Anatomy of a Stand Up Paddle Board
Learning the ins and outs of a stand up paddle board is important for many reasons. Not only will it help you move past the beginner stage of paddling but it will also help in customizing your board. You’ll understand the features that work best for your paddling style so that you can stay comfortable and paddle for longer.
Anatomy of a Paddle Board
A few things to consider when choosing a stand up paddle board (SUP) are the hull shape, fin configurations and gear options. Each of these changes the type of ride you have and are important to keep an eye out for. Though there are slight variations in what’s most used for both solid and inflatable paddle boards, these features are equally as common as they are important across the sport.
Planing hulls, often associated with small and medium size boards, are flat like a surfboard and glide over water with ease. They're best for leisurely rides, surfing (obviously) and board activities like yoga and fishing. The rounded shape is easy to turn, making this a great style if you’re looking for maneuverability.
Displacement hulls are common with large boards because the pointed bow cuts through the water and increases the board's speed. Because of its pointed length, however, this board is slightly harder to turn than the planing hull. That being said, this shape is easier to paddle in straight lines and tracks well over distances, so it’s great for racing and long rides.
Depending on what your SUP will be used for, certain fin configurations are better than others. Fins come in different sizes and board placements, giving you the option to customize your ride and help you track best in water no matter what activity you choose to do. You’ll have the ability to move them back and forth along the board as well, so you can additionally adjust the ride by sliding them closer to the nose, tail or leaving them somewhere in between.
A single fin setup is when a larger, single fin is placed in the center of the board. This is best for, but not limited to, leisurely paddling. It’s not as balanced as boards with more fins, but it’s easily maneuverable and can be adjusted to function well in both flat water and surf.
A twin fin setup sports two smaller fins on the outside of the board and is therefore ideal for quick turns. This configuration thrives in surf but doesn’t handle quite as well for longer, flatter rides.
A 2+1 fin setup features a larger fin placed between two smaller fins. This encourages the board to track well with more power, so it’s best with paddling over long distances or if you want to surf with a little more control.
A 3-fin (or thruster) setup is when a board has three fins of similar sizes for when you need to track well and stay stable. This setup leaves little room for accidental movements, as you can command how it travels in almost any wave condition (though turning can be slightly harder).
Our biggest stand up paddle boarding tip is to get the right gear. Consider boards with attachment points for straps or mounts to hold things such as coolers and dry bags. If you want a little security, a leash tether is a great way to stay safe and keep your board close if you happen to fall off. We also encourage getting a personal flotation device (PFD) and a safety whistle so you comply with U.S. Coast Guard laws.
Every factor that goes into a SUP changes how well the board works for you and impacts the type of ride you have. Be sure to get more information on SUP sizing and paddle types before making your decision on which board to buy.