In this article we discuss what size SUP might work for you as well as everything you need to know in order to make the correct choice!
Are you interested in purchasing your first SUP board? If so, it’s likely you’ve seen the variety of sizes with which boards are built. For a beginner, it’s confusing, and leave you asking, “What size SUP will work best for me?” This can cause some hesitancy before you decide to buy.
Why? Because if you end up buying a board that isn’t the right size for you, your athletic abilities, and how you plan on using the board, you’re in for a miserable time.
At Atoll, our goal has always been to create the perfect board to match almost anyone’s needs – whether you enjoy touring, SUP yoga, fishing, adventure, and more!
However, with one quick glance at our site, you can see that we now have a 9′ board to go along with our 11′ board.
We decided to create a 9′ board for younger paddlers, however, because of this addition, we’ve received a few questions regarding which model works best for different paddlers. And if a 9′ board works for adult paddlers as well.
To clear up any confusion we’re going to give you a complete breakdown of what size SUP works for you, as well as offer suggestions on what board might be best for you. Use this information to make the correct choice regarding your paddling vessel. And always, be sure to keep adventuring on!
How does the length of a board affect your paddling? To put it as simply as possible, the longer a board is, the better it will track.
Tracking on a SUP is described as how many times you can paddle on one side of the board while still remaining straight. On shorter lengths, the board tends to bob from one side to the other. This causes paddlers to switch hands more frequently and slow overall paddling progress.
With a longer board, tracking is enhanced. Paddlers can paddle on one side longer and the glide for each stroke is exceptional. A longer board will equal longer glides and increased paddling efficiency.
When it comes to Atoll, our 11′ board tracks better than out 9′ board due to the two extra feet.
Now, let’s discuss the width. The wider a board is, the easier it is to balance on.
When boards are made with a wider base, they create more surface area on the water. With more surface area, it is easier to balance side-to-side. Especially over wakes, waves, and other water ripples.
However, boards that are too wide can be difficult to paddle. Especially for shorter paddlers, or those with a shorter reach. This is because you end up having to reach farther out to the side of the board instead of straight down for the correct paddle stroke. In addition, just as shorter boards increase the need to paddle, a wider board is slower, given the increase in surface tension.
When it comes to width, you want a board that compromises.
Our 11′ board is 32″ inches wide and it is perfect balance between stability and glide. At thirty-two inches, paddlers are able to easily stand on the deck and paddle while maintaining their balance and achieving maximum paddling pleasure.
And our 9′ boards are 30″ wide. This allows shorter paddlers an easier reach and more comfortable way to paddle with efficiency.
Now, let’s consider thickness. The thicker a board is, the more weight it can hold.
For the big guys out there who haven’t had much success finding a board that will float them, our 11′ Atoll boards are 6’’ thick. This thickness provides exceptional float capabilities with a maximum paddler weight of up to 400 lbs. Perfect for families who want to paddle on the same board together, or if you’re going to enhance your adventure by bringing a cooler and some fishing rods.
And for those wondering, our 9′ boards are also 6″ thick. We wanted to create a shorter board with the same volume in order to accommodate paddlers of different sizes in case parents wanted to give the youth board a try. One thing to keep in mind – even with the same thickness on the board, due to it being 2′ shorter, the 9′ Atoll won’t be able to hold as much weight as the 11′ board. Think of it topping out at around 250-300lbs instead of 400lbs.
Atoll 9′ or 11′?
So, now that we’ve covered a board’s length, width, and thickness and how it affects paddling, what size SUP will work for you – the original 11′ board or the 9′ board?
Well, it depends on your size and what you’re going to be using the board for. To make your decision as easy as possible we’re going to list a few considerations that will help you determine the best choice.
When it comes to choosing between the two models, this is your number one consideration.
What is your size and weight? Are you an average size, larger, or smaller? For anyone on the smaller size, say under 150lbs, the 9′ board will work for you. In fact, it might even be a more pleasant paddling experience. With less length and width, you’ll be able to control the board better in almost every instance. Especially in wind, waves, or currents. A larger board is by default heavier. And with it being heavier, if you don’t have the size to match, you can be subject to the conditions. With a board better suited for your size, you’ll have a more manageable time.
Of course, for youth paddlers, the 9′ board is designed for you! This smaller size is easier to paddle in the water, control, and have fun when you’re still developing your paddling muscles.
But anyone above this size, definitely go with the 11′ board. You’ll have a much better time on the water with the larger board.
Luckily, both our 9′ boards and 11′ boards are portable. It’s the reason why inflatable boards are starting to dominate the SUP-scene. The ability to deflate your board, stow it away in traveling backpack, check it onto a plane, or store it in your closet for the offseason is just too convenient to pass up.
However, when it comes to manuervaribiliity on the water, the 9′ board wins. With 2′ less to turn in the water the 9′ board will swing around with ease. Especially if you know how to execute the perfect pivot turn.
As we’ve already discussed, the longer a board is, the faster it will be and the better tracking it will have in a straight line.
As such, the 11′ board is the choice for you if you’re into touring, paddling long distances, or even racing. While the 9′ board performs well in other environments (more on that in a bit), for speed and tracking, it can’t match the 11′ model.
Remember how we said the wider a board is, the easier it is to balance on? Well, with an additional 2″ of width on the 11′ model, it’s automatically easier to balance on from the start. Of course, if you’re smaller in size, balancing on the 9′ board will not be a problem. Just keep in mind, the wider a board, the easier it is to balance.
The last thing you need to consider when considering what size SUP work for you is the environment you’ll be paddling in.
When it comes to SUP, there are different paddling environments to enjoy paddling in. They include:
The 11′ board performs exceptional in any environment. However, in some instances the 9′ board might be a better choice. Let’s discuss…
When it comes to river and ocean paddling, sometimes a smaller board might be a better choice. The smaller board is lighter and easier to maneuver and this smaller size is easier to control in water with heavier currents such as rivers and oceans.
But, this only applies to padlers who are of a smaller stature as we discussed above. Larger paddlers will have a hard time balancing on smaller boards in water that is moving like on oceans and rivers.
In addition, if you are sharing your board with other paddlers of bigger stature, the 11′ board might be the better choice.
To make it as simple as possible…
If you are smaller in size and stature (or a youth paddler) the 9′ board will work great for you. Or if you exclusively paddle in whitewater rivers with heavier currents, you will have a better chance of controlling a smaller board.
But for everyone else, the 11′ board is the best choice for you. Especially if you enjoy adventure paddles, carry extra gear, paddle long distances, or enjoy touring.
We hope that all this information about what size SUP works for you made sense! If not, you can always reach out to us personally where we will be able to guide you towards the right choice for your size, skill, and environments. Once you receive your board, be sure to tag us in any pics to be featured on our Instagram page. And always remember to adventure on!