Getting started

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your First Paddleboard


So, you’ve decided to indulge in a paddleboard?

Firstly, congratulations on a great decision that is going to increase your physical health and help you become attuned to nature!

Paddleboarding is a simple and versatile way to take to the water. A tonne of fun, it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experience levels.

Tranquil yet exhilarating, it’s not just a sport but a lifestyle choice. Therefore, choosing your first water companion is not a decision that should be taken too lightly!

When it comes to your board, there are many factors to consider before making your purchase. It can be overwhelming for first-time buyers, but don't worry – we're here to help!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of choosing your first paddleboard. We'll cover everything from size and shape to materials and price points.

We are here to ensure that you are well informed to make the purchase that is right for you and help you to have the best experience on the water.

Let's get to it!

Things To Consider 

There are many genres of Stand-Up-Paddleboarding and this is reflected in the vast array of boards on the market.

From SUP Yoga to SUP Surfing, SUP Racing and River Rapid SUP.

From inflatable to solid boards. Tops made of plastic, ceramic, fibreglass and foam.

Boards may be specifically designed to ensure a stable and smooth cruise, to provide a solid surface area for yoga, or sufficient rocking for surf manoeuvres.

The key consideration is knowing how and where you will be spending most of your time SUP-ing.

If you are new to paddleboarding it is important to find a SUP style that best suits your personality and fitness level. We recommend beginning with an all-rounder board to give you the chance to experiment and find your stye, before investing in an activity specific board.

Know your playing field

Where do you intend to use your board? Do you live near a lake or a pond and are therefore looking to use your board primarily in flatwater conditions? Or are you coastal and somewhere likely to encounter big surf?

What’s your aim?

All of the above conditions are ideal to get on the race circuit. If this is the case an All Purpose Flatwater Touring Board could be for you. With a displacement bow and good overall stability.

Note that wider boards usually add to stability. As do rails with added thickness and volume.

If your aim is to get started straight in the waves. You might want to look out for a board with surf board characteristics. For example a thruster fin set up (3 fins – one centred and one to each side).

Surfing and wave SUPs are usually a little shorter and have a concave hull with increased rockers. This allows easier carving of waves.

Yoga enthusiasts looking to take your practice to the water, make sure to choose a board with a stable planning hull.

If you would like the option of all such conditions and activities; flatwater cruising and small surf, then a Hybrid/ Crossover/ All Rounder Board is what you’re after. Note in the board description, the ability to handle waves and displacement in choppy flatwater.

Just looking for some fun?

We recommend you start with an All Rounder or Beginners board. Suitable for all the family (maybe even the dog!)

Such boards are designed for affordable durability, have cushy deck pads and provide plenty of stability for first timers.

You’ll be able to find such boards of a composite construction; fibreglass or polyshell.  A plastic or inflatable board may even suffice for close to shore SUP-ers and family usage.

In the end, the right board depends on how much, where and how you expect to use it and, of course, your budget.

SUP Types

Paddleboards generally fit into one of the following categories:

1 - All-round boards
2 - Touring boards
3 - Race Boards
4 - Surf-specific boards
5 - Crossovers

We’ve already touched upon these genres but will now delve a little deeper into the specifics of each.


The most common and affordable board type on the market. These are perfect for beginners, casual cruisers, families and those looking to explore the versatility of the sport.

They are ideal for flatwater boarding.  

Coming in all different dimensions, it’s easy to find a board to provide sufficient stability, regardless of rider size.

The Jack-of-all-trade board is ideal for starting out, finding your style and introducing friends and family to the SUP world. Once gaining some experience on one of these, you can then look to upgrade to one of the more activity specific boards below (if you wish!)

Touring Boards

For those athletic types or paddlers with a competitive nature, SUP racing may be worth consideration.

Calling for endurance and providing a strenuous core workout, the ability to long haul down coast or across a lake is made a lot easier by an investment in a Touring Board.

Sizing in anywhere between 12’-14’ these boards come in multiple volumes and variations of materials.

Also known as “Displacement Hull Paddleboards” the distinguishing pointed V shaped nose design allows riders to cut through chop and waves with ease, generating more speed than your regular All Rounder.

Race Boards

These are designed specifically for speed; shoving stability and comfort aside in favour of performance.

Although a similar shape to the touring board, in that they are long with pointed noses, they differ in width. They tend to measure in between just 27 and 28”.

Race Specific Boards tend to be either 12’6 or 14’ so as to comply with race standards.

Surf-Specific Boards

Typically shorter boards with a narrower nose and tail means these SUPs are much more manoeuvrable on waves.

Another feature of the Surf SUP is the rocker – the curvature of the boards rail that connects to the nose.

Look out for a rocker that moves upwards rather than a flat/ straight one (found on touring boards and necessary especially if you are interested in SUP yoga) this enables a smoother ride down the face of the wave and reduces the chances of nose diving or catching chop when paddling to catch a wave.

Fin Configuration

SUP boards commonly come with a standard 9″ or 10″ plastic fin. These are more than adequate for most beginners.

However, when we get into surf-specific set ups. Performance can be enhanced by changing up the fin configuration.

Fins usually come in single or thruster set-ups.

Whereas longer single fins are better for touring and racing, thrusters are 3 fin configurations used with planing hulls and are better for riding waves.

