The world of Stand Up Paddleboarding can be a pretty intimidating place for the newcomer. What board will suit me? What is an all rounder? Am I an all rounder?. It's a tough initial place to break into.
So with that in mind, let's have a quick look into board shapes, to help you decide which one is most suited for your needs. Boards can be broken down into four main types; All rounder, Tourer, Racer and Surf.
This is likely the shape that you will learn on, and possibly the board shape you will see most of, be it on the water or online for sale. It does exactly what it states, it's a shape that lets you do a bit if everything. It's designed to be a stable platform to help you learn quickly and safely. It will be wide enough to give you stability, be able to initiate turns quickly and track in a straight line relatively well. This means that it will do pretty much all SUP disciplines pretty well.
This ability to do a bit of everything though, means that there are board shapes which will do everything a little better, which is the payoff with having a board that is pretty ok at most things. There are boards that will be faster and work better in the wind. Boards that surf and turn better, or handle a river trip, can take more equipment, or be more stable for Yoga. Just like boards of Goosehill can do these well.
Designed to track through the water much more efficiently, Tourers will be significantly faster than an all rounder, cutting through the water like a knife. They will be able to carry more equipment like tents or expedition gear, so are fantastic for full day or multi day trips. They tend to have more pronounced noses that sit lower to the waterline, meaning they pierce through the water aiding the tracking and, into wind are much more efficient than an all rounder.
They can be different widths, the thinner the faster (but with less overall stability), but they can be just as wide as your all rounder. The rails tend to be straighter in order to create more forward drive and directional speed per paddle stroke.
A tourer tends to be slower to turn due to its shape and possibly it's length. For a relative newcomer this means that you will need to be slightly more proactive than on an all rounder.
A tourer will still do the same things an all rounder will do, minus it's ability to turn. If you like to go far, explore more and think that the idea of a full days (or more) paddling is something you would like to do, a tourer may be the ideal board.
Sleek and designed for speed. These boards tend to be narrow in appearance with a pronounced sharp nose leading into straight rails. They are designed to make every paddle stroke convert into maximum glide and efficiency. They tend to be fairly long, in the 12'6" to 14' range and have handles designed to be picked up easily and quickly from multiple angles.
For those looking for speed, cross training as well as entering races, a racer could be ideal.
Racers tend to not have the same stability as other boards as they are so thin, and you will need to work on your step back pivot turns to get the most efficient turns.
There are plenty of surf specific shapes out there, from long and fairly thin longboard style SUPs to tear drop style shapes. What they are all designed to do is give maximum glide on a wave and the ability to turn and create speed. Surf SUP inflatables tend to have less volume and are less thick so that some part of the rail can connect with the wave to help drive the board. They may have significant nose rocker at the front in order to stop the board from pearling (diving headfirst into the wave as you drop in).
Excellent in the surf, they will be significantly more responsive and efficient than other inflatable shapes on a wave. The payoff for this is that they may not be ideal for significant amounts of time paddling on flat water, with less stability and speed as they can turn so quickly. The nose rocker can also mean that in wind, they become tough to paddle.
There are plenty of other shapes out there too (SUP Yoga boards are big and wider for example, Whitewater boards are wide, stable and turn quickly, but are not efficient for flat water distances or in the wind) but the main thing to consider is what do you mainly want to do?. Then, pick a board accordingly. Want to surf or race? It's an easier choice, like to just potter round with the family on a lake? Maybe an all rounder is for you, fancy paddling out and wanting to see what is round the next corner? Maybe it's really a tourer that will keep you coming back for more.
It's worth noting that all boards will undertake all disciplines to a point, just like that Maserati will be able to do, in principle the same things as a Land Rover. Some cars, and boards, do certain things much better than others but other things not so well. Have a think about what you are wanting to mainly do on your board, and make a decision based on that.