Stand up paddle boards: which one is right for you?

Stand up paddle boards—Wow, you say. SUPing looks like something I want to do! Now what? Well, you’ve found this website, so you’re already halfway there. You'll need a board, of course. But which one?

About boards

SUPs are larger than traditional surf boards. The larger the board, the more stable it is. Boards are measured in litres (for total volume), determined by the board’s length, width, and thickness. When choosing a board, your weight in relation to the volume of the board is a factor; the heavier the rider, the lower the board will sit in the water. You want your board to sit on top of the water to the greatest degree possible for optimum stability and less resistance when moving forward. A good fit ensures comfortable, fun paddling.

Dockslocks locking system

Helpful Charts to Determine Your SUP Sizing Needs

Charts to determine SUP board size are commonly offered by manufacturers. These charts show a range of body weights relative to board volume and personal ability. Most flat water boards allow for weight variation of 15 to 20 lbs within a volume category. The following chart illustrates a general guide. Check with your dealer to be sure you have the right board for your size and skill level according to SUPconnect: 1 liter will float 1 kilo.

The chart below shows the minimum volume needed. If you are paddle boarding for the first time try a board with greater "volume to weight" ratio than listed here e.g. 165 lb (75 kilo) try a 180 -200 litre board to ensure an easy, fun learning experience. A demo instructor or retailer can give you further insight on experimenting with board sizes.

Find a demo day 

Experiment with 3 or 4 boards to quickly see where your comfort level is. The easiest way to do this is by attending a demo day offered by a local SUP shop. They are most often free, informal, and fun. It's an excellent way to get basic instruction in an enjoyable learning environment.  

Things just keep getting better with stand up paddle board designs

As this relatively new sport progresses, manufacturers have honed shapes and styles for increasingly improved performance. Perhaps the biggest changes in board design have been in construction methods. Innovative, exciting ways to push the limits of a SUP is the focus for performance wave boards and racing boards. Big name surfers and paddlers are teaming up with manufacturers to design and brand various SUP lines. It’s exciting to know that while you’re improving, everything in the stand up paddle board industry is improving, too. 

DESCRIPTION: helpful description of stand up paddle board design

Stand up paddle board terms:

NOSE - front end of board

DESCRIPTION: a good, simple description and purpose for various nose shapes


  • • Full round nose - for flat water and nose riding in waves
  • • Wide short board nose - for surfing
  • • Pointed nose - for cutting through chop and waves
  • • Wide nose - flat water

TAIL - back end of board

DESCRIPTION: a good, simple description and purpose for various tail shapes


  • • Squash tail
  • • Bat tail
  • • Square tail
  • • Pin tail
  • • Swallow/fish tail
  • • Diamond tail

NOTE: Angular shapes provide sharper turns. Round shapes provide smoother, progressive turns.

Find out more about stand up paddle boards:

Video on various tail styles for paddle about surfing.

ROCKER - amount of curve from nose to tail when viewing the long side of the board. Rocker is created with a strip of wood set in the middle lengthwise.

DESCRIPTION: a good, simple explanation of styles of rocker


  • • Nose rocker
  • • Tail rocker

NOTE: More rocker or curve will turn more quickly, which is favourable for surfing. Boards built for cruising and racing will have less rocker and are designed to travel straighter and faster.

HULL - underside of board

  • • Flat bottom - flat water and racing
  • • Vee bottom - separates the water for speed and easier to turn
  • • Single concave - for surfing - decreases drag
  • • Double concave - for surfing - decreases drag

RAILS - refers to the sides or edges of the board - the following link gives a really good description of how and why each style of rail does what it does. 


  • • Soft rails - give stability and drive for leisure and beginner riders
  • • Hard rails - easier to turn the board for surfing and racing for more experienced riders

NOTE: There are various rail shapes within these two categories

FINS - at the underside back of the board (link to (3D3)

DESCRIPTION: well done informative video on types of fins from SUP The Mag 

DESCRIPTION: single fin

DESCRIPTION: 3 fin thruster setup

DESCRIPTION: quad fin setup

  • • Single fin
  • • Two fin, three fin and four fin combinations (link to fins 3D3)


  • • Hard boards have a recessed handle
  • * Inflatable have other hand-hold systems


  • • Round nose and flat bottom designed for flat water and/or speed


  • • Pointed nose designed to cut through swells and/ or waves

YouTube Video

Choose the right stand up paddle board (SUP)

inflatable SUP

Home – where it all started

stand up paddle boards

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Angular tail shapes provide sharper turns in the waves. Note the swallow/fish tail above.

Experiment with 3 or 4 boards at a demo to quickly see where your comfort level is. 

Perfect example of a board built for racing – long and narrow with a pointed nose (above).