Surf SUPs are perfect if you’re going to spend all your time in the waves, the trade off being that they are slower and may not track in a straight line on flat water. The rocker means they are also often less stable.


Crossover (or Hybrid) boards also fit into the “All Rounder” category. They are specifically designed to make a single board as versatile and multipurpose as possible.  Basically, All Round Boards with a few extras thrown in to make them more efficient in specific playing fields.

Some may taper to a more pointed and streamlined shape to help cover long distances. Others may be smaller All-rounders with better manoeuvrability for surfing waves.


Board v Rider

An important factor in choosing your board is its size compared to your weight and height.

Pay attention to the list of specs that come with each board. This should include recommended rider sizes and a maximum rider weight.

Those of a smaller stature – under 125 lbs – should opt for a smaller board – ideally under 9 ft. It will be easier to control and manoeuvre. Once you get well acquainted with your paddling technique and find your balance, then a larger board will be less difficult to manage.

For riders weighing in over 65kg, a 10’6 -12’6 board is ideal for a smooth and comfortable all-round ride.

Most SUP shapes have a cross-width that ranges from 30” to 34” and a base width that is typically between 4-6”.

The wider and thicker the board, the more stability on the water.


Longer boards are better at gaining speed, paddling downwind and are more suited to long-distance paddling. Great for those that are planning a leisurely paddle; providing plenty of surface area to pack and strap a picnic or any other gear on board.

Such boards can measure between 12’6 and 14’. A hefty bit of kit -  so be sure you have the space to store and transport.

Shorter boards (between 9’ and 12’) are easier to turn, manoeuvre and handle in the waves. Good for surfing, touring and racing. They provide for efficient paddling.

There may be the issue of stability for the larger riders on shorter boards, so be sure to check the board specs and that the width is sufficient (at least 32”).


With width comes stability. For this reason we recommend beginners always start with at least 32”. Anything less than 30” may be a bit wobbly to begin with and make it more difficult to find your balance and technique.

Narrower boards are faster gliders though, so may be something you want to consider upgrading to once you’ve found your stride. 


As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to beginners, volume should be twice the rider’s weight.

Volume is expressed in litres. Weight measured in KG. A little math is therefore required.  So if you weigh 180lbs = approximately 82kg x 2 = 164 litre board would be adequate.

Although board manufacturers will usually advise of the recommended weight range in their board specs, it is good to know the theory and be well informed in case for some reason, the manufacturer’s specs and not provided.




Many beginners boards are composed of moulded durable plastic. The more affordable option makes for a heavier board, which is definitely less performance orientated, but is still a great entry level option.

If and when you do decide to advance to an EPS board in the future, you will notice a considerable difference in performance, smoothness of glide and the reduction of weight.


The most common composition of SUPs is EPS. You will find many high quality boards in the mid price range composed from differing layering techniques, foam quality and performance enhancers. For example carbon fibre or wood stringers.

The top brands offer an EPS/ Epoxy construction, usually consisting of a styrofoam centre, fibreglass cloth and EPS lay-up.

EPS and Plastic

While some will refer to these as plastic boards, the construction actually consists of a foam core, fibreglass layering and a styrene polymer outer layer.

Lighter than its moulded plastic counterpart, it also makes for a durable board. A great All Rounder for entry to advanced level paddlers.


Inflatable boards are becoming increasingly popular. This may be due to their surprising rigidity and durability. With the added convenience of storage, they usually come with a backpack making them even easier to transport. Inflating only takes 10 minutes and the durable construction means they can withstand the occasional bump.

The downside over a solid board is that the inflatables result in more drag. Its solid counterpart will always be more efficient as the water cannot flex it.

The key to choosing your inflatable SUP is to look out for high quality construction. Keep an eye out for double seams and a reinforced PVC exterior.

A high PSI range (pound per square inch) should fall between 15-25. This results in better rigidity and rebound-ability off of rocks and other stationary objects - an important feature if planning to SUP into the rapids!


Let’s face it, nothing is better looking than a chic polished wood exterior. These, though, come at a cost. The more expensive option typically includes other materials to avoid being too heavy. They are usually either hollow or have an EPS foam core.


Most boards come with adjustable paddles as standard. These are great if you plan on sharing your board.

Decent paddles should display height measurements on the inner shaft, providing the guidelines of where to tighten.

Paddles should be 8-10 inches taller than your height – to provide sufficient leverage for efficient strokes.

You want something that is lightweight and durable – finding a fibreglass composite is usually a good place to start.


A lot to consider. Buying your first SUP board is a big investment but the returns are tenfold.  

Do your market research, don’t just splash out on a board because it looks cool. Consider what you want from your board; where and how you plan to use, store and transport it.

An All-rounder is definitely the best place to start. Unless you have experience or a clear aim to race or surf specifically, it is worth looking for a versatile board that can help you get the most out of your water time, flat and coastal, gain experience and hone your skills.

Read the specs carefully to ensure the right size for your body type and choose a material to suit your budget and style. If storage and transportation is of concern, the up-and-coming inflatables are definitely worth your consideration.

Feel ready to take the plunge and find your first board? Check out our Top 5 Paddleboards for Beginners article.

We hope you found this guide useful and now feel confident in making the right choice for you.

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"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water"

loren eiseley