How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board

Choosing your first stand up paddle board can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be, the Soulr Team is here to help! The first question you need to ask yourself is...

How do I want to use my Stand Up Paddle Board?

There are four primary uses: Flat Water, Surfing, Yoga and Racing

Flat Water: By and large, this is the most common use for stand up paddle boards. Rivers, lakes, lagoons, bays and even the open ocean qualify as "flat water". Typical board sizes for flat water are 10' - 12' feet long, 30"-36" wide and 4"-6" thick. If you want to race or travel long distances (more than 8-10 miles), a 12"-14" foot paddle board would be a better choice. The rule of thumb here is that longer boards glide over water faster than shorter boards. Wider boards are more stable, but sacrifice maneuverability and can be challenging to handle when not in the water. Flat water SUPs have a similar outline to longboard surfboards: a round nose and a wide profile through the entire length of the board. Typical tail designs are either a squash tail or rounded tail.

Surfing: Taking a SUP into the surf is tons of fun. Most flat water paddle boards can be taken out in small surf (2-4 feet), but generally speaking, you want a smaller SUP for surfing. Shorter boards are lighter, more maneuverable and easier to to handle. Typical Surf SUP sizes are 8'-10'8", depending on the weight and skill of the rider. Surf SUPs are shaped like oversized surfboards, they can have rounded or pointed noses, they are more narrow at the tail and the tail designs range from squash, rounded, fish or diamond tail.

Yoga: Are you down, dog? Yoga SUP'ing is one of the most talked about activities in the yoga community. Yoga SUP boards are typically 10'-12' feet long. Most Flat Water SUP's can be used for yoga, but if you want to advance your practice on a stand up, you'll need to keep a few things in mind when shopping for a paddle board. The first is the width: the board needs to be 31" wide or wider. This will provide you with a stable platform for balancing. You will also want a board with plenty of deck grip. Imagine yourself doing a down-dog: your body will be centered on the board, so the deck grip needs to span far enough to support your body. And when you are in down dog, what are you going to do with the paddle? You can lay it on the board, but this can hinder your practice. A better solution is a paddle holding system on the nose of the board. This gives you an area to secure the paddle so you can focus on your practice. If you're looking for a board with all these qualities, check out our Yoga SUP.

Racing: If you want to compete in SUP Racing, then you'll need a purpose built board. Typical sizes are 12'6"-15' feet in length, with very thick, narrow hulls. The narrow hulls (25" or so) cut through the water faster than your standard flat water board. This makes them much less stable. To compensate, the hulls are usually very thick. The nose and tail are pointy to help smooth out the flow dynamics.

Paddle Board Size

No matter how you are using a stand up paddle board, this one rule holds true: the bigger you are, the bigger board you'll need. Most 1st time paddlers start out with a board in the 10'6"-12' range. But the length of the SUP is not always the best indication of how floaty a board will be. You also need to consider the width and thickness.

The buoyancy of stand up paddle boards is often measured in Liters of displacement. The fewer liters of volume a board has, the less floaty it will be. Beginners will usually want a board with more volume because they provide additional stability and can support more weight. While it is not an exact science, beginners will want around 0.9 liters of displacement per pound of weight for a flat water SUP. So for example, a 160L SUP can comfortably float a 180 pound rider. As your skill, balance and strength improve, you can start using boards with less volume.

SUP Construction

Most stand up paddleboards are made with an EPS foam core, fiberglass matting and epoxy resins. Epoxy is a great choice because it is strong, light and UV-resistant. The epoxy resin saturates the fiberglass mat causing it to bond with the EPS foam blank. Fiberglass mat is measured by weight: 4 oz, 6 oz and 8 oz are commonly used. Soulr SUPs use what's called a "sandwich construction": it starts with two layers of 6 oz fiberglass mat, a full length wood or bamboo veneer, and then one more layer of 4 oz fiberglass is used to seal the board and "sandwich" the veneer. The epoxy resin is forcefully saturated into the fiberglass using vacuum-bag technology. This ensures there is no air stuck in the fiberglass, making the epoxy shell as strong as possible. Heavier fiberglass mats can be used, but this will add additional weight to the board. We've found that 6 oz + 6 oz + 4 oz fiberglass matting is the best blend of strength and weight.

SUP Fin Setup

There are a variety of fin setups found on SUP's, but here are the three most common.

Single Fin: The most traditional setup, the single fin is a simple design. It locates a single fiberglass fin near the tail on the centerline of the board. The fin is usually 8"-10" tall and can come in a variety of shapes. A single fin setup tracks nicely, has minimal drag and is a great choice for flat water paddling.

2+1: This fin setup features a Single Fin in the center, with two smaller fins located on the sides of the board. The two side fins provide additional bite and hold, which can help when surfing. The two side fins are usually removable, so you can just use the single fin if desired. The 2+1 is nice because you get two fin setups in one!

Quad: If you see four fins at the back, that makes it a quad setup. More commonly found on surfboards, the quad fin setup is faster than a 2+1 because it eliminates the drag from the center fin. Smaller SUPs can use a quad fin design, but larger boards typically need the center fin for holding power.

Those are the basics of how to choose a stand up paddle board. Got questions? Drop a comment below or contact us directly.

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