Paddleboards come in many different sizes and choosing the correct size may seem a daunting task. The paddleboard hobby is quite forgiving for beginners. That is after you actually have your board. Today we will go over how to choose a paddleboard based on your weight and height as well as how different activities and experience change this basic formula.
How does one choose the right sized paddleboard? The most important factor in choosing a paddleboard is that it can carry your weight. A paddleboard can carry 1 lb per litre of volume (1/2kg per litre). The board should be 30”-32” wide or more but a tall person might want to choose a wider board.
Now, this is the most basic formula for sizing a paddleboard, however, there are many caveats and special cases. Some of these are only relevant for experienced users but some apply to beginners as well. In this post, we will go over the proper sizing, both to weight and to height, of a paddleboard.
How to size your Paddle Board
As mentioned in the intro the basic formula for sizing your paddleboard is as follows.
- Volume should be greater than 1 litre per pound (your weight)
- The width should be 30″-32” (taller people can use wider boards)
The volume measurement is the most important measurement for your board. The volume of your board decides it’s buoyancy, that is how well it floats and how much weight it can carry,
So if you weight 150 pounds, your board should be 150 litres in volume or more. This is a very basic indication. It is very, however, accurate for beginners and novices. Some SUP magazines and outlets recommend a higher volume to rider weight ratio for beginners. Calculating with a 1.4 ratio instead of a 1.0, as previously stated, makes the board even easier to handle. It is not strictly necessary, but keep this in mind if you want a board that is really easy to handle or if you are shopping for grandma.
The volume-to-wight ratio for a paddleboard is different for different levels of experience as well as different activities. Have a look at the following table.
|Activity or experience||
(liters per pounds)
|Example board volume with a 150 pound (75kg) rider|
|Beginner (with margin)||1.1-1.4||165L – 210L|
|Fishing||1.0-1.5||150L – 275L|
|Intermediate (hard conditions)||0.8-1.0||120L-150L|
|Surfing||0.5-0.8||75L – 120L|
There is, of course, a huge difference between a big model fishing board and a pro surfing board. Our 150-pound example rider from before would need a 75 L board for pro surfing. That is the board would just about float when the rider is not paddling. While a big well-equipped fishing board should be about 200L for the same rider.
The width of your board is mostly decided by activity. If you want to paddle long distances or race a narrower board is more efficient. If you want to fish or do yoga the added stability of a wider board will serve you well.
As previously mentioned taller individuals can choose a wider board if they have balance problems. But again, choosing a board with a bit more volume might serve a tall person better than a wider board. Heavier boarders should read my post on rider size before buying a board.
Generally, you want your board to be 10 to 14 feet long. In this range, you will find most all-round boards and all specialized boards except for surfing boards. A longer board will move more smoothly through the water and go more straight. A board in the 10 to 14 feet range will provide this. In the upper part of the 10-14 feet range, you will find touring and racing boards. In the lower range more all-round and yoga boards.
If all this is confusing, not to worry. In the rest of this post, we will go over the different board measurement have on your paddling experience and what goes for different activities. You may also want to read our full introduction to paddle boarding article.
How Weight and Volume Affect your paddleboard Experience
How much you weigh in relation to the volume of the board is the most important measurement. A properly sized board will float on the water, give good stability and tolerate mistakes in balance or paddling.
If the board you are riding does not have enough buoyancy, that is volume, several problems can arise.
Problems with riding low in the water
- Increased drag (harder to paddle)
- Stability issues
Drag, that is the resistance of the water you are paddling through, increases the more submerged your board becomes. So an undersized paddleboard will be much harder to paddle. Particularly if you also have balance problems.
The stability of your board is positively affected by increased volume. 1 liter of board volume will lift 2 pounds. In fact, 1 liter of volume will lift exactly 1 kg because 1L of water weighs 1 kg (the wonders of international SI units). 1 kg is about 2 pounds so we’ll leave it there.
A 150 L board, the beginner board from our example, will lift 300 pounds or so before it sinks. But since we are interested in a nice smooth paddleboard outing, we only utilize half of the boards capacity. In a manner of speaking, half of the boards capacity lifts the rider and the other half provides a smooth ride.
In the case of the pro-surfer board with a volume-to-weight ratio of 0.5, it only lifts just over 150 pounds in our example. That means the board can just about lift itself and the rider. If the rider eats to big a meal before going out he or she might sink!
In this case, the rider is 100% responsible for balance and smoothness of the ride. The board only about floats and all the rest is up to the rider. There is no margin for error with balance or paddling. Naturally, this is the level of skill we expect from professional paddleboard surfers.
How the Width of your Board Affects Your Experience
Generally, a wider board is more stable and a narrower board is easier to paddle.
A wider board gives more leverage so if you lose your balance it is easier for your body to correct this. A narrow board, on the other hand, gives less leverage. You can compare this to trying to keep your balance with your feet right next to each other or far apart. Apart is easier.
On the other hand, the wider the board is the more resistance it gives when you paddle. So for long paddling tours or for high speeds, narrow is better. Boards that are optimized for speed can indeed be very narrow. Down to width of your feet with a few inches to spare. The analogy from before works well for paddleboards and for speed, you first need proper balance.
Does the Correct size Change with How Experienced the Rider is?
For almost all paddleboard activities experience changes many things. While a newbie will probably need a 30″ wide board or else fall off, an experienced rider can do with 20″. For surfing, a new rider will need a longer board with a higher volume. Experienced surfers will be able to use shorter and less buoyant boards.
The different ways to use your board will directly affect the size of the board that is right for your weight and height. The simple answer from above will serve you most circumstances and all activities can, in theory, be done on such boards.
As the different activities for your paddleboard vary so much, below we will go into some more details on each one.
