Choosing your first paddle board can be a frustrating process (we all started as newbies!) but SJ Paddle Boards aims to provide the most relevant and honest paddle boarding details to make purchasing your first SUP go as smoothly as possible. SJ Paddle Boards spent countless hours of research developing our patented (just kidding!) 2-step process for purchasing your first Paddle Board.

How To Choose a Paddle Board

  1. The MOST important question to ask before purchasing a paddle board is - what type of water will you be using your SUP in most? Said another way, what will be your home water? For instance, if you live in the Midwest and plan on paddle boarding mostly on lakes in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but also have aspirations of paddle surfing in Fort Lauderdale, you should choose a board that will perform best on your mostly flat inland home water. One of the beauties of paddle boarding is that you don’t need waves or surf to learn, but you can always progress into the more difficult disciplines of the sport once you learn the basics. 

  2. Based on your answer to the question above you can efficiently narrow down the paddle board universe by type of board (shape), board size, and materials that best suit the waters you will be paddle boarding most. 

What Style Paddle Board Should I Buy?

Choosing the proper paddle board style primarily depends on your “home water” and what SUP discipline you plan to use most. If you are new to paddle boarding, or have some SUP experience and are looking for the most versatile paddle board that can truly go anywhere, you will likely want to focus on All-Around Stand Up Paddle Boards, Touring SUPs, or Cruising Paddle Boards. Although 3 different names are used to describe these boards, one of the biggest differences between these boards is typically the shape of the front of the board (curve versus pointed front). All three of these SUP options are versatile but performance differences are created by different sizes, shapes, and designs. 

All-Around Paddle Boards

All Around Paddle Boards are generally viewed as the most versatile of all SUP boards and All-around SUPs are typically around 9-11 feet long and 30-34'' wide with round noses and a tri-fin setup. All-Around boards are generally viewed as most practical for flat water touring and adventure needs but can also be used in small waves. 

Hard SUP versus Inflatable SUPs

Hard paddle boards (typically fiberglass or carbon components) are typically best suited for paddlers that will mostly be paddle surfing, paddle board racing, or long-distance paddle adventure tours. Inflatable paddle boards can also be used for paddle surfing or racing, but iSUPs are typically thicker and this causes iSUPs to ride higher on the water than hard boards, making surfing and speed slightly more difficult compared to hard paddle boards. Please also see our separate fiberglass vs inflatable SUP board page.


Touring/Cruising Paddle Boards

Generally Touring SUPs are a little longer than All-Around SUPs and Touring Paddle Boards are typically constructed with a pointed nose which creates a displacement hull that cuts through water. Please see below for a discussion on Round Nose vs Pointed Nose Paddle Boards. 

Round Nose vs Pointed Nose Paddle Boards

One very common question from new paddle boarders is what is the difference between round nose and pointed nose SUPs? Round nose SUPs are the most popular shape on the market and round SUP shapes are great for flat water touring and all-around paddle board excursions. Round nose SUPs are also what you will typically see used in paddle surfing. Touring, Cruising, and Hybrid boards typically have pointed noses and one of the main advantages of a pointed nose is the front nose shape is similar to a boat and creates a displacement hull and is intended to “cut through” the water versus a round nose board that will “plow through” (all relative off course).

9 Stand UP Paddle Board Disciplines

  1. Wave/Surf
  2. Cruising/Exploring/Touring
  3. Racing
  4. Whitewater/Fast Rivers
  5. Yoga/Fitness
  6.  Inflatables
  7. Down-winding
  8. Wake Surf
  9. Fishing