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Stand Up Paddle Boards – An Introduction To SUP Board Shapes

There are many different types of stand up paddle board shapes on the market today. We will explore the main SUP board shapes and talk about their purpose and performance.

Are you in the market for a Stand Up Paddle board? Have you finally decided to give the new sport a try but still have a few questions about the many different board options? Maybe you have graduating from your first board and looking for a second purpose specific board? Let’s delve into the many shape options available today on the SUP market.

Here are the basic types of stand up paddling that have become popular:

Recreational flat-water Paddling
Paddle Surfing
Flat Water Racing
Downwind Paddling
Touring Paddle Boards
River/Rapid Paddling

All Around SUP shapes

Many stand up paddle boards that cater to the first time or casual paddler will fall into the “All Around” category. All Around shapes can be used for all the above mentioned types of paddling to greater or lesser extents although they are most suitable for Recreational flat-water paddling. An All Around SUP board will usually be around 30″ wide if not wider. Typical lengths for a beginner are 11′ -12′. Lighter riders may be able to start on a 10′ – 10’6″ board. All Around boards usually feature a fairly wide nose and tail as well as considerable overall thickness in the 4 1/2″ to 5″ range. The wide nose, wide tail and considerable length, width and thickness make for a very stable and forgiving board. Stable and forgiving are great characteristics to have in a board while learning the basics of balance, paddling, wave negotiation, wave riding as well as building your overall strength and conditioning. Many All Around shapes will also feature a single center fin configuration.

While some may feel the need to jump right into a performance shape there is a lot of wisdom in starting out on an all around shape and graduating after some time to a more performance tailored shape. Plus once you have graduated you will have a second board to loan to your girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband or friends. If you choose wisely you can find a board that will allow you to progress from flat-water basics and will also allow you to paddle surf in waves, test out the flat water racing scene, enjoy an SUP tour and navigate rivers and small rapids. Here is an example of what may be the first “All Around” production board originally aptly named the Jimmy Lewis – All Around although inflatable paddle board it is now called the “Cruise Control”. Other “All Around” boards available include the Hovie – Grand Sport, Hovie – LCSUP, Coreban – Cruiser, King’s – King Model, Siren Sojourn, SUPatx and SurfCore.

Paddle Surfing Shapes

Stand Up Paddle Surfing has progressed in leaps and bounds as board shapes and riders have pushed the limits of performance. There are multiple styles of SUP surfing that relate to preference and wave size. Some prefer to “rip” and “shred” on a smaller board keeping their feet in relatively the same position on the board, others prefer to “walk” the board from nose to tail in a more traditional although no less skilled manner. Each of these varied styles are generally but not exclusively performed on different board shapes.

When it comes to learning to paddle surf an “All Around” shape is usually a great shape to start on especially in smaller surf. The extra stability will allow you to paddle into the wave with confidence and the length will help your glide as your gain speed to enter the wave. Once on the wave an All Around shape will be very stable under the feet.

While bigger is usually considered better for first time paddlers you might want to consider a smaller board for surfing. You will most likely want a board that is as small as possible while still being stable enough for you to balance on. If you are headed for the surf you might want to borrow a slightly smaller board from a friend if possible and give it a try.

Nose Riders: Similar to an all around shape a nose rider shape meant for paddle surfing will have a fairly wide nose for hanging “five” or “ten” of your toes off the edge. The tail can be a variety of shapes which could include, square, squash, round, or pin tail. A SUP nose riding board specific for surfing will have much narrower tapered rails and it’s nose thickness will be less. The tail will many times be thinner as well to allow it to be buried into the waves during turns. Other maneuvers can include “backward takeoffs” which are performed by paddling the board backwards into the wave and spinning the board around 180 degrees after you catch the wave and “helicopters” with are essentially a 360 degree turn initiated while nose riding. Some examples of great Nose riding SUP shapes are the Jimmy Lewis – Striker, Coreban – Icon, King’s – Knight Model and Siren – Sojourn.