One of the most important things you’ll want to figure out before you buy your first SUP is how long a paddle board you need. Because when I first started paddle boarding, I made the mistake of buying a couple random paddle boards at a big box store for my family. But though my daughters and wife could paddle them just fine, I couldn’t balance and kept falling off. After a lot of research, I found out I had the wrong paddle board length for my weight.
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to avoid making the mistake I made. You’ll not only know what length paddle board you need, but what size paddle board you need for your weight as well.
How long is a paddle board? The most popular paddle board length is 10-11 feet long. An 11 foot paddle board will fit most average weight people up to 225 pounds. Because it’s actually your weight and a paddle board’s correct volume for that weight that really determines how long your paddle board should be.
But a paddle board’s length is only part of the story. There’s actually a lot more to it than just figuring out how long a paddle board should be. What length paddle board you need is a function of several important factors.
Paddle Board Length
Stand up paddle board length is measured from the very tip at the front of the board to the rear-most part of the paddle board called the tail.
Paddle Board Lengths can be loosely classified into one of three categories:
- Short – Under 10′ long paddle boards used for surfing and smaller recreational paddlers.
- Medium – 10′ to 12′ long paddle boards used for recreation and light touring.
- Long – 12’6″ to 14′ long paddle boards used for day touring and distance paddling.
Weight, Height and Balance vs SUP Length
Length is how most of us first think about paddle board sizing. But the question you should be asking is, “What size paddle board do I need for my weight?” Because the most important factor in sizing a paddle board is your weight. Your weight determines how much buoyancy a SUP board will need to be able to sufficiently support you in the water.
And since balance is one of the first skills you’ll need to learn when you start paddle boarding, getting the right length SUP for your weight will helps you tremendously, especially when you’re first starting out.
Sizing a paddle board for your height is a close second to weight concerns. This is because your height affects your center of gravity which directly affects how well you can balance while standing on a board that’s floating in the water.
But make no mistake, no matter how tall or short you are, a board that lacks enough volume to support your weight will be difficult if not impossible to hold your balance on.
And in general, taller people have a higher center of gravity than shorter people do. Consequently, a taller person on the same length SUP board as a shorter person will have a harder time balancing.
But that taller paddler will probably weigh more than the shorter paddler does. So, after we look at some common SUP lengths and what they’re best used for, we’ll focus on what size paddle board you need for your weight.
Average Paddle Board Length
And how long is the average paddle board, again? As I mentioned earlier, most SUPs are around 11 feet long. This is the best size for a variety of types of water and weather conditions. In addition, this length SUP board is a great choice for beginners who need to find their balance before advancing in the sport.
Let’s get into some specific paddle board length examples.
Paddle Board Length by Activity
Here are some general guidelines to help you figure out how long of a paddle board you should get depending on the type of activity you plan to do.
Paddle Board Size Chart
|Type of Paddling||Multi-Purpose Board||Touring Board||Inflatable Board|
|Recreational SUP||9’6″‘ to 12’||10’6″ to 14′||11′ to 14′|
|Touring SUP||11’6″ to 12’6″||11′ to 14′||12′ to 14′|
|Surfing SUP||9′ to 11’6″||Pro|
7′ to 10′
|8′ to 10’6″|
|Traveling SUP||11′ to 14′|
Paddle Board Length for Smaller Paddlers
If you weigh less than 150 pounds, a board that’s shorter than 10′ will work well for you. A lot of smaller paddlers choose paddle boards that are 9’6″ long for that very reason. They still have enough volume and buoyancy to support a person that’s less than 150 pounds.
For example, those “big box” boards I bought when my family first started were foam boards from Costco. They were 9’6″, cheap, and light enough for my daughters and wife to carry easily. And at 120-140 pounds, the boards easily supported my wife and daughters.
But for me at 240 pounds, I might as well have been paddle boarding on a brick. I constantly fell off, losing my balance due to lack of enough board volume to keep me afloat. (That’s my excuse, I’m sticking to it.)
Back to short boards…
Shorter paddle boards have the added benefit of being very maneuverable, easy to transport, and not too difficult to lift on and off car racks. For smaller paddlers this makes carrying, lifting and most importantly, paddling their boards more enjoyable.
Paddle Board Length for Touring and Racing
Let’s say you just want to leisurely paddle around the flat lake with a minimum of balance corrections. A longer (and wider) board will help with that.
