Having the correct paddle board for your paddling conditions, weight, and skill level can be the difference between a great time on the water, and a frustrating one. Let us help you maximize your time and enjoyment on the water with this easy to follow explanation of the different types of stand up paddle boards that are available.
Inflatable vs Non-Inflatable
This is the first initial distinction between board options. Inflatables are also often referred to as iSUPs, and non-inflatables are often referred to as composite, rigid, hard, or traditional boards. We prefer to refer to non-inflatables as composite boards as calling them rigid implies that inflatables are not rigid, which could not be further from the truth.
As the name implies, inflatable boards inflate with hand pumps that are included with all Cruiser SUP inflatable boards. It usually takes between 5-10 minutes to inflate a board to 17psi with the Dual Action Bravo Pump that all Cruiser SUP inflatables come with. Once inflated, they are very rigid while still remaining very light and durable. The amount of air pressure an inflatable board can hold is what makes or breaks the performance. Anything less than 15psi should be avoided as the board will have excessive flex and poor performance.
Inflatables SUP’s are ideal for:
- Paddle boarders who have limited storage space at home, as when deflated they only take up the space of small suitcase.
- Paddlers who may not have a vehicle with roof racks to transport a composite board
- SUP’ers who like to explore off the beaten path, and may have a bit of a hike into the water.
- Those that will be white water paddling, paddling near rocks, or just want a very durable board. Inflatables in many cases are actually more durable than composite boards as if you bump into something like a dock or another board, you will just bounce off!
- Paddlers who want a board they can travel with and easily check as baggage on an airplane.
Composite boards are made from a shaped foam core, and then laminated with different layers of materials such as fiberglass, bamboo, wood, carbon, Kevlar, Innegra, or other similar materials depending on the exact construction, or layup, of the board. Composite SUP boards are available in infinite sizes, graphics, constructions, and price ranges.
Composite SUP’s are idea for
- Those who want the stiffest and best performing SUP’s available
- Paddle Boarders who may live near or on the water where storage is not an issue.
- Paddlers that do not want to have to inflate their board.
- SUP’ers that have vehicles with roof racks and can transport a composite board.
Different Shapes of Stand Up Paddle Boards
Within the inflatable and composite constructions, there are many different shapes and styles of boards for different uses and conditions. For the most part, all of the different designs we will explore below are available in inflatable and composite constructions, so it is really just a matter of deciding if you prefer inflatable or composite, and then picking the shape and style paddle board that best suits your needs.
All Around Paddle Boards
All around boards are the ideal board to start paddle boarding on as they are the most stable, and easiest to use. You can paddle in all conditions from flat water, to chop, to small surf. An all around board will also have lots of room progression as you gain more experience and look to try different conditions. All Around SUP boards usually come in sizes ranging from 9’ to 12’, and usually have a rounded nose similar to a long board surfboard. These boards are ideal for lake, river, and ocean use for anyone from total beginner through expert paddlers. Many all around paddle boards feature full deck pads that cover the entire top of the board, or full wrap deck pads that cover the top and the sides of the board. Full length deck pads are great for SUP Yoga, paddling with your dog, or having your kids ride along. Full wrap deck pads are great for all of the above, and do add a little extra durability to the rails of your board as well.
All Around Paddle Boards are best suited for:
- Those just starting out in the sport
- Paddlers who want a stable and comfortable board
- Riders who want freedom to paddle in all conditions
- SUP’ers that may paddle with kids, or pets on board
For the most part, women's boards come in all different styles from all around to surf. But, what makes a women's board a women's board? As women tend to be physically smaller than men, the lengths are often shorter and the weight of the boards lighter. Most women’s specific boards will range from 9’5” through 11’, and feature widths from 30” through 33.5”. Color and graphics tend to me more tailored to more traditionally feminine colors and patterns. However, men can ride women’s boards, and women can ride men’s boards without any concern!
Women’s SUP boards are Ideal for:
- Women, or any rider who enjoys have a lighter weight and eye-catching designs and graphics.
- Paddlers looking for some of the lightest boards available
Touring Paddle Boards
These are ideal boards for those looking to really cover some distance, as well, add some intensity to their paddling experience. Distinguishable by their “pointy” or displacement nose shape, touring SUP’s are designed for speed and to cover distance in non-surf conditions. Designed to be fast and efficient, touring boards do have enough size and floatation to still make them suitable to learn on. Touring boards generally range in length between 11’6 and 12’6.
