Quick Tip: How Do I Choose Paddleboard Width?
One of the most asked questions from folks looking for a new performance paddle board is “how do I figure out what width to buy?” It’s an important question and the answer is not always obvious. When you read reviews and tests from the board designers/manufacturers you can be sure that they were tested by top pros so that info doesn’t always trickle down to us mere mortals.
What’s important to grasp is that the pros relaxed paddling speed is around 5mph-6mph, so how they interpret board stability is quite different from the majority of recreational, fitness, and performance paddle boarders. An analogy that I came up with that shows some perceptive is; if you were to sit on a bicycle and not pedal you would balance for only so long and then fall over! This is the same for a performance paddle board. A narrower board will get easier to paddle at higher speeds, while a wider board will more easily maintain stability at lower speeds or even stopped.
Another analogy is in reference to a power boat. When you shut the motor off while underway, you lose all control and suddenly water conditions and wind variations become a lot more challenging. If you have ever slow docked a boat the only real control is the propulsion of the motor. You are always influencing and need to engage some modicum of power for balance, steering, and control.
Consider the following list of points when trying to decide the width of your next board. And to save time and have a helpful professional help you decide, give me a call and I’ll walk you through the decision making process.
1.) If you’re truly athletic and actively working on developing/improving technique then a narrower board may be beneficial.
2.) If you have trouble balancing on land on one leg for 30 seconds with athletic posture simulating paddling position, consider staying at your current width or avoiding narrower boards till you are comfortable with that balance test.
3.) A narrower board will entertain chop, boat wake, and other textured water easier if you’re applying bits of brilliance with your technique and or working towards that.
4.) A wide board in a static state with poor stance and technique will give you a false sense of stability with no appreciable gains.
5.) A narrow board that you are always struggling to balance on regardless of speed is a waste of valuable recreational fun on the water.
6.) Your first few sessions on a narrower board than you are used to WILL BE and SHOULD BE difficult. Narrower boards take time to acclimate to.
7.) A stable (relative to the individual paddler) 26” wide board that can be paddled consistently and happily will always be a better option than a consistently tippy 23” wide board.
8.) Solid fundamental technique goes a long way towards making you more stable and comfortable at various widths.
9.) If you struggle in changing conditions and are only competent in glassy conditions, it’s likely due to technique not the board width.
10.) When you’re fatigued from a long paddle, narrow and wide will both feel challenging.
With all this said, board widths and shapes do make a difference and the correct model can be tremendous asset. When people demo boards and struggle just to stand up they rarely ask “is it the board or my technique?” They often assume it is the board width. Don’t be quick to judge if a board width is bad or good! Try and lure the performance out of it, be patient and matter of factly make sure your technique is on par.
In closing a narrower appropriate board should feel great when underway and most of all is FASTER! But at the same time, if you’re consistently falling in every couple of strokes, then it may be time to go wider.