How to Choose a Paddleboard: Surfing or Paddling—Which is for You?

How to Choose a Paddleboard: Surfing or Paddling—Which is for You?


One of the beauties of stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is the activity's versatility. From beginner to expert and lakes to oceans, there's something for everyone. So how do you choose the right paddleboard?

Before selecting a paddleboard, consider your:

  • Skill level (beginning, intermediate, experienced, expert)
  • Location (rivers, lakes, and oceans)
  • Activity (fishing, touring, yoga, surfing, rowing, 2-person paddling, etc.)

Are you looking to catch some waves? Or would you rather cruise along calm waters? Maybe you want to branch out and try paddleboard yoga! You can do almost anything with a paddleboard. Below we'll discuss everything you need to know so that you can choose the right type of paddleboard for you.

Skill level: How much experience do you have?

surfing or paddling Smooth SUP

Beginner to intermediate

As a beginner, choosing a wider board will offer more stability. A beginner's primary goal is to get the feel of the paddle board and have fun exploring in calm waters. The perfect paddleboard for beginners is a durable inflatable or all-around SUP board. Smooth SUP’s boards are designed with versatility in mind, and they will adapt with your skill level and activities over time.


Some experienced paddlers have a need for speed and choose racing SUP boards for fitness and adrenaline-pumping thrill. Their sleek designs achieve top speeds and slice through water. Compared to standard-sized SUP boards, racing boards are generally longer with more volume to provide better glide with less resistance.

Meanwhile, surfing SUP boards are great for wave seekers or perhaps experienced surfers looking to try something different. However, these high-end specialty boards do not lend themselves well to other activities and do not have space to carry equipment (such as fishing gear) or another rider.

Location: Where are you Paddling Boarding?

SUP activities, Smooth inflatable stand up paddle boards

Location: Flat-water Lakes, Ponds, Canals
Board Type: All-Around SUP, Inflatable SUP
Great for: Beginner/Intermediate

All-purpose and inflatable SUP models are ideal for paddling in flat water. Flat-water environments provide an easy surface for beginners to learn how to SUP. Even intermediate paddlers may choose to SUP in flat water to work on new skills or to explore. All-around SUP boards and Inflatable models are generally broader and easier to learn. They also feature great grip to prevent slipping as well as durable material to prevent board damage.

Location: Large Lakes, Bays, and Oceans
Board Type: Touring
Great for: Intermediate/Expert 

If your goal is long-distance paddling and you enjoy exploring large bodies of water, a touring paddle board may be right for you. Touring boards are designed to efficiently travel long distances with speed and comfort. While the touring model is an excellent choice for flat water, it is also designed to withstand some chop you may encounter when touring around the ocean and bays. 

Location: Ocean and Surf
Board Type: Surf SUP
Great for: Intermediate/Expert

Wave seekers will need a board that is maneuverable and responsive. Although you can likely catch a wave with almost any SUP board, surfing SUP boards are designed for optimal performance in waves. Surfing SUP board are generally shorter and have a relatively low volume compared to other SUP boards. These features enhance the board's performance on large and small waves and give it more turning power. 

Board Size

After you factor in your skill level and location, you'll want to consider board size. It's essential to choose a board that will accommodate your weight, experience level, and number of riders. Even if you would prefer a shorter surfing SUP board, if your board doesn't have enough volume and buoyancy to support you, you'll find that it sits too low in the water and creates drag while riding. Don't forget to consider extra gear as well. Touring and multi-purpose models offer more buoyancy and space while still performing well on a variety of surfaces.

What if I Want to Do it All? 

Can't quite decide on one type of board? As avid adventure enthusiasts, the team at Smooth SUP wanted to create an affordable, versatile, and durable board that could do it all. Smooth SUP provides a great board experience no matter your skill level and activity. 

Smooth SUP’s 10-foot boards offer just the right amount of stability and maneuverability. Plus, they’re durable enough to withstand your next challenge, whether navigating the surf, exploring sea caves, enjoying the views of an alpine lake, or meandering down a river with your four-legged friend. Pack it up, hit the road, and inflate it in a matter of minutes. You’ll be prepared for anything.

how to choose a paddleboard

Discover More with Smooth SUP

Many paddlers discover that Smooth SUP's multi-use inflatable paddleboard is their go-to option for convenience, comfort, and performance. Discover paddleboard options at

All of our board packages include:

  • Premium military grade drop stitch material construction
  • Premium fiberglass/poly 3-piece adjustable paddle
  • Soft embossed Eva pad (soft, grippy and sealed)
  • Mount on front of deck for go pro or other accessories (1/4” x 20mm thread)
  • Coil leash with soft neoprene cuff and strong Velcro strap
  • 2-stage pump for faster and easier inflating
  • Bungee system on deck of board to secure extra gear.
  • 3-fin system for concise tracking
  • Removable center fin for easy storage
  • Grab handles on nose, tail and center for carrying, securing and attaching (4 total)
  • D-ring on the bottom for securing to boat, dock or anchor
  • Repair kit includes, case, glue, patches and valve wrench
  • Comfortable travel bag with chest and waist straps holds all your gear with ease
  • Leash loop on rear grab handle to secure leash

Get the  paddleboard basics  for all of your adventures at Smooth SUP.