Can You Use a Surfboard As a Paddleboard?

sup surfing

If you’re a surfer who has decided to cross over to the SUP side or you’re just curious about this new, popular sport, you may be wondering whether your surfboard can work as a SUP board. 

A good stand up paddle board can be expensive. If you can enjoy paddle boarding without having to spend a lot of money, why not? 

So, can you use a surfboard as a paddleboard? The short answer is, no. A surfboard will not give you the experience you’re looking for, because it is not designed for paddle boarding. 

To better understand the reasons behind this, we need to take a closer look at the differences (and some of the similarities)  between paddle boards and surfboards.

Let’s get into the details. 

Surfboard Vs Paddle Board: Key Differences 

Surfboards and SUP boards have some major differences—from how they’re made to how they perform.  


1. Construction

The construction of both paddle boards and surfboards begins with a foam core. The outer layer can be fiberglass or carbon fiber for the high-end boards. 

However, SUP boards are thicker with a reinforced deck, a feature that makes them super stiff. They can hold a rider’s weight without bending or sagging. They also have a traction deck pad to offer comfort and prevent the paddler from slipping. 

Surfboards, on the other hand, are thinner and don’t have a reinforced deck. You also won’t find a soft traction deck pad on a surfboard. Riders wax their surfboards to get a grippy surface. 

2. Size of Board

Stand up paddle boards are longer, wider, and thicker than surfboards. They are built to have extra stability and buoyancy while the design of surfboards focuses more on maneuverability. 

Surf boards are typically less than 10 feet long and less than 24 inches wide. They are also much thinner, usually about 3 inches thick. SUP boards are bigger, at least 10’6 long, 30+ inches wide, and at least 4 inches thick. Inflatable paddle boards are even thicker and most of them are at least 6 inches thick. 

The large platform of a paddle board makes it easy to maintain balance while paddling. They are stable enough for different activities, including yoga and fishing. 

It would be quite hard to stand on a surfboard on flat water without falling off. A surfboard is quite tippy and not buoyant enough. It is only good for riding waves. 

Speaking of which…

3. Volume and Buoyancy

As mentioned above, paddle boards are thicker and generally bigger than surfboards and are, thus, more buoyant. 

A higher volume means more flotation. The foam volume of a surfboard can be as low as 22 liters. It will not offer enough flotation to keep a rider afloat if they decide to stand. If you stand upright on a surfboard as you would on a paddle board, it will start sinking. 

But how come surfers manage to stay afloat on their surfboards? 

They distribute their weight evenly across the board when prone paddling. Their body weight is not concentrated on a particular spot on the board, counteracting its buoyancy. 

When the surfers stand to ride a wave, the speed is what keeps the surfboard from sinking. The higher the speed, the more the power keeping the rider afloat. This is why you may need a board with more volume for riding small waves to prevent you from sinking. 

A stand up paddleboard has more volume and, consequently, more flotation. The average SUP board has a volume of about 200 liters. Stand up paddle boards generally have more buoyancy and can easily hold your weight while standing without sinking. 

4. Size of Rocker

Rocker is the curvature of a board from nose to tail. When you look at some boards from the side, you’ll notice that they have a banana shape, with a raised nose and tail. These boards have more rocker. If the board appears to be flat then it has less rocker. 

A typical surfboard is more curved compared to a paddle board. The face of a wave is curved too, and the shape prevents the nose of the board from diving into the wave. Advanced riders usually go for surfboards with more rocker to allow them to ride steeper and more powerful waves. 

Stand up paddleboards generally have less rocker. The long flat rocker helps with tracking. You can make the SUP board go straight with minimum effort. 

5. Speed and Maneuverability

outdoor master violet spirit

When it comes to speed, paddle boards are actually faster than surfboards. They are longer, a quality that helps with tracking and speed. They glide better on the water and you don’t have to work too hard to paddle them efficiently. 

Surf boards are shorter and have more rocker. These are amazing features for when you want to catch waves. However, they won’t be of much help when paddling as the board will be slow and won’t track as well. 

The shape and size of a normal surfboard make it efficient for surfing though. You will find it more maneuverable and extremely responsive. 

Why a Surfboard Makes a Poor SUP Board

As you have seen, surfboards and stand up paddleboards are designed for two different activities. A surfboard wouldn’t be efficient if you decided to use it as a SUP board. 

Surfboards are built for surfing. A regular surfboard is thin, narrow, and short with more rocker—all qualities that make it responsive and easy to control, perfect if you want to ride waves. 

When a rider stands on the surfboard, they’ll lose stability and start sinking. The boards are small and don’t have enough volume to keep someone afloat. You won’t be able to paddle properly, or have fun. 

Other than the low volume, regular surfboards are designed for responsiveness and maneuverability. But when it comes to paddling, they aren’t really up to the task – so you’ll likely be disappointed (that is, if you manage to stand without falling off). 

Surfboards track poorly because they are short. This means that you’ll get frustrated trying to make the board go in a straight line. You’ll mostly just snake all over the place, which is not what anyone wants. 

The rocker of a surfboard also slows it down. While it is great for traditional surfing and you can surf steep waves, you won’t like it when you want to paddle fast on flat water. 

Can You Use a Longboard for Paddle Boarding? 

Longboards are longer than a typical surfboard, up to 10 feet. This is the length of a smaller paddle board. 

However, they are still really narrow, about 24 inches. Stand up paddle boards are wide, especially inflatable boards. Even racing SUPs, which are the narrowest types of paddle boards, are about 26 to 28 inches wide. 

A long board is also thinner than the average paddle board and has low volume. It doesn’t offer the flotation required to keep a rider afloat. 

A small rider or an experienced one can use a longboard for paddleboarding. But it will still be a challenge and you’ll be better off buying an actual paddle board. 

How About Surfing on a Paddleboard?

So we have established that paddle boarding using your surfboard won’t work. But can you use your stand up paddleboard to catch waves?

Yes, you can. SUP surfing is an amazing sport that has become quite popular. In fact, there are paddle boards designed specifically for surfing. These boards are shorter, thinner, and narrower with less volume. This makes them more maneuverable than the average paddle board. 

A hard board is better suited for riding waves compared to an inflatable paddle board. Inflatable paddle boards have a uniform thickness while hard paddle boards have more sculpted rails. They are responsive and great for catching waves. 

Using a Surfboard As a Paddleboard FAQs

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

The difference between surfboards and paddle boards is in their shape, construction and intended use. Surfboards are short, thin, and narrow while SUPs tend to be longer, wider, and thicker.

Surfboards are extremely maneuverable because they are designed for riding waves. SUP boards have more stability and volume. They can accommodate a standing rider on flatwater without sinking.

Can You Stand on a Surfboard?

Yes, you can stand on a surfboard – if you are If you are riding a wave. However, it will be difficult to stand without a wave. Surfboards don’t have enough buoyancy to keep you afloat when standing on the board without a wave, sol you’ll start to sink. They are also narrow and unstable.

Wrapping Up

Surfboards don’t make great paddle boards. 

They are thinner with less volume and don’t offer enough flotation and stability for a good SUP experience. Small kids and paddlers on the smaller side can use longboards for SUP, but even those are a little too narrow and thin. 

If you want one board for both sports, you can get a SUP surfing paddle board. It is a paddleboard designed for catching waves and paddle boarding. 

Do you have any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below. 

Happy paddling!  

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