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 theAll Aroundcategory. 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 30wide if not wider. Typical lengths for a beginner are 11′ -12′. Lighter riders may be able to start on a 10′ 10’6board. All Around boards usually feature a fairly wide nose and tail as well as considerable overall thickness in the 4 1/2to 5range. 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 firstAll Aroundproduction board originally aptly named the Jimmy Lewis All Around although it is now called theCruise Control“. OtherAll Aroundboards 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 toripandshredon a smaller board keeping their feet in relatively the same position on the board, others prefer towalkthe 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 anAll Aroundshape 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 hangingfiveortenof 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 includebackward takeoffswhich are performed by paddling the board backwards into the wave and spinning the board around 180 degrees after you catch the wave andhelicopterswith 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.
Rippers: SUP boards sometimes referred to asrippersare essentially blown up short board shapes that allow the paddle surfer to turn faster, drop-in on steeper waves and negotiate barrels with greater ease. TypicalRippershapes have a pointy nose and pulled-in tail and have a 3 finthrusteror 4 finQuadsetup. Sizes are typically in the sub 7 foot to 10 foot range. A common size is 9′ to 9’6“. Some great examples ofRipper SUPshapes are the Coreban Performer, Coreban Nitro, Jimmy Lewis Mano and Kings WCT Model.
Big Wave Boards: Big wave boards need to be able to be paddled quickly enough to catch a fast moving wave. Once up to speed a big wave board needs to be able to make the drop and turn at high speeds while keeping it’s rails in contact with the wave. Typical big wave boards will be in the 11′ to 13′ range and be thinner in width than a normal board with very pulled in point nose and a pin tail. Typical fin configuration is the 3 finthruster“. An example of a big wave gun SUP is the Jimmy Lewis Bombora.
Flat Water Racing Boards: Racing boards are designed to allow the paddler to move through the water very fast, with the least amount of resistance. Typical widths of a racing board will be from 27to 30wide with thickness in the 4.5to 5.5range. Although race boards come in many lengths there are a few standard lengths that conform to official race event classes. These classes include: Stock 12’6 and under, 14′ and under andUnlimited which could include boards 14’1and over. Race boards usually will have a very narrow nose and tail. Many boards will also feature a displacement hull which is basically a deep vee nose running into a rounded bottom. Displacement hulls generally excel in rougher ocean conditions. The displacement hull design is similar to many boat hull designs. Other variations of race boards will have a slight vee in the nose but will feature a flatter bottom that carries out to more square rails. The flatter bottom designs are more favorable for very flat and calm water race conditions. Some boards especially in the 14′ 1and over lengths will feature a rudder that can be controlled ortrimmedby your foot while paddling. Race regulations only allow rudders on the 14′ 1and overUnlimitedClass. This can be very helpful when facing cross winds that normally could only be counterbalance by paddling on one side. Trimming with your rudder will allow you to paddle even strokes on each side preventing fatigue while traveling in your desired direction. Examples of Race boards include the Jimmy Lewis Slice, Coreban Alpha Race 12’6“, Coreban Alpha Race 14′, Nah Skwell Race and Hovie Comet.
Downwind Paddling: Downwind Paddling consists of paddling with the wind typically from point A to B. In the ocean it is possible to catch open ocean swells that allow the paddler to ride the wave for short distances. Once a wave is caught the paddler can rest for a few seconds and adjust their directional course before paddling again into another wave orrunner“. In this fashion the paddler can travel great distances at impressive average speeds. Downwind boards are typically in the 12’6to 18range. They feature narrow widths in the 27to 30range, have pointed nose profiles, and pulled in tails. Downwind boards typically have a fair amount of nose rocker that allow them to drop into the trough of waves without the nosepearlingor going underwater. The bottom of the boards are typically flat with fairly sharp rear rails allowing them to ride the waves and change direction easily if needed. Examples of this type of board include the Coreban Alpha Race 12’6and Jimmy Lewis Albatross.
Touring Paddle Boards: A touring board will allow you to cover great distances and have ample floatation to allow you to carry extra camping gear, small dogs or small children along with you. Touring boards are usually in the 12′ and longer range. If you are a lighter rider you can get away with using anAll Aroundboard for touring purposes. Likewise some All Around boards in the 12range can work well as touring boards. Accessories for touring boards can include deck mount attachment kits that allow you to create attachment points for strapping down backpacks, dry bags, coolers or anything else you see fit to bring along with you. Multi-Day paddle trips are a great way to explore lakes, rivers and the ocean while camping along the way. Here is a link to our recent paddle trip down theLost Coastof California’s Humboldt County. A great example of a Touring SUP board is the Jimmy Lewis Albatross.
River/Rapid Paddle Boards: A growing sector of Stand Up Paddle boarding is the use of paddle boards to run rivers and rapids. Of course there are many classes of rapids that one could choose to run. Just as in surfing you will want a board that is just big enough to be stable without being to long. Many choose a board with a 3 fin thruster configuration commonly used for surfing which allows them to use 3 small fins instead of one large fin giving them more clearance over shallow rocky river sections. Also common today are inflatable SUP boards that are practically impervious to rocks. These feature softer fins that are less likely to seriously catch on a rock or causing damage to the board. Another benefit of inflatable boards are their portability once deflated.
Another variation on River paddling is standing wave surfing. Certain river rapids have standing waves caused by the fast moving water running over the rocky bottom contour of the river. If you can paddle into this standing wave you have a theoretically endless wave until you fall or are physically exhausted.

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