sup vs surfing

Surfing vs Paddleboarding Comparison

The modern-day surf culture started in the 1970s with some giant surf brands entering the market. SUP-boarding on the other hand is a much newer trend that exploded in the past 10 years after the introduction of inflatable paddle boards.

  • The history of surfing dates back to 12th century Polynesia.
    Modern-day surf culture boomed in the 1950-1960s in Hawaii, California & Australia
  • The history of paddleboarding dates back to 18th century Hawaii.
    The modern-day popularity of paddleboarding started in 2005 in California.

Today, we see more and more paddleboarders in the surf line-up, on lakes and rivers as well. Down below we’ll explore these two, somewhat related boardsports, and give out pointers on which one to prefer over the other. Have a look:

surfing with sup
Surfing with a SUP – that’s how close those two sports can get




Surfing PROs

  • Lightweight.
  • Late take-offs.
  • Greater workout.
  • Easier to maneuver.
  • Easy to carry around.
  • Less drag down the wave.
  • Faster to get on the water from the car.
  • No need to worry about a paddle after a wipe-out.
  • A surfboard fits nicely into a car.
  • Way more responsive to turn and carve.
  • Can do all kinds of tricks on a moving wave.
  • Allows riding curling, fast and hollow waves.
  • Many different surfboards are available for kids.
  • A surfboard can be ducked under the incoming waves.
  • Higher chance of finding parts at nearby surf stores.
  • Surfboards come in many different styles and designs.
  • There’s quite a bit to modify the performance of a surfboard.
  • Surfboards come in 16 different types that allow to ride all kinds of waves.
  • After wiping out it is way easier to recover and paddle away from the break zone.
surfer girl
A surfer riding under the jetty.

Surfboard CONs vs SUP

  • Much smaller wave count.
  • Requires a good-quality wave to surf properly.
  • Spend most of the time submerged halfway in the water.
  • Requires more time and dedication to be good at.
  • Much slower to paddle compared to any SUP board.
  • You are going to need better insulation (wetsuit, hood, gloves, etc.)



Stand-up Paddleboarding PROS

  • You’ll stay warm being outside the water by staying on top of the board.
  • SUPs are a booming market.
  • You can ride one on flat days.
  • You can surf with pretty much all types of SUP boards once you know the basics of surfing & paddleboarding.
  • Easy to sit on the board and have a rest.
  • One board fits a wide variety of users.
  • Inflatable paddle boards are easy to carry around.
  • Paddle boards can be used for multiple purposes, such as long-distance touring, race, leisurely rides, etc.
  • Come in many materials – inflatable, rigid, or even in a fold-up form – making the choice of choosing way easier.
  • Inflatable paddle boards have quite similar characteristics to rigid boards, making them a way more affordable and portable alternative.
stand up paddleboarders
There’s no better way to get on the sea with weather like this with a SUP.



Paddle board downsides to a Surfboard

  • Requires a good set-up of cross-bars and a board carrier for transportation.
  • Difficult to carry around and store due to its increased dimensions.
  • After a wipe-out, it is difficult to recover back to the board with a paddle.
  • You’ll have to be more careful around others when surfing.
  • Add your own thoughts to the comments section!

sup surfing guide





If you love the ocean as much as you love spending quality time on the water – both SUP and surfing offer plenty of tempting benefits. In an ideal world, we’d recommend doing both – SUP and Surf. You can’t really go wrong with choosing either one. Although surfing is quite time-consuming and takes ages to be good at, stand-up paddleboarding can be done at all bodies of water by the whole family – making it a little more accessible to users. A complete SUP package can start as low as $400 for an inflatable SUP, while surfing gear can cost up to $1,000. Surfing, in the long run, will likely cost you more as you are going to hoard a bunch of nice-looking boards for alternative conditions, while a SUP is more of an all-rounder, one-time investment.

  • Inflatable paddleboarding is more accessible due to its compact size and affordable price tag.
  • Surfing takes a lot of time and effort to be good at, but it is well worth it after a while.
  • Both recreations cost about the same.
  • Both sports offer plenty of intense & low-resistance work-out.
  • Paddleboarding is easier, while you need to maintain your fitness to surf regularly.


Is paddleboarding considered surfing?

The main focus of paddleboarding is to ride on flat water, mainly for; sightseeing, touring, or leisurely rides. Besides the most-used types, there’s also one exact SUP type for surfing – the surf SUP. This board is characterized by a sharper nose and a below-average length.

The SUM: Surfing vs stand up paddleboarding

The surfboard is designed 100% to ride a breaking wave while a SUP can be used for various activities, surfing included. If you’d really like to be ‘in the zone’ with nature and the ocean, surfing is definitely something where you’d be needing to be in the element to enjoy the sport. SUP boarding on the other has the accessibility to riding a wave, but its main focus is for touring or practicing yoga.

What do surfing and paddleboarding share in common?

What these recreational sports share in common is that they are both performed on the water, and to move forward on a board. You’ll need to know the core basics of how surf works for your own, and for others’ safety around you.


Read next

10 Disciplines to Surf a Wave
Windsurfing, kitesurfing, bodysurfing – what else?

How much does it cost to surf?
A total price teardown

Surf SUP Guide
A complete guide – types, sizes, characteritics.

surf sup vs surfboard

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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.

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