How to Choose a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)

16 Jul 2021
A beautiful beach view with a man and woman heading out to the water to standup paddleboard


With so many different types of paddleboards out there, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by all the different choices and options presented to you. We totally understand how confusing it all is—especially when you’re new to the sport. And so that is why we wanted to break down the decisions into easy-to-follow set of questions you should ask yourself. Whether you’re new to paddleboarding or you’ve been doing this for years now, we’ll help you choose the best stand-up paddleboard (SUP) suited to your lifestyle. Everything you’ll be reading below is aimed at making your journey to choosing the right board a whole lot easier. Let’s begin.

If you find yourself asking, “Where do I even begin?,” congratulations! You’re already on the right track. Asking yourself questions is what will indeed help you get closer to finding the right board. So we’ve outlined two main things to ask yourself, which will lead you to some clear options of board styles.


A man and woman sitting on their stand up paddleboards during sunset

1. Where will you be paddleboarding?

What’s your paddleboard environment going to be like? Will you mostly be on flat water? Like lakes and open oceans. Or are you planning to ride the waves or jump on river rapids? It’s important to ask yourself where you’ll be doing most of your paddleboarding because each type of board is best-suited to different water conditions.

Flat Water (lakes, open oceans)

If you’ll mostly be paddling on lakes or touring around open oceans, where the waters are relatively still and predictable, you’ll need a Flat-Water SUP. A Flat-Water SUP is as what its name suggests: made for flat-water. This type of board is ideal for open ocean paddling. They are typically longer than the standard paddleboard, they have a pointed nose to help the board glide through the water smoothly as well as track in a straight line, and their sides are usually rounded to help with the glide and speed. Most Flat-Water Boards are wide enough to be stable. This board is best suited to those who will be taking their boards on long journeys on flat water, like paddling on open ocean, exploring sites and wonders from a board, and having a relaxing, leisurely adventure on water.

Surf (waves, river rapids)

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to ride larger surf or hop onto river rapids, what you’ll be needing is none other than a Surfing SUP. A Surfing (or Rapids) SUP is shorter, has a narrower nose and tail, and has more curve than the other types of boards. This shape is what makes the board much easier to control when on a wave, but this manoeuvrability is also what makes the board slower and more difficult to track in a straight line, when on flat water.



2. What’s your SUP Style?

Wait, what? SUP Style? What’s that supposed to mean? At Honu, we like to think of paddleboarders as falling into four different style or personality categories: The Wanderer, The Adventurer, The Thrillseeker, or The Challenger. Each of these personality traits are what we call the “SUP Style.” Once you have identified Your SUP Style, you’ll better be able to know which paddleboard suits you. If this is all starting to get confusing, stick with us. We’ll describe each SUP Style in detail below.

But before that, we would just like to point out that knowing the reason why you will be paddleboarding—what activities you’re planning to do while on your board—is key to determining what type of paddleboard to get because each type of board is designed for specific activities and lifestyles.

That’s why we encourage you to discover your SUP Style. Since each of the four personalities have unique desires and differing goals when it comes to paddleboarding, knowing your individual SUP Style is actually what will help you pinpoint what activities you’ll mostly be doing while on your board—which again, like what we said above, is key to helping you determine what type of board to get.

Will you be paddling for leisure purposes like relaxation, to get away from the busyness and daily stresses of everyday life? Or for adventure and exploration, to reconnect with the beauty of nature? Or for that adrenaline rush or exhilarating high while on big ocean waves or strong river rapids? Or are you paddling with the intent to challenge, compete, race, or even win? Let’s find out!

Are you ready? Here are the 4 SUP Styles…


The Wanderer:

Are you paddleboarding to find an escape from the day-to-day stresses and pressures of life? To get away from the office and get into the outdoors? To let go of phones, screens, and meetings—even if it were just for a little while?

If you answered yes to all that, and if your desire is for a simpler, healthier life for yourself and your family, then you’re definitely a Wanderer. And you’re in great company! You’re in the largest cohort of paddleboarders out there.

When you go for a paddle, you want to enjoy the outdoors and savor the experience. Getting a good amount of exercise from paddleboarding is great, but for you, it’s so much more than that. For The Wanderer, it’s more about the experience of being in the outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, and escaping the businesses of everyday life. It’s all about getting out there in nature.

The wonderful thing about being on water is that it provides an escape from the hustle and bustle. When you’re on water, time seems to stand still. No phonecalls, no stress. Just you, the water, and the beauty of nature.

The Wanderer needs a board that is versatile enough to take you wherever your mood leads you—be it a long relaxing paddle, an energetic yoga session, or some fun under the sun with your beloved kid or pet!


A woman carrying an inflatable stand up paddleboard while walking on the beach


For The Wanderer, we recommend an All-Rounder SUP. This is a board for everyone. The shape, materials, and rocker are specifically designed to deliver comfort and confidence. This is our most popular board, always selling out as fast as we can make them. From Honu, this board is our BYRON SUP.


The HONU Byron 10'6 all rounder stand up paddleboard


And for The Wanderer with a smaller build, like kid-paddlers or petite paddlers, we recommend getting a board that is correctly sized. Similar shape as the All-Rounder SUP, but scaled down so that it helps build skills and confidence on the water. The Honu AIRLIE SUP has been designed with this purpose in mind.


