How to Pick a Stand Up Paddleboard

How to Pick the Right Stand Up Paddleboard:

One of the great things about stand-up paddleboarding is that there is something for everyone.

Whether you are an absolute beginner that has never stood on a paddleboard, or someone with years of experience, there are tons of ways to have fun on a SUP.

One of the keys to having fun on a SUP is to match your ability with the size and style of a paddleboard.  Some of the important point to consider when choosing a paddleboard is the shape of the SUP, the ideal amount of volume of the board, and of course, the price of the board.

The most well-known decision is whether you want an inflatable paddleboard or a solid paddle board.

This decision comes down to how you’ll be storing your SUP, how you will transport your SUP, and what type of performance you’ll need from your board.

Paddleboard Hulls

The hull of the paddleboard refers to the bottom of the board that cuts through the water.  The two major types of hull designs are planning and displacement.  And some boards will try to split the difference and combine the best attributes of both designs into one.

Planing hulls have a flatter-designed bottom that is usually combined with a wider surface area.

This style is designed to glide across the top of the water and be very stable.  Planing hulls are a great choice for beginners, people that want to practice yoga on their SUP, as well as more aggressive activities like SUP surfing, and running whitewater on a paddleboard.

The other style is the displacement hull.  A displacement hull has a more pointed nose and the hull takes on properties like those of a boat hull where the hull is designed to cut through the water easily and efficiently.  This design is also for more straightforward tracking or gliding after the paddle stroke.

This design is great for racing SUP and SUP which is for longer tours and even overnight trips.

The vast majority of stand-up paddleboards are sold to people that want the planning design hull.

Inflatable or Solid Paddleboard?

This is the eternal debate in the world of SUP.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages and the one that is best for you comes down to your personal preferences and how you will be using the board.


Inflatable SUP became a reality when someone figure out that they could use the same military-grade PVC materials and drop-stitch construction techniques used to manufacture whitewater rafts, to create paddleboards.  It was a genius idea and inflatable paddleboards have become wildly popular and are the largest segment of the market by far.

Inflatable paddleboards have come a long way since their first appearance on the waters.  Modern inflatables can be inflated to a point that they feel as sturdy and rigid as a solid SUP when you stand on them.  This is a huge improvement over the original inflatables, which often felt squishy when you stood on them.

Inflatables have many advantages.  They are great for storing.  A SUP is larger than most surfboards, and because of this, they take up a lot of space in your garage, or wherever you store your board.  This is not a problem with inflatables because when they are deflated they can fit into a backpack and be stored easily in the corner of your closet.

Because of this user-friendly feature, inflatables are also super easy to travel with.  Whether you are simply loading up to head to a nearby lake or packing up for a family beach trip, your SUP takes up as much space as a backpack so it can easily fit in the backseat of your car or even in the trunk.

You can easily fly on a plane with your inflatable if you want.  The airlines treat it as a regular piece of luggage and you don’t get hit with an oversized luggage fee like with a surfboard.

And there are some situations where you have to have an inflatable, like if you are running whitewater, or running on a river at all.  Because of all the rocks and other obstacles that are submerged under the water, you have to run an inflatable (it’s made out of the same materials as whitewater rafts), because a fiberglass board would get broken.

Also, if you like to practice SUP yoga, you are most likely going to want an inflatable.  This is debatable because you can use a solid paddleboard and do yoga, but the vast majority choose inflatables and there is an entire category of inflatable SUPs that are designed specifically for yoga.

Hard Paddleboards:

Most hard or solid paddleboards are manufactured similar to the way a surfboard is manufactured with an EPS core made of foam that is covered in fiberglass and epoxy resin.  Some solid SUPs are made out of plastic, but they tend to be too heavy.  Some SUPs are made out of lightweight wood, but these are very niche boards that tend to be expensive.

The biggest benefit of hard SUPs is performance.  There is no give in a hard SUP so the energy transfer from your stroke is greater, and more efficient, compared to an inflatable.

You also get the benefit of edges and edge control on a hard SUP.  This is why all serious SUP surfers use traditional solid boards because it’s easier to cut and turn and you get more power transfer as well.

Some paddlers also feel that solid boards are more stable.  This is somewhat subjective, but solid boards are usually thinner than inflatables so they ride lower to the surface of the water and a lower center of gravity improves balance.

Solid SUPs are also great if you aren’t going to be traveling with the board.  If you live at the beach or a lake, and all you have to do is pull the board out of your garage or shed and walk to the water, then you have an ideal situation in which owning a hard SUP makes a lot of sense.

When it comes to purchasing the ideal SUP for your needs, there are many things to consider.  Do you want an inflatable or a solid SUP?  Do you prefer a planing or a displacement hull?

Are you looking to get more performance, or are you looking to have more fun and leisure?

Ultimately the best thing to do is to test boards out for yourself.  Because SUP has become so popular in the last few years you can rent a board at just about every popular beach location.  Spending a little extra time and renting several different styles of boards, will give you the experience to know what fits your needs the best so when it comes time to purchase a board you won’t be overwhelmed by all the choices.