What Are The Different Types Of Paddle Boards – 20+ Paddle Board Types Explained

Paddleboards are made from different materials, come in a range of shapes and sizes – and are designed with a range of potential uses in mind.  Don’t get me wrong; having so many options is a good thing – if you know what you want from a SUP. But for ...
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

Paddleboards are made from different materials, come in a range of shapes and sizes – and are designed with a range of potential uses in mind. 

Don’t get me wrong; having so many options is a good thing – if you know what you want from a SUP. But for someone new to paddleboarding, things can get confusing – and fast.

What do all these types of paddle boards mean? How do you know which SUP is right for you? 

Well, it’s mainly about how you intend to use your SUP – but that barely scratches the surface of what dictates the characteristics of different paddle board types. 

Don’t worry, though; this guide will shed some light on the matter!

What Is The Best Paddle Board Type? Why Does It Even Matter?

Close up of stand up SUP paddle board on lake

When it comes to selecting a paddleboard that’s just right, you have your work cut out for you; I can tell you that much.

With paddle boarding growing in popularity in recent years it has led to an explosion of SUP brands entering the market. As the number of brands has increased, so has the variety of boards available.

But why does it matter, anyway? A SUP is a SUP, right? 

Well, not quite. 

For one, the “right paddleboard” can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. It isn’t some one-size-fits-all, universal truth. Here’s what I mean by that: 

Someone who’s just looking for a paddleboard to take on a relaxing paddle on a nearby lake will have entirely different requirements than someone who’s hoping to do some SUP yoga or go on a full-blown paddleboarding excursion. 

Plus, paddleboards come in all shapes and sizes – just like kayaks. Although the general anatomy and parts of a paddle board are similar, each one is designed to suit a specific use.  The type of board you choose will ultimately influence how hard or easy paddle boarding is for you.

You can’t just buy the first SUP that catches your eye because it’s stylish and fits your budget – well you can, but it wouldn’t be a sensible move.

If you came here hoping that I’d answer your question about the best paddleboard type by simply pointing the finger at a particular one, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not how this will work at all.   

What I can do for you, though, is walk you through all these different types of paddle boards that are available on the market and help you make your choice based on what you need. 

If that sounds like a good deal, feel free to keep on scrolling!

Different Types Of Paddle Boards – A Closer Look

Closeup man standing on epoxy board

Types Of Paddle Boards By Material 

One of the most apparent differences between SUP types would be the material they are made of – and, as you’ll see below, there are quite a few options when it comes to paddle board construction. 

Foam & Soft-Top Paddle Boards

Foam paddle boards are the closest thing to surfboards – construction-wise, that is. They usually feature a rigid high-density EPS foam core with a supporting piece, known as a “stringer,” that runs through the center and adds rigidity.

They’re lightweight, surprisingly durable for what they are and easy on the wallet. They can take quite a beating – which is why you’ll often see foam SUPs available for rent. And they are a breeze to carry around when needed. 

Foam SUPs lack the speed and agility of other boards but are a highly recommended option for beginners and recreational paddlers. 

Wooden Paddle Boards

Yes, stand-up paddle boards can be made of wood, too. And if you want the durability of Carbon fiber minus the hefty price tag, wooden SUPs are the way to go. 

Their construction generally follows the same principle: 

They start out with a hollow wooden frame, with strips of white cedar, pine, paulownia, and other types of wood glued to it, forming the top and bottom side of the board – complete with a layer of fiberglass or resin for waterproofing. 

Wooden paddle boards are highly buoyant and oh-so-stunning – but do note that scratches and dings are pretty hard (and often costly) to repair. 

Composite Boards

If you’re shooting for top-notch performance, strength-to-width ratio, and exceptional durability, a composite SUP is a way to go, period. These boards generally come at a higher price point, though.

