Paddle Board Terminology

If you’re a stand up paddle board newbie, you may hear some terms that you don’t quite understand. 

Like every other sport, paddle boarding has its own jargon, and it can be a little puzzling to non-paddlers. 

So here is a list of common terms and their meanings to help you better understand paddle boarding. The next time you watch a SUP video, read a blog, or join a conversion you won’t scratch your head trying to figure out the meaning of the words.  

76 Stand Up Paddle Board Terms and Their Explanations


Adjustable Paddle

This is a paddle that allows you to adjust the height of the shaft to suit your height or the condition you’ll be paddling in. 

All-Around SUP

A stand up paddle board of moderate length and width designed for versatility. You can use it for most paddle boarding activities. 


Bungee Storage

A storage area made using an elastic cord attached to D-rings on the paddle board. It’s usually at the front or rear. 


The floatability of your SUP board. The higher the floatability the more weight the paddle board can support without sinking. 


Catch Phase

A paddle stroke has four phases. The catch phase is the stage where the paddle blade enters the water. 

Center Fin

A large fin at the bottom of a paddle board towards the tail. The center fin is meant to help with tracking. 


Rough water, usually as a result of wind. 

Cross Shore Winds

These are winds that blow from left to right or right to left, parallel to the shore. 


This is relaxed paddle boarding on calm waters. 




The entire top part of your stand up paddle board. 

Deck Pad

A soft foam pad that covers a large area of the deck. It gives you a soft platform to stand on. It also offers extra traction so you don’t slip on the wet board. 


The measurements of the paddle board, that is, the length, width, and thickness. 

Displacement Hull

This is a V-shaped hull with a pointed nose, designed for minimum resistance and maximum speed. (See definition of hull further below). 


A force that slows your paddle board down. This could be a result of something–like your leash–hanging in the water.


Stainless steel attachment points on paddle boards for attaching accessories such as a kayak seat. 


A construction design for inflatable stand up paddle boards. It involves two pieces of fabric, the top and bottom, joined by thousands of small threads. 

Dry Bag

An airtight bag that paddlers use to store clothes and other valuables to keep them from getting wet. 


Paddling in the direction of the wind.

Dual-Chamber Pump

A manual inflation pump with two air chambers to make it easier to inflate your inflatable paddle board. 



Water flowing against the main current creating a small whirlpool. 

EVA Foam

A soft type of foam used to make the deck pads of paddle boards. 



Reinforced plastic consisting of glass fiber and resin used to make hard boards and paddles. 


SUPs, like fish, also have fins. A paddle board’s fin is located at the bottom, towards the tail to help with performance. 

Fin box

The slot under the board where the fin goes. 

Fixed Paddle 

This is a paddle with a shaft that has a fixed height, so you can’t adjust it. 

Flat Water

Calm or slow-moving water.


The wobbling movement of the paddle while it’s in the water during a paddle stroke.


The movement of a paddle board on the water. 



A fixed handle on your paddle board to make it easier to carry your board. Paddles can have one handle at the center or three–at the center, nose, and tail. 


This is the bottom part of a stand up paddle board. 


Inflatable SUP

An inflatable paddle board, unlike a traditional board, is inflated for use and deflated for storage and transport. 

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This is short for inflatable stand up paddle board. 



A safety accessory that keeps you attached to your paddle board. You can wear your SUP leash around your calf or ankle. 



An attachment point for accessories such as an action camera, fishing rod holder, and cup holder. 



The front part of the paddle board–could be pointed or round. 


Offshore Winds

These are winds that are blowing from land toward the water. 

Onshore Winds

These are winds that are blowing from the water toward the shore. 


Paddle Blade

The wide flat end of the paddle that you immerse in the water. 

Paddle Stroke

The movement you make with your SUP paddle. It involves planting the blade in the water, drawing back, getting the blade out of the water, and moving it to the front to repeat the movement.  

Paddling into the Wind

Paddling against the direction of the wind. 


Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

This is an accessory that paddlers wear to keep them afloat when they fall into the water. It could be a life jacket, suspender harness, or inflatable belt. 

Planing Hull

A flat, wide hull with a round nose designed for stability. 

Pressure Gauge

A device attached to your inflatable SUP pump to help you measure the air pressure. 


A unit of measuring air pressure. 


Where you have to get out of the water and carry your paddle board over an obstacle or dry land between two areas of water. 

Power Phase

The stage of the paddle stroke when you’re pushing back water with the paddle blade. 

Put In

The area in the water where you launch your SUP board to begin your paddle boarding session. 



A four-fin arrangement system. A paddle board with a quad-fin setup has four fins. 



The edge of a paddle board, from nose to tail. Inflatable boards usually have higher volume rails compared to hard boards. 

Recovery Phase

The stage of the paddle stroke where you slice the paddle blade out of the water. 

Release Phase

The stage of the paddle stroke where you bring the paddle blade forward to start a new stroke. 


The curvature of a paddle board from the nose to the tail. A board with more rocker appears more curved, like a banana. 



A paddle shaft is the long straight section of the paddle that connects the T-bar handle at the top to the blade. 

Side Fins

Smaller fins on either side of the larger main fin. 

Single Fin

A paddle board with a single-fin setup has only one large center fin. 


A solid paddle board with a padded top layer. It doesn’t scratch easily and also doesn’t hurt as much as a regular hard board when you fall and hit it. 

Solid SUP

A traditional paddle board made of wood, plastic, or fiberglass. A traditional SUP is not inflatable, but is solid instead. 


How steady your paddle board feels when on the water. A SUP that isn’t stable will feel tippy and wobbly. 

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Stroke Rate

The number of paddle strokes you make per minute. 


An acronym for Stand Up Paddleboarding.  

SUP Fishing

Fishing using your stand up paddle board. SUPs designed for fishing are usually bigger and more stable. They also have gear mounts for you to attach your fishing gear. 

SUP Racing

A competitive discipline of paddle boarding that involves racing with paddle boards. Racing boards are long and narrow, designed for speed. 

SUP Stance

The positioning of your feet on your paddle board while paddle boarding. 

SUP Surfing

Catching waves with your SUP board. Surfing boards are shorter than the average paddle board, usually less than 10 feet long. 

SUP Touring

Using a paddle board for expedition adventures. A touring board is longer and narrower than an all-around paddle board for better speed. 

SUP Yoga

Doing yoga on a paddle board on the water. Yoga paddle boards are wide for maximum stability. 




The back part of your paddle board. 

Take Out

This is where you exit the water and end your paddle boarding session (the opposite of Put In)

T-Bar Grip

The top part of your paddle, shaped like a T, where you grip the paddle with your top hand. 

Three-Piece Paddle

A paddle that can be broken down into three pieces for travel and storage. 


The ability of your paddle board to travel in a straight line. A SUP that tracks poorly will zigzag all over the place. 

Tri-Fin Setup

A fin setup with three fins, usually a large center fin and two side fins. 


Valve, Valve Cap, and Valve Pin

A valve is where you attach a pump to inflate your paddle board. A valve cap is a cap screwed onto the valve to keep water and dust out. A valve pin is a pin in the valve that you lift to close the valve and prevent air from escaping or push to open the valve and deflate the SUP.

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Vent Plug

A plug on hard paddle boards that allows air to escape when it expands. 


How much water a paddle board would displace if it were fully submerged in water. It’s measured in liters and is usually an indication of how much weight a SUP can support without sinking. 


Whitewater SUP

Paddle boarding in rapids. Whitewater paddle boards are smaller and highly maneuverable. 

Wrapping Up

Some stand up paddle boarding terms can be confusing to non-paddlers. Hopefully, this list will help you better understand the language of SUP. Now every time you watch a SUP video or join a group of paddlers for a conversion you’ll understand what everyone is talking about.