Paddleboard Basics


Two general classifications

  • Planing Hull
  • Displacement Hull

Three general construction types

  • Inflatable
  • Plastic
  • Epoxy

Basic guidelines for volume: Overall volume will determine the board’s capacity to float.

  • Stability is determined by width and thickness
  • Wider and thicker board will float a larger person

Mobility is determined by length

  • Longer boards will decrease mobility but increase tracking (less maneuverable)
  • Shorter boards will increase mobility but decrease tracking (more maneuverable)

Sizing boards

  • Match the weight of the paddler to the correct board volume (i.e., 10'6" board can carry up to 140 lbs.)
  • Match the conditions and type of paddling (surfing, racing, touring, etc.) to correct board type.

Displacement vs. Planing

Imagine yourself holding your hand out of a car window on a nice warm day. If you turn your hand perpendicular to the ground, you slice through the wind. This is similar to a displacement hull. If you turn it parallel to the ground the wind lifts your hand in the air, and you feel a lot more resistance. This is similar to a planing hull.

Whether or not you get a displacement hull or a planing hull can be one of the biggest con- siderations when buying a Stand Up paddle Board. In simple terms a displacement hull is like the bow of a ship, it comes to a point and cuts through the water, just like your hand cut through the wind. This is similar to a racing canoe or kayak. On the other hand a planing hull is like the wing of an airplane and as speed increases, it creates lift and rides on top of the water, just like your flat hand lifts in the wind. A good example is a regular surfboard. When you combine pad- dling and surfing to form stand up paddling there is some crossover that happens. We will take a look at the advantages of each in different paddling situations.

Planing hull SUPs are basically wide, large volume surfboards. Their performance increases as they get up to high speeds. When the energy of a wave pushes the board it rises up on top of the water creating less drag, and thus even more speed. They perform great in the waves. The larger planing hulls are generally quite full in outline too for stability. This is why so many beginner boards are planing hulls. Planing hulls are good for both recreational cruising and playing in the waves. Their versatility makes them a great choice for a first board.

Displacement hulls take their design cues from outrigger canoes, racing canoes and prone paddleboards. The point at the front of the board cuts through the water pushing the water around the nose and routing it along the sides rather than trying to ride on top of the water. This makes displacement hulls far more efficient for flatwater touring and racing by allowing them to deliver higher average speeds with the same level of input . They are a more efficient way to use all of your paddling power.

Elements of a SUP board

Basic board layout:

A. Nose: Front of the board

B. Tail: Rear of the board

C. Fin box: Where fin is installed

D. Deck pad: Soft grip material located on deck of board used for traction while paddling

E. Rail: Sides of the board

F. Rocker: Dimensional curve along the bottom, top and rail; usually referenced from nose to tail

G. Vent Plug: Allows for boards to maintain equalized pressure without letting water into the foam

H. Leash plug:  Device that allows a leash to be attached to a board

I. Carry handle: Usually installed in the board center balance point from nose to tail to allow for ease of transportation  

Types of Stand Up Paddle

Types of SUP boards

  1. Flat Water or All Around Paddle Boards
  2. Race Paddle Boards
  3. Fitness & Touring Paddle Boards
  4. Surf Paddle Boards
  5. Inflatable Paddle Boards
  6. Fitness or Yoga Paddle Boards

Flat Water or All Around

Flat Water or All Around Paddle Boards

“All-Around” boards have rounded noses and are fairly flat on the bottom. These are the most common “beginner” boards. These boards are considered “all-around” because they have a shape that is suitable to be used in the surf, in flat water, or for fitness such as yoga. Sizes generally range from 9’6” to 11’6” and are heavily dependent on the size/weight of the rider and the volume of the board.

Shorter, lower volume boards will work for children and smaller men and women. As a person’s weight increases, they will need more volume (or more skill) to stay on a board. If you have plans to paddle with children or dogs on board, a higher volume board will provide a stable platform. The volume of an SUP is measured in liters, and you may see the volumes of all-rounders range from as little as 150 liters to as much as 250 liters.

In terms of length use these general guidelines:  A 10’6” All Around planing board will accommodate up to 140 lbs.  An 11’2” board will accommodate up to 250 lbs.  A 11’6” X 34” X 4” board will accommodate up to 400 lbs.


If you plan to use your all-rounder mainly for flat water cruising, you’ll want to go for a slightly longer board with more volume. Length is correlated with glide, or your distance per stroke. Longer, narrower boards get more glide and you expend less effort when trying to get the board to maintain speed.

Race Paddle Boards

Race Paddle Boards

Stand up paddle boards for racing have a very distinct shape when compared to all-around boards. Most people remark on how “pointy” a racing SUP is noting that they are shaped more like a toothpick. These boards are most commonly 12’6”, 4’, or “unlimited”. Traditionally, women are on 12’6”, men are on 14’, and you see most unlimited boards used in long, open-ocean races and island-to-island crossings.

Regardless of size, the piercing bow and displacement hull is what enables this board to go quicker than a board that pushes more water. These boards are able to cut through choppy water, track straighter, and glide for longer. They are often much narrower than the all-around and fitness/touring models and yield more distance per stroke; but with that comes a sacrifice in stability.

Fitness & Touring

Fitness & Touring Paddle Boards

Fitness and touring boards are a cross between the all-around SUP and a race SUP. There are many different variations, but often come in sizes from 10’6” to 12’6” with a few 14’ boards falling into this category. The volume of fitness and touring boards will be a little higher than the flatter, all-around styles making these boards good options for people who plan to paddle with kids or pets on board

The major benefit of going with a fitness/touring shape is the nose. Nose shape is often a displacement hull similar to a race shape. This aids in tracking straight while paddling and cutting through brisk tides or wind chop. All-around boards do not cut through chop like a displacement style hull. The hull design difference of the touring boards makes them better for distance and endurance training.

The Touring SUP tail shape will often be a square tail for enhancing any stability lost from having a more pulled-in nose. The rails are thicker and can come in round or square. Square rails are more stable, while round rails are faster. A combination of both is ideal.

Touring boards are going to be made out of lighter materials. Touring boards swap width for thickness, to decrease drag without compromising volume.

Surf Paddle Boards

Surf Paddle Boards

Surf shape SUPs have a similar shape to the all-around boards, with the exception of some of the smaller boards which come to a point at the nose. Surf shapes all have planing style hulls, and the amount of rocker, or how curved up the tip is, varies.

Stand Up Paddleboards that are good at surfing range in size from about 7’ to 12’ and can surf like short boards or long boards. Boards that are on the smaller end of this range are good for kids, smaller surfers, or advanced riders. The smaller boards are perfect for more aggressive turns, airs, reverses, and very quick maneuvers. At board lengths of about 9-10’, bigger riders can still maneuver the board like a short board, but this is reaching the end of the quick maneuverability range. Depending on the size of the rider, longer, narrower boards from about 9-12’ are ideal for long-board-style riding. Riders can walk the board, adjust trim, and get nose-rides while hanging five or ten on a long-board style SUP.

Fitness or Yoga Paddle Boards

Fitness or Yoga Paddle Boards

Yoga SUPs are very similar to an All Around board and wider is better.  These provide adequate “mat” area. We’d also recommend using an inflatable board as the surface is a little softer.