paddle boards for surfing

Surf Paddle Board Guide

So, are you thinking of getting a paddle board for surfing?

Great idea! We are not going to stop you from doing that. Instead, we’ll encourage you to step into one of the most rewarding fields out there – surfing.

Paddleboarders are already seen in almost all popular surf spots all around the world, and all that for a great reason! Paddling for wave by a paddle and an oversized surf craft is totally another dimension that has its equal benefits and minor lacks compared to surfing with a surfboard.

In this post, you’ll get an overview of the main types of surf paddleboards, the materials & features used, and we’ll also be answering some of the most frequently asked questions to go with the sport.

If we missed anything important – feel free to let us & others know about it in the comments section.

The best part about SUP surfing

  • You can ride the waves!
  • The large board allows catching the waves early on.
  • Your arms, shoulders, and abs get a decent workout.
  • Larger boards ‘pick up’ on the wave much easier.
  • You will be on top of the board, not in the cold water.
  • A better view of the surroundings.

paddleboarding in the surf


There are 10 disciplines of surfing, 16 different types of surfboards to surf a wave – and the Surf SUP is 1 out of 13 types of paddleboards.


Surf SUP vs other SUP paddleboards

Here we’ll explore the boards to surf an ocean wave – check out white water paddleboards for river waves and rapids for more.

Surfing alone can be quite difficult, dangerous, and demanding, but the good news is that the surf paddle board is designed exactly for that. To ride in the breaking waves with an oversized ‘watercraft’ – these boards have some interesting features built into them.

Compared to most other flatwater paddleboards, a surf SUP has a below-average length and thickness, and about the average width. The outline on a surf paddle boards is generally more narrow than round. You’ll also see a slightly lifted nose which helps to descend down a wave without nose-diving. Some boards have a noticeable rocker (bottom curvature from nose to tail) throughout the whole length which is also seen on many whitewater paddleboards.

The more fins on board – the smoother and more responsive it rides down the wave. An average paddle board for surfing has a thruster fin set up (3 fins) while you also see a quad (4-fin) and even a five-fin performance set-up on some SUPs.

*Many longboard surfboards have a large single fin, but that’s not as common on paddle boards for surfing. You’ll usually see a set of 3 fins (thruster).

kinds of paddle boards
13 Different Types of Paddleboards



Surfing vs Paddleboarding

In the water vs Top of the board

The main difference between surfing and paddleboarding is the fact the surfer spends most of the time halfway submerged in the water, while the paddleboarder stays above the waterline, standing on top of a paddle board. That being said – the importance of a warm and proper wetsuit in some climates is a crucial item, while you can use a thinner wetsuit for paddleboarding.

  • Paddleboarders don’t get as cold


Large dimensions

Due to paddleboards’ oversized dimensions, they are much easier to paddle for a wave early on.

  • Early take-offs.
  • Increased wave count.
  • Faster on the water compared to paddling.
  • Can surf waves that cannot be ridden with a surfboard.  

A paddle board is much larger and needs extra care to be carried around, while a surfboard fits into most cars without buying an extra set of crossbars and roof racks for a solid paddle board. The good news is that you can also surf with an inflatable SUP – something that fits into a backpacking bag!

  • Owning a solid paddle board requires a pair of crossbars and roof racks for the SUP.
sup vs surfing
Read moreSurfing vs Paddleboarding Comparison


Entering & exiting the water

It is much easier to paddle in the water on a surfboard while it takes extra skills to break through the whitewater with a surf SUP.

  • Paddleboards can be difficult to navigate through messy conditions.



Surfing a crowded spot with a large SUP can be dangerous. Although paddleboarders are usually 20-30 feet closer to the breaking waves, away from the surfer line-up – a wipe-out on a surf break is inevitable. Paddle surf boards are equipped with a strong coil leash which prevents from losing the board and being washed away to the shore. It can be difficult to recover on the board in the break-zone.




Main Features of a Surf SUP

Stand-up surfboard

  • Displacement hull
    To glide and track like a canoe or kayak
  • Narrow & rounded nose outline.
    While most other paddleboards have a round outline and above-average thickness, the surfboard has been cut down to perform at its best in demanding and moving waters.
  • Larger nose rocker.
    Compared to calm-water SUPs (Yoga, all-around).
  • Tail pad.
    For increased maneuverability on the wave.
  • Thruster fin / Quad fin set-up.
    For extra stability in the waves.
  • Below-average length and thickness.
    To cut down its volume for best performance.

surf sup boards




Surf SUP Materials

There are three main types of materials on the paddle surf board selection.