Touring SUP boards are ideal for:
- Those looking for a faster option that an all around board. Touring boards make a great 2nd board
- Paddles looking to cover distance, and do it quickly and efficiently
- Riders looking for a high volume board
- SUP’ers that live in non-surf areas and want a board dedicated to calmer waters
Surf Paddle Boards
Surf SUP’s are designed specifically to maximize wave riding ability. With increased rocker and much smaller sizing, surf specific boards like are generally for more advanced riders who spend most of their time riding waves. Surf SUP’s start as short as 6’ and usually range in size up to about 10’8 in length. While boards on the smaller end of sizing are very dedicated to surf, many in the medium to larger side of the range do work nicely for both surf and flat water and make great all around boards as well
Surf SUP’s are ideal for
- Those that spend the majority of their time SUP surfing
- Paddlers who are looking for a board that can be surfed, but also paddled in flat water (depending on board size and rider size)
- SUP’ers that are looking to wake surf behind a boat
Yoga and Fitness Paddle Boards
Yoga and Fitness paddle boards are suited for anything from Yoga to simply doing push ups or stretching on board. Yoga and Fitness boards are usually from 10 to 12 feet in length, range and the 32”-34” width range to offer optimal stability, but also remain nice handling boards for general cruising when not doing Yoga. To ensure your hands and feet have grip and traction, Yoga and Fitness boards generally have a full length deck pads.
Yoga and Fitness Stand Up Paddle Boards are Ideal for:
- Dedicated SUP Yoga practioners
- Those looking for an all around board, that will also let them try SUP Yoga
- Paddles simply looking for a great riding board with the most comfortable deck pad possible
Fishing Paddle Boards
Fishing boards are wide, stable, and feature high floatation to accommodate you and all your gear. This stability is also key so that you can concentrate most on fishing as opposed to your balance as SUP fishing is essentially two sports in one. An ideal fishing board is loaded with attachment points so you can add things like fishing rod holders, tackle boxes, GPS mounts, and pretty much anything else you could possibly think of. Fishing boards are most commonly longer in length, in the 11 to 12’6 range, and on the wider side in the range of 32” to 36” to maximize stability.
Fishing SUPs are ideal for:
- Anglers looking to use a paddle board to fish from
- Fishing boards are also a great option anyone looking to transport equipment while paddling, such as taking a SUP camping trip
- Those who are looking a board that is wide and stable with ample attachment points to transport virtually anything
Beginner Boards and all around boards are very similar. Beginner boards have the traditional round nose shape, and are very versatile for a variety of conditions. The goal of a beginner board is to ensure instant success, so a beginner board will tend to be quite wide and long, and have a substantial amount of volume for stability. Beginner boards will allow anyone to learn how to SUP easily and enjoyable.
Beginner stand up paddle boards are best for:
- First time stand up paddle boarders
- Riders who want to ensure themselves, friends, or families learn how to SUP quickly and easily
- Rental centers, summer camps, and other locations that offer lessons.
- Anyone who is looking for an ultra stable board to paddle
Kids and Youth Boards
Sized smaller for lighter riders, kids and youth boards share many of the same characteristics as all around boards, just in smaller sizes made specifically for the lighter weight of the younger generation. At Cruiser SUP, we graphic our kids and youth boards very similar to adult boards, and most kids don’t want to think they are on a kids board! Typically kids and youth boards range in the 8’ to 10’ length, and do come with an option for a shorter length paddle
Kids and Youth SUP boards are Ideal for:
- Families that want their kids to have the lightest and most kid friendly board possible
- Lighter weight adult riders who fall into the weight range of kids boards
Family Stand Up Paddle Boards
Similar to the ideal of beginner and all around boards, family SUP boards are stable and easy to learn on. Family boards are designed for a family, large or small, to share and enjoy. As a number of different users may be sharing, they are often the most durable constructions. Family SUP boards are usually in the 10’ to 11’6” range to maximize stability and accommodate a wide range of users.
Family paddle boards are ideal for:
- Families, or groups that may vary in size, and skill level
- Those looking for a durable board that is easy to learn on
- Anyone who wants to paddle on a user friendly board that excels in calmer conditions
Which Type of Paddle Board is Best for you?
Now that you have an understanding of the different types of paddle board available, what is the best for you? When considering the style board to get, base it on the conditions you will be in most often. All Around boards are by far the most popular option, especially for a first board, as they will let you try all aspects of the sport.
Still have a question on the different types of boards that are available, or which one is best for you? Simply Live Chat, email, or call and our experts will be glad to help!