SUP 101: Getting to Know Your Paddleboard


Stand up paddleboards – commonly known as “SUPs” – look like surfboards, but are designed to be paddled from a standing position. That hybrid may sound confusing, but don’t worry – SUPs are easy to use and a great way to get on the water. Here’s what you need to know to get started.


Recreational SUPs are great for beginners – perfect for paddling on ponds or protected coves. They’re long, wide and stable enough that you can even do yoga or fishing on them.

Surfing SUPs are shorter and wider, with additional fins for better tracking and maneuverability. They’re great boards for taking into the surf zone and carving some waves.

Touring SUPs are longer and narrower, with a displacement nose that really pushes water away. They’re designed to carve through the water and go further distances.

If you’re short on space, an inflatable SUP is a great option – it can be packed down small for travel or storage.


The front of your SUP is called the nose, and its shape will vary by board type; the back is called the tail; and the edges are called the rails.

The top of the board features a cushioned deck pad where you stand, which may have lash tabs with bungees for accessories (like a water bottle or shoes), and a “bellybutton” grab handle that you use to carry the board. The tail has a leash tab for a surf leash, which will keep the board attached to your leg.

On the underside, one or more fins at the tail can be adjusted to affect the board’s performance – forward for more maneuverability, or back for better tracking.


The top of the paddle, where you place one hand, is called the grip – typically a “palm grip” or “t-grip” for a SUP paddle.

Below the grip, you place your other hand on the adjustable shaft, which can be lengthened or shortened depending on your height.

At the paddle’s throat, the shaft attaches to a canted blade. The blade has two faces: the scooped side is the power face, which you want facing you; and the spined side is the back face, which you want facing forward.

Related Stories