers advertising those boards with weight capacities of 100, 120 or even 150 kilograms!
The trick and justification of the paddleboard sellers is that they test how much weight the board can carry before it sinks. That’s one way of interpreting weight capacity.
However, that doesn’t make much sense. If you put a weight of 150 kilograms on such a board, it will sink multiple inches deeper in the water and become very unstable, very difficult to control and almost impossible to propel forward.
Our rule of thumb is to just subtract a third of whatever the official weight capacity is.
Boards with a larger volume also have a higher weight capacity. If there is no official volume mentioned, just compare length and width of boards with each other.
#6 Built Quality
Most paddleboards are built with the so-called drop stitch technology. These boards are strong and stiff built, but also very light. Higher-quality boards are built using the woven drop stitch technology.
However, even more important is the outer shell of the paddleboard. The most common built is called single-layer, where just one layer of PVC is used.
Stiffer and durable boards use the double-layer built. Here, two PVC layers are glued or fused together (if that’s the case, those boards are called “Fusion” boards).
Some brands even use more than two layers. Those paddleboards are called multi-layer boards. Often, manufacturers would just use more layers in some places to protect vulnerable spots, like the rails.
It’s a great sign when companies clearly state which type of construction is used to build their paddleboards. Especially when it comes to cheap paddleboards, that’s frequently not the case.
Brands offering high-quality paddleboards do not have to hide how their boards are built with fluffy language or marketing terms.
When reviewing a board in person, you should look out for optical errors, like small air bubbles or dirt under the material, rests of glues and color.
More critical are issues like larger blisters, features (deck pad, d-rings etc.) or the stitching peeling off. Especially, any damages close to the stitching on the rails is a huge problem.
We’ve done this with every paddleboard we’ve reviewed so far for our article about the best paddleboards.
#7 Board Features
Different paddleboards come with different features. Naturally, those come at a price. Boards with more additional and advanced features cost usually a bit more than the kind of bare-bones boards.
In our opinion, the following features are worth investing in:
- Deck Pad: A solid and comfortable deck pad is a great feature. It helps for a good grip and prevents slips, especially when spills on the board.
- D-Rings: D-rings are good for attaching your accessories to the board, like a kayak seat. You can also tie all kinds of equipment and even other paddleboards to the d-rings.
- Central Carry Grip: Having a carry grip in the weight center of the paddleboard is a nice feature that helps you transport the paddleboard with more ease.
- Luggage net: Sometimes you might need to transport some essential equipment, food or drinks. Luggage nets are an easy solution for that problem. Most mid-price paddleboards have a decant-sized luggage net in the front. Some paddleboards for long-distance paddling even got two (one in the back and on in the front) to transport a lot of gear. Some people doing multi-day trips even carry camping equipment on their paddleboards.
Paddleboarding gear is very important.
You can’t go anywhere without a paddle (and a leash!). For inflatable paddleboards, you’ll need a great air pump (there are also electric ones available) and backpack.
Also, a waterproof phone case and a dry bag come in handy.
If you want to stay safe and enjoy your paddle tours to the fullest, we recommend the following gear:
- Leash: The leash protects the paddleboard from floating away. It’s an essential piece of safety equipment as a leash makes it impossible to lose your board in currents, waves or wind. A leash with an ankle strap is most common, but for white water paddling people use the waist belt option as a safety precaution. In danger, you can use the belt’s quick release feature to lose the leash.
- Paddle: A good paddle makes a difference in your paddling performance and makes you faster and more efficient. The very best paddles are made out of carbon. However, the lightweight material is also the most expensive one.
- Air Pump: An air pump is needed for inflatable paddleboards. We especially like the ones which can inflate and deflate your paddleboard.
- Backpack: Some inflatable boards come with a backpack, but if that’s not the case, you require a carrying bag or a backpack to transport it. Do not take this lightly, as many paddleboard backpacks are super uncomfortable to carry. Look out for ones with large paddings for your shoulders and back.
The price is also essential when choosing a paddleboard.
Naturally, a high-quality paddleboard will cost more than a cheap one.
However, you should not buy the most expensive board right away. Instead, we recommend investing in a mid-priced board for the start.
Paddleboards are an investment. If you want to use a board for several years, you should spend an appropriate amount for a paddleboard.
Those boards offer a lot in terms of features, built quality and included gear. And, if you need to, you can always upgrade later on.
Which Paddleboard Should I Choose?
With the paddleboarding industry maturing and the huge number of brands and models available, choosing a paddleboard can be really challenging.
We hope that our criteria to consider when choosing a paddleboard helped you out to give an overview. To find some great boards for your needs best check out our best paddleboard review post.
In this article, we talk about the best paddleboards we’ve reviewed so far. We feature boards which cater to different users. We are sure that every person will find their perfect paddleboard in this post.
So click here and check out our best paddleboards article.
In the end, it is up to your personal preferences which paddle board you should pick.
However, as a starting paddler, we recommend getting a mid-price board with all the equipment included. It will last for a long time and offers you a great entry point into the sport of stand-up paddling!
Here you can find our recommendation on the best paddleboards.
Hi! Id like your opinion on what board would be right for me. I am 64 years old, and approximately 270 lbs. (hoping to get in shape with the help of paddle boarding after a long winter) I went for the first time with my son last year twice, and I was hooked, and was able to rent one at the lake, but they only have one size (I don’t know what size it was). So specs I think you’ll need to know:
64 years old
Paddling in the finger lakes of New York, calm, but occasional semi-strong currents
Price? While not a huge issue, prefer to get a good quality board that I will use for many years to come. Have not really looked at any brand yet.
Sorry for the late reply. Great decision that you want to buy your own SUP board.
I think you are very well advised with the Bluefin Cruise in the 12 feet size. The board is very versatile with its cruising shape and the 3 removable fins. In addition, it is extremely stable and robust construction. The extensive accessories package also includes everything you need to test all facets of SUP use. In addition, there is the exceptionally long warranty.
Many greetings and have fun on the water.