Paddle Board Terms You Should Know - SUP Terminology

Table of contents

1. Inflatable SUP board nose shape
2. Paddle board deck
3. SUP center handle
4. SUP tail
5. Hard sup board vs inflatable sup board
6. Paddleboard fins

If you are new to stand up paddle boarding, you might be confused by all the terms people use in those SUP videos. So in this post, we will introduce to you some frequently used SUP board terms to help you better understand the sport.

If you’ve already gotten into paddle boarding for a while, then this post is not for you because you’re probably already familiar with the terms we are about to introduce. But if you haven’t learned much about paddle boarding, I’m sure you will benefit from this post.

What Are The Essential Paddle Board Terms You Should Know?

Inflatable SUP board nose shape

A stand up paddle board consists of many different parts. In the front is the nose of the board. There are a lot of different nose shapes that serve different purposes.

A round nose is one of the most common types of nose. It’s usually used by all-round SUP boards. Another kind of board that uses a different type of nose is race board. Race boards usually have longer and narrower noses to help you better at cutting through the water faster and achieving higher speed.

Surf boards are kind of special because you can find all kinds of nose shapes on different surf boards. From round to pointy and a lot of other shapes that are in between round and pointy, different noses on different surf boards can give surfers different surfing experiences.

 paddle board terms

Paddle board deck

The next part of the board that we’d like to talk about is the deck. It is the part that connects the front and the back of the board. Different SUP board manufacturers will put different things on the deck.

You can find bungee straps places at the front of the board on most SUP boards. With the bungee straps you will be able to bring along stuff you need on your SUP trip.

Also, most boards will have a large area covered in deck pad. It provides you with enough grip that you won’t slip and fall easily when paddling. If you buy a board that doesn’t have a deck pad, then the best solution you can have is getting it waxed. Usually surf boards will not feature a deck pad on them, which will require you to get the board waxed.

paddle board terms

SUP center handle

A handle is also something that you would find on most boards. You can find handles of different sizes and constructions on different boards. You might find more than one handle on hard boards or composite boards.

And handles are not necessarily placed in the middle of the board on all boards, especially if you are looking at a race board or other performance-oriented SUP boards.

SUP tail

Next, we move on to the back part of the board which we call the tail. On certain boards there is a raised deck pad on the tail to provide you with enough grip for taking a step-back turn or better maneuvering.

Other things you can find at the back of the board include the leashing point and the inflation valve. While leashing points are placed at the tail of the board most of the time, there are certain paddle board manufacturers who prefer to have the inflation valve installed on the nose.

The reason why the leashing point is mostly placed on the back is that it allows you to easily pull the board back towards yourself when you fall off the board. If you see a board with a leashing point in the middle, it’s probably a race board and placing it in the middle makes releasing yourself from the board much easier and faster and allows the paddler to run up the beach more quickly.

paddle board terms

And just like the nose of the board, different boards have tails of different shapes which will give you different feelings and performances on the water. If you look carefully at different types of boards like race boards, all-around boards or surf boards, you will see they all have different shapes of tails.

paddle board terms

Another part of the board that could vary dramatically is the rail of the board. It refers to the part alongside the board that connects the top deck part of the board to the bottom. Paddle boards with different rail shapes can have very different performance and give you totally different feels when you ride on it.

Hard sup board vs inflatable sup board

There are two types of board constructions, inflatable and hard. Hard boards can be made of several different materials like carbon, glass fiber, kevlar or epoxy, etc. Both hard boards and inflatables have their own pros and cons but now inflatable paddle boards are more popular than hard boards.

People might have concerns about the quality and durability of inflatable stand up paddle boards. But the fact is iSUPs are pretty durable. Also, one of the biggest advantages it has over hard boards is its transportability. You can always roll it into a backpack for easy transportation.

Hard composite boards are for more performance-oriented paddlers. They are typically faster and more maneuverable, thus making them a better choice than inflatables for racing and riding waves.

If you flip the board over, you should notice the board is curved on the bottom. It’s called the rocker line which extends from the front of the board to the back.

The curve on the front is called the nose rocker which can help choppy and bumpy water move to the back of the board. the back of the board with the rocker line is called tail rocker or tail kick. Boards designed for different purposes will have different nose rocker and tail rocker and can have different feels when you ride on them.

 paddle board terms

Paddleboard fins

At the back of the board, you will also see the fins. As with other parts of the board, fins can vary greatly in size, shape, and even numbers. Most inflatables have a three-fin setup with two smaller side fins and a big center fin. Some boards only have one big fin in the center with a center sliding box for installing the fin.

You can also find a thruster which refers to three fins of the same size all fixed on the bottom of the board. There are even boards with a total of 4 fins. When it comes to actual paddling, it’s hard to pick out the best or fastest one because different paddlers have different preferences.

A performance-oriented surfboard will usually feature the smaller three thruster fin setup or even four quad fin setup. And most beginner paddle boards will have bigger fins or a bigger center fin which can help to make the board more stable and easier to track and go in a straight line.

paddle board terms

The dimension of the board is also an important part and it will have a great impact on your paddling experience. The dimension is basically the length, width and thickness of the board.

Longer, narrower boards usually have better glide performance and are faster and more suited to going in a straight line and wider boards are more stable. The thickness of the board is always ignored by many beginner SUP paddlers but it, too, can affect your SUP experience greatly.

Boards of different thicknesses will have different performances and feels. Also, thicker boards will have a higher volume which translates to higher weight capacity. If you are a beginner and don’t want a tippy board, be sure to go for a thicker board.

all around inflatable sup board

Those are basically all the terms you should know about an isup paddle board. There are more terms in stand up paddle boarding and if you really like the sport, it’s worth spending time learning them.


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