Paddle boards in the 11′ to 14′” long range are great for touring if you get them wide enough and with enough volume to support your weight. And by getting a board that’s a bit narrower but maybe thicker to support your weight, longer SUPs are a good choice for racing.
Wider 12’6″ paddle boards in the 30″ to 32″ range are great to paddle around all day, touring on a stable platform, enjoying the water at a leisurely pace.
Conversely, by getting a 12′ to 12’6″ paddle board that’s narrower and probably more pointed in the front, you’ll have a much better platform to go fast. What you’ll trade for a narrower board in the 26″ to 29″ range is stability in order to get more speed. And still, it’s volume that affects buoyancy—a paddle board’s ability to support weight.
Paddle Board Length for Surfing
Love all those cool pictures of people hanging 10 on their paddle board, using their paddle to carve and ride waves? An even shorter board may be right for you.
As the chart at the beginning of this article suggests, shorter paddle boards in the 9′ range are commonly used to surf waves. Surf SUPs are very similar to traditional surfboards but with the added benefit of being able to stand up to paddle out and being able to use the paddle for stability while surfing a wave back to the shore.
Keep in mind that with a shorter board comes less volume and thus less stability when paddling on flat calm water. Surf SUPs are made to be maneuverable and stable while going fast, riding waves.
We keep talking about “volume”. But what is SUP board volume and why is it important?
There are 3 measurements you need to know to find a SUP board with a volume that’s right for your weight.
- Length – The measurement of your paddle board from tip to the tail.
- Width – The side to side measurement of your paddle board at its widest point.
- Thickness – Distance from the deck (top of your board where you stand) to the hull (bottom of the board that’s in the water).
What is stand up paddle board volume? Roughly speaking, paddle board volume is a measure of a paddle board’s buoyancy. It’s a SUP’s ability to support and float weight. The formula for stand up paddle board volume is, LENGTH x WIDTH x THICKNESS. Technically speaking, this gives you a SUP’s volume, how much volumetric space measured in cubic liters it has.
Paddle Board Maximum Capacity
Paddle board volume numbers are how many manufacturer define and list “weight” capacities for their various SUPs.
Some paddle board makers list a paddle board’s maximum capacity in both the pounds or kg it will support and it’s buoyancy in volume. You can find this information on the Specs (specifications) section of a given paddle board’s website page.
If you come across a paddle board manufacturer who only lists volume and not maximum weight capacity, then you’ll need to calculate what volume paddle board is right for your weight.
Sup Board Volume Charts
With a simple formula you can figure out what size paddle board volume is right for your weight.
Body Weight (lbs) x Multiplier = Approximate Volume in Liters
Now, I’m going to caveat the following charts by saying that there are several varying formulas on the Internet to choose from. I found that the multipliers various SUP volume “calculators” use vary greatly. And every manufacturer has a slightly different interpretation of what “beginner”, “intermediate”, and just about every other class of paddle boarder means to them.
So, use these SUP volume charts and calculators as a starting point in helping you find the right SUP board volume for your weight.
Paddle Board Volume (lbs)
180 Pound Paddler Example
|Type of Paddler||Body Weight||Multiplier||Volume (L)|
|Beginner or Touring||180 lb||1 to 1.4||180 to 252|
|Novice or Rough Water||180 lb||0.8 to 1||144 to 180|
|Advanced or Surfing||180 lb||0.6 to 0.8||120 to 200|
|Expert or Pro Surfing||180 lb||0.5 to 0.6||100 to 120|
For your particular weight and level of experience, multiply your body weight times the multiplier that corresponds to your experience level and/or type of paddle boarding you plan to do.
So, if you are a beginning paddle boarder, and you weigh 180 pounds, the right size paddle board for your weight is a SUP board with a volume between 180 and 252 liters (180 x 1.4 = 252 Liters). This volume of paddle board will not only support your weight, but it will also provide you with a little more stability as you learn how to keep your balance.
Paddle Board Volume (kg)
100 kg Paddler Example
For metric system paddlers, the formula multiplier numbers look a little different.
|Type of Paddler||Body Weight||Multiplier||Volume (L)|
|Beginner or Touring||100 kg||2.2 to 3||220 to 300|
|Novice or Rough Water||100 kg||1.8 to 2.2||180 to 220|
|Advanced or Surfing||100 kg||1.3 to 1.8||130 to 180|
|Expert or Pro Surfing||100 kg||1.1 to 1.3||110 to 130|
SUP Volume Calculator
Here’s a handy SUP Volume calculator that I found worked pretty well.
SBS Boards SUP Volume Calculator