There’s no question about it… Paddling is well on its way to becoming a popular sport!
While in the early days you only had to make the decision whether to buy an inflatable paddle board or not, choosing the right model is now a real challenge.
Especially as a beginner, you are often helpless in front of an unmanageable mass of diverse offers.
Especially the selection of the right paddle board size is crucial, so that your board fits your stature, your weight and the desired area of use. It’s not uncommon to see paddlers struggling on paddle boards that are too small or too big.
To help you determine the right size for you without any prior experience, I’ve written this guide for you, covering all aspects of the topic!
Table of Contents
- 1 Paddle Board Sizing: Centimeters/Meters vs. Inches/Feet
- 2 The Right Paddle Board Width: Stability vs. Speed
- 3 The right paddle board length: straight line vs. turning ability
- 4 Paddle Board Size and Weight
- 5 The Right Paddle Board Size for Beginners
- 6 The Right Paddle Board Size for Advanced Riders
- 7 The Right Paddle Board Size for Kids
- 8 FAQ
- 9 Conclusion
Paddle Board Sizing: Centimeters/Meters vs. Inches/Feet
If you’ve ever clicked through the offerings of various manufacturers, you’ve probably noticed that there are differences in the units of measurement used.
While some companies give the dimensions of their boards in centimeters or meters (“metric system”), manufacturers from the English-speaking world always give the dimensions of their boards in inches (“) and feet (‘). In our board reviews, we of course always convert the measurements into both units for you.
But if you want to be able to convert the measurements from inches/feet to centimeters/meters yourself, I’ll tell you the appropriate formulas here.
One inch (also often called “inch”) is equal to 2.54 cm. One foot is equal to 30.48 cm. The length of paddle boards is often given by a combination of inches and feet, while the width and thickness are quantified in inches.
Here is an example of calculation for an all-round board with standard dimensions:
Many all-rounders have dimensions of 10’6″ x 32″ x 6″ (length x width x thickness)…so you need to do the following to convert:
- Length: 10 x 30.48 cm (304.8 cm) + 6 x 2.54 (15.24 cm)…so the total length is 320.04 cm!
- width: 32 x 2,54 cm = 81,28 cm
- Thickness: 6 x 2,54 cm = 15,24 cm
Of course, in practice, these crooked values are rounded to whole numbers. Thus, the Allround board (10’6″ x 32″ x 6″) has the dimensions of: 320 x 81 x 15 cm.
Of course, nowadays very few people do the math themselves, preferring to leave this task to Google. Under the search term “convert foot inches to cm” you will find numerous pages that will do the conversion for you in seconds!
Typical SUP Sizes
|Board Type||Length in cm (ft)|
|Allrounder||305 cm to 330 cm (10′)|
|Touring||> 350 cm (>11’5)|
|Cruising||330 cm to 350 cm (10’8″ to 11’5)|
|Racing||> 390 cm (>12’8)|
The Right Paddle Board Width: Stability vs. Speed
The width of your paddle board influences mainly 2 important factors: the tipping stability and the glide.
The wider your model is, the more stable its position in the water. Especially as a beginner, it is therefore advantageous if your board is rather wider. As you probably know, the first big hurdle on the way to becoming a paddling pro is keeping your balance…from experience, values around 80 cm (31″) are good for beginners.
But the width is also crucial for the speed you can reach while paddling. The wider your board, the greater the water resistance you have to overcome. Not only does the maximum width of the board play a role, but also the width and shape of the board tip (nose).
On all-round boards, the nose is usually wide and rounded, so it doesn’t glide through the water as smoothly as a touring or racing board with a tapered nose. However, the boundaries between the different board types are now often fluid in practice.
The right paddle board length: straight line vs. turning ability
A common saying in the paddling scene is “length runs”! This means that longer boards glide much better than shorter specimens. Especially on fairly straight stretches, long paddling boards are much more trackable.
Due to the better straight running, you can also set much more paddle strokes before you have to change sides. This faster rhythm allows for noticeably higher speeds.
The effects of different lengths can be illustrated particularly well using the example of common board types:
Touring and race boards are usually designed to be quite long. For these board classes, the focus is on optimal running characteristics and a high degree of directional stability, since they are mostly used on long and straight routes and high speed is desired.
The best compromise is represented by the all-round boards. They are designed for varied areas of use and are therefore somewhat shorter than the touring and racing models.
By far the shortest representatives are the so-called wave or whitewater boards. This type is designed for maneuverability, in order to be able to steer the board unerringly in waves and sometimes rip currents. A long board becomes a plaything of the tides in these conditions due to the attack surface.
As mentioned, there are now also many boards that deviate in length from the standard board type. For example, there are shorter touring and racing boards as well as very long all-round boards. The mentioned effects of the length are basically valid for every board class.
Take your time and click through the following reviews to get a good overview of different board lengths and shapes (silhouettes):
Paddle Board Size and Weight
The size of the board is of course reflected in its weight. The paddle board own weight, however, also depends on the structure of the outer shell (single- or double-layer) and the material strength used. Nevertheless, it can generally be said that a larger board also weighs more than a smaller one.
The amount of material used for large boards is usually higher and this drives up not only the weight of the board but also the costs, so that smaller boards are usually somewhat cheaper for comparable quality.
