Paddle Board Vs Surfboard (6 Things You Should Know)

Paddle board vs surfboard, which one should you get? Hopefully, once you’ve finished this article, you can confidently decide.

I personally love my paddleboarding, but in this comprehensive guide on “paddle board vs surfboard,” I’ll deep dive into their main differences to help you make an informed choice.

I’ll also delve into some of the most frequently asked questions that have been asked by people like you (or maybe it was you!)

paddle board vs surfboard

Paddle Board vs Surfboard: What’s the Difference?

In this section, I’ll break down the 6 main differences between SUP boards and surfboards:

  1. Size and Shape
  2. Materials and Construction
  3. Weight
  4. Buoyancy
  5. Paddle vs No Paddle
  6. Hull Type

1. Size and Shape

Paddle boards are typically longer, wider, and thicker than surfboards. This extra size and thickness provide more stability when paddling and makes it easier to balance on the board.

Surfboards, on the other hand, are designed to be more maneuverable and responsive, with a narrower and thinner shape that allows the rider to carve turns and ride waves.

Below are some of the spec ranges for both. As you can see, size is a major difference between the two.

Paddle BoardsSurfboards
8-14 ft long6-10 ft long
4-6″ thick2 1/4-3 1/4″ thick
32- 34″ wide17-22″ wide
girl on paddleboard vs surfboard

2. Materials and Construction

Paddle boards are typically made from foam, fibreglass or high-quality PVC (inflatable paddle boards.)

The most common surfboards are constructed with an expanded styrofoam core coated in fibreglass. They can also be made from these materials:

  • Wood
  • Foam or cork
  • High-quality PVC (inflatable surfboards)

Check out this article from EVO for an in-depth guide to choosing a surfboard.

3. Weight

SUP boards are generally heavier than surfboards due to their larger size and thicker construction. This makes them more difficult to maneuver in the water.

Surfboards are designed to be lightweight and easy to maneuver, allowing riders to quickly paddle hard into waves, duck dive and make sharp turns.

Average SUP Weight: 15-30+ lbs

Average Surfboard Weight: 6-16 lbs

These numbers are based on the different variations of both paddle boards and surfboards.

4. Buoyancy

Buoyancy is another important factor to consider when comparing the two.

Paddle boards are designed to float on top of the water which means they are more buoyant than surfboards.

They often have a higher foam volume (or air volume), which provides more buoyancy and keeps the board floating on the water’s surface (especially flat water).

Surfboards are designed to be less buoyant, which allows riders to duck dive into the water and carve turns more easily.

5. Paddle vs No Paddle

A major difference between the two is that one requires a separate paddle, and the other does not.

On a traditional surfboard, surfers use their arms to paddle fast and get ahead of the wave before “popping up” to ride it.

Paddle boarding is typically done on flat water and requires the use of a paddle to propel yourself through the water (while standing or sitting.)

6. Hulls: Planing Hull Type or Displacement Hulls

A planing hull allows the board to ride on top of the water and “plane.” Surfboards fall under the planing hull type.

Displacement hulls do precisely as it sounds and “displace” the water beneath the board. Paddle boards may be designed with either planing or displacement hulls (depending on the use.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Paddle boards are typically longer, wider, and thicker than surfboards, providing more stability for recreational paddling.
  • Paddle boards are usually made from foam, fibreglass, or high-quality PVC, while surfboards are commonly constructed with an expanded styrofoam core coated in fibreglass.
  • Paddle boards are generally heavier than surfboards due to their size and construction.
  • Paddle boards are designed to be more buoyant than surfboards.
  • A SUP board requires a paddle and a surfboard requires you to paddle fast with your chicken wings!
  • Surfboards have a planing hull type and paddle boards can have either a planing or displacement hull type.

Paddle Board vs Surfboard: It’s All In How You Use Them

Are you looking for that rush of adrenaline? Or are you looking for a relaxing way to explore while getting some exercise?

I personally like “filling my adrenaline cup” elsewhere and opt for a lazy day of recreational paddling.

Paddle Boarding for Fitness and Yoga

If you’re into yoga, paddle boarding can be a fun and challenging way to practice your poses. Many boards are designed specifically for yoga, with a wider and more stable platform that allows you to perform poses without falling off.

Some even come with anchors that you can use to stay in one place while you practice.

paddle board yoga

Surfing for Thrill and Adventure

Surfing is a thrilling and adventurous sport that can give you an adrenaline rush like no other.

Whether you’re using a regular surfboard (traditional surfboard), surfing longboards, or shorter surfboards, it requires skill, technique, and a lot of practice.

While challenging, it can also be very peaceful and meditative. Feeling the power of the ocean is always a humbling experience for me. Surfing paddle boards is also a challenge that some take on.

Paddle Boarding for Fishing and Touring

Paddle boards are great for fishing, as they allow you to quietly and easily navigate shallow waters. They often come equipped with built-in storage compartments and places to put your fishing gear. 

This is also a great way to explore and tour the waterways in your area. You can paddle through calm lakes and rivers, enjoying the scenery and wildlife around you.

Can I Use My Surfboard as a Paddle Board?

The short answer is yes, but it will be more difficult. Surfboards are narrower and less buoyant which means that you have to be extra talented to paddle board on them.

Can You Use a Paddle Board as a Surfboard?

Again yes, but for the best surfing experience, I recommend using the right tool for the job (aka, a surfboard!)

The size of a SUP board is not designed to ride waves as a surfboard does, but SUP surfing is totally a thing!

Finding Your Perfect Board without Breaking the Bank

Costs can vary greatly, with an entry-level inflatable paddle board costing around $200 and higher-end carbon fibre boards for racing or touring going up to over $2000

Surfboards also come at various price points depending on factors like size, materials used, and brand reputation – expect costs anywhere between $300-$1,500+ (or even higher).

different styles of surfboards

FAQs in Relation to Paddle Board vs Surfboard

Is Paddle Board Surfing Easier Than Surfing?

Paddleboard surfing (SUP surfing) is considered to be easier than traditional surfing. It can be done with only basic balance and reactive skills. Surfing, however, requires more balance and skill.

What is the Difference Between a Surfboard and a Paddle Board?

The main difference between a surfboard and a paddleboard is in their design and intended uses. Surfboards are designed for riding waves while paddle boards are designed for paddling on calm water.

What’s the Difference Between a Longboard and a Paddle Board?

Longboards are longer/wider surfboards designed for riding waves and paddle boards are designed for paddling on calm water. They do share some similarities in terms of size but are designed for different uses.

Do Surfers Like Paddleboarders?

There can be some tension between the two groups. Some surfers feel that paddleboarders are interfering with their ability to catch waves, and some paddleboarders may feel that surfers are being territorial.

Is Paddle Boarding Hard in the Ocean?

In the ocean, there are many variables that can affect the difficulty of paddle boarding such as waves, wind and currents. These can make it more challenging to balance and maneuver through the water.

Before You Go…

When it comes to paddle board vs surfboard, there are many distinct differences and board types.

From all-around boards to inflatable boards and carbon fiber boards, there are many different types of each to learn about.

I’ve only skimmed the surface here but REI has a great article about choosing a SUP (stand-up paddle board) if you think that’s the direction you’d like to go.

Or maybe you’re leaning more toward surfing. Learn more about choosing a surfboard in this article from EVO.

Since you’re in to water sports, I think you’d also enjoy my article below.

Canoeing or Kayaking, Which One is For You?