A Guide to Choosing the Right Paddle board

Stand Up Paddleboard Usage/ Styles: which to choose?

There are tons of ways to use a paddle board.  Think of them like bicycles: you can ride a bike on the road, off the road, lazily through town, in a race, etc.   Of course you can use any type of bike for any type of riding, but you’ll soon find out that the beach cruiser isn’t going to win you the tour-de-france, and that pricey road bike won’t last a minute on rocky off-road moutain bike trails.  Just as bicycles offer a myriad of designs to choose from that are built specifically for each of these varied uses, so do Stand Up Paddle Boards. And, just as with buying a bicycle, its a good idea to identify the type of riding you want to do on your paddle board before you make your purchase.  This handy guide is designed to familiarize you with the main types/ styles of paddle boarding, and the main board styles associated with each. 

Styles/ Types of Paddle Boarding

In general, there are 4 main types/ styles stand-up paddle boarding:

  1. Surfing in the ocean
  2. Paddling around flatwater, lakes/ bays, etc.
  3. Paddling on rivers and creeks/ in rapids
  4. SUP Yoga

Each of these styles of paddling are best suited to a specific style of board. 

  1.  Surfing SUP’s:  Surfing in the ocean works best with a rigid, responsive board that more resembles a surfboard.  Just like a surfboard they can be longer (easier to catch waves and ride on smaller stuff) or shorter (better for bigger waves and easier to turn and do tricks on).
  2.   Flatwater/touring SUP’s:  Set up for the long haul, either rigid or inflatable, with more straps for carrying coolers and also generally longer and with the ability to track (go in a straight line) and paddle faster, longer distances.
  3. River/ creek/ whitewater SUP’s:  Inflatables are great for rivers and creeks where you will encounter rocks and other debris that could seriously damage a rigid board.  You’ll want one that is super solid once inflated and is responsive enought to maneouver quickly through turns, through waves, and around obstacles. 
  4. Yoga SUP’s:  These boards are generally wider, more stable and longer to give you the best platform for doing yoga.  

Determining your main paddle board style and use can help you figure out what board shape, style, length and width to choose.  If you aren’t sure, getting an all around board might be your best bet.  It’s kind of like the hybrid bicycles… they can go on-road and off-road and get you from A-B.  Then you can determine what style you like/ need the most and trade up for a better model down the road.

Standup Paddle Board Hull Shapes: which to choose?

In general, there are two main types of board shapes:  

  1.  Planing Hull
  2. Displacement Hull

The “hull” is the body of the boat or in this case, the board.  Both types of hulls described here are great but have vastly purposes.  Read on to find out which to choose and when. 

A planing hull is a wider and bulkier than a displacement hull, which is narrower and more streamlined.  As you may have guessed, the wider and bulkier planing hulls are better for balancing and lounging around on, while the narrower displacement hulls are great for going straight and fast. So which should you choose?  Well, it really depends on what you want to do.  Most people do well to start on a planing type hull, so they can get the hang of standing and balancing first before trying to ride waves or current or paddle fast.  But, if you have some experience and think you know you’d rather paddle hard than float around and do yoga or pack a cooler for a day trip, you might want to go for a displacement style hull.

Standup Paddle Boards: Hard vs. Inflatable boards, which to choose?

In general, there are two main types of board shapes:  

  1.  Hard Boards
  2. Inflatable Boards

Below is a brief discussion of the pro’s and con’s of each:

Stand Up Paddle Boards:  Hard Boards

Hard boards are just as they sound:  hard.  They are made of durable materials such as plastic, epoxy, fiberglass, wood, carbon fiber or other synthetic materials and do not deflate, fold, or otherwise change shape.  They are rigid and strong, but can also be a bit delicate as in the case of fiberglass boards.  

Stand Up Paddle Boards:  Inflatable Boards

Inflatable boards in contrast to hard boards, can be inflated to a rigid state that is almost as surprisingly hard as a hard board, yet deflated and rolled up and easily stored or transported.   They also can outlast hardboards in swiftwater or whitewater conditions where you have lots of rocks or other obstacles that you may encounter.  Hard boards, especially fiber glass or epoxy covered boards tend to ding with every little hit.  These boards are much better suited for open water and ocean paddling than rivers.