The 4 main differences between SUP and Surf boards

For those new to water sports, you may not see the difference between a stand up paddle board and a surfboard. However, there are many.

Paddle boarding has become increasingly popular over the years, and many paddlers are going even further and sharing the waves with surfers around the world.

After discovering that paddlers can surf their SUP boards, you probably think, “well, if you can surf a SUP board, surely there isn’t much difference between the two types of boards?”

While there are some similarities, there are also many differences between the two. So, if you’re wondering what makes a SUP board and a surfboard so different, read on!

What are the differences between stand up paddle boards and surfboards?

As you may have already noticed, stand up paddle boards, or SUP, need a paddle (paddle) to move, while in surfing, the surfer’s body is used – firstly, the arms to paddle and reach enough speed to catch the wave.

But outside of this obvious difference, there are other, more technical dissimilarities.

1. Function

The first differentiating factor is the purpose for which the boards were designed. While both are made to float, SUP boards are designed to glide on the surface of the water, while surfboards are designed to go with the waves.

As the surfboard was created to ride with the wave and not slide on it, surfboards need easy mobility so surfers can maneuver and turn the board to get the perfect angle.

2. Float

The buoyancy on both boards is one of the most significant contrasts. A SUP board is designed to support the practitioner’s weight without sinking.

Foam core boards have about 100 liters of foam across the core. Inflatable paddle boards vary in thickness, and the more air they have, the more buoyant they will be.

The size and length of a surfboard will determine how much foam it contains at its core. A typical board has around 23 liters of foam, while a long board has 85 liters.

Most of the time, the surfer’s weight is evenly distributed across the board as he lies down. When catching a wave, the surfer is only standing for a short period of time, which means that a surfboard does not require the same buoyancy as a paddle board.

3. Dimensions

When we see a surfboard and a paddle board side by side, it’s obvious to see their size differences.

Paddle boards are bulkier, longer and wider than a regular surfboard. Its thickness is greater due to the greater volume of foam or air volume that provides more stability when paddling and keeps the board afloat on the surface of the water.

The thickness of a surfboard has to do with the size and weight of the surfer it was designed for. Smaller, lighter surfers will require less foam in the core to keep them semi-floating, and consequently heavier surfers will require more.

On average, a paddle board is around 3m to 3.50m long, and its increased length also plays a role in the amount of weight it can support and the board’s buoyancy.

However, a typical surfboard can be anywhere from 1.80m to 2.20m, depending on the surfer’s weight, and longboards range from 2.40m to 3.35m.

Finally, the width of a paddle board and a surfboard differ immensely. Surfboards were designed to be thinner so the surfer could lie on the board and paddle with their arms on either side.

A paddle board uses the paddle. That’s why they’re designed wider, to increase stability and provide a larger surface area for paddling.

4. Versatility

Surfboards and paddle boards also differ in their versatility and the activities you can use them for. Surfboards were designed for one thing and one thing only, surfing.

Paddle boards, however, can be used not only for paddle boarding, but also for other activities like SUP yoga, SUP fishing, SUP surfing, and you can even turn your SUP into a kayak with a handy kayak conversion kit.

Can they surf the same waves?

Yes, surfers and SUP surfers can ride the same waves. However, it is good practice for SUPs to stay away from areas where surfers are surfing and vice versa. SUP boards, for the most part, are much larger and less responsive than surfboards, unless you are an experienced surfer of both surfing and SUP surfing.

Read on! We answer common questions beginners have when buying their first surfboard in this article.

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