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3 min read

Author: Doug Anderson @la_sup

Let’s get ready to talk some Paddleboard Theory! Now, don’t be intimidated- It's just a fancy way of saying ‘all the features that make a board work’. Once you understand the basic concept of a SUP board design features, you will be able to look at any board and breakdown how it should perform. The most important design features of a board are Outline/ Shape, Rocker, Bottom Shape, Tail Shape, and Rail Shape.

Outline/ Shape is best viewed with the Paddleboard standing on its tail-end, with you viewing it from about 5’-10’ away for a better perspective. The two most prominent outline shapes we see are Longboard and Pointed Nose Shortboard styles. There are many other Outline/ Shape styles that fall into the Hybrid class but we will keep it basic for now. With the information we go over in this article, you will be able to distinguish the differences between each style.

Longboard SUPs like the Focus SUP Hawaii Smoothie and Classic are best suited for newer surfers because the rider can develop better technique by moving around from the nose to the tail of the board with more ease. Pointed Nose Shortboard SUPs like the Focus SUP Hawaii Torpedo perform better in the steeper, more hollow waves due to the pulled in pointy nose.


The Rocker is the curve from nose to tail when viewing the stand-up board from the side. The more Rocker the board has, the easier it will be to turn while riding, whereas too much Rocker can make a board slow. Boards will have some nose Rocker to aid you with dropping in on the wave, the curve will then flatten through the midsection, and finally it will increase again throughout the tail end. The flattened midsection of the rocker is your gas pedal while the rocker in the tail acts as your steering wheel.

Bottom Shape design is where things can get a bit confusing, so I will keep it very simple. The bottom of the board from rail to rail, tip to tail is the bottom shape.
Below is a list of Bottom Shapes with the corresponding benefits...

-Flat = Stability.
-Rounded/ Belly/ Vee = The board will tip rail to rail from the high point.
-Single Concave = The board gathers and channels water-flow, typically forward of the fin set up.
-Double Concave = The board gathers and channels water-flow, typically from the fins through the tail.
-Channels = The board channels water-flow. Deep channels can give the board hold in hollow waves.

Tail Shapes are easy to break down, if you look at it this way... There are two basic shapes- Pintail and Squaretail. A paddleboard with a Pintail will make a nice arcing turn and give solid hold in the wave face. A Square Tail can be described as a Pintail with the point moved out toward the rail, making it easier to engage the rocker in the tail. A Squaretail SUP board with a wider platform is better for new surfers. You will see many variations of both of these shapes.


Rail Shape has a lot of descriptions but the most common are Full Rails or Thin Rails. Full rails aid in stability and can be found on beginner and performance SUPs. Thin rails with less volume are easier to sink and engage with the wave face more efficiently and are usually found on high performance boards under 8’6”. Rail shape can greatly affect board performance. This is one area that I am personally playing with, in regards to my custom shapes, now that I have my board volume figured out.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on Fin set-ups, which I didn’t mention up top, but will make a quick comment, anyhow. The two main set-ups are Tri Fin and Quad. Tri Fin set-ups are great for performance surfing. If you are actively pushing your board through turns and maneuvers, a Quad might be just right for you as the board will give you more feedback and response. We will talk fins again, in more depth, soon!

Hopefully this info will help you to better understand your board and/ or your next purchase.
Note: this article also applies to regular surfboards and longboards.

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