The two primary composite materials used here are fiberglass and Carbon fiber: 

  • Fiberglass Paddle Boards / Epoxy Paddle Boards  – These paddle boards feature an EPS high-density foam core with layers of fiberglass, which is usually topped off with a few coatings of epoxy or polyester resin. If you go with fiberglass, you can count on a good-looking board that’s lightweight, easily maneuverable, and offers a smooth and fast ride. 
  • Carbon Fiber Paddle Boards – Carbon fiber SUPs follow the same design cues as the fiberglass ones but are lighter, steer better, and tend to be more durable. They’re usually on the expansive side of the price range, though.

Plastic Boards

If you spot PVC anywhere in the name, you’re probably looking at inflatable SUPs, but there are hard plastic boards, as well. They’re generally affordable – even though they sometimes lack the performance aspects of the more high-end materials. 

Here’s an overview of different types of plastic used in the making of paddleboards: 

  • PVC – PVC and polycarbonates are usually used for inflatable boards. While that sounds like a large board-shaped balloon, they actually have a lot of benefits. PVC is sturdy and easy to fix if needed. Plus, these inflatable boards are famous for being light and easy to transport. 
  • Rotomolded Plastic – Among one-piece plastic SUPs and kayak-SUP hybrids, rotomolded plastic – a solid piece of polyethylene molded in the shape of a board – is the most common option. These SUPs are inexpensive, rugged, widely available, and a good fit for beginners. 

Types Of Paddle Boards By Construction 

All paddleboards can be separated into two groups – hard (solid) and inflatable. However, there is a lot more to discuss when it comes to their general construction. 

Hard & Inflatable Paddle Boards

Guy pumping up inflatable SUP on beach

Solid or inflatable – that is the question. And there is no easy answer. 

Inflatable paddle boards vs solid SUPs is one of the most common debates in the world of SUPing – and for a good reason. These two types of paddle boards come with their fair share of pros and cons, so it’s essential to know what you’re getting into before making your purchase. 

Hard (Solid) Paddle Boards

Hard (solid) paddle boards are what you’ll find in the pricier and more performance-oriented end of the market. There are many variations in terms of their shape, design, and even the materials used in their construction, so it’s hard to speak in general terms. 

However, it’s worth noting that hard boards usually deliver better tracking performance, maneuverability, and agility, which obviously makes them the superior choice for more advanced paddlers. 

The additional weight and bulkiness and, in turn, portability and storage-related issues might be a deal-breaker for some, though. 

Inflatable Paddle Boards

Inflatable boards solve the crucial problems that solid boards have – like storage and portability – they also tend to have a higher maximum weight limit – but they do so at a cost. They’re great all-arounders – but they are not as performance-oriented. You won’t win any races with an inflatable SUP. 

Their PVC exterior shell isn’t as delicate as some believe. The design of inflatable SUPs has come a long way over the years, and they’re generally on par with their solid cousins durability-wise. 

An inflatable paddle board will be a safe bet if you’re often traveling with your SUP or have limited storage. 

Hull Type

Okay, suppose you have the materials and construction all picked out; what now? Well, now it’s time to look at the board’s shape because that will have a massive impact on how it handles on the water. 

Much like kayaks, paddle boards have two distinct hull types – displacement and planing hulls – and which one you’ll choose depends on how you want your SUP to perform: 

  • Displacement Hull – Displacement hulls are narrower at the nose and designed to slice through the water. They’re faster and more efficient, which makes them a great option for paddleboard touring and racing.
  • Planing Hull – Planing hulls are characterized by a wider, rounder nose that glides over the water’s surface. They prioritize maneuverability and are suitable for recreational use, whitewater, surfing, and SUP yoga. 

SUP Length

In terms of the SUP’s length, the three standard options are short, medium, and long. Yes, it’s that simple. 

Here’s a quick overview of each category: 

  • Short Paddle Boards (under 10 feet) – Short SUPs are great for kids and surfing but aren’t limited to just that. They offer excellent maneuvering capabilities and, in most cases, feature a planing hull.
  • Medium Paddle Boards (10 to 12 feet) – These medium-range lengths make for great all-around boards. They also provide a higher degree of versatility when it comes to their intended uses, delivering a decent balance of speed, comfort, and handling.
  • Long Paddle Boards (over 12 feet) – Longer SUPs are made for speed and efficiency; there’s no other way to put it. They will usually feature a displacement hull and are great for cutting through the water, maximizing speed, and covering longer distances. 