(EPS) Epoxy paddleboards

Expanded Polystyrene foam core), fiberglass cloth, epoxy resin.

Epoxy solid paddleboards are among the most popular next to inflatable SUP boards. This type is super durable and lightweight. On a wave – the ride fast! Newer epoxy models have pretty much a completely waterproof core which makes it a great paddle surf board for all skill levels.

(PU) Fiberglass stand-up paddle board

Polyurethane foam core with wooden stringer(s) in the middle, fiberglass cloth, fiberglass resin.

While the majority of surfboards are made of fiberglass, that’s not the case with paddleboards. Fiberglass has a better hold and feel in moving water, but they are not as durable to dings and dents as epoxy boards. It is also a more time-consuming and not as environmentally friendly process to make a fiberglass SUP.

*Fiberglass surf SUPs are a niche product these days, made by surf-specific SUP brands.

PVC inflatable SUP

The paddle board industry has seen massive growth in the past 10 years after the introduction of military-grade PVC. Good-quality iSUPs offer a near-similar performance to rigid boards by fitting into a large backpack uninflated. Another interesting fact is that iSUPs are only 5% slower than their rigid counterparts.

Although almost all whitewater paddleboards are inflatable, advanced surfers prefer rigid boards over an inflatable board in the surf. If you don’t agree – let us know and let’s cover it!


Surf SUP paddle

The SUP blade used for surfing varies slightly from all the other disciplines. Experienced surfers tend to use a single-piece carbon paddle that has a sub-80 square inch blade (It used to be 85″) at an 8-degree angle. Surf paddles have to be lightweight and durable for fast and powerful strokes.

While surfing the wave – a paddle works as a pair of ski poles for downhill skiers – it helps to keep in touch with the surroundings.



INFLATABLE Surf Paddle Board Sizes

Random sizes to get the idea


8’8″ x 30″ x 4″ 
Weight – 17.4lbs / Volume – 161L / Capacity – 209lbs / Pressure – 18PSI

9’5″ x 32″ x 4.75″
Weight – 17.4lbs / Volume – 218L / Capacity – 209lbs / Pressure – 18PSI

10’11” x 30″ x 4.75″

paddleboard size chart
Read moreInflatable SUP Size Guide


SOLID Surf Paddle Board Sizes

7’2″ x 28″ x 4.2″
Weight – 16 lbs / Volume – 114L / Capacity – 175 lbs

7’4″ x 30″ x 3.8″
Weight – 16-18 lbs / Volume – 116L / Capacity – 200 lbs

8’0″ x “31.5” x 4.2″
Weight – 15-17 lbs / Volume – 135L / Capacity – 240 lbs

8’6″ x 30″ x 4″



Surf Paddle Board vs Surfboard

  • Volume
    Average surfboard volume is 40-70L
    Inflatable SUP volume is around 200-350L
    Average solid paddle board weight is around 100-200L
  • Weight
    Average surfboard weighs 10 pounds (6-7lb – shortboard / 15-16lb – longboard)
    Average inflatable paddle board weighs 24lbs
    Average solid paddle board weighs 25lbs


  • Larger boards are easier to catch the wave with wave early on.
  • The smaller the board, the easier it duck-dives under the incoming waves.


  • Round boards are slower to turn and ride better in slow & fat waves.
  • Narrow boards allow sharp turns and can be turned much easier on a moving wave. Can ride a fast and hollow wave.

surf sup vs surfboard



Surf & SUP history

So, which board was before – a hardwood longboard or a SUP board?

It is unfair to compare those two seemingly similar pieces of equipment as surfing is a sport and a leisure past-time, while SUP paddleboards have been used as means of transportation.

  • Modern SUP culture started in the 1940s (Waikiki, Hawaii)
    The earliest records date back to 3,000 B.C (Peru, Italy, Levant, China)
  • Modern Surf culture started in the 1950s, 1960s (Hawaii, Australia, California)
    Peru’s tradition of surfing goes back to 2,000 years, back then it was known as “the sport of kings”.

Surf and paddle board history are somewhat similar – the locations and era they started out, but the main difference is that surfing used to be a sacred activity among the elites.




What is a Surf SUP?

