Paddle Board Types And Styles | Buyers Guide

Written By Nick Lyons – Last Updated November 8, 2019. 8 Minute Read.

What Are The Different Types Of Paddle Boards?

We will quickly and simply explain the different kinds of paddles boards so you can make the best choice for yourself!

Paddle boarding is a fun, exhilarating hobby for a variety of reasons. This exciting and physically taxing water activity has exploded in popularity around the country, leaving many men, women and families looking to hit the water in a brand new SUP.

But, before you can do any of that, you need to select a board that is right for you. If you’re a beginner to this hobby, you might think that all boards look the same. However, there are boards distinctly designed for certain uses.

Below, you will find a rundown of the various types of paddle boards, accompanied by information that will help you choose the right one for you.

Are you looking to choose the right size paddle board? Check out our Paddle Board Size Guide.

Inflatable paddle boards

Once thought to be an inferior piece of equipment, the inflatable board is now exploding in popularity due to the advanced materials and innovations made to its design.

Inflatable paddle boards now perform just as well as their hard-bodied counterparts, and they come with a variety of unique benefits, which include:

  • Much easier to transport. With the ability to deflate and pack away these boards, they’re much easier to get around. When you have a rigid board, often, you need a special rack on your vehicle just to drive it to your destination.
  • Durable and stable. This might surprise you about inflatable paddle boards, but they can take a beating and they’re even easier to stabilize than a fiberglass board. The durable materials can take punishment from rocks and other hazards while a fiberglass board might sustain damage.
  • They’re softer, and therefore safer. If you fall on your board — if you are a beginner, you probably will fall often — the softer inflatable boards will cushion your fall.

Still, inflatable boards aren’t the perfect fit for everyone. They come with a few drawbacks that turn hobbyists off to these particular boards, including:
Price: This might be a shock, but today’s inflatable SUPs are more expensive than fiberglass boards. And, to many, price is a major sticking point.
Tough to maneuver: An inflatable board can be difficult to maneuver when compared to hard bodied boards. If you’re only doing some light paddling around lakes and rivers, this limitation won’t make huge difference.
Sinking down in the middle: Unless you’re able to inflate the board perfectly, you will likely be left with a little flex in your inflatable paddle board. You may experience some sinking near the middle, which can affect your ride.
Many users find that the time it takes to pump up the board can be inconvenient.

The battle between fiberglass and inflatable paddle boards continues to rage on. Both of them have unique characteristics and key selling points. They’re both formidable boards for hobbyists.

Flat Water paddle boards

Many paddle boarders like stability in their boards, especially newcomers that are still getting a handle on their balance. Flatwater paddle boards are perfect for this demographic, offering a solid, lengthy body that provides stability and is also shaped perfectly to cut seamlessly through the water.

You can identify a flatwater board by noticing its pointed nose and tapered outline. These are great boards for those that are looking to tool around the flat waters of lakes, harbors and other generally calm areas. Still, they can handle a significant wave or two to add a little thrill to the ride.

Flatwater SUPs are some of the longest SUPs available, sometimes clocking in at 12 feet long. This makes them a good fit for touring medium and long distances. The only drawback is that they can be a little difficult to steer and maneuver.

Surf paddle boards

If you are someone looking to combine paddle surfing with traditional surfing, surf paddle boards are what you’re looking for. These boards are typically smaller, thinner and are the easiest to maneuver. Paddling out in small surf conditions allows you to reach waves quicker and ride them in. You won’t be able to enjoy the waves like this with bigger and bulkier boards.

Surf paddle boards are not a great choice for beginners, as they require superior balance. However, surf paddle boards can be a great match for kids, who are just getting started. Based on their height and weight, a surf stand up paddle board will likely provide enough stability.

Race paddle boards

These narrow, stable and long paddle boards cut through the water with ferocity, making them the perfect fit for riders that are looking for speed from their paddle board. Race paddle boards are ideal for traveling long distances, and they are able to take on waves seamlessly as well.

As a beginner, you’re probably not looking to break any speed records. Race paddle boards cater to the experienced hobbyist while a newcomer might be best suited for a flatwater or all around board.

All around paddle boards

All around paddle boards cater to the casual user. While other boards might be ideal for speed or taking on waves, the all around stand up paddle board is designed to leisurely tour through the water, which is what most people want to do.

You might consider these to be the happy medium between the high-performance surfing boards and giant, flatwater boards.

It’s important to match an all around board with the person us using it. This is a huge benefit to all around boards — you can find one that especially caters to your needs.

A person’s size, build and even personal preference will dictate what type of all around board they are best suited for.

For instance, like all other paddle boards, all around boards have a weight limit, and it’s important to be mindful of that. In terms of height, a shorter individual might find it easier to ride on a thinner board while a taller person may need the stability of a thicker board. Width, thickness, length and more, take your time with purchasing a SUP so you can make the right decision.

The downside is that, if you continue to advance in your skill level and want to take on new challenges on your board (i.e. racing, riding waves, etc.), you’ll have to shop for a racing or surfing board, because all around boards won’t be ideal for the more advanced activities.

Do your research before you shop!

All types of SUPs represent a significant investment. Make sure you get full value for your hard-earned money by choosing a board that you will be able to enjoy every time you hit the water.