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What is a Paddle Board?

You may have seen people out paddling around on Lake Woodlands on the weekends, or in groups on weekday mornings. Think they're out there on surf boards? Think again!


For non-paddlers and rowers, the idea that surfboards, kayaks, canoes, outriggers, paddle boards, and rowing boats are only different in terms of construction - but actually, just being variations of the same design concept is a misconception. So it follows that understanding how paddling and rowing are different both in terms of equipment and technique is important. Paddle Boards are generally single-person vessels, while boats can be operated by one or more people. Clearing away the common misconceptions around the question of what is a paddle board helps us to move towards a more accurate understanding of the sport and how to enjoy it.

Paddleboards are of two classes - stock boards; which have a fixed rudder and are about 12 feet long, and unlimited boards; which have a movable rudder and may be of any length. Paddleboarding can also be done on various pieces of equipment, including surfboards. Paddleboards are made of fiberglass, epoxy, and/or carbon fiber, and are generally quite large (ranging from eight feet to twenty-one feet). An emerging paddleboard technology is an epoxy surfboard, which are stronger and lighter than traditional fiberglass. Cost of new boards range from $1,500 to $6,000; with custom boards being at the higher end of the scale.

Paddle Boarding Lake Woodlands

Another major difference in paddleboarding is seen in their means of propulsion. While rowing traditional uses stationary wooden oars and are moved by use of the legs and arms, paddling uses ultra-light, free-moving paddles, which are primarily moved by use of the upper torso and the core muscles. Secondly, the paddle board moves in the same direction the rider is facing while in rowing, while the canoe moves in the opposite direction of the rower(s).


To this point, our discussion basically groups together three things: outriggers canoes, traditional canoes and paddle boards. We have not yet included surfboards in the mix, since they do not require external oars or (continuous) paddling. Designed slightly more aggressively than most paddle boards, surf boards are hydro-dynamically designed, and optimized to better harness the natural potential of waves, resulting in forward motion (without paddling) by way of the water pushing against the fins to create forward momentum also known as "drive." Surfboards, while more agile, are harder to master than paddleboards or even a canoe. Typically a surf board will measure at less than 8 feet, although some longer surfboards can measure up to 9 feet with 22" in width. Long-board surfboards of that size, however, are moving increasingly close to SUPs in terms of their dimensions. The biggest difference will usually be the amount of thickness (or volume) in the rails of the paddleboard in order to achieve greater stability.

Paddle Board vs. Surfboards

Disregarding the obvious propulsion difference mentioned earlier between these two similar looking boards, there are plenty of other design elements that differ - and some that closely match. For starters, both the board designs have a similar look to each other, something that is obvious to even the most unknowing observer. Both paddleboards and surfboards provide flat surfaces on which one can stand, but surfboards are less stable in the water and depend on the motion of a wave before a rider can actually stand up on them.


It's important not to generalize too much about surfboard design, because that topic is very expansive in its own right. Surfboards can take the form of guns, semi-guns, mini tankers, fishes, eggs, long-boards, high-performance short-boards, and so much more. While on the other hand, paddle boards usually have a uniformly narrowing body starting from the center line with only the tail and the nose having subtle changes.


The overall structure of most paddle boards are either rounded/oval or pointed/gunny, with a flatter tail end. In other words, at present there is very little diversity in the range of SUP outlines and designs. However, paddleboard designers continue to evolve the sport, while integrating inspiration from surfboard designers into their shapes that can be seen in cutting-edge shapes by designers like Gerry Lopez. These advanced designs can borrow advanced concepts from surfboards such as wings in the outline, and aggressive deep concaves for maneuverability and lift. Construction-wise, as well as in the design of the bottom, nose, and tail, both surf boards and paddle boards are similar. Both crafts can simultaneously sport concaves, or displacement bottoms, yet are unique in their own right.

Best Definition of a Paddle Board

Having explained the similarities and differences between a paddle board and every other kind of similar vessel, we can see that it's not easy to just generalize what paddle boards are in a simple definition. Even if you could, without the design context of similar crafts, it's nearly impossible to appreciate the subtle differences that make paddle boards so unique. Stand up paddle boarding, like the equipment used, almost resists being defined, because there are so many different forms of paddle boarding and types of boards, with more coming on to the scene by the day. It's most definitely an exciting time to be a paddler and to have the opportunity to grow with this booming lifestyle!

Which type of Paddle Board is Best for You?

It Is Important To Know: Most paddle board models are designed to work fine for all Stand Up Paddlers; whether you're male or female, small or large, tall or short, young or old, highly skilled or a beginner, and whether you plan on paddling flat water or surfing waves or wakes, you can learn the basics. Here are a few things to consider in choosing which SUP is best for you...


- The longer and wider the paddle board, the more stable it will be in flat water such as lakes (like Lake Woodlands) and bays, as they are great for long distance paddling.

- The shorter paddle boards are primarily for surfing waves in the ocean, or while being towed by a boat, like boogie boards. Shorter boards can also work well for paddling in flat water conditions.

- A board with the entire top surface covered with a memory foam is great for for exercise and/or yoga, as well as taking children and pets out for a ride.

- Inflatable paddle boards are for people who don't have a place to store a traditional paddle board, or who plan on paddling fast moving rivers with rocks, or for those who would like to take their paddle board on an airplane, hiking or on camping trips.

Here in The Woodlands, there are several opportunities throughout the year to take up paddle boarding as a new sport, or expand your paddle board skills by incorporating exercises, such as yoga moves. Classes are offered to individuals as well as in groups. For more information, check out the Township Sponsored Adult Activities, or the Woodlands Township Sponsored Youth Activities to see what paddleboard classes are available this season.

Stand Up Paddle Board Terms

The sport of Stand Up Paddling (or SUP) is new, and the terms used to identify and describe the sport - as well as the names for the boards used - vary widely."SUP" stands for Stand Up Paddling, and "surfing" is often used to describe Stand Up Paddling while surfing waves. With the increasing popularity of the sport, beyond the original ocean-surfing spots, many people now Stand Up Paddle on flat water lakes, rivers, bays, and reservoirs. Often, paddle boarding is written as two words similar to surf boarding, which was eventually modified into the term "surfing."

All of these terms refer to standing while paddling in some form of water:

  • SUP
  • Stand Up Paddling
  • Stand Up Paddle Surfing
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Paddleboarding
  • Paddle Surfing
  • Paddlesurfing
  • Paddling

All of these terms describe Stand Up Paddle Boards:

  • SUP Board
  • SUP Paddleboard
  • Paddle Board
  • Paddleboard
  • Stand Up Paddle Board
  • Stand Up Paddleboard
  • StandUp Paddleboard
  • Paddle Surfboard

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