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Determining which width of a SUP will work for you

When purchasing, renting or trying a SUP for the first time, or considering upgrading your current board, you need to make sure you know what width of board is going to work for you.  Width is the first consideration I would make when purchasing a new SUP.  The width of the board is the predominant factor in how stable a board will be.  Not if it’s an inflatable board, not if it’s a rigid board, not if it’s a surf board, etc.  The width is the main factor.  

The standard width of an all around SUP is about 32”.  If you start looking at boards that are wider than 32”, you will add stability but likely lose some speed.  If you are looking at boards below 32”, you will gain on speed but lose on stability.  Think, narrower like a toothpick for speed or wider like a pancake for stability.  If you are new to SUP, I would likely advise on a 32” to 34” board depending on how stable a platform you need. A board in this range will provide great stability, still cruises very well and will allow comfort no matter if you are paddling on the river, lake or ocean.  A couple of great all around boards in this width would be the 10’6”X 32”  Red Paddle CO. Ride, the Kootenay Sustain 11’ X 32”, or the Badfish Monarch 11’ X 34”.  

If you are primarily going to be paddling on more advanced rivers and want stability over anything I can’t say enough about the Badfish Rivershred.  The Rivershred comes in at 36” wide and is built for stability and maneuverability in the river.  However, if you take this board to the lake you will notice how slow it is because of the width.  

When your skills are advancing you will likely want to get on a board built for faster touring or racing.  I would advise on a board that is 30” or below.  Boards at this width will compromise on stability but make up on speed and touring ability.  I would only recommend a board at this width if you are an intermediate paddler, at minimum.  You may notice some boards around that are very long and extremely narrow.  Starboard has just come out with their new race board that is 14’ long X 19.75” wide!  That is just barely wide enough to stand with two feet side by side.  You can imagine how unstable a board like this must be.  However, boards like this are made for advanced paddlers whose main desire is to go fast.  And do they ever rocket!  Some great options in the 30” or below boards would be the Red Paddle CO Voyager 13’2” X 30” or the Red Paddle CO. Sport 12’6” X 30”.  

Other factors to consider when getting on a board is the volume of a board.  Think length X width X thickness.  This is how much the board will displace the water when a user is standing on the board or the buoyancy of a board. If you are plus size paddler this is another critical metric to consider.  A board that is thicker, wider and longer will add significant volume and help you stay on top of the water easier than a board that has less volume.  When we say plus size, we are talking about paddlers north of 225lbs.  Here’s where volume of the board becomes a critical part of your enjoyment.  We have seen many couples come out paddling with one partner who’s less than 170lbs jumps on the board and rips off having fun, the other partner struggles, just can’t seem to get it right, gets frustrated and stalks back to the shore vowing never to do this again.  It’s not a lack of ability,  it might simply be the board doesn’t have the right amount of buoyancy.   We can work with you to get that right.  Not all boards publish their volumes.  It’ll be expressed in Litres.  A 230 Litre board is a great amount of volume for most paddlers until your weight is more than the published litres.  We do have boards that range from 270 L to over 300 L, this may vastly change the fun factor for the plus sized paddler. As your experience and proficiency goes up you’ll be able to reduce the volume and start to play with width and length with more comfort.  

Please reach out to us at Bow Valley SUP for any additional questions on choosing a SUP that will work for you.

Brandon Olsthoorn


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