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Does Size Matter for Stand Up Paddle Boards?

Stand Up Paddle Boards are a simple, fun, plug-and-play water activity that gets you up and moving. There is a small learning curve, few “moving parts”, and plenty of benefits. This makes it a popular activity for all sorts of people. To a certain extent a paddle board is jump-on-and-go, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind in getting the right size stand up paddle board.

You want to get the correct stand up paddle board because the size determines how much weight the board can support, how maneuverable the board is on the water, and how stable the platform is to ride.

A beginner is likely to tend toward a wider board with good stability, but he/she might need to sacrifice maneuverability. A heavier rider will need a board with greater volume which tends toward a heavier board weight. As you hone your skills and desires as a paddler, you might want a shorter, more maneuverable board, or a longer one with greater speed that tracks well.

Size Considerations for Your Stand Up Paddle Board

Length (feet):

The length of the stand up paddle board is the measurement from tip to tail. The length of the board determines how it handles. A longer board will track well which can make it a faster board while a shorter board is generally more responsive and handles well in waves.

Around 10 feet

Around 11 feet

Around 12 feet

●  Better for kids and small paddlers

●  More maneuverable, makes it better for SUP surfing

●  Common length for many recreational boards

●  Excellent for all-around use, beginner to advanced

●  Good length for touring/racing as the longer board tracks better.

●  More suited to experienced SUPers as there is more board to handle.


Width (inches):

The width of the board is the measurement from rail to rail (side to side) from the widest point of the stand up paddle board. A wider board is generally more stable so it is great for beginners. A narrow board will glider better (with less resistance) so it is faster, but usually more unstable.

Under 30 inches

30-32 inches

Over 32 inches

●  Narrow board is great for speed/tracking

●  Used by elite athletes

●  Best for racing or those with experience

●  Good middle ground between speed and stability

●  Common length for touring/recreational boards


●  Wider board creates a more stable platform (but often a heavy board)

●  Less maneuverable but good for bigger paddlers, more gear, and the family pet

●  Good for yoga, fishing, and whitewater.


Height (inches):

The height of the board refers to its thickness, the depth of the board as its widest point. Because thickness affects the volume of the stand up paddle board, it plays a role in the weight capacity and rigidity of the board. Inflatable SUPs are generally thicker (by as much as an inch) than hard boards. The added thickness aids in keeping the board rigid and stable.

Under 5 inches

5-6 inches

Over 6 inches

●  Hard boards tend to be in this range

●  Common range for inflatable SUPs

●  Added thickness adds more weight capacity for bigger paddlers

●  Raises the center of gravity and adds weight capacity - better for paddlers over 200 lbs.

●  Longer boards may be thicker to compensate for the length and prevent bowing in the middle of the board.


Volume (liters):

Volume (determined by all of the above factors of length, height, and width) is measured in liters and tells you how much weight a board can carry. This buoyancy measure is smaller for lower volumes and larger with higher volume boards. When manufacturers list the recommended weight limits for their boards, they are telling you about the volume of the stand up paddle board. Before you pick a weight range, make sure that you are factoring in gears, pets, extra paddlers, etc. In general, it is better to error on that side of a bigger board rather than a smaller one.

Under 170 liters

170-190 liters

220-280 liters

Over 280 liters

●  Best for experienced paddlers or small paddlers

●  More for SUP surfing

●  Common volume for hard boards

●  Common volume for inflatable boards

●  Good volume for heavier paddlers or more cargo (aids in greater weight capacity)

●  Better for yoga, fishing, whitewater


Weight (lbs):

Another factor to consider with a stand up paddle board is how much the board itself weighs. Since you will need to transport your board a bit, it is important to get one that you can manage. Inflatable stand up paddle boards (iSUPs) are generally lighter weight than their hard board counterparts. Many times they can be deflated and packed into a backpack for easy transport. Hard boards typically weigh more and are transported more like a surfboard.

Unfortunately, SUPs are not always a one-size-fits-all proposition. However, don’t despair, there are common sizes that fit most riders so that you aren’t on the hook to buy multiple boards. Once you decide how you want to use your stand up paddle board, you can find the size that works best for you.

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