Stand up paddle boards, or SUP boards for short, come in different shapes and sizes.
Beginner paddles can be quite different from advanced paddles too, with the more expensive and professional options having mechanisms that are lacking in beginner paddles.
But first, let’s focus on the basics; how thick should a paddle board be? When you’re choosing your paddle board, you’ll want to strike a balance between something that gives you plenty of buoyancy and stability, while also being streamlined enough to glide through the water.
Let’s take a look at this in a little more depth, as the question isn’t as straightforward as you might think. We’ll start with the different types of paddle boards – that’s right, they even have their own categories depending on your skill level and what you’re going to be doing.
Types of Paddle Boards
When it comes to choosing your paddle board, there are three primary types to choose from: surfboards, all-round boards, and flatwater boards (also known as race boards).
Surf-type SUP boards are usually the shortest of the bunch, with a narrow, pointed nose, and a tail that curves or flattens out instead of being rounded like some of the other types. If you’re near an ocean and will be spending most or all of your time in the surf, then you’ll see where the name of this board type comes from; the narrow design is perfect for maneuvering on the waves. However, you’ll be sacrificing some of the speed and precision offered by flatwater boards for example.
All-round boards do exactly as the name suggests; they’re suited for mixed-use, on both ocean and flat bodies of water. As a beginner’s choice, they’re ideal; you can get a feel for the kind of water that suits you without any major drawbacks. They’re stable, have good speed, and aren’t too difficult to control. They have a similar shape to surf boards, but they’re typically longer. And if you fancy trying your hand at windsurfing, all-round boards will usually have a component that lets you attach a sailing rig.
Flatwater / Race Boards
Flatwater boards perform best on flat, calm bodies of water. As such, they’re great for paddle boarding on lakes, or on the ocean when conditions aren’t rough. Ordinarily, they’re the longest of all boards, often with a pointed nose that’s designed to help cut quickly through the water. Race boards are in the same category as flatwater boards and have much more pointed noses and narrower profiles. While flatwater boards offer enough stability for beginners, due to their wider profile, race boards can be a challenge for inexperienced paddle boarders.
There are additional types of paddle board if you opt for an inflatable option, which can be a less costly way of getting into the sport, and seeing if it’s for you. These include all-round SUPs, performance SUPs, touring SUPS, and boards designed for racing.
Choosing a Paddle Board
Speed, stability, and a whole range of other factors come into play when you’re choosing the dimensions of your paddle board. There’s not really a one size fits all approach here (though there are boards that would be suitable for pretty much anyone). So, before we delve into the appropriate thickness of your board, let’s also talk about the length and width, as they’re just as important factors.
Paddle Board Dimensions
Some of the most common SUP boards that suit both beginners and advanced users range from around 10 – 11 feet long, and around 32 – 34 inches across. Stability tends to be better at the upper range, so around 33 to 34 inches wide. However, it’s very much a balancing act; any wider – these do exist – and your speed in the water can suffer.
That said, there are boards that fall outside of this range. For example, you can find boards that are below the 10-foot mark; if your body weight is on the lighter side – around 140 lbs or less – or you want the best possible maneuverability, then boards at around 9″5 are a suitable choice. Again, remember to balance length with width; 32 to 34-inches width is too much here. You’ll want to drop to around 30-32 inches if you’re picking a board that falls below 10 feet in length.
How Thick Should a Paddle Board Be?
So, let’s get down to the main question: how thick should a paddle board be? The thickness of your board will directly affect its weight, which in turn will affect its performance in the water. Normally, boards range from four to six inches thick. Smaller paddlers, either children or those under around 65 kg, can get away with boards closer to the lower end of the scale, but everyone else should be looking for a thicker board of around 5 to 6 inches.
Again, it comes down to balancing your length, width, and thickness. If you’re a heavier person and you choose a thinner board, then water is going to accumulate more easily on the surface. If you choose a 4-inch thick board that’s 11 feet long, you’re going to lose stiffness, which can lead to worse stability and performance.