The HONU Airlie 8'6 Kids all rounder stand up paddleboard


The Adventurer:

Are you the type who likes to challenge yourself physically? Do you seek the outdoor life and want to feel connected to nature? Do you find yourself always trying to go further, faster, harder in everything you do? Hiking, riding, camping even?

Congratulations! You're in the smallest, but coolest cohort of paddleboarders: The Adventurer. Why do we say this? Well, because just like the other paddleboarder cohorts, you love the outdoors, the fresh air, and open waters, but what sets you apart from the other groups is that you desire to go further. In a way, you’re kind of like The Wanderer, but what makes you different is that you don’t just simply want to get away and escape—you want to go far and explore. Your desire is to take it a step further and dive deep into everything nature has got for you.

Whether that be a long paddleboarding session covering a few miles or a multi-day paddleboarding adventure, you're up for it. Maybe explore some secret coves or unexplored beaches? Get to spots that can only be accessed via water? Discover hidden gems? When you’ve got a love for adventure running through your veins, and a paddleboard under your feet, the possibilities are endless.

The Adventurer goes the furthest, sees the most, and arguably gets the best rewards from paddleboarding.

The right board for The Adventurer is going to be longer than your standard board, but wider than a race board. The wider the board, the more stable it is, which will in turn help you balance more easily as you go on those adventures.

A man and woman arriving at a secluded beach spot


For The Adventurer, we recommend a Touring SUP. With this board, you can go far and go fast, even if loaded up with some camping gear. The Honu SORRENTO SUP sits in this category. Constructed with the most advanced materials available today, this board is fast, stiff, and stable. 


The HONU Sorrento 12'6 Touring stand up paddleboard


The Thrillseeker:

Is surfing something you love? Are you a surfer who wants to try something new—a water sport that’s similar to your first love of surfing yet more relaxed and easygoing? Or are you an ex- or aging surfer who’s looking to make the switch to a less intensive sport that can still give you that familiar “high” you get from shooting across the wave face? Do you love the thrill and the rush of being immersed, enveloped, and surrounded by the magnificent force of water?

Hello there, Thrillseeker. Welcome to the club of the paddleboarders who like to get their adrenaline pumping. While a relaxing paddle on the water is OK sometimes, you're mostly in it for the buzz. You crave the thrill of being totally in the zone. You’re ultimately in it for the thrilling surprises—whether it be catching huge waves at your local break or getting into really strong river rapids.

The common thread? Action and adventure all the way! High-octane fun is your order of the day. That's just how The Thrillseeker likes to roll.

For you, there’s just nothing quite like the thrill of feeling like you might be swallowed up by the water anytime. You adore the rush you get from being pushed around by powerful waves and crazy surfs. The “who-knows-what’s going-to-happen-next” experience is what you’re after. You are a true dare-devil, a ball of energy, a force to be reckoned with. Water is your good friend… powerful, forceful water is your best friend.


A beautiful beach view with a man and woman hitting the waters to go standup paddleboarding


For The Thrillseeker, we recommend a Surfing SUP.  It’s light, fast, and responsive—everything you would want for those thrilling water journeys of yours. This board may be less versatile, but believe us, it comes alive when on a wave or in strong river rapids. The Honu BONDI SUP is our surfing paddleboard loved by many. Another great board option if you want something more versatile is our ever-trusty multi-purpose BYRON SUP.


The HONU Bondi 9'3 Hybrid Surf stand up paddleboard


The Challenger:

So you’re not the Wanderer, not the Adventurer, neither are you the Thrillseeker. If you can’t quite identify with any of these, it may be because you’re part of the most competitive paddleboarder cohort: The Challenger! This particular personality genuinely looks forward to pushing themselves to the limit, and often against others. You have the drive to succeed. Winning is in your blood. You thrive in competitions, even if just against your own personal best.

You are without a doubt the most competitive among the four SUP Styles. And you’re not alone. SUP racing, challenges, and all kinds of events have popped up to serve folks like you.

When you hop onto your board, you have the natural intent of competing, racing, and winning. Your competitive spirit is what fuels you to keep going. You love the feeling of being surrounded by other paddleboard racers.


A man on his stand up paddleboard during sunset


The style of board for The Challenger is relatively straight-forward: narrow and fast. A narrow board is what helps you be swift and go fast as you race your way through the waters. Competitions are normally categorized into 12’6 or 14’ category, so most boards will be one of the two lengths. Depending on your skill and experience, the width can vary greatly from as narrow as 22” to as wide as 30”


A close up photo of the HONU Sorrento 12'6 Touring stand up paddleboard


Final Word

So now you should have a clear idea of where you sit in terms of your style and where you want to go paddling. These two factors really determine the right board for you. The next question to be answered is: fiber-glass or inflatable? Another divisive topic beyond the scope of this article. But one we discuss here: Why Choose an Inflatable SUP Over a Composite Board?

At Honu, we want every paddler to feel comfortable and confident out on the water. That’s why we came up with the simple SUP Styles as a way to simplify the decision-making process.

Whichever SUP you decide to go for, we hope you have a blast out on the water and fall in love with the ocean, river, or lake. Because despite our differences, it’s the ocean that unites us!


A man and woman having fun on their stand up paddleboards