Photo Credit: Airhead SUP Ambassador, Ryan Boettner
What’s the right SUP board for you? That all depends on what you’d like to do with it...
The shape of a stand up paddleboard (a.k.a SUP) is one of the most important characteristics that differentiate it from surfboards. Paddleboards come in a variety of shapes that affect the way the board handles and performs in the water. Each shape is designed specifically for catering to particular SUP specializations.
Whether you're planning to learn SUP yoga, train for a race, or just hit the water for a relaxing paddle with friends, your first step is to choose the right board to maximize your board performance. That might mean you’re looking for speed/efficiency or maximum stability or superior maneuverability.
These are the most common board shapes you’ll find:
These boards are the most commonly used boards. They feature wider dimensions which make them more stable. They are also longer to accommodate less experienced paddlers.
Recreational SUPs are great for beginners and fair-weather paddlers who aren’t worried about perfect form. They offer tremendous forgiveness and stability allowing for all levels of balance to have a great time.
Often recreational paddleboards have a rounded nose and tail with a little bit of rocker for use on choppy water. They tend to be referred to as “planing boards”, meaning that they’ll travel mostly on top of water (compared to the race board sitting down in and cutting through the water). // [Explore our Recreational SUP assortment]
Fishing boards are the largest boards you will find, because you need all the extra stability and support while reeling in the big catch. The added stability also allows you to utilize various types of fishing gear on board while paddling.
They are some of the most stable boards out there, often coming in as wide as 40” across. They are usually very long as well, adding to the overall stability. Fishing SUPs aren’t fast or easily maneuvered because of their great size, but they will help when you are reeling in that trophy catch. // [Explore our Fishingl SUP assortment]
Yoga is an excellent way to round out your fitness routine. Take this already challenging exercise and add the variable of water? Sounds like a plan.
Boards designed for yoga are often compact and the shape might directly speak to efficiency or performance. Their decks are flat and often their pads extend over the whole board.
With inflatable SUPs, look for a nice stiff and strong board and ensure it’s properly inflated. You want it to have a soft feel, but you don’t want it to give way while you’re entering downward dog! Namaste. // [Explore our Fitness SUP assortment]
These boards are meant for moving through heavy rapids and whitewater. They are usually shorter and often wider so the person riding is given extra stability to stay balanced over turbulent conditions.
Whitewater boards are often equipped with larger “pontoons” attached to the sides for added stability and maneuvering through extreme obstacles and heavy rapids. Whitewater SUPs possess a very wide and squared tail that enables riders to drop further back on the board, lift the bow and maneuver quickly in rough water. // [Explore our Whitewater SUP assortment]
These SUPs look and feel a lot like surfboards. They also have a very similar shape and feel of traditional surfboards. Just like surfboards there are long Surf SUPs for cruising as well as shorter SUP boards for freestyle tricks, etc. But that’s not all. Fin placement, rocker, as well as the thickness of the board are all configured similarly to surfboards. Rocker refers to the side to side curvature that aids in maneuvering through and on top of waves as well as moving effortlessly on top of the water.
These paddleboards tend to be shorter than most SUPs with sharper upward facing noses. They are are also thinner and feature identical fin setups as traditional surfboards.
Race boards are the most technologically advanced rides in the SUP market. They need to be as light, stiff and rigid as possible. The aerodynamic shape of a race board plays into how it will track in the water and how it performs while being paddled over long distances.
Racing SUPs are often also called displacement hulls featuring a pronounced bow to cut through water efficiently. These boards feature almost no rocker, a very narrow midsection and a straight tail. They are streamlined from the end of the nose back with rounded sides so the board has less resistance while riding through the water. They are meant to be fast, achieved by narrow profiles that are less stable stable when stationary.
Each stand up paddleboard shape bears it’s own unique characteristics. There are smaller and larger recreational SUPs and there are short and exceedingly long race SUPs. Note there are also many boards that can fall under more than one of these categories, which are referred to as hybrid boards. As the SUP industry continues to grow, more and more board shapes will be introduced to the market creating additional SUP disciplines that will be added to the already extensive list there are today.