Can a Heavy Person Paddle Board?

As a newbie paddleboarder and a big guy at 260lbs, I have just bought my first paddleboard. Some people had laughed when I told them, wanting to know how an overweight (good-looking) guy like me can stay up on a stand-up paddleboard. Read on to see just how the impossible is possible.

Can a large person paddle board? An overweight person must make sure they are on the correct sized paddle board for their weight. Get this right, and any obese person can paddle board if they want too. If at first, you lack balance, strength and stamina, don’t worry as these will all improve in time.

There are many exciting elements to this subject that I am eager to share with you. Some of the concerns that I had were choosing the right paddle board for me, standing up and remaining upright, and how to get back on the board when I fell off. Read on to see how big people can overcome these little problems.

Where I went Wrong Buying my First Stand Up Paddle Board

Although being a big guy I’ve always been very happy in the water and so was excited when I decided to get into the excellent sport of Stand-up Paddle boarding. But it took me ages to choose a board and then I totally over thought it and bought what I felt was the wrong starter board.

I bought the Blackfin Model XL, this is a beautiful premium range board from I Rocker, that is 11’6″ in length and a whopping 34″ wide, and when pumped to its proper 15PSI can hold a callosal 485lbs in weight. More than enough to carry my 260lbs body.

I do love the Blackfin XL, so why did I return it? It was a solid paddle board that I felt very safe on, and I confidently could tackle some very rough seas with it. But the fact is, it was the length that I ended up with, having an issue. As a newbie, you need to learn the pure basics first that is to:

  • Stand up on the board, 
  • Paddle 
  • Turn.  

The huge 11’6″ length made pivot turns very hard for a newbie like me. The tail of the Model XL taper on to a thin width and when in a pivot position with the majority of this long board in the air, this narrow tail gave a 260lb newbie like me very little balance and in hand very little confidence to accomplish the turn.

It was here I realised I chose my board from the viewpoint of being a heavy person with the fear of sinking, and so purchased the largest paddle board I possibly could.

I must take this moment to point out that the Blackfin Model XL is a fantastic inflatable stand up paddle board. But not the best starter board and certainly not for me at this time if my skill level.

I did want a SUP board that would give me both speed and stability for a big guy of my size. But, also I needed one with a more supportive tail to pivot turn on. It was, for this reason, I returned the Blackfin Model XL and bought the iRocker Cruiser inflatable SUP.

Why the iRocker Cruiser is a Great SUP for the larger and taller Newbie.

  1. Length – At just under 10’6″ (320cm) This board has great buoyancy for a heavier rider with the all-round flexibility to cruise and turn.
  2. Width – At just over 33″ (84cm) wide, this is a very stable board.
  3. Thickness – At just under 6″ (15cm) thick, this is a very stable board.
  4. Max Capacity is 181kg – 400lbs – That’s over 28 stone. No Excuse
  5. Price – Its a whopping £250 less than the Blackfin Model XL

See in more depth why I love the iRocker Cruiser so much, and think it’s the best starter Stand up paddleboard especially for the larger or taller newbie. Read our beginners guide before you buy your first board. It may save you money on the wrong purchase.

What a heavy person should look for when buying their dirst SUP

  •  Buoyancy 

Your paddle board should definitely keep you afloat, so do make sure to buy a stand-up paddleboard that holds a greater capacity than your body weight.  

  • Width

The wider the board, the better the stability. A Paddle board width between 30″ to 34″ is an excellent starting point. 

  • Thickness

As like the width of a paddle board, Thicker boards are more stable as they hold more capacity for air and buoyancy.

  • Wider tail for more stability when standing to the back on the rear of the board to practice your pivot turns.

Factors that impact a bigger person on a Stand-Up Paddleboard

  • Balance and to balance one needs core muscles. Although fat people will also have core muscles and in some cases stronger core muscles than the non-obese person. Their very obesity will restrict their muscles from functioning in many ways, like mobility, postural, strength and dynamic balance limitations. So although stronger, more energy and effort is needed to achieve the same power as a non-obese person while putting more strain on the heart to achieve the same action.
  • Stamina for the same reasons as above, the stamina of a larger person will also suffer due to the additional effort needed not only to carry the extra weight but also the extra effort needed to manoeuvre there skeleton, muscles and organs amongst all that internal fat.
  • Reflexes to react against the sudden changing motion of the waterways. Quick reflexes are the only way to keep you upright on moving waters, The motions needed are often very subtle ones, but all the same, they are constant and can cause tiredness and fatigue when starting out.
  • Flexibility is needed especially in the more intermediate stages to change footing to maintain upright.

Don’t Let the above factors put you off, but let the motivate you to pursue the easy impact sport of paddleboarding. On calm waters when standing you are still getting a good workout to your core muscles, that in time will start eating the fat around your waist.

As your muscles grow your fat will diminish. I have found that after 2 hours of Paddleboarding I can really feel the sides of my stomach have gone in and even though I have been paddleboarding less than 20 times I do feel my physique has changed and my health improved.

This is how a heavy person gets back on to a Stand-Up Paddleboard

This is where you can use those fat cells to your advantage. Fat floats, did you know this? so this is how I get my 260lb body back on to my paddleboard.

  1. Place the paddle back on to the paddleboard, across the front end. That’s on the left-hand side for me as I’m right-handed and like to get back on my board so the back of the board is to my right.
  2. I grab the centre handle with my right hand. and have my left-hand flat on the board.
  3. I start kicking my legs and keep paddling till my legs are up near the surface of the water behind me.
  4. when I’m ready push my body up with my left hand while pulling the handle and board towards me and under my body. If you get it under your stomach, this is very good, otherwise, shimmy and push that board further down your body.
  5. now swing your right leg on to the board and recenter yourself back onto the board.
  6. Get back into the kneeled position and you good to go again.

I also can’t leave this section without adding ‘Hanger18 Outdoors’ video where he shows a clever little device you can make to help you back on your board Please excuse the bad language)

At 1.28 minutes in the video Hanger18 Outdoors also shows just why it’s best to use a leash.

Phat SUP Safety Tips

  • Wear a life jacket – Although it does make it a little harder to get back on your paddleboard with a life jacket on. If you’re having trouble getting back on the board after many attempts you can get very tired. So this flotation support could literally save your life.
  • Wear a Leash – Swimming in a life jacket while holding a paddle is a hard and tiring task for anyone. Especially if there is a current and your board has decided to go it solo. Wearing a leash means you will never lose your board to a strong current, wind or wave, and that you also will never have to panic swim to catch your board again. The leash is made with a coil design so the further away your board goes, the faster it will coil back to you. This is just what you want.
  • Start by sitting on your knees – At first and get a feel for your paddleboard and the water. When you have a little confidence, situp on your knees and get comfortable in this position. When you are comfortable being upright on your knees should you then attempt to stand up onto your feet.

Final thoughts

It is good to know that all three of these positions work your core muscles and are a good low impact work out. They are all also a good part of learning the process of becoming a better stand up paddle boarder.

So, if you are a larger or heavier person, do not be disheartened that you couldn’t do stand up paddle boarding, because you really can. Start slowly and take it at your own pace. it’s a very fun sport and very easy on the body while at the same time being a great workout.

Now, Go for it, because you’re awesome and U Rock and I Rock with my new premium iRocker Paddle Board.


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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