Surf SUP = Stand Surf = Paddleboard surfing = Stand-up paddle surf = Stand up paddle surfing board

As you’ve already guessed, a surf paddle board is designed to be ridden in breaking waves. A surf SUP performs best at its purposed field of use – which is the surf. Constant movement, whitewater, small to medium-sized waves, turns, carves, etc.

A surf SUP has to be light, extremely maneuverable, and easy to handle.


What is SUP?

SUP = Stand-Up Paddleboarding is a recreation and water sport performed on the water by standing or kneeling on top of a paddle board. A paddleboarder is moving forward on the water with a help of a paddle. Today, there are 13 types of inflatable and hardboard paddle board types that are equally popular.


Inflatable vs Solid Surf SUP board

The best SUP for surfing is generally made of epoxy that has a narrow nose and a slight rocker. Solid paddleboards have more advantages in the surf over inflatable boards by having a better feel to the ride. The difference in speed is surprisingly low at 5% only.


What is the second-best surf paddle board type?

Some narrower whitewater SUPs can be ridden in the breaking waves as well. While touring SUPs are another selection, they are not as stable in medium-sized waves as the white-water SUP.

Both surf and white water are considered as extreme stand-up paddleboarding disciplines – performed in environments that are not considered as safe for an average person to be in.


What are the best surf SUP brands?

Down below you’ll find some of the brands that produce SUPs in their range.

  • Naish (4 x solid)
  • ISLE Surf and SUP (4 x solid)
  • SOL (4 x inflatable)
  • NSP (4 x solid)
  • Starboard (1 x inflatable / 3 solid)
  • Sic Maui (3 x solid)
  • Boardworks (2 x solid / 1x inflatable)
  • Red Equipment (2 x inflatable)
  • Hala (2 x inflatable)
  • Pau Hana (2 x solid)
  • Body Glove (1 x soft-top / 1 x inflatable)
  • Aqua Marina (1 x inflatable)
  • Badfish (1 x inflatable / Numerous whitewater surf SUPs)
  • Tahe (1 x inflatable)
  • Scott Burke (1 x solid, fiberglass)
best surf sup brands
Read more The 14 Best Surf SUP Brands

Naish SUP boards as number one on this list due to their specialization in performance boards – race, wing, hydro, foil.

Naish paddle board selection consists of one of the latest technologies used among other similar disciplines which are preferred by surfers from all around the world. Don’t get us wrong though, all the other paddle board brands in this list are SUP-specific, which means they are above-average in quality. Once a brand has decided to engineer a paddle board for surfing – they must know what they are doing as surfers are quite needy, and so is the surf!

paddleboard brands review
Check out the 44 best paddle board companies


Where to stand on a paddle board?

Stand-up surfing differs slightly from flatwater paddling which means a SUP surf boards’ stance is similar to a surfboard stance.

While flatwater paddlers stay in the middle of the board with their feet parallel to paddling direction, a SUP surf requires you to have your stronger foot in the front.

Are you regular or goofy?

Regular – Left foot on the front
Goofy – Right foot on the front.

Don’t know which is your stronger foot?

Stand up straight with your feet next to each other and get somebody to push you forwards from the back. The foot that steps out first is your stronger one.


How long is a paddle board?

On average, all-around flatwater paddleboards are 10′ to 11′ long, while touring SUPs average at 12’6″ and race boards go up to 15′ to 20′.’ Surf SUPs are usually 8′ to 9′ long although big wave paddleboarding boards can go up to 10′ and over.


Which type of paddle is used for stand up paddle board surfing?

One of the most important and overlooked factors about paddle surfing is the paddle itself. Surf paddles are usually single-piece carbon paddles that are leightweight and with a medium-sized blade. The strokes on a surf SUP are similar to a race SUP which means they have to be fast and powerful.


How to ride a paddle board on the wave?

Stand-up paddle board surfing requires taking a completely different approach compared to a regular surfboard. While flatwater or even whitewater paddling are somewhat predictable, the surf has its own, advanced set of rules. Surfing with a paddle board requires taking extra precaution due to its oversized dimensions and weight. Although the waves pick up the larger board much easier, it takes a good set of skills to steer the board on a moving wave, and paddling through the braking waves as well.


Can you surf on a paddleboard that’s not designed for surfing?

