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How to Understand Common SUP Terms and Lingo

July 15, 2022

In this article we list common SUP terms and their meanings so you have a better understanding of the industry!

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The SUP industry has commonly used words. If you are within the industry or have done research on boards, it’s likely you’ve heard these terms and know what they are.

But if you are still new to SUP, you probably still don’t know what they mean. To take the mystery out of each term, we’ve decided to list them and reveal their meanings. That way, when you’re doing research on what kind of board to buy, or if you’re talking to fellow paddlers, you’ll have the foundational knowledge to be able to decide and communicate about stand up paddle boarding.

Use this list of SUP terms as a learning guide and remember them when you’re shopping for your SUP.

SUP terms

Deck

The deck of a SUP is the top where the paddler stands. This is the portion of the board that is flat, in the shape of a platform, and is the place where you can store extra gear, your PFD, and more.

Deck Pad

The deck pad is the foam top of the board that allows the paddler to grip the surface with their feet. Without a deck pad, paddle boards would become too slick to stand on and paddlers would slip off. Deck pads can come in a smooth surface, diamond pattern, stripe pattern, and can be of different materials such as foam or cork.

Always remember to take special note of the type of deck pad on the board you’re looking to buy. Not every surface works for everyone’s feet.

Rails

The rails of a SUP are the edges of the board. A thicker rail will aid in stability and float. With a higher volume you will be able to hold more weight on your board in the form of extra gear or your dog. And it is easier for heavier paddlers to find success on the water right away.

Ideally for inflatable paddle boards you want at least a 5″ rail to be comfortable on the water. With 6″ making it much easier to paddle right away.

Rocker

The rocker of a board is the curvature that flows through the nose and the tail.

The nose of a board is the front and the tail the back.

The rocker of a board is a very important aspect to keep in mind when purchasing. This is because it can effect the feel of your board in the water. A higher nose rocker allows you to paddle in rougher environments or in the ocean with a bit more ease. This is because the nose of the board won’t be buried underneath the water. Conversely, a lower nose rocker works much better for flat water paddling as it moves more efficiently through the water instead of creating more drag in the nose.

Higher nose rocker boards are ideal for SUP surfing as you need more rocker to successfully get into waves without burying the nose.

Ideally, you want a board that has a a small amount of rocker, but not too much to make paddling in flat water a chore. A good medium between the two will allow you to paddle efficiently in flat water but still maintain speed under wind or waves.

Tracking

Tracking is defined as how far and how straight a board moves through the water under each paddle stroke. The longer a board is, the better it will track straight. In addition, your fin setup will determine the tracking of your board as well.

Fin Box

Before we get into the types of fin setups, let’s discuss the fin box. This part of your board is where the fin connects to the underside. There are a few different types of fin boxes on the market with the two main ones being FCS fin boxes and Futures fin boxes. You’ll be able to tell the difference right away as the FCS fin boxes have two tabs that connect the fin to the box where the Futures fin boxes are just a straight line.

Keep this in mind when you purchase your first board so you know what type of fins will work in your board.

Fins

The fins of your board are the pieces of plastic located underneath your board. They are essential to your board’s set up as they allow you to paddle straight in the water with ease. Without a fin, your board would drastically turn with each paddle stroke. Making it impossible to head in a straight line. And ruin your paddling efficiency. (Don’t believe us, give it a try sometime!)

There are four different fin styles to be aware of…

Single fin set-up

A single fin setup consists of one middle fin that ranges in size from 4.5″ to 9″+. The longer a fin, the better it will paddle straight through each paddle stroke.

Two plus One

This setup consists of two side bites fins (smaller ones on the sides) and one large fin in the center. This is the most common fin setup for beginners as it provides excellent tracking and increased stability side-to-side in the water.

Thruster

A thruster setup is ideal for SUP surfing. This consists of three fins that are basically the same size. With this setup you’ll be able to turn better in the water but still maintain a straight line when paddling.

