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How to Choose a Paddleboard in BC

Not only was standup paddleboarding the fastest growing watersport in North America a few years ago, it was the fastest growing sport — period. Everyone was getting into the activity because it was easy to learn, didn’t require a large investment, and it could be done on any form of waterway, from placid ponds to ocean waves.

SUP continues to be popular, especially in provinces like British Columbia, and the best part of the sport is there are now many different kinds of paddleboards to choose from. But which one is perfect for you? In this article we discuss the different kinds of paddleboards on the market and what to look for when you are renting or purchasing one.

Inflatable vs Rigid Paddleboards

The main defining factor you’ll encounter when first looking at standup paddleboards is inflatable versus rigid. The latter can be built of anything from wood and plastic to fibreglass and foam while inflatables tend to be made from woven polyester fabric. Inflatables are convenient because they pack up to the size of a small suitcase and are typically lighter than rigid boards. They come with a hand, foot, or electric pump in order to inflate them and in the past few years their quality has greatly improved — they’re now stronger and more stable and, in short, they’re excellent all-around boards. Rigid boards offer a smoother, faster ride though and are preferable if you’re touring, racing, or surfing.

Paddleboard Fins

Fins are small protrusions on the bottom of paddleboards and the more you have, the more stable your ride. Cheaper models won’t have any, which means they’ll be very hard to keep paddling in a straight line. Typically you’ll find two or three on a SUP and they can be made of anything from plastic to fibreglass, the latter being better quality because it has less give and cuts through the water better.

Paddleboard Sizing

There is a lot to consider when choosing the size of your paddleboard. For recreationalists looking for a one-size-fits-all style of SUP, consider a board between 10 and 11 feet long with a width of about two feet. However, taller or heavier paddlers will want something with more volume for float and stability, which means something longer, wider and thicker.


  • Under 10 feet: preferable for smaller paddlers (under 150 lbs) who want better maneuverability and want a more responsive ride
  • 11 feet: suited to all-around use
  • Over 12 feet: more efficient for touring and racing and are better suited to paddlers with more experience.


  • Under 2 feet: the narrower the board, the less stable it is so more experience is necessary
  • 2 feet: the average width for most boards as it’s a good middle ground between speed and stability
  • Over 2 feet: increased width means more stability for larger paddlers and offers more room to carry gear


  • Under 5 inches: this is average for rigid SUPs
  • 5-6 inches: this is the average thickness for an inflatable SUP
  • Over 6 inches: a thicker board means more volume, which is good for larger paddlers and it also prevents bowing in the middle of the board so it can be good for touring and racing

Paddleboard Prices

These days you can get a decent starter board for around $600. Of course, custom boards can run into the thousands of dollars but typically people will spend between $1,000-$1,500 for a plastic or composite SUP. Fiberglass and wooden ones are more expensive.

If you’re a beginner and looking to get an inflatable, consider a starter kit which usually includes a pump, how to case, and paddle. However, the paddle will typically be a cheaper aluminum one which isn’t ideal as they tend to flex and break easily. Fiberglass and carbon fiber versions are better and start at about $150 each.

Other Considerations About Paddleboards

As mentioned in our “How to Paddle Safely in British Columbia” article, Transport Canada regulations require you to wear a Canadian-certified lifejacket and a leash is not considered an alternative. The law also stipulates paddlers need to have a whistle or another sound signalling device on them and have buoyant heaving line that’s a minimum of 15 metres (50 feet) long. The total cost of these items begins around $150.

Many paddlers look for shock straps when purchasing a SUP as they can be used to tie down extraneous items such as water, snacks, or a dry bag with clothes and a phone. Others look for leashes, which typically tie around your ankle and ensure the board doesn’t get away from you should you fall off it. If you plan to paddleboard on fast-moving rivers, though, consider getting a special quick-release leash that goes around your waist or connects to your lifejacket with a special attachment. These ensure you can easily escape from your board just it get pulled under sweeper trees or other hazards.

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