Most paddleboards can be used to surf small waves, but it is the surf SUP that’s specifically designed to surf larger waves – up to 6-7 feet by intermediate surfers. A specific surfing paddle board excels well in waves by having less volume and better dimensions.


Can you use a surfboard as a paddleboard?

The main difference between a surfboard and paddleboard is that the surfboard is designed to be paddled while proning on the board, while paddleboards are designed to be paddled while standing on the board. Surfboards, even longboards, have often too little volume for the surfer to stand up on the board while paddling for a web. There’s not enough stability provided by a regular surfboard, even on still water.


Is paddleboard surfing easy?

To ride a paddle board in the surf a paddleboarder has to know the complex surf, how to navigate an oversized watercraft, have an advanced balance, and also have to know the basic rules and etiquette of surfing. Although it seems difficult (and it really is) the average paddle boarder is over 40 years of age which means it is not possible, but it is one of the most rewarding sports out there indeed. The risk = reward, especially when paddle surfing.

stand up surf



Is a paddle board a boat?

Compared to a surfboard, a paddleboard is basically large watercraft. That being said, in public beaches where no surfboards allowed, a paddle board can not be used for safety concerns. In terms of licensing, paddle board don’t need any registration.


Are cheap paddleboards suitable for surfing?

These days you can get a cheap inflatable paddle board for $300, but are they good for surfing? We think if you inflate these boards to their recommended maximum pressure, they can be used in small surf, but lack the features for average (good) surf conditions. Although the best paddle boards for surfing have a nice set of features and outline to make your life much easier.


Is SUP surfing safe?

Surfing belongs to the TOP 20 extreme sports, which means it takes place in locations and conditions that are considered as extreme – therefore dangerous.

Yes, you can surf small waves on a calm day and be totally safe, but there are quite a few safety concerns one must know before entering the water, especially with a large watercraft such as the paddle board.

surf paddleboarding



How to stand up paddle board surf?

  1. Observe the waves for a good 1-2 minutes
  2. Find a quiet spot to launch in (Usually on both sides next to a good peak with some surfers)
  3. Walk in knee-deep water with board and paddle
  4. Step on your board and start paddling
  5. Lower your body by bending your knees a little, don’t forget to find the perfect stance
  6. Crouch on the board when the whitewater wave is coming towards you (so you wouldn’t fall off)
  7. Paddle behind a breakpoint
  8. Start looking for a spot to paddle for a wave
  9. Once you see a wave coming, start paddling towards the shore
  10. When the wave starts to pick up, paddle a few more good strokes
  11. Steer yourself in the direction of the breaking wave
  12. You can use the paddle to get a touch of the wave behind you
  13. Enjoy
  14. Paddle back away from the break zone



Can you surf on a paddle board for yoga?

Yoga paddleboards are not as large as fishing or touring boards which means they can be surfed in small waves indeed. Although they lack the stability of a surf SUP, it doesn’t take much effort to paddle for a small wave with a yoga board. Both inflatable and solid yoga boards can be used in small waves only.


Is surfing cheaper than paddleboarding?

An average surfboard costs around $600 – $800 new while a solid paddle board for surfing costs slightly more – around $999. You can find cheaper inflatable SUP bundles for $700 which also save you another $400 on crossbars and a SUP carrier.

  • Used Surf gear = $600 (board with fins & leash, wetsuit)
  • New Surf gear = $1,000 (new board, new wetsuit)
  • Used SUP gear = 300$ (Inflatable) / $700 (Solid)
  • New SUP Gear ($400 – $999 for inflatable) /  ($999 – $1,200 for a rigid board)



Can you surf an inflatable SUP?

Although inflatable surfboards haven’t taken over the markets as well as the iSUP market in general, there are many brands that have put up inflatable surf sup for sale. Some of these boards actually have quite a good feedback to rely on as well.

We’d say if you know how to surf, the matter of whether you can surf on a SUP is unknown until you give it a trying couple of times. Although the best SUPs for surfing are made of epoxy, there are a lot of inflatable paddleboards seen in many popular surf breaks all around the world. In a crowded spot, an inflatable SUP is a much safer option as the surf can get unpredictable rather quickly.



So – which the is best inflatable stand-up paddle board for surfing?

If you are thinking of committing your time and money to the best paddle board for surfing is usually 8’0′ to 9’6″ in length, 30″ in width, and less than 5″ in thickness. Expert paddle boarders prefer epoxy over an inflatable.

Published by:

I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top