Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards (What Board is Right for You?)

Stand up paddle boarding, or SUP is a great activity for people of all ages and experience levels. It’s a fun way to get some exercise, and it can be enjoyed on many different types of waterways.

In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of stand up paddle boards that are available on the market today. I will also provide tips on what board is right for you, depending on your individual needs and preferences.

Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards

What is the difference between paddle boards?

I’m often asked what the difference is in paddle boards. To begin with, stand up paddle boards can be differentiated by construction methods and materials. Traditional paddle boards would have been made using wood until fiberglass and epoxy became standard. 

Over time, materials have been developed and enhanced to be better suited for beginner paddlers, learner boards, speed features, and maneuverability.

Inflatable paddle boards have evolved in recent years and have become the most popular and preferred type of stand up paddle board.

However, all construction types of inflatable boards come with specific benefits suited for certain individuals better than others. Sometimes it’s not as clear as inflatable vs solid paddle boards, or hard over soft top composites.

For example, when it comes to durability working with a harder composite will give you a longer-lasting board in most cases. But if someone is looking for a lightweight option that is easy to travel with an inflatable might make more sense.

Numerous factors come into play when deciding on the best SUP for you so hopefully, this offers some clarity on the topic.

What types of paddle boards are there?

Board construction is the first way to categorize types of paddle boards. The three most common construction types are inflatable, epoxy, and touring. Inflatable paddle boards are made with multiple layers of PVC and can be deflated for easy transport and storage.

Epoxy paddle boards are rigid and lightweight, making them ideal for racing and surfing. Touring paddle boards are designed for long-distance paddling, with features like extra cargo space and a comfortable deck pad.

Board size is another key factor in choosing a SUP board. For beginners, a wider and longer board will provide more stability. More experienced paddlers may prefer a smaller board for maneuverability. In general, SUP boards range from 10 to 14 feet long and 28 to 34 inches wide.

Finally, you need to decide what type of activities you’ll be using your paddle board for. If you’re interested in racing or surfing, you’ll want a board specifically designed for those activities.

For exploring lakes and rivers, a touring or all-around board will give you the best mix of comfort and performance. Whatever type of board you choose, make sure to get one that fits your specific needs. With so many different types of paddle boards on the market, there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for you.

Types of paddle boards by board construction

Hard paddle boards (epoxy)

You can never go wrong with a hard paddle board. Made with epoxy resin and fiberglass, it is one of the most durable types of paddle boards on the market. It is also designed to cut through water effortlessly, making it ideal for SUP surfing or racing.

Although it may not be as versatile as an inflatable paddle board, it makes up for its speed and durability. So if you are looking for a durable and fast paddle board, a hard paddle board is the way to go.

I find hard paddle boards to be much more responsive to my movements and therefore, easier to control. I also like that they are less likely to get damaged than inflatable SUPs. However, a major drawback is transporting and storing the board.

Hard boards take up a lot of space and often get damaged due to ‘getting in the way’. Also, due to a longer manufacturing process, you can typically expect epoxy paddle boards to be more expensive.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, I would recommend an inflatable SUP. But if you are looking for performance, then I would go with a hard board.

Soft top paddle boards (composite)

I’ve always been a fan of soft top paddle boards. They’re made in a similar way to epoxy, but they’re layered with a soft, spongy material to give a soft and padded finish. This means they’re less likely to show up scuffs or dings – perfect for paddle boarding and surf schools.

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Versatility is limited for performance-focused activities. However, soft boards are perfect for families and young paddlers who are likely to hit rocky bottoms or bump into each other while learning how to paddle board.

These boards are also great for taking dogs on board. If they scratch through the soft layers, it causes less damage than on epoxy or inflatable. So if you’re looking for a versatile and durable paddle board, I would recommend checking out a soft top paddle board.

If you’re looking for an entry-level paddle board, a soft-top or composite board is a good option. These boards are often heavy because of the extra padding used in construction, but they’re also cheaper and more cheerful than other options.

One downside to soft top boards is that they have a layer of polyethylene on the bottom to reduce drag, but this can get damaged easily. However, overall these boards are a good option for beginning paddle boarders.

Inflatable SUP boards

When it comes to inflatable SUP boards, there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, they’re made from heavy-duty PVC with drop-stitch technology that creates an air core.

This means that they’re just as rigid and stable as epoxy boards, but also super durable and able to handle rough environments.

Secondly, they don’t cut through the water as fiberglass SUPs do – instead, they glide along the surface. This can make them slower than fiberglass boards, but also means that they’re great for beginners or for those who want to paddle in calm waters.

Inflatable paddle boards, or iSUPs, offer a versatile and convenient option for riders of all levels. Perfect for traveling and storage, simply deflate the board and stow it in the included backpack.

iSUPs are available in a variety of styles to suit any rider and activity, from all-around boards to those designed for specific uses like surfing or fishing.

Beginner to expert, anyone can enjoy the convenience and portability of an inflatable paddle board.

