A Guide To The Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards

SUP stands for “stand up paddleboarding”.

It’s a watersport that combines elements of surfing with kayaking, as you essentially just stand on a large surfboard and use a paddle to move through the water.

It’s a relaxed, fun, and low-risk hobby, and it’s one of the fastest-rising sports on the water.

If you’re new to stand up paddle boarding, there are a few basic things that you need to know, including the types of boards that you can buy.

What are the Types of Paddle Boards?

As with surfboards, stand up paddle boards come in many different shapes and sizes, and the one that’s right for you will depend on everything from your weight to your experience level.

There are three main types of board to consider:

Surf Stand Up Paddle Board

A surf-focused stand-up stand up paddle board is much shorter than the other SUP boards on this list and also has a very narrow nose and tail.

The streamlined frame offers more maneuverability, allowing you to turn sharply and easily in the surf.

These SUP boards have more of a rocker than all around and flat water SUP boards (discussed below) and are a good option for surfers who are new to stand up paddle boarding.

All Around Stand Up Paddle Board

The all around stand up paddle board is a longer, wider, and thicker option.

They are so-named because they are multi-purpose stand up paddle board, ones that you can take into any swell.

They are great options for budget boarders who don’t have the funds for a varied quiver and just want an all-in-one SUP paddle board.

These longer stand up paddle boards also provide a lot of stability, giving novice boarders more of the control that they seek when stepping into the surf for the first time.

You can even find all around stand up paddle boards that have a windsurfing mount, allowing you to attach a sailing rig.

Flatwater Stand Up Paddle Boards

As the name suggests, these stand up paddle boards are best suited for flat water.

Take them onto the calm open water, make sure the wind is at your back, and have some fun.

Flatwater SUPs have a pointed nose to help them cut through the water and they also tend to be very long SUP boards.

Solid or Inflatable?

SUPs, like surfboards, can be made from a number of different materials, including wood, foam, fiberglass, and resin.

The material will impact the durability and overall performance, but if the price is the only thing that you care about, look for an inflatable SUP.

Inflatables are made from layers of PVC and woven fibers and are much stronger and more capable than you might expect.

They are light, cheap, and very capable, but they’re obviously not as strong, quick, or agile as hard SUP boards.

How Much Do SUP Paddle Boards Cost?

Cost is one of the biggest factors that will influence your decision when looking for a stand up paddle board.

Not only can there be a sizeable difference between hard boards, but there’s a huge one between inflatables and hard boards.

​An inflatable stand up paddle board will cost you a couple of hundred bucks on average, but if you step up to an epoxy hard board, you can expect to pay anywhere up to 10x as much.

$2,000 is a massive ask for a boarder on a budget, but if you shop around, you can find a high-quality hard stand up paddle board for around $1,000.

What Are Stand Up Paddle Boards Made Of?

SUP boards are made of a few different types of material. Here is a break down.

Fiberglass SUP Boards

Fiberglass stand up paddle board are solid and lightweight, ensuring that they stay strong on the waves and are easy to take out of the water.

Fiberglass SUP boards, just like surfboards, are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core that is wrapped in a fiberglass coating.

The foam core ensures that the SUP board is lightweight and buoyant while the fiberglass coating protects the board from water damage.

Benefits of a Fiberglass Stand Up Paddle Board:

  • Very lightweight
  • Delivers a smooth and fast ride
  • Cuts through the waves easily
  • Capable of dealing with compressive forces

Wooden Stand Up Paddle Boards

Most wooden paddle boards are made from bamboo.

It’s cheap, sustainable, and strong. It’s also very flexible and durable and is a good option for eco-conscious paddle boarders.

Benefits of a Wooden Stand Up Paddle Board

  • Often made from sustainable bamboo
  • An eco-friendly option
  • Light and strong
  • Different varieties of wood to choose from

Foam Paddle Boards

Foam stand up paddle board are very light, making them easy to carry around.

They can take a beating and you don’t need to worry about dings, scratches, and other common damage.

They are not the best option for experienced riders, but if you’re just looking for a cheap board to have some fun, or a beginner board to learn the ropes, foam SUP paddle boards are ideal.

Benefits of a Foam Stand Up Paddle Board:

  • One of the lightest options
  • Surprisingly durable
  • A good option for beginners

Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards

Inflatable paddle boards are some of the most common.

They are also the ones that many beginner paddle boarders make a beeline for.

As the name suggests, inflatable boards can be inflated and deflated as needed, making them easy to carry, store, and transport.

If you don’t have a lot of space in your house or garage but fancy trying your hand at paddle boarding, an inflatable board could be ideal.

Benefits of Inflatable Paddle Boards

  • Very light
  • A super cheap option
  • Can be deflated and carried in a backpack
  • Easy to store away at home

What Are Stand Up Paddle Boards Used for?

In addition to the material type, SUP and surf paddle boards can also be categorized by use:

Touring Paddle Boards

Touring stand up paddle boards are designed for long-distance paddle boarding.

They tend to be much longer, as it means that they will sit higher in the water and provide more comfort and stability over long distances.

Most touring SUP paddle boards also ride straighter in the water and are designed for speed, buoyancy, and distance as opposed to agility.

Recreational Paddle Boards

Recreational stand up paddle boards are all arounders and are designed to provide an enjoyable experience on the water.

These stand up paddle boards are often a little shorter than touring paddle boards but they may also be wider, as the goal is to have fun and not to generate high speeds or perform sharp turns.

Racing Stand Up Paddle Boards

Racing stand up paddle boards are built for speed and performance.

They are narrower and focus on a shape that optimizes speed and turning ability without worrying as much about buoyancy and stability.

What is the Best Stand Up Paddle Board?

It really all depends on what you need it for.

If you’re using the board to travel long distances, then you should look into longer touring stand up paddle boards.

Longer SUP boards will make your life much easier and allow you to cover large distances with ease.

If you’re an expert, hard stand up paddle boards may be the best option, specifically those designed for agility and speed.

As a beginner, it’s all about foam and inflatable stand up boards, as they provide the buoyancy that you need at a very reasonable price.

What is the Best Stand Up Paddle Board for Beginners?

Beginners are best suited to foam boards and inflatable boards.

These SUP boards are not necessarily designed specifically for beginners, but they often touch upon the points that beginners need, including affordability, durability, weight, and ease of transport.

With inflatable boards, for instance, you don’t need to worry about roof racks and home storage space, as they can be deflated and stored in a backpack and drawer.

Summary: Types of SUP and Surf Paddle Boards

Whether you’re looking to start touring and need a longer stand up paddle board that can cover longer distances, or you have your newbie eyes set on an inflatable stand up paddle board, there are clearly many options to choose from.

All budgets and needs are covered, so make sure you keep the material and purpose in mind before you purchase your new SUP paddle board.