The Ultimate SUP Guide

Helping You Choose the Right SUP Board

By: Robert Stehlik, founder and CEO of Blue Planet Surf

We get a lot of questions about what is the right board size and type of board. As avid water enthusiasts we like to share our knowledge so our buyers can make an informed choice. With the right knowledge, one can choose the ideal Stand Up Paddle board and ultimately have more fun on the water.


As an experienced surfer, I personally consider over 100 different variables when choosing my own boards. For many others it would be excessive to consider so many variables and therefore we have narrowed a board seeker’s focus down to 12 basic points.

If you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate and contact us.

1. Function

First and foremost, consider what type of paddling you intend to do. By determining if you will be surfing, racing, cruising or doing a hybrid of those, you will have narrowed your selection already.

In general, the shorter and narrower the board is, the more maneuverable it will be. Longer and more streamlined designs cover distance more efficiently and are great for racing.

For cruising consider a board in between those two spectrums and choose a length depending on how you want your board to perform.

2. Height / Weight

Secondly, consider your height and weight, along with your skill level.

Because paddle boarding requires the board to be floating, height and weight dictate the amount of volume your board will need to offer.

You must also consider your athleticism and skill level. You will probably do a little better the first time on a SUP if you have some sports background.

3. Conditions

Choose a SUP board with an outline that is suitable for the conditions at your local spot.

A fuller board is more stable and better for cruising in calm conditions, whereas a more pointed outline will offer more control and better displacement in windier or choppier conditions.

Oceans, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water have different water conditions. Consider how often you paddle in certain conditions and choose a board that offers the best characteristics under those circumstances.

4. Future Goals

Your board needs to be right for your current skill level and leave enough room for growth. Therefore think about how often you will paddle and whether you enjoy a steep learning curve or a board that is easy from the beginning.

By carefully considering those points, you may or may not want to choose a board that will allow you room for growth so you don’t progress out of a board too fast and need to buy another one. Or worse, buy a too advanced board for your skill level and fall in (too) often.

Keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with owning multiple boards (quiver) to offer variable performance if conditions vary where you paddle or surf.

5. Length

Longer boards are faster while shorter boards are more maneuverable.

In general, surf SUPs are in the 8’-10’ range, cruise and recreational SUPs are in the 9’-11’ range, touring boards are in the 11’-12’ range and race boards are usually 12’ and longer.

6. Width

Board width is a big factor in the overall stability of your board. It is measured from the absolute widest point on the board and could be forward or back relative to the middle of the board from nose to tail.

Although wider boards offer greater stability, they decrease the overall speed and responsiveness of the board due to the additional surface area.

In general, performance surf and downwind / open ocean race SUPs are 26”-30”, flatwater race SUPs between 21″-26″, intermediate SUPs are 29”-33”, and beginner boards or boards designed for taller and/or heavier individuals are usually 33” or wider.

7. Thickness

Thickness is probably the least important and most misleading variable. Pay close attention to volume (thickness) distribution from the nose to the tail and from the stringer (middle of board) out to the rails.

Boards with a flat deck are relatively thick in the rails which will result in more floatation and stability. Surf boards usually have a convex deck with less thickness in the rails for greater surf performance.

Most surf SUPs are between 3.5”-4.5” while most recreational, touring and race SUPs are between 4.5”-6”.

8. Volume

Board volume is important, but do rely on as many variables as possible.

Your SUP boards needs to float when it is not moving or moving slowly.  You need to consider 4 variables to determine the right volume for your board, namely your body height, weight, board function and skill level.

A board with too much volume can inhibit performance, especially in the surf, while a board with too little volume will sink or be slow.

To determine the right volume for your board you can us the Blue Planet SUP Board Volume Recommendation Chart. It uses 3 of the factors mentioned above and can help you choose the best SUP board.

Take your weight in kilograms and multiply that weight by a factor between 1.1 and 3. A low factor is for surf boards and a higher factor for beginners and SUP Race boards.

9. Nose

SUP boards have either a pointed or a fuller (or round) nose.

Pointed noses a great for maneuverability, displacement and speed, but also offer less stability. Fuller noses offer nose riding performance, better planing, increased stability, and increased drag. Performance surf boards have pointed noses, so do flatwater race and touring boards. Fuller noses allow for longboard style surfing with the ability to nose ride, and provide additional stability in calmer flat water conditions.

10. Tail

Fuller tails offer a better planing surface for increased glide and speed but have looser control and maneuverability, whereas more pinched in tails offer better control and tighter turning, especially in the pocket.

The smaller the tail,the better it will turn during wave-riding, but also the more difficult it will maintain speed. For big wave surfing, choose a relatively small tail, whereas on smaller surf, it is best to have a bit more volume in the tail.

For flat-water racing, choose a tail with more surface area if you’re paddling in glassy, calm water conditions to increase planing surface and glide.

11. Rails

Rails are very influential in the stability and surfability of your board. To oversimplify it, you can look at the rail design in the standing area of the board (usually 1’-2’ in front and behind the handle) to determine what kind of performance the board was designed for.

Thicker and boxier rails are usually found on racing, touring and cruising boards for stability and planing. Thinner or tapered rails let you turn your board easily from rail to rail when surfing.

12. Rocker

Coupled with the board’s outline, the rocker line is a make it or break it factor for board performance.

Flatter rockers mean more speed while increased rocker lines mean better turning in the surf or better management of open ocean conditions in SUP racing.

Usually for higher performance surfing, you’ll want more exaggerated rocker lines, whereas flat water recreational paddlers and racers look for flatter rockers to maximize speed.