And finally, they’re rising in popularity thanks to the increase in the quality of inflatable boards on the market.

Types of paddle boards by board size

Short boards

Short SUPs have several advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easier to turn in the water and can quickly carve along a wave’s face – perfect for joining the local line-up.

On the downside, they have a lower weight capacity due to their lower volume and floatation, which can make them difficult to stay stable when stationary for some riders.

Ultimately, whether or not a short SUP is right for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. If you are looking for a board that is easy to maneuver and performs well in surf conditions, then a short SUP may be the ideal option.

However, if you need a board with greater stability and floatation, then you may want to consider a longer board.

Medium boards

Medium SUPs are the most popular size of stand up paddle board, as they offer a good balance of stability and maneuverability.

They range in length from 10 to 12 feet, and generally have a good amount of volume and float, making them a stable choice for any size rider. Medium-sized boards are perfect for activities such as SUP yoga and SUP fishing, as there is plenty of deck space to spread out and carry any gear needed for the day.

In addition, they are also a great option for flatwater cruising, as they are easy to navigate and provide a smooth ride. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced paddler, a medium SUP is a great option for all kinds of paddling adventures.

Long boards

If you’re looking to cover some serious distance on your SUP, then a long board is the way to go.

These boards are designed for speed and efficiency and can help you cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. At 12 ft or longer, they are much longer than traditional SUPs, but not quite as long as racing boards.

This makes them the perfect compromise for those who want to paddle long distances without sacrificing too much speed. And because they are streamlining and fast, they are also great for exploring new areas or touring around familiar waterways.

So if you’re looking for an adventure, a long SUP is a perfect choice.

Types of paddle boards by activity

All-around flatwater paddle boards

All-around paddle boards are fantastic, versatile options that can perform well in many roles.

They are best for flatwater paddling and are suitable for any level of experience. A good all-around board can take a beginner from learning how to paddle, right through to a competent paddler enjoying a cruise.

Key features include a wide deck and rounded nose, usually 10’6 or longer, and a planing hull for increased stability while motionless. Inflatable all-around SUPs are a popular choice, but epoxy is also available.

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All around SUPs are best for general paddle boarding, SUP yoga, SUP fishing, tandem paddle boarding with a dog or friends, and learning the basics.

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re looking for a versatile board that can do it all, an all-around paddle board is a great option.

High-performance surf SUP boards

Surf SUPs, or performance paddle boards, are designed for increased maneuverability and speed. They are shorter than other types of SUPs and more sensitive to the weight distribution of the rider.

Because they are more specialized, they are only recommended for riders with more experience. They are not suitable for lazy lake paddles. 

Some of the key features of surf SUPs include a narrow and pointed nose, a length of 7’ to 10’, and a planing hull that cuts through the water efficiently. While iSUPs can be surfed, epoxy is the preferred choice. Surf SUPs gain stability through movement; they are difficult to keep balanced when stationary. 

If you’re looking for a challenge and want to up your paddle boarding game, a surf SUP may be the right board for you. Just be sure to have some experience under your belt before you give it a go.

Touring and hybrid-touring paddle boards

Touring paddle boards are designed for speed and long-distance paddling. They are usually long and narrow, with a pointed nose, and they have a displacement hull to provide a smooth ride.

Touring SUPs may be made from various materials, but epoxy is the preferred choice for its lightweight properties. Tracking and storage areas are also important features to consider when choosing a touring paddle board.

These finely tuned SUPs can be difficult to control at first, but once the rider has mastered the weight distribution, then there will be no stopping the adventure.

Touring boards are perfect for those who want to explore new paddling territory and push their boundaries.

Which paddle boards are most stable?

When it comes to stability, inflatable paddle boards have a few advantages over their hard board counterparts. For one, they can be inflated to a higher pressure, which gives them a stiffer, more stable hull.

Additionally, the extra width of an inflatable board makes it more stable than a narrower hardboard of the same length.

And finally, the softer, more flexible construction of an inflatable board makes it more resistant to tipping in choppy conditions.

So if you’re looking for a stable paddle board that can handle a little bit of everything, an inflatable is the way to go.

What is the best type of paddle board for beginners?

For beginners, the best type of paddle board is one that is wide and stable. All-around Inflatable SUPs are perfect for beginner paddlers because they are safe, stable, and versatile.

When you fall off the board, and it will happen, an inflatable board will be soft if you hit it and won’t get damaged in the learning process. Inflatable boards are also easy to transport and store, making them a great option for those who don’t have a lot of space.

Once you’ve mastered the basics on an all-around board, you can move on to a narrower board that is designed for a specific activity, such as racing or surfing. But for beginners, an all-around inflatable SUP is the way to go.

What size SUP is good for beginners?

SUPs, or stand-up paddleboards, come in a range of sizes to accommodate different riders. For beginners, it is best to choose a board that is between 10’6 and 11’ long and 31” to 35” wide.