Number Of Fins

Did you know that you can categorize SUPs based on the number of fins on the board? I won’t get into the science of the whole thing, but basically, fins are there to add to the SUP’s stability, tracking performance, and maneuverability. 

A large fin with a broad base ensures stability and better tracking; a smaller one provides more maneuverability.

Now, you can have one or more fins on your board. Or you can have zero. It all depends on how and where you use your SUP:

Paddle Boarding StyleLarge Center FinSide Fin
Surfing12 or 4

So, how many do you need, then? 

Well, again, it depends on what kind of paddling you plan on doing.  

Want to stop your board from swaying left to right? Then go with a three-fin setup. Want to give whitewater paddle boarding a try? Get rid of fins altogether. 

Types Of Paddle Boards By Number Of Paddlers

Family Having Fun on Stand Up Paddle Board

SUPs also differ based on the number of paddlers they can accommodate, with the two primary categories being single-paddler and multi-paddler boards.

Solo SUP boards

There is nothing quite tranquil like a solo paddling trip, is there? So, it’s probably no surprise that solo or single-person SUPs – boards designed for one paddler – are the most common SUP type on the market. 

A single-person SUP board is probably what comes to mind when you think of a paddleboard.

Family (Multi-Person) Paddle Boards 

Yes, tandem paddle boards are a thing because two is sometimes better than one. Plus, I’m sure there are paddleboarding enthusiasts who also happen to be parents reading this, looking for an alternative to lugging around several separate boards. 

Well, a multi-person SUP – also known as a family paddleboard – is the answer to your troubles. 

Needless to say, choosing the right size for a multi-person paddle board is imperative: 

Go too small, and you’ll both end up in the water. Go too big, and you’ll end up dragging across the water sluggishly – despite having two people paddling.

Youth Paddle Boards 

Okay, this last category technically has nothing to do with the number of paddlers the SUP can carry – and everything to do with the age of the person using it. But I figured that paddleboards explicitly designed for kids and teens deserve mention here, too.  

The kids’ board will pretty much be a smaller – and, possibly, more colorful – version of your own board. They are usually between 6 to 10 feet long and around 30 inches wide and can be either inflatable or hard – although I generally recommend starting with an inflatable board.

Types Of Paddle Boards By Use

4 peeople race on all around paddle boards

Okay, I have a simple – but oh-so-important – question for you: 

How do you intend to use your new paddleboard? 

Think about your answer for a moment here because intended uses and activities make a pretty big difference in terms of which type of board you should get. 

All-Round Paddle Board 

Whatever you choose to call them – all-around, recreational, or flatwater paddle boards – the key idea behind the design of these SUPs remains the same: 

Excelling in a variety of conditions, being user-friendly – and meeting the needs of paddlers of all levels. They’re perfect for a casual afternoon on the water.

These are usually medium-long but wider boards, measuring 10.5 to 11.5 feet in length, with a minimum width of 32 inches. That, paired with a planing hull, ensures better stability and a decent amount of maneuverability – enough for casual use. 

  • Average Length: 10.5 to 11.5 feet
  • Average Width: 32 to 35 inches wide 
  • Hull Shape: Planing hull 
  • Number of Fins: One 

Surf Paddle Boards 

Did you know that surfing is an option with a SUP? Granted, surf-specific paddle boards tend to look a bit different than your regular SUP, boasting a design that prioritizes maneuverability. 

The Best of SUP surfing 2021 #1

These boards are shorter and often feature a wider, more rounded, planing hull – coupled with a narrower nose. As for the number of fins, you can expect to find at least three on the board. The downside is that they won’t track that well or deliver much stability on flat water. 

  • Average Length: 9 to 10 feet 
  • Average Width: 29 to 32 inches 
  • Hull Shape: Planing hull 
  • Number of Fins: Up to five 

Racing Paddle Boards 

If performance is your top priority, a light, and narrow paddleboard, typically with a pointed nose, is the way to go. The narrower design creates less drag, allowing these boards to develop high speeds with ease. 

