Choosing the Right BoardMaterials Before diving into shape, size, gear or anything else, an easy place to begin your search for your paddle board is deciding between rigid or inflatable construction. Regardless of the kind of paddling you’ll be doing, there are both inflatable and rigid boards designed to accommodate your wants and desires. Here’s a simple breakdown of the overall pros and cons of each: Inflatable Boards
- Pros: Lightweight, and easy to store and transport
- Cons: Technical performance and effort to inflate
- Pros: performance (fast, responsive, glide, etc), no pump required
- Cons: durability, storage, and transport
Activity (board shape) Now it is time to discuss board shape, which will largely be affected by the activities you’ll be doing with the board. Ask yourself where you’ll be paddling? Will you take your board out on the lake with your family? Will your dog join your excursion? Or going down the river? Will it be mostly flatwater or have some current or whitewater? Want to surf the local river wave? Will you be taking your yoga practice out on the water? Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to select your board shape. Here’s a breakdown of each activity and a rough outline of the desirable board shape to match that activity. All Around Do you want a board capable of handling most paddle boarding activities? Whether you want to do it all, or you are a beginner who wants to try everything, there are quite a few options that will accommodate a variety of activities. You will look for a slightly wider board that measures 32” wide or wider with either a slightly pointed or rounded nose. If you plan on having your dog or child on the board with you, look for full length or ¾ deck padding to accommodate them. Some great examples of all around inflatable boards are the Hala Rival Straight Up, the SOL Rebel, or the Boardworks SHUBU Muse. For rigid boards, the Boardworks Kraken or Muse are great all around options Touring/Race/Fitness Are you going to be paddling out on a lake, flatwater river, or calm ocean? Touring boards are designed to slice and glide through flatwater faster and more efficiently than wider, shorter boards with a rounded nose. Look for a board with a pointed nose that is approximately 30-32” wide. Some great examples of inflatable touring boards are the SOLSonic, the Boardworks Raven Inflatable, and the Hala Nass. For rigid, the Badfish Holeshot, the Boardworks Raven, or any of Starboard’s touring lineup. Whitewater / River Surf Do you want a board capable of crushing downriver whitewater or surfing the local river waves? This is the most specialized class of board designs. Most whitewater and river boards are divided into two categories: down river and surf. Downriver designs are wide, thick, and have a lot of hull rocker. This will help them be stable and ride up and over waves. Good choices in this category for inflatable boards are the Badfish RiverShred, the Hala Atcha, and the SOLShine. For rigid, the Badfish MVP or the MVP-X. Surf designs will be much shorter and will have a sharp edge for carving on a wave. These boards are often thicker than traditional ocean surf designs to help them be more buoyant on the slower, less powerful river waves. Some great inflatable options are the Badfish I.R.S, the SOL Jah, and the Hala Peno. For Rigid, the Badfish Cobra 6’6” and the Badfish 6’11 River Surfer. There are also a number of boards that fall in-between the two, designed to be capable both downriver and river surfing, like the Badfish MVP-S. You can view all of our Whitewater SUP options here. Fishing/Expedition Are you going to be taking your board on multi-day expeditions or taking it out to fish? Boards in this category should be ultra wide for stability as well as long with plenty of tie downs to accommodate gear (coolers, drybags, rod holders, etc.). Look for something in the 35” plus range. Some great inflatable examples of boards designed for this purpose are the the SOL Sumo and the Hala Hoss. Yoga Are you going to take your yoga practice out to the water? Boards designed for yoga are wide, with full to ¾ length deck padding, and typically have a rounded nose. When shopping for your yoga board keep in mind that the wider the board is, the more stable it will be. You should look for a board at least 32” in width, but wider is often more preferable. Some examples of great inflatables are the SOL Shiva, the Hala Asana, and the Starboard Dashama. For rigid: the Boardworks Joyride Flow or Starboard ASAP Whopper are great choices. Board Size Now that we have had an overview of board materials and shape, it is time to discuss the right length and thickness of the board to suit your needs. In general, larger boards are for bigger paddlers, smaller boards are for smaller paddlers. As a rule of thumb this holds true, but isn’t always the case. For example a smaller paddler may want to choose a longer board if they want to do aerobic or long distance paddling. A larger paddler may want to go with a slightly smaller board if they want something that they can possibly surf with. Generally, recreational paddlers up to 140 lbs will want to go with a 10′ board, up to 200 lbs an 11′ board and paddlers 200+ should go with a 12′ board. For touring boards, add 6 inches to 2 ft of length depending on how fast you’d like to go. As we mentioned with inflatables, the thicker the board, the higher float and faster you’ll glide, but you’ll sacrifice turning performance. Boards for surfing, recreational or lighter weight paddlers, look for boards in the 4-5″ thickness range. For touring and fitness, whitewater or for larger paddlers, go 5″+.