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May 2022

Stand Up Paddleboards - Which one to pick?

Written by Sophie from VPO Victoria

All you need to get started, and nothing you don’t!

Whether it’s adventure, fitness, or a casual paddle to enjoy the sunshine, Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) has got you covered. But which board is best, in the sea of choices available?

First, the biggie: Solid vs Inflatable

This choice is probably the most important, but good news, can be an easy one! Think about answers (honest ones!) to these questions:

  • How much space do you have for storage? What does your transport situation look like?

Inflatable boards pack down into a handy carry bag - most even have backpack straps, making light work of the pre-adventure adventure. This makes them super mobile, fitting into even the smallest of vehicles and won’t take up a huge amount of space in your home either. Win win!

  • Have you done much paddling before, and how is your internal gyroscope?!

Inflatable boards will feel more stable underfoot. This is because of their flatter bottoms and air-core. Generally inflatable SUPs (iSUPs) are a beginner’s best friend. Solid boards have a more shaped hull, allowing it to cut through the water, rather than sit on top of it. This means a solid board will sit slightly lower in the water and not be quite as stable.

  • Are you looking for efficiency and speed, or are you more of a casual cruiser?

A solid board will cut through the water rather than float on top of it, making them more efficient. The hull shape is usually more streamlined on a solid board, again giving you more of a performance oriented SUP. If going faster and/or going further is your kind of adventure, consider going for a solid board. If you are a laidback, chill- and-enjoy-the-sunshine adventurer you may find the ease and stability of an iSUP more your vibe.


Which board length to choose will come down to two factors; how much weight you need it to carry and what type of adventure you are aiming for. Shorter boards are going to be super maneuverable and playful to handle, while longer boards are going to be able to carry more speed and get you further easier. As a rough guideline:

  • Shorter (9-10ft) boards will suit you if you want to surf your SUP (say that quickly in repetition!)
  • 10-12ft is considered a great allrounder
  • Longer boards (12ft+) will love to go out racing or head out on tours, you’d better be able to keep up!

Give how much weight you want to put onto your board a consideration too. Paddler plus gear, puppy, child or friends weight will need to be worked out, giving you a rough estimation. Always double check the SUPs listed weight capacity, if you max out a board you could have it sitting very low in the water and make it impossible to handle, resulting in a type 3 fun day out! A longer board will allow you to carry more weight, as a general rule of thumb.


Board width will not vary massively from board to board, generally 25 - 35 inches across all styles, but will make a considerable difference to style and handling. A narrower board is going to be slice through the water better, making it streamlined, faster and more efficient. A wider board is going to be more stable but slower. Surf, touring and race boards are amongst the skinniest. All-round and recreational boards fill the mid ranges. Whilst yoga and beginner boards are the widest.

Hull Shape: Hard Boards

The last bit of SUP anatomy is its hull shape. If you look at a boards ‘footprint’ it will tell you a lot about what it was designed to do; a smooth oval that looks to be on the wider side would be a solid all rounder or yoga expert, these are called planing hulls and will be very stable and versatile. If it is thinner with a pointed nose and/or bow (like you would see on a kayak for example), this is most likely your racing, fitness or touring board, this is called a displacement hull.

Inflatable Construction

Inflatable SUPs are hugely popular, and rightly so. Forget thin, flimsy boards making you feel like an unintentional dunking is imminent! With a PSI of 12-25, and a drop stitch construction, iSUPs will feel super solid underfoot. As you pump them up to pressure, the top and bottom sheet of your board will pull against thousands of vertical stitches (drop stitches) within your board, pulling the structure tight and giving it its defined shape. This helps keep an iSUP super lightweight for its rigidity.

The outer PVC is also super tough, pool floaties need not apply here! Though they are not indestructible- go easy running it up the shoreline or slipway. The weight and price point of boards will be affected by if the PVC casing is single or double skinned; single will be cheaper, double will be more durable but a little heavier.

Lastly—Extras, both necessary and those that are just a bit useful

PFD and Whistle

Transport Canada requires you wear a PFD and carry a ‘louder than voice signally device’, ie a whistle! At dawn or dusk or during low visibility you must also carry a light. These regulations apply only when using your SUP as a navigational vessel, so travelling from A to B. When using your SUP as a non-navigational craft; exploring lakes, paddling close to the shoreline or surfing, for example, you may choose to not wear a PFD, but must be on the board with you (as well as that whistle in case of emergencies). We always recommend wearing a correctly fitting PFD!


Not everyone will choose to use a leash, and you do not have to. If you do take an unexpected dip without a leash, or just jump in to cool off, your board can drift away from you, in some cases it may drift faster than you can swim to catch up! Leaving you in a (at best) embarrassing to (at worst) dangerous or life threatening situation. A leash is always a good idea, keeping you and your board close!

Electric pump

Almost all iSUPs will come with a dual action hand pump, getting your board up to pressure quickly and easily. If you prefer the less strenuous route and plan to have a totally chilled adventure from start to end, you can upgrade to foot or even electric pump. Who said life had to be tough!