How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board - Outdoor Sports Center

How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board

The best part about stand up paddleboarding is how accessible it is. We have many miles of great coastline, rivers, and lakes in Connecticut and all you need to get started is a board, a paddle and a PFD. Anywhere you can canoe or kayak, you can SUP too. Its a great way to exercise and enjoy the warm weather without needing too much gear. As stand up paddleboarding has gotten more and more popular, the different types of paddleboards have grown with it. This guide will go over the different types of boards and what the differences are between them.  To help in the process of finding the right board, we have a demo pond where you can paddle before you buy.

Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards

If being able to paddle down a river and then also catch some waves at the river mouth sounds like your sort of thing, then an all round paddleboard is for you. A great board for using in all disciplines and for the whole family to enjoy. These offer a traditional surfboard-style "planing" hull and are 10' to 12' long, 29" to 36" wide. These boards have been designed to have plenty of glide on the flat, but still easily maneuverable in the waves due to the length and narrow tail. The extra width makes them generally easier to paddle than the cruising / touring boards. These are great for beginners.



This is currently the fastest growing SUP discipline, and there are new SUP races and events being organized all over the country. So if you've got a competitive streak this is the probably the discipline of the sport you want to get into! Races range from sprint races, to long distance. Specialized race paddleboards have been designed which are longer and narrower. This enables the board to have more glide due to its increased water-line length. It also makes it easier to catch swells on those long downwinders.


There are two SUP racing categories -  12'6" and under for sprint races, and 14′  for long distance races. The average width of a race paddleboard is 25" - 29" These boards have a pointed nose or bow (front end) and a rounded, kayak-like "displacement" hull. The pointed nose or bow is more efficient and requires less effort to paddle longer distances. These boards are fast and light due to the extremely lightweight construction (usually of carbon fiber and kevlar). This construction generally makes them the most expensive paddleboards on the market, and can make all the difference between 1st and 2nd place!


Touring or Flat Water Cruising:
This is the easiest and most widely adopted type of paddleboarding across the globe, as it can be done anywhere there is flat water by all skil levels. For example lakes, estuaries, canals, coastal bays etc… Flat water cruising is the best way to get into paddleboarding and learn the basics. However it doesn't have to stop there… get exploring with friends, try fishing from your board, get up close with nature, try SUP yoga, put your dog or picnic on the front, or have fun at the beach with the family. Kids can have just as much fun jumping on and off a sup and paddling along sitting down as standing up!


They are typically longer than all-around boards for more speed, and often have a nose area that is pointed and shaped like a V on the bottom to help the board slice through the water smoothly, increase glide and help the board go straight. Their average length is 11′ - 14′ and the average width is width 28" - 32" . These boards are designed to be easy to paddle in all weather conditions and with enough glide for a long distance journey. Being slightly wider and having more volume allows them to take the weight of  dry bags and equipment. These paddleboards are generally made of a glass fibre composite as durability is more important than weight, unlike a race board.


Sup surfing can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their surfing ability. Whatever you might hear or be led to believe, SUP surfing is not just for beginners and surfing small waves! You can catch any sized wave on a paddleboard and experienced SUP surfers can look just as impressive on a wave as an experienced surfer. No waves are too big or too small to surf on a sup. However it's a great way to get into surfing if either it's your first time, or you have tried it before but experienced difficulty getting to your feet. When SUP surfing you are already standing up so you don't need to worry about the difficult popping up bit, you can just concentrate on catching the wave! The bigger board makes surfing more stable and therefore easier for beginner surfers. Many experienced surfers have also been converted to SUP surfing because of the ability to catch more waves, especially when the swell is small and you would otherwise be struggling to catch a wave on a surfboard. By standing up on your board you also have a much better view of the incoming swell and therefore the pick of the best waves. And having a paddle increases your speed and therefore ability to maneuver yourself quickly and easily into the best position, and catch more waves.


Surf paddleboards are made in all shapes and sizes to match the ability and weight of the rider. The average length is 7′ - 10'5" and average width is 28" - 32". The smaller the board the more maneuverable it will be on the wave, but also the more unstable! So it is important to choose the correct board size depending on your paddling and surfing ability.  These boards can be constructed from fiberglass, carbon fiber and kevlar.  Inflatable SUPs can also be good for surfing and a great option if you have only just learned how to stand up paddle board as compared to a hard board they can feel a bit safer in in the surf.

SUP hybrids:
Also called hybrid paddleboards, these can be used as a sit-on-top kayak or you can stand on them. This versatility allows you to take it easy, go fishing or do some light surfing. Some models add a deck hatch for gear storage on longer day trips.

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