Parts of a Standup Paddleboard (SUP)

Standup Paddleboard Design and Terminology

Paddle boarding in NYC
Standup Paddle boarding in Manhatten. © by Mario Tama / Getty Images

At first glimpse there’s not much to a standup paddleboard. It’s a curved board-like structure with a fin or fins on the bottom. It really just looks like a longboard used in surfing. While some of the terminology and components are the same as a surfboard there are a few extra components on a standup paddleboard that every SUP paddler should know. One of the first steps when getting starting in paddleboarding is to learn the terminology.

Here is a list and description of the different lingo referring to the parts of a standup paddleboard and their overall function as they relate to the design of the board.

  • Nose of a SUP

    The front or tip of a standup paddleboard is often called the nose. Unlike a canoe or kayak, the front of a board is not referred to as the bow. The nose can also very plainly be called the front or the tip.
  • Tail of a SUP

    Unlike the front of a paddleboard, the back or rear 12” of a SUP has an accepted name and that is the tail. The design considerations of the tails of standup paddleboards are very similar to that of a surfboard. Edgy wide tails are used for aggressive turns while rounder tails provide smoother turns.
  • Deck of a SUP

    The top part of a standup paddleboard, that is the part you actually stand on, is called the deck. These can be flat or have a curved or domed surface. The decks on some beginner boards can actually have contoured or recessed areas signifying where to stand on the board.
  • Bottom of a SUP

    There is no creative word use for the bottom. It is what it is. Most are flat. Some are convex in shape (curved inward) which make them faster and aids in maneuverability. They are also less stable.
  • Rails of a SUP

    The sides or edges of the standup paddleboard are known as the rails. Domed-decked boards allow for smaller volume rails which helps the rider to rock from rail to rail while surfing. Higher volume rails make the board more stable. It is quite common for the rails on a SUP to get dinged up from the SUP paddle hitting it while paddling.
  • Rocker of a SUP

    The rocker of a standup paddleboard refers to the curvature of the board from the nose to the tail (tip to tip) of the board. This makes more difference when surfing than it does when flatwater paddling.
  • Deck Pad of a Standup Paddleboard

    The deck pad of a standup paddleboard refers to the foam, rubber, or other surface that is placed on the board to provide traction, paddling, and style. Of course traditionally surfers use wax on their boards to provide the traction they need. On standup paddleboards, however, paddlers are standing up a whole lot longer making the cushion of the a deck pad a welcome addition as people learning to SUP will readily attest.
  • Fins and Fin Box

    Just like on surfboards, standup paddleboards have fins on the bottom tail of the board. Fins help the board from sliding out while surfing and help in “tracking” straight on flat water. Included in this is that they aid the stability of the board. A board can have one, two, or three fins. The hole that the fins bolt into is known as a fin box.
  • Handle of a Standup Paddleboard

    Its difficult to imagine just how wide and long standup paddleboards are until you’re standing in front of one. They’re not like surfboards that you can just sling under your arm and run off to the beach. For this reason manufacturers have molded-in oval or groove in the board so you can put your hand into it when the board is under your arm. This is also sometimes called a soap dish.
  • Leash and Leash Cup of a SUP

    Just as in surfing the SUP leash attaches the rider's ankle to the rear of the paddleboard. A leash cup is a little plastic piece in the deck of the tail of the board where the leash attaches.
  • Vent and Vent Plug

    Some standup paddleboards have vents that are sealed with vent plugs. Since the boards are made of foam the gases contained in the board will expand and contract with the air temperature. Vent plugs can be removed to allow the gases to equalize during storage and to prevent damage to the board due to over expansion of the gases.