What is SUP?

Understanding Stand-Up Paddle Boards


Stand-Up Paddle Boards, or more commonly referred to as SUPs, are currently gaining popularity in the world of water sports. As a workout activity, SUPing is comparable to surfing and kayaking combined, in terms of calorie-burning efficiency. On average, men can burn up to 1000 calories per hour while SUPing, while women can burn at least 500 calories in an hour. Similar to any other sports, you require the proper equipment in order to make sure everything is safe and comfortable to make every movement as efficient as it can be.


There are many different boards designed for beginners, intermediate, and expert. To make a proper SUP choice for your level of expertise, you need to understand basic types of the boards, hull types, length, weight, core materials, and fins.


  1. Hull Types


The hull or body of a stand-up paddle board is the part that determines how the board behaves on water. There are two SUP hull types including:


  • Planing Hull: it is regarded as an all-in-one paddle board suitable for both surfing and paddling. Planing hull is basically wide and flat, similar to those of a surfboard. It performs well on calm water and oceans too. Most beginners use this type of hull because it tends to be very stable and also good for recreational purpose.


  • Displacement Hull: this paddle board is mainly designed for racing or long-distance paddling. Unlike planing hull which has rounded front-end, displacement hull has a pointed nose similar to a kayak. Such design helps to push water to the sides of the board, improving efficiency and speed at the same time. Displacement hull is also narrower and longer than its planing counterpart, so it can be more difficult to maintain perfect balance.


paddle boards

  1. Weight Capacity and Volume


The best SUP board for your need is the one that will work for your particular size. The board needs to displace the proper amount of water depending on your body weight to allow you to stand on it safely and steadily. Therefore, board volume and its maximum weight capacity should be put into account.


  • Weight Capacity: every board has its own maximum weight capacity, meaning how much amount of body weight it can properly support. Please always check for data specification sheet before making a purchase. If you are too heavy for the board, it will sink deeper into the water and require more strength to steer around.


  • Volume: weight capacity is almost similar to volume. The latter indicates the board’s ability to float when certain amount of weight is mounted on it. Higher volume means it can support more weight. As a general rule, short board that is thick and wide has higher volume compared to long board that is thin and narrow.


  1. SUP Length


Board length also greatly affects movement and paddling style. Riding an SUP in calm water requires different paddling techniques from riding in the ocean. To improve paddling efficiency, you have to match paddling style with board length. Another important consideration is storage. Longer board means you need bigger trunk to carry your board to the beach. It is also important to consider distance between car parking lot and the ocean since longer board can be difficult to carry around especially in windy area.


  • Long Boards (12.6 ft – 14 ft): it is designed for speed and therefore ideal for touring or racing. If you intend to go several miles for a touring or race against some of your friends, you have bigger chance of winning with long boards. These boards tend to go in straight line.


  • Medium Boards (9 ft – 12 ft): as the name says, it is not very long and not very short. It accommodates both maneuverability and speed, so it is good for all-around use.


  • Short Boards (under 9 ft): it is good only for surfing. Short boards have great maneuverability than either medium or long board. Kids commonly use an even shorter board measuring only about 8 ft long.


  1. Width


Width determines board stability. The maximum width commonly available is 36-inch and the minimum width is 29-inch. Wide boards (31-inch or more) are more stable than any narrower board. Better stability means you can balance it more easily as well. On the other hand, narrow boards (29-inch to 30-inch) is less stable. But it can go faster than the wider one.



  1. SUP Materials


There are four types of materials commonly used for making SUP boards including EPS foam, hollow core, polyurethane foam, and inflatable materials.


  • EPS Foam: the most common type of SUP board is made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. It is used for the core material and then wrapped with fiberglass and epoxy. In some boards, plastic and carbon fiber are used for the exterior. Depending on construction methods, the weight varies.


  • Hollow Core: used in both mid-range and high-end boards, hollow core is a good way to save weight, especially in high-end boards.


  • Polyurethane Foam: used mainly on entry-level SUP boards and is heavier than EPS foam material.


  • Inflatable: it is very durable, lightweight, and easy to carry SUP board. It commonly uses PVC exterior.


  1. Fins


For better stability and tracking when paddling an SUP board, fins are attached underneath the back-end. There are some variations including:


  • Fins for Inflatable Board: inflatable boards can have either detachable semi-rigid fins or flexible rubber fins.


  • Race Fins: for racing board, the fins are stiffer and straighter to help with downwind runs.


  • 3-Fin Model: best for straight tracking and surf control.


  • Large Single Fin: this type of fin is mounted on a box specifically designed to allow for back and forth fin-slides.

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