The size of your board not only affects the weight, but must also fit your body weight. The buoyancy force is decisive for this, which primarily depends on the volume of the paddle board. The thickness of the model plays a very decisive role, especially if the remaining dimensions are the same.
Meanwhile, an average thickness of 15 cm (6″) has been established and proven for many specimens. This value is an optimal condition for solid stiffness and good buoyancy values.
I would like to explain the effects of the board size on the paddle weight, the price and the recommended maximum load in more detail using the Bluefin Cruise as an example. This board is number 1 on our best list and is available in a variety of sizes!
If we look at the two most popular sizes, 10’8″ (325 cm) and 12′ (366 cm), it becomes clear that the weight, maximum load capacity and price increase with increasing size:
The 325 cm (10’6) model weighs about 12.6 kg (28 lbs) and has a payload of 130 kg (285 lbs). The 366 cm (12′) specimen weighs in at 14 kg (31 lbs) and carries up to 140 kg (309 lbs). The smaller Bluefin Cruise 10’8″ is consequently also a bit cheaper than its big brother in the 12′ class!
The Right Paddle Board Size for Beginners
For most paddling beginners, a board size in the range of 10′ – 12′ x 31″ – 32″ x 6″ (320 – 366 cm x 79 – 81 cm x 15 cm) has proven itself in practice. The most popular board type is still the all-round board and the cruising board, which is a hybrid of all-rounder and touring board.
However, ambitious beginners can also start directly with a touring board. In this segment there are some models with extended width and good tipping stability. Only from very narrow racing boards you should rather stay away without previous experience!
The Right Paddle Board Size for Advanced Riders
With increasing experience, advanced paddlers tend to go for longer and narrower boards. Once you’ve trained your balance skills well, snappy and athletic runs increasingly come to the fore. Here, boards with a length of 12.6′ (366 cm) and more, as well as a narrower width between 29 – 30″ (74 – 76 cm) clearly have the edge.
In terms of glide, racing boards are the absolute “non plus ultra”. The length of these boards is usually 14′ (427 cm) and the width is sometimes significantly less than 29″ (74 cm). However, these boards also require very well trained skills!
The Right Paddle Board Size for Kids
Smaller boards are best suited for the paddling offspring. These may be significantly shorter and narrower than the specimens for adults. Kids are significantly smaller and lighter and therefore require less buoyant boards.
In addition, more compact paddle boards have a lower dead weight and are much easier to steer due to their reduced dimensions. Handling is therefore more successful for children. A length between 9′ and 10′ (270 – 300 cm) is suitable for most kids.
But of course, even for this target group, it depends on the individual stature. For taller teenagers, the same criteria increasingly apply as for adults.
Are big paddle boards more expensive?
Tendentially yes, however the choice of material and the level of workmanship also play a decisive role in the pricing of a paddle board. In addition, there are also different price ranges between manufacturers.
Even with paddle boards, there are well-known brands that are basically a bit more expensive.
You can find more information about paddle board sizes here.
How does the paddle board size affect the weight of the board?
As a rule, the paddle board tare weight of larger boards is also automatically slightly higher than smaller models (see Bluefin Cruise).
However, there are big differences due to the construction of the outer shell and the quality of the material used. Specimens with 1-layer outer shell (“single-layer”) have a lower total weight than “double-layer boards” with 2-layer construction.
Technical progress is also constantly bringing innovations to the manufacturing technology of paddle boards. A relatively new and innovative manufacturing process, for example, is the so-called “thermo-fusion process”.
In this process, thinner PVC layers are fused together using heat and pressure. This reduces the board weight by up to 20% without sacrificing stiffness and resilience.
Examples include the following boards: Penguin Coast Runner, Makaio Hamani 10.6 V2 and Makaio Kula Nui 11.5 V2.
More information about paddle board sizes can be found here.
Are inflatable paddle boards wider than hardboards?
Tend to be yes. On the one hand, this is because the core of hardboards made of water-resistant hard foam is more buoyant and therefore the dimensions (thickness and width) can be designed more flexibly.
On the other hand, hardboards are basically designed more for experienced, sporty users. Accordingly, the boards must be streamlined in design to offer less resistance to the water.
However, exceptions prove the rule here as well, because there are both wider cut hardboards (e.g. Aztron Eclipse) and very narrow inflatable boards (e.g. Aztron Meteorlite).
More information about paddle board sizes can be found here.
As you can see, when choosing the right paddle board size, there are a few factors that you should definitely consider. It is very important that your board fits your stature and, most importantly, the area you want to use it. If you take the described points into account, you will be able to make the most of your paddle board’s performance and definitely have a lot of fun on the water.
If, despite reading this article, you are still not sure whether a particular board is a good fit for you and your requirements profile, I can only recommend our diverse board reviews. Also use the search bar on the stand-up-paddling.org/uk homepage to find specific models.
We put a lot of effort into every board description, so that you can judge whether a board might be the right one for you even without experience. We always put special emphasis on a realistic estimation of the maximum load and give important hints for whom the described board is especially suitable!
If you have further, individual questions, you can also leave us a comment. We will try to help you as soon as possible!