SUP Lessons: How to Choose the Right Paddleboard

I am so excited to be bringing you this video series. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, stand up paddleboarding has become the fastest growing water sport across the country. Because we’re getting into SUP here at Sunplay, we decided we should probably learn from the experts. This lead to us connecting with the guys at Naish who were nice enough to send Maui resident and professional surfer Chuck Patterson to spend a few days with us helping us learn about paddling and how to choose the right paddleboard.

In this first video, Chuck Patterson—team rider for Naish and all-around killer waterman—talks about picking out a stand up paddleboard. Whether it’s a rental or a first-time purchase, here are some excellent guidelines from a veteran of the sport:

Get Acquainted with Paddleboards

If you’re totally lost, try going into a shop and see what they’d recommend for your height and weight. Sometimes you can figure it out on your own, but you also might just want an extra set of eyes to help you establish your basic needs. These measurements are important because your height (but mostly your weight) dictates how much water will be displaced when you step onto the board. You may need a wider, longer, or thicker board in order to compensate for your body type. If you don't hit the correct ratio, you're likely to either drag in the water or never quite balance correctly.

14SUP1098-2TWidth of the Paddleboard

Width is one of the most important measurements to look for as a beginning stand up paddleboarder. In terms of width, there is a lot of variety in SUPs to make sure people of all body sizes can enjoy the sport. Boards typically come in widths anywhere from 28"-36". Width of the board is all about stability. The wider and thicker that the board is, the more it helps to displace the paddler’s weight in the water. A wider board is also beneficial if you’re doing any open water paddling. Waves and wind can be hard to handle on a slimmer board unless you’re very familiar with board sports.

In general, wide boards are best for people who have poor flexibility, someone who has a larger body size, or have a hip or leg weakness from a current or previous injury. A good rule of thumb is to start with a wider board until you become more comfortable on the SUP.  The more advanced you are with board sports and the more you feel relaxed in the water, the more narrow (and oftentimes faster) board you can go with.

Length of the Paddleboard

Length is another measurement you’re probably concerned about as a beginning paddleboarder. According to our expert, you should start off with a board that is at least 9’6” long in order to achieve enough stability to feel proficient in the water. Combined with a good width (as addressed previously), this will make your rides easy and comfortable.

It’s important to remember that board length is not “one size fits all.” It’s critical to buy (or rent) a board that has a good length for your body size and is mostly based on weight. As previously mentioned, this is due to how you displace water as you’re on the board which is more significant the more you weigh. If it turns out this is a less-than-stellar ratio, the board will not support you in the water.

If you do go with a bigger board, keep in mind the difficulties that accompany a larger, and often heavier, SUP. They are often more problematic to transport, load into and out of vehicles, and cumbersome when trying to get them in the water, especially if it’s windy. If you don’t get a board that you can carry with ease, you’re not likely to use it as much. Make sure you’re comfortable with your board size.

Here’s a general idea of what kind of length you should be looking for based on your individualized needs:14SUP2H910GT-2T

  • 10’-12’ board is a nice option for beginners to the sport who are looking for a relaxing experience on the water.
  • 12’6”-14’ long boards are better for people looking to get into racing or touring. These boards are faster in the water than shorter boards and are also better for long distances.
  •  If you decide to go much shorter than 10 feet, you should feel familiar in the water. If you’re an experienced surfer who knows how to handle a board in the water, you may want this added maneuverability.


Make sure you stay tuned for more SUP videos with Chuck Patterson that are beginner friendly and will get you excited to get out and paddle!

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