What Size Paddle Board for Fishing?
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Paddleboards for fishing needs to be very stable. Greater width is very good for fishing as it’s not only yourself, wind and water to manage but the fish as well. Fishing paddleboards often have volume in the 200L range and can be very wide, up to 37 inches.
The fishing boards are usually in the 10 to 12-foot range. Paddling performance is not a priority and all considerations go to balance. This enables you to stand-up and sit-down, casually walk around on the board and all other things that make fishing easier.
If you are more interested in a fishing capable all-round paddle board, going a few inches wider on an all-round board is a good idea. (32 to 34 inches) This will give you a bit more paddling resistance as a trade-off but give you a stable fishing platform.
If “that big one” bites, sit down on your paddleboard regardless of size! This specialty paddle board topic is covered in much greater depth in my how to setup a paddle board for fishing post.
Keep in mind that if you put an electric out-boarder on your fishing paddleboard, it is no longer a paddleboard but a power-boat! This holds true in may North American and European jurisdictions. Registration and license, even driver license, requirements change accordingly.
What Size Paddle Board for Yoga?
Yoga boards are not very different from all-round boards. The difference lies mainly in that yoga boards often have a bigger traction pad. This enables more surface of the board to be used when doing yoga.
Unless you are very tall, yoga boards need not be longer than 10 to 12 feet. Here a wider board helps not only with balance. Sometimes you literally need the space for your yoga. You can more about this in our paddle board yoga article.
With some difficult yoga poses, a thinner board might actually be easier on the balance than a thicker one. Since this is very different from the other activities on a paddleboard a yoga board is the only board where a thinner board, with less volume, might be more stable.
This is because sometimes you are very close to your board. If the board is thicker this adds a lot to the total height you have over the water. Adding that inch of height over the water might throw your balance off. Particularly if you are new to paddleboard yoga.
If this sounds far too complicated, have no fear. If our example 150 lbs wants to get a yoga paddleboard these would be the two options. Getting a paddleboard with a 150L volume, 11 foot long inches wide, it will be around 5-6 inches thick. If our example person gets a 34” wide board instead but still 150L volume and 11 foot long, this board will be 4-5 inches thick. Get a wider board and it will work itself out fine.
If you want to use your yoga board for more than just yoga, the reasoning is the same as with the fishing board. Get a board that is slightly wider and you will not lose to much to water resistance for paddling but gain a bit of stability.
What Size Paddle Board for Surfing?
SUP surfing is accessible if you live near an ocean and have a stand-up paddleboard. If you are looking at what board to use for surfing, there are a few things to keep in mind. Mainly since paddleboard surfing is a bit different than the other paddleboard activities.
If you are looking to start out in paddleboard surfing an inflatable all-round stand-up paddleboard will do fine. The same size you would have for an all-round paddleboard will work.
If you are committed to SUP surfing some board characteristics are more geared towards the wave riders. Several popular SUP brands offer these boards. They tend to be around 9′ – 10’6″ and 32″ wide. These are called longboard style stand-up paddleboards.
These boards have stability but tend to have a little bit less volume than a similar all-round board. A board with more volume can be harder to steer using your weight as you fly down a wave. On the other hand, as you are learning you will probably want a board that has more volume. The extra buoyancy will make the board a bit more forgiving as you learn.
As you progress into more advanced surfing some boards are very short and very agile that can be used to do all the tricks and all the moves. These boards are generally sized to your preference as a SUP surfer and which waves you are going for. There are some cool video examples in our post explaining the differences between surfboards and paddle boards.
What Size Paddle Board for long Outings?
If you are going on a long paddle outing without gear and you will mostly paddle in calm waters, the touring paddleboard is for you. These boards are generally longer, 12 to 14 feet. There are both inflatable versions and fiberglass hulled ones.
The fiberglass touring boards also come in a slightly different hull configuration called a displacement hull. Think more of a long narrow boat and less of a big surfboard. This combination gives unparalleled glide through the water.
As the touring boards are longer they are also usually narrower. This is to save energy on paddling as you paddle all day. For your touring board, you will want a volume-to-weight ratio of about 1.0. That is 150 liters for our 150 lbs example paddler.
There are other things to think about as well. Will you be bringing kids, dogs, gear on your outings?
The correct size paddleboard for this situation will carry a lot more weight than just you. Several boards on the market will generally be the same thickness and width as your all-round paddleboard but 1 or 2 feet longer. This gives some extra weight without adding too much paddle resistance. You now have space for gear, family, pets, goats, chickens, play-stations and what-not.
Regardless if you go on a long solo paddle or on a camping trip. For longer paddling adventures you will want a narrower and longer board. This will conserve your energy and get you better mileage on the water.
Does Size Matter or Not?
In paddleboarding size matters! Both the size of your board and your size. The board is your gateway to paddleboarding adventures and getting the right sized board will help you along your way. Choosing the correct size will also help minimize some of the dangers of paddleboarding.
For beginners what is important is having good experiences with their boards. Constantly falling off or feeling unsafe and unstable on the board is not nice. The simple answer for size really is a good one for beginners. Going experimental is not something you want to do right from the start. But don’t worry, you will not run out of things to do or experiences on your paddleboard. As you progress all the different types of boards will still be available!
If you are renting your paddleboard, make sure to tell the rental what you plan to do with your board. Armed with this information they will likely be able to get you a board adapted to both your skill and your activity.
The same goes if you are buying one. If this is your first board, maybe you will want to rent a board and try out some different width and length boards. If you are used to board-sports and have good balance maybe a narrower board with better glide is good for you. If you are totally new, maybe a wider one.
Regardless, you will have a lot of fun! Until next time..