Beginners might not be too thrilled about these, as they tend to feel extremely wobbly – just like a narrow kayak does. 

Racing boards typically measure 25 to 29 inches at their widest point, with the length of 12.3 to 14 feet, depending on the model. 

  • Average Length: 12.3 to 14 feet
  • Average Width: 25 to 29 inches 
  • Hull Shape: Displacement hull 
  • Number of Fins: One 

Touring Paddle Boards 

Touring boards are designed for – well, touring. If you’re up for some long-distance paddling, this is the type of SUP you want to get. 

These boards are often made from lightweight materials, longer – they usually measure 11 to 14 feet in length – and feature a narrower deck and a pointed nose. Their streamlined shape paired with the displacement hull ensures better efficiency and improved tracking performance.

  • Average Length: 11 to 14 feet
  • Average Width: 30 to 33 inches 
  • Hull Shape: Displacement hull 
  • Number of Fins: Three  

Whitewater Paddle Boards 

Relatively short, rugged, and highly maneuverable, whitewater paddle boards are the best fit for challenging, turbulent environments and river running. 

Whitewater SUP French Alps | RIVER

These boards need to be responsive but stable, which is why they’re typically between 8.5 to 11 feet long, measure up to 36 inches across, coupled with a pronounced rocker profile that further enhances the planing hull’s performance. 

  • Average Length: 8.5 to 11 feet 
  • Average Width: Up to 36 inches
  • Hull Shape: Planing hull 
  • Number of Fins: Zero 

Fishing Paddle Boards 

In the mood for some fishing? Stand-up paddle boards have you covered in that department, too. If that doesn’t speak volumes about their versatility, I don’t know what will. 

Much like angling kayaks, SUPs designed for fishing tend to be large and in charge – long, wide, thick, and heavy – with a width of at least 32 inches and an average length of 11.5 feet. And to add to that, they’re also compatible with standard fishing accessories. 

  • Average Length: 10.5 to 12 feet 
  • Average Width: 32 to 36 inches 
  • Hull Shape: Planing hull 
  • Number of Fins: Three 

Yoga Paddle Boards 

Did you even know that you can use your SUP as a floating yoga mat? Yup, that’s right; yogis found a new way of combining their outdoor time, yoga practice, and love of paddling, all in one.

With these types of SUPs, stability is key, meaning a wider board, preferably one with full-length traction pads – or even an inflatable SUP – is recommended. 

That’s why yoga paddleboards tend to measure 32 to 34 inches across, with a length of 10 to 12 feet, a rounded nose, and a planing hull. 

  • Average Length: 10 to 12 feet 
  • Average Width: 32 to 34 inches 
  • Hull Shape: Planing hull 
  • Number of Fins: Three

SUP Kayak Hybrid 

And finally, there’s the hybrid type of paddleboards – not quite a traditional SUP but not an actual kayak, either. What’s the deal with these? 

A hybrid paddle board is pretty much your standard SUP but with some kayak elements – a seat and a double-bladed paddle – sprinkled on top. That adds a nice touch of versatility to these boards, making them the right fit for those who just can’t make up their minds. 

  • Average Length: 10.5 to 11.5 feet
  • Average Width: 33 to 35 inches 

Summary: What Are The Different Types Of Stand-Up Paddle Board? 

The number of variations when it comes to the different types of paddle boards, and their shape, size, and design is – well, almost as vast as the number of ways you get to use them. Your SUP can be made and optimized for a lot of distinct uses and environments: 

  • Based on materials, you have plastic, composite, and wooden paddle boards, and those made of foam 
  • Based on construction, there are hard (solid) and inflatable paddle boards 
  • Based on hull type, you have SUPs with displacement and planing hulls 
  • Based on the number of paddlers, there are solo and family-friendly paddle boards, and those designed for youth   
  • Based on intended uses, there are recreational, surf, racing, touring, whitewater, fishing, and yoga paddle boards, along with SUP-kayak hybrids 
Photo of author

Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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