Quad set-up

A quad set up consists of four fins – all of a smaller size. This is ideal for radical SUP surfing in bigger waves as you will be able to maintain balance and stability when conducting difficult moves like harsh bottom turns and hitting the lip of the wave. However, this setup is not ideal for flat water paddling as you lose tracking when using smaller fins.

SUP terms

Handle

The handle of your board is located in the dead center portion. This is where you will grip your board to carry it when not on the water.

And while you are paddling, you can use the handle to make sure your feet are in the correct position to paddle as it is the center line.

Leash

This is a fairly obvious SUP term. Your leash is where you connect your board to your body. There are ankles leashes which are the most popular, calf leashes, and waist leashes.However, if you have an ankle leash you are good to go.

Planing Hull

There are two different SUP terms to describe the hulls paddle boards are made with. A planing hull is designed to sit on top of the water like a surfboard style. This helps you move through uneven surfaces of water with a much easier time. And it is the most common form of hull in SUP.

Displacement Hull

A displacement hull cuts through the water like a kayak. SUP race boards are displacement hull because they move faster through the flat water.

Board Styles

When it comes to board styles, there are a few different SUP terms to describe each.

Recreational

Your average SUP board. These are typically in the 10’6” – 11’4” range and are shaped like a large surfboard, with thicker rails and a flatter deck. They are perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

Touring

Touring boards are made with displacement hulls, are thicker in volume, and wider. They are designed for cruising flat water and for long distance paddles.

Racing

Also consists of a displacement hull but where they differ from touring boards is in their width. Race boards are the most narrow boards on the market. They are designed like this to increase speed and paddling efficiency. These boards are for experienced paddlers only.

Downwind

Downwind boards are used for the activity they are named after. A downwind run on a SUP is when a group of paddlers launch from a specific spot up wind when the winds are blowing 20+ mph. As they head onto the water, they use the power of the wind to paddle to a designated landing spot. However, with the winds at their backs, they can enjoy riding small waves in the bay or ocean for miles at a time. It’s a ton of fun!

Downwind boards are designed like race boards with added volume, more narrow in shape, but unlike a displacement hull commonly found of race boards, downwind boards have large amounts of rocker so paddlers don’t bury the nose in the small waves.

Think of these boards as a mixture of a race board and surf board.

Surfing

SUP surfing boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, for true SUP surfers, they typically range from as small as 7′ to 9′ in length. They are typically shaped with high amounts of rocker with more aggressive shapes commonly seen in smaller surfboards.

Whitewater

Whitewater boards are typically inflatable as they are more durable. They can be wider and thicker to increase stability. And they are used in whitewater sections of rivers around the world.

Fishing

SUP fishing boards are your biggest boards on the market. They are designed to be big, thick, and wide so you can carry all of your gear without having to worry about being able to float it or tipping your board over.

SUP terms, SUP fishing

Types of Boards

Hard Boards

These boards are typically higher performance boards that are shaped out of a foam block and glassed with fiberglass before painting. They can also be glassed with carbon fiber. And some companies even put a thin layer of bamboo underneath as well.

Foam Boards

Foam boards are made out of hard foam. These are the cheapest boards on the market. And for good reason. They are light, typically don’t last long, but are the most affordable and a great option for families who want to see if SUP is for them. Just don’t expect it to last or be high-performance on the water.

Rotomold

These boards are made of hard plastic. They are designed similar to kayaks in that they’re durable but heavy. They’re great for beginners and families as well.

Inflatable

The most popular form of paddle board. Inflatable boards are tough, durable, light, easy to carry and store and perfect for travel with. They are inflated with air anywhere from 15-20 PSI (pounds per square inch) and make for the perfect board for beginners and experienced paddlers alike.

Conclusion

We hope this short list of SUP terms helps to clarify what you need to look for in your future paddle board purchases. Of course, if you have any questions, or need any clarifications on these SUP terms, feel free to reach out to us at anytime. Our inbox is always open. And check out our high-quality inflatable boards if you are in the market for your first SUP. Until next time, remember to adventure on!

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