Paddleboading has now been around for quite a few years with the introduction of the Inflatable versions about 10 years ago, in that time there has been many advances in materials, allowing greater inflation pressures and stiffer boards, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the outline shapes.
Why is that? .. It comes down to the basic dynamics of forward motion which has been tried and tested in many watersports over the years, Surf, Windsurf and Sailing, just to name a few. What they have all found as a basic principle is that a longer / narrower shape is faster, a shorter / wider shape is more manoeuvrable, this is due to resulting curve in the rails (sides). Think what it would be like to paddle a circle, not very easy.
How does this affect paddleboards, well a Surf SUP is around 8’ long and 31” wide making the rail very curved allowing the board to turn easily but would be terrible if trying to paddle in a straight line for any distance. Race boards are at the opposite end on the scale 14’ x 25”, very long and narrow, with very straight parallel rails, amazing straight line speed but harder to turn.
This brings us to the all round boards, these need to do a bit of everything and when the all round shape was designed, wether it be hard or inflatable, the same principles apply. The rails need to be parallel as possible, keeping the length to something that is easy to turn. The round nose, all round shape, was considered to be the best and with time this has proven to be the case with many test winning boards, the shape has remained unchanged even thought other technologies have advanced..
A few brands have tried to improve on the tested and time proven shape, as you will see by the graphic below we have tried to show and explain the differences.
1. Is the classic all round shape for reference.
2. Shows a board shape where the designer has tried to improve the flow through the water making the nose pointed, yes a point will give less resistance but as you can see this increases the curve in the rail, so what is gained in directional glide is lost due to the rail curve being greater. With the reduced width in the nose, stability is lower than the classic shape.
3. A few brands now offer a sport, performance all round shape. These brands have take the classic 10’6 shape and added a point, making it around 11’3 / 11’4 long, keeping the same 32” width, the result is a 10’6 feel with improved glide, without the lose of direction or stability. This All-round performance shape is still 4.7 thick, which is great for riders under 100kg and keeps manoeuvrability and stability and goes through the water more easily thanks to the pointed nose and straight rails.
To sum up, when buying a board, buy a proven shape and where possible, make sure its 4.7” thick, (some call it 4.75 or 5” this is also fine) and with the right materials and pressure rating, this thickness is available up to around 11’4, giving you a board with the correct volume and not something thicker that has increased volume and is more affected by the paddling condition
Thanks for reading and happy paddling 🙂