What size paddle board do I need for my height and weight?
We could get super nerdy about the perfect ratio of volume, length, width, rocker, foil, outline rail shape, etc etc etc, and dial in what I think would be the perfect paddle board for you today, as long as the temperature and humidity remain constant... For a paddle board for beginners that is over complicated and honestly for 99% of everyone paddle boarding that would be information overload, so let's break it down a bit to the info that actually matters. For a more in-depth article on how paddle boards are designed check out this post on how we design stand up paddle boards.
The specs you want to look at when buying your first stand-up paddle board are length, width, thickness, volume, and weight capacity.
For an adult looking for an all-around beginner paddle board, you will want a length between 10' and 12'6" this will give you a good starting place on your hunt for the perfect board. Length will affect how quick the board is and its top speed. The longer the paddle board is the faster it will be. The trade-off for stand up paddle boards is that the longer they are the harder they are to turn or maneuver. For a paddle boarding beginner, I would look for a board that is 10'6" in length. That will give you a perfect balance between speed and maneuverability. So all you need to remember is a longer board is faster but it has trade-offs.
Winner for your first paddle board length 10'6"
The width of your board determines how stable the paddle board will be on the water while standing still and while paddling. The trade-off with a wider board is that width is the natural enemy of speed. The wider boards are just going to be slower than a narrower sup board, but you are going to be extremely stable with that extra width. So how wide of a paddle board should I be looking for as a beginner paddler? 32"-34" is a great width range to look at for your first paddle board.
Many cheaper boards are 30" wide, or a max of 32" and that is because low-quality drop stitch comes in 30" and 32" width. Drop stitch fabric is what makes inflatable paddle boards stiff and like most things in life, there is a range of quality you can get with drop stitch.
Mass-produced entry-level board use standard low-quality 30" and 32" drop stitch in their paddle boards because it is cheap and easy to source. So if you are looking for a paddle board that is an all-around shape that only comes in 30" or 32" wide drop stitch, there is a good chance it will be on the lower end of the paddle board market.
Ok, I hear you get to the point, what is the width I am looking for when shopping for the best beginner paddle board? 33" is the perfect width for a solid board or inflatable board. It will give you an incredibly stable board to learn on, and with still be fun to paddle as your skill increases.
33" is the perfect paddle board width for beginner boards.
What board thickness should a board for beginners be? For a hard paddle board for beginners, you will want something around 4.5" to 5" thick. For inflatable paddle boards, you will want a 6" thick board. Hard boards can get a little thicker when you are looking at the width. A displacement hull flat water touring board will be a thicker board than an all-around planing hull paddle board. The amount of virtual trees I would have to kill to get enough virtual paper I would need to go over the pros and cons of the thickness of an eps foam core board is just too much. And you would probably end up hating more for it.
So for now we are just going to focus on inflatable sup for now. Woven Dropstich has been a game changer for inflatable paddle boards, it has made inflatable sups feel like a hard board. The thicknesses of sup boards will help determine how stiff the board is, how much weight capacity and storage space the board will have. The most important thing when looking for an inflatable paddle board for beginners is a woven drop stitch core. It will cost you more upfront but the benefits you get are worth the extra money. The core of the board is well, the core, the board is built around the core. A woven drop stitch core is the newest and most high-tech core you can get on an inflatable paddle board. A board for beginners with an ultra-stiff core will make everything easier and more efficient.
Other beginner paddle boards and other boards brands will throw fancy marketing terms at you like military grade PVC, carbon fiber rails, lightweight board, grooved traction pad ok well maybe not the traction pad, but the rest I guarantee you will see on other brands sites. All the marketing in the world can not change what the core material of the board is made from. As a beginner paddle board having an inflatable paddle board with a woven core will make all the difference and you will enjoy paddle boarding that much more on a stiff and stable board.
6" thick board for beginners is what you are looking for in an inflatable paddle board.
Volume and weight capacity:
I am going to lump volume and weight capacity into one summary as they really go hand in hand. Volume is measured in liters of displacement. A 180L paddle board will displace 180L of water. The best paddle board for beginners will be a high-weight capacity all-around solid or inflatable paddleboard.
So what size paddle board do I need? A rule of thumb I like to follow is to multiply your weight by 1 to 1.4. That will give you the liters you should be looking for in your paddle board. Like all rules of thumb you have to take it all with a grain of salt. A all-around paddle board like the O2 Retro (which is the best paddle board for beginners) that has 290L of volume can not be compared to the 260L Godspeed Mark II. Why not you say? Great question. It has to do with the paddle board's shape. The O2 Retro is an all-around inflatable paddle board shape that is in very basic sense a giant longboard shape. The Godspeed is a carbon fiber hard board.
You have to compare inflatable paddle boards to other inflatable sups good and then hard boards to board rigid. And then you also have to compare the shape of the board, a beginner board all around shape should not be compared against a stand up paddle board used for racing.
So what does volume have to do with weight capacity? They really go hand in hand, the higher the volume paddle boards will hold more weight than lower volume sup boards. And where volume even gets more confusing is longer boards and lighter boards tend to have higher weight capacity than boards half the size, which makes sense right? Where it gets confusing is typically a higher volume board will be more stable and carry more weight and on paper that would make a great beginner paddle board right? Well, not when we are talking about race boards. They are thing of beauty but they are also not the best paddle boards for new paddlers. Stick with an all-around shape or inflatable sup.
The best beginner paddle boards will have a volume that is equal to your weight or 1.4 times more volume than your weight.
Are you still with me? Great! The size of board you are looking for has less to do with your height than you weight. You want to find a paddle board that has a volume in liters that is the same as your current weight (and the cargo you want to carry, like a pup, child, or fishing gear) or up to around 1.4 times your weight. So for example if you are 180lbs. A good beginner paddle board will have a volume between 180L and 252L.
For a inflatable sup you really only need to be worried about the low end of the volume. As inflatable paddle boards have a lot more volume than their hardboard counterparts.
So are the best paddle board for beginners? I really like think the O2 Retro is the best paddle board on the market for not only beginner sup but for advanced paddlers also. It is a fun board to paddle, you can do pretty much anything on the board like sup yoga, surf, run white water, and paddle flat water. The O2 Retro is also a high-weight capacity medium-length board that is a complete sup package. It comes with the kayak conversion kit, removable fin, repair kit, fibreglass paddle really everything you need to get started and get out on the water.
As always if you have any questions at all on choosing a board, please give us a call, hit us up on chat, or send us an email you would be more than happy to help you get the perfect board!