How to pick the right stand up paddle board? (SUP)

Posted by Rich Price on

Are you in the market for a stand up paddle board but don't know where to start or what size to buy? When looking at all the different shapes and sizes it can be confusing! This is how I felt when looking for my first board. Here are key questions, information and options you should consider below:

Bamboo Solace SUP boards

What shapes and kinds of stand up paddle (SUP) boards are available?

These are the 4 main categories that are trending right now in the best SUP boards below:

  • All around surf/fitness board
  • Surf performance board
  • Touring board with displacement hull nose
  • Elite racing board with displacement hull nose

Bamboo touring-full carbon solace sup

The key things you should ask yourself:

1) How am I going to use the stand up paddle board?

This can be hard to answer. I wanted to try surfing it back where I am from in Ocean City, MD, although I lived in the Washington, DC area at the time, I knew I would be doing more flat water paddling and maybe some fishing from the SUP (stand up paddle) board. Narrowing my search to a all around surf style or touring board with a displacement hull nose made since for me at the time.

2) How much do I weigh?

This is important because you want the board to be able to float you when you are standing still. A board’s volume (length/width/thickness area) dictates the amount of weight it can float properly. The more advanced paddler looks to get away with lesser volume to enhance performance and a beginner will want more volume to maximize stability. It is good to find a balance that works for your skill level and weight like the skill level multiplier chart shows below using a quick trick called The Guild Factor.

Guild Factor

The Guild Factor (GF) was created by Whitney Guild and is a good guide to let you know if a board’s volume would be right for you. Let’s look at the two major things mentioned above:


We converted the kgs measurements to lbs to make it easier. You want to pick your skill level and multiply that with your weight in lbs. This will give you the board volume that you shouldn’t go below because it may be unstable for your skill level and weight. Going higher than the recommended volume is ok. Especially if you think you will have fishing equipment, beer cooler and or your best friend on the board with you!

So, if you are 210lbs x (a beginner) .9 = 189 liters in volume or more for your new board purchase.

Of course tail shape, rail shape and fins can make a difference in stability but to keep it simple, the guide above is a good rule of thumb. Most good retail websites will have some kind of guide or recommendations that caters to their exact board dimensions to help you choose.

3) What is my experience level on a SUP board?

Going for a smaller SUP board can be tempting for your first purchase because it is easier to store and may cost less, but it can be a mistake. It’s all about having fun. If this is your first board, you want to be able to stand up and paddle comfortably in all conditions of wind, chop and the wake from those jet-skiers that come zooming by you. Going too short too early might discourage you early on and then your board is sitting in the corner collecting dust. Dude, who likes to clean? I have had this scenario happen to me with other sports. Have you?

I would recommend an 10’6” length x 30” width or longer size for a first board depending on your weight. This size and larger are good for flat water, fitness, yoga, fishing and there is a 12’ and under class in many racing events. As your experience grows, you will probably gravitate towards one of those niche’s I mentioned above and add a specialized board to your collection in the future.

4) How much am I willing to spend?

This is a good question and something that I struggled with when buying my first board. I have always been a believer in quality but we all have a budget right?

Through research of about 50 websites, a few local retailers and SIMA (Surf Industry Manufacturers Association), the average retail cost of a new stand up paddle board was close to $1,100 usd.

Before I started Solace SUP Boards, I was just like you and stoked to get my first board. I wasn’t looking for the most expensive SUP, but also from past negative experiences in other sports, I wasn’t looking for the cheapest equipment either. Pay attention to what you are getting in the construction, accessories and guarantees with the board to meet the best value for you. We will talk more in future blogs about construction types.(that could be a long one!)

5) Where am I going to store my board?

Storing your board seems to always be an after thought and can be a challenge. We warn you that you shouldn’t let the storage worry dictate the size board you purchase. After all, if you buy something too small to start, you might get discourage and that’s no fun :( Here are some suggestions/solutions below:

You can find some easy to install wall mount racks and show your board off like artwork in a game room or extra bedroom wall.

Most local SUP board and kayak rental places are offering a storage service for a monthly fee. I have seen an average of $25 per month for this service. This is great since they are usually located on the water where your paddling anyway and you don’t have to worry about transporting your board every time. Man, ding repair can add up!

Do you have a friend or family member that has room? You could let them use the board for letting you keep your SUP at their house. This could save you money and be a win/win scenario. Maybe just a little more wear and tear on the board.

If this information has helped you, please share with your friends and follow our blog. . If you feel you can add something, we encourage comments/questions below. We paddle so we love to talk SUP. Our whole goal is to positively grow stand up paddle boarding and share the stoke!

We will be traveling to Puerto Rico soon for a SUP adventure and will document in upcoming blogs of how to travel with your stand up paddle board (SUP)

See you out on the water.


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