These dimensions provide the best stability, due to an increased surface area, as paddlers find their balance. The volume needs to be between 220 and 280 L to give the best float and stability.

As the paddler progresses, they can experiment with the size and see how it can make a difference to their paddling experience.

How do I choose a SUP?

When choosing a SUP, you need to consider your height and weight, making sure the paddle board is the right fit for you.

You also need to think about where you will be paddling and what type of venture you will be having. From here, you will be able to determine what type of paddle board will be best for you.

If you want to hit the waves, check out surf paddle boards. Endurance? Touring paddle boards will be good. All around SUPs are perfect for people who want to do a bit of everything. Yoga on a paddle board? Look into an inflatable one.

What is the difference between a paddle board and SUP?

Paddleboarding and SUP are often used interchangeably to refer to the same activity, but there is actually a subtle difference between the two.

Paddle boarding generally refers to the act of standing on a board and paddling through the water using a paddle, while SUP usually refers to stand-up paddle surfing, which is a similar activity that also involves riding waves.

However, both activities can be enjoyed on calm waters without any waves, and both require a certain amount of balance and coordination. So whether you call it to paddle boarding or SUP, you’re sure to have a good time.

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Is foam or inflatable paddle board better?

If you’re interested in paddle boarding, you might be wondering whether to get a foam board or an inflatable. There are pros and cons to both types of boards, and the best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

Foam boards are generally cheaper than inflatables, and they’re also easier to transport and store. However, they’re not as durable as inflatables and can be damaged more easily.

Inflatables are more expensive than foam boards, but they’re also much more durable and can be deflated and packed away when not in use. They’re also faster than foam boards, making them a good choice for racing or another competitive paddle boarding.

Ultimately, the best type of paddle board for you will depend on your budget, how often you’ll be using it, and what type of paddle boarding you’ll be doing.

What is a composite stand up paddle board?

A composite stand up paddle board, or SUP is a boardsport discipline originating in Hawaii. A SUP is an elongated platform used to stand on and paddle with one’s hands, or a pole.

The sport of SUPing has its roots in surfing and was traditionally done on longboards. However, the rise of the shortboard in the 1960s and 1970s led to a decline in surfing’s popularity, and the sport of SUPing all but disappeared.

In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of SUPing, thanks in part to the development of new technologies that have made it possible to construct lighter and more durable boards.

Composite SUP boards are now widely available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and price points.

Whether you’re looking for a board for racing, touring, or just cruising around on your local lake or river, there’s sure to be a composite SUP board that’s perfect for you.

Are thicker paddle boards better?

This is a question that often comes up among new paddlers. For the majority of paddlers, 5 inches of thickness is preferred over 6 inches thickness because it results in more stability for a given board width and outline shape.

The trade-off is that 5-inch thick boards are slightly less stable than 6-inch thick boards when paddling in choppy water. However, they are also easier to maneuver and faster to accelerate.

As a result, most paddlers prefer 5-inch thick boards for all-around use. For those who want the utmost in stability, however, 6-inch thick boards may be the way to go.

Is a wider paddle board more stable?

To the casual observer, it might seem like a wider paddle board would be more stable than a narrower one. After all, there’s more surface area for the rider to stand on and less chance of tipping over.

However, that stability comes at a price: wider boards are significantly slower than their narrower counterparts. For experienced paddle boarders who are looking for speed and agility, a narrower board is the way to go.

However, if you’re new to the sport, or just want a more relaxing experience, a wider board will offer you the stability you’re looking for.

Do inflatable paddle boards pop?

Inflatable paddle boards are just as tough and durable as their rigid counterparts. The same places that could potentially compromise an inflatable paddleboard would also be hazardous for the rigid ones.

Inflatable paddle boards have an extra layer of protection in the form of a PVC bladder that is encased in a drop-stitch material. This layer of protection adds to the overall rigidity of the board, making it less likely to pop or puncture.

Nevertheless, it is always important to use caution when paddling in rocky or shallow waters. Paddleboards are designed to withstand years of use, but no board is indestructible.

With proper care and maintenance, your inflatable paddle board will give you years of enjoyment on the water.

What kind of paddle board is best for the ocean?

Epoxy touring paddle boards are the best SUPs for ocean paddle boarding. Touring paddle boards are longer, less wide, have more rockers, and typically have a pointed nose aka a displacement hull.

A displacement hull will provide you with more paddle efficiency and performance when it comes to paddling against chop. epoxy material is also ideal for an ocean environment because it is not as susceptible to dings and damage as other materials.

Plus, epoxy touring paddle boards are often lighter weight, making them easier to carry to and from the water. If you’re looking to do some ocean paddle boarding, be sure to choose an epoxy touring paddle board.

Wrapping up

To sum up, the type of paddle board you choose should be based on your individual needs and preferences. Consider the conditions in which you’ll be paddling, your level of experience, and what you hope to get out of the sport. With so many different types of paddle boards on the market, there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for you.

Happy paddling!

Last updated on June 29, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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