It seems like such an easy thing to figure out, right? Like trying to find the right shoe size for your needs. Well, the unfortunate reality of attempting to find the right size paddle board for your needs is that it can be both a difficult and overwhelming process. Much like finding the right size hiking poles to obtain optimal comfort (though that one’s a bit easier).

It’s not as cut and dried as just finding the right board length based on your height or something like that. There are many different variables that will come into play but, in general, we can answer this question in one fine-tuned sentence.

What size paddle board should I get? The size of the board needs to provide you with sufficient stability, it needs to carry your weight efficiently, and it also needs to suit the style of paddle boarding that you’ll want to perform.

Regarding the four different variables that will need to be factored into the equation, rider weight, and the width, thickness, and length of the SUP (stand-up paddle board) will all play a role. Gee, that’s a lot, isn’t it?

How to find a paddle board that fits you

Stand up paddle boarding on Lake Ontario
Photo by Kyle Hinkson / Unsplash

Here’s the good news, before we dive into the importance of each individual factor listed above, we wanted to share a few tables that Pumped Up SUP compiled together. The following tables give an excellent basic overview for those of you who don’t really want to think too hard about finding the right size SUP!

There are two tables. One is ideal for intermediate to advanced paddlers, and the other is ideal for beginner paddlers. Again, these tables are just a basic overview and guideline of the answer to the question of what size paddle board should I get.

For beginner paddlers

Paddler weight SUP width SUP thickness SUP length
< 125 lbs (56 kg) 31-32” 5” 9’6″-10’9″
125-150 lbs (56-68 kg) 31-32” 5” 9’6″-10’9″
150-175 lbs (68-79 kg) 31-33” 5” 10’0″-12’6″
175-200 lbs (79 – 90 kg) 32-34” 5” 10’0″-12’6″
200-225 lbs (90-102 kg) 32-34” 5-6” 10’0″-12’6″
> 225 lbs (102 kg) 32-34” 6” 10’0″-12’6″

For intermediate paddlers

Paddler weight SUP width SUP thickness SUP length
< 125 lbs (56 kg) 29-32” 4-5” 9’6″-10’9″
125-150 lbs (56-68 kg) 30-32” 5” 9’6″-11’0″
150-175 lbs (68-79 kg) 30-32” 5” 9’6″-12’6″
175-200 lbs (79 – 90 kg) 30-33” 5” 10’0″-12’6″
200-225 lbs (90-102 kg) 30-34” 5-6” 10’0″-12’6″
> 225 lbs (102 kg) 32-34” 6” 10’0″-12’6″

Okay, so before we move on and explain the factors more in-depth, there’s something else we’d like to mention about the above tables.

The tables are a general guide for all-purpose paddle boarding. Specialized intended uses for your SUP may see the proportions alter quite a bit.

Based on your weight

If you’re a beginner and maybe have never tried paddle boarding in your life or have only done so a few times while using your friend’s board and got hooked right away, finding the right size for you is most importantly going to come down to your weight.

What you’re looking for is to find a board that is the right volume for your weight. If you don’t do this, you might wind up with a SUP that is really slow in the water with way too much drag. And even if you could care less about performance, you could still end up with a board that feels very unstable on the water if you ignore the proper volume-to-weight ratio (so to speak).

A good rule of thumb for beginners looking to find the proper volume is to multiply their body weight (in pounds) by 1.1 to 1.4. And unless you plan on carrying a lot of gear, you can aim for a range of 1 to 1.2 most of the time. This will give you the amount, in litres, that you can look for in a SUP.

Now, for an intermediate or advanced paddler, multiplying body weight by 0.9 to 1.1 will provide a volume range to shoot for. Basically, it benefits beginners more to have a board that has more volume.

Based on the length of the SUP board

As you’ve probably figured out by now, how much you weigh more or less dictates everything when it comes to finding the right size SUP. However, there is more to it when you start to factor in what you prioritize the most from a SUP. After all, if you’re someone who performs the activity during the winter when it becomes tricky to figure out what to wear to stay warm while paddleboarding, you probably have certain priorities for your board.

Specifically, let’s take a look at some popular lengths if speed and straight tracking are what you desire or if portability and manoeuvrability are what you’re looking for:

  • Speed and straight tracking as priorities: A racing or touring board of 12’6” in length is probably going to be best. You can even opt for a longer board of this nature with a narrower width to make it even faster. However, the board becomes less stable if that’s the case. While the 12’6” length is great for touring and racing, it can be very hard to store a SUP of that size. Then again, if you buy an inflatable model, the storage concerns then go out the window.
  • Portability and manoeuvrability as priorities: Opting for a board in the 9’6” range is going to offer excellent performance regarding movability and also stability. The width needs to be appropriate for the length to obtain optimal stability, which would be around 30 to 32 inches for a 9’6” board. The speed may not be elite, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with a much shorter SUP.

Oh, and for general use, SUPs that are 10 to 11 feet in length are the most popular.

Based on the width of the SUP board

As with everything else, the tables at the beginning of this post are an excellent guideline for determining SUP width. We still want to mention some more specific details regarding this, however, as we feel it’s important to do so.

Generally speaking, the SUP you buy should have a width within the 30 to 35-inch range. Beginners will more than likely want to stay within the 32 to 34-inch range, while advanced paddlers may want to go for a narrower board of 30 inches. Let’s be real, if you’re an advanced paddler, you probably already have a good idea of the width you prefer.

Of course, there are also specialized shapes of SUPs that will have specific uses. For example, you’ll commonly see boards with massive 36-inch widths be used for running rapids. General paddling won’t be ideal for such a board, though, due to the lack of speed.

Based on the thickness of the SUP board

Even though SUP thickness is the specification with the least amount of fluctuation, it’s still an important one to keep in mind. When looking at the tables we detailed at the beginning, you’ll notice that regardless of rider weight, five and six inches of thickness is what you’ll be after.

For all-around paddling and developing your skills, five inches of thickness is going to be sufficient. If you’re a heavier rider, the additional volume of a six-inch board may be beneficial to you, though. And even though this post hasn’t talked about the differences between inflatable SUPs and hard SUPs, their typical thicknesses will vary.

Typically, hard boards will be around four inches thick, and inflatable boards will be around six inches thick. Inflatable boards will, most of the time, feel more stable because of the additional thickness. Meanwhile, designed to have more rocker and less thickness, hard boards will typically be optimized for performance.

Final thoughts

Whew, you made it! Really, when it comes down to it, your weight and the length, width, and thickness of the SUP will determine what size you ultimately need to get. Yet, you could have two users of the exact same weight and they may need two entirely different boards.

Skill level and the priorities you want from your board will make the length, width, and thickness you want vary. Hence, this is why we’ve stressed that those tables that we started this post off with are to be used as general guides for all-around paddling.

Well, that’s about all we have to say about the topic. Before we go, though, we want to make mention of something else regarding paddle boarding. No matter the size of the board you buy, it’s advisable to be wearing a life vest with you while you’re paddle boarding. Check out our list of the best life vests for non-swimmers in 2022. Thanks, and happy SUPing, everyone!