How To Choose A Race Board

Last updated on Apr 8, 2022 by Goosehill

Table of contents

1. What Board Sizes, Shapes and Features to Look For

2. Race Board Fin System

3. Inflatable vs Hard Board - Which One’s More Suited To Racing

4. Deck Pad Design

All inflatable paddle boards can be used as a race board if you want to. To have the best performance, it’s always best to opt for a board made specifically for races. 

If the board you use for racing is going to be the only board you’ll buy, and you are going to be paddling on calm waters most of the time, then an all-around board would suit you better as it offers more comfort than a narrow race board on flat water.

What Board Sizes, Shapes and Features to Look For

There are different race classes and race boards made specifically for them. 12’6’’ is the most common race class worldwide. The second most common class is 14’. A 14’ board is typically faster than a 12’6’’ boards. 

Most race boards of the said lengths are of 26’’ or 28’’ wide. Narrower boards usually have less drag and are usually faster. For most paddlers, 28’’ is narrow enough as it won’t sacrafice too much stability. But there are still paddlers who want to get the highest speed and they would opt for the narrower 26’’ boards. 26’’ boards would be faster but balancing bocomes a challenge and may distract you from achieving higher speed.

Race boards are typically rounded, usually have a flat tail and a low nose rock.

If you are going to use your board for paddling occasions other than racing, consider getting a touring board. A touring board is usually a little wider (at 30-32 inches) and offers more stability. It’s also a great choice for a race board for taller and heavier paddlers.

Race Board Fin System

A single US fin box is the most common choice for a fin configuration as it has the least drag compared to other fin systems. Not to mention it can fit in fins of different sizes and shapes designed to its standard.

Fins of different sizes and shapes will perform differently in a race and you can further optimize the performance of your board by adjusting the position of the fin in the fin box.

In flat water, a single fin configuration would perform better than a three-fin system as it has less drag. But a three-fin configuration will offer more stability which becomes an advantage when you race in rough conditions.

Deck Pad Design

You will be standing on the deck pad the whole time in the race, so a well-designed deckpad could affect your performance greatly. You will be standing on the center of the paddle most of the time and on the tail when you need to take a pivot turn.

A deck pad that features diamond groove on it will offer you maximum traction, it’s the best choice for racing in rough conditions. Otherwise, you’d be better off with a smoother surface as it’s more comfortable for you to stand on especially if you have sensitive feet and will be paddling for longer hours.

Some board will feature an arch bar and raised edge at the tail to give the rider more grip for doing buoy turns. If the race you participate in involves doing buoy turns, it’s worth considering getting a race board with an arch bar.

Inflatable vs Hard Board - which one’s more suited to racing

Hard boards are still the mainstream choice in most professional SUP races, but inflatables are making its way into this realm.

So if you are going to be partcipating in some mainstream SUP races, a hard board is still the better choice here. But there are a lot of things to take into consideration before you buy one. For instance, a hard board is not easy to store or transport. Transporting a hard board is a lot of work, especiallly if your SUP trip involves air travel. Not to mention the shipping fee is going to cost a fortune.

And there have been professional SUP races with an inflatable class to allow participants to use their inflatable boards in the game. So an inflatable race SUP is also a viable option. 

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