a group of people posing with their paddle boards

Paddle Board Types: Exploring Different Shapes and Uses

So, you’ve decided to enter the amazing world of paddle boarding - fantastic, I welcome you! But, you are confused by the sheer amount of choice when it comes to paddle board types and it all feels a little overwhelming.

I completely understand and want to lay things out clear and simple for you. Therefore, below, I explain the different paddle board types including the variances in construction and paddle boards for different activities so you can start with the right equipment.

Paddle Board Types by Construction

First, let’s look at the different types of paddle board construction as these are especially different and give you a completely different experience in terms of function, portability, and longevity.

Inflatable Paddle Boards

The inflatable SUP is seeing a huge rise in popularity and it’s easy to see why. These boards are brilliant for portability where hard boards can be more difficult to transport. Essentially, they are made from durable PVC with drop-stitching that makes them watertight and able to provide excellent buoyancy when inflated.

If you don’t have the means to transport a hard paddle board long distances, an inflatable SUP is the perfect option as when deflated they usually roll up and fit into a handy carry bag together with the pump.

Hard Paddle Boards

Hard paddle boards generally offer better performance and are often used as specialist boards as you will see below. They can be made from various materials but the most popular option is epoxy resin. Inside there is a foam core and the board may have features like carbon fiber rails too. Hard paddle boards cut through the water with ease but can be a little trickier to master as they are more sensitive to your movements and actions.

Soft Top Paddle Boards

Soft-top paddle boards are made from composite materials and usually have a foam core, but instead of an epoxy resin outer layer, they will have layers of soft, spongy material. Soft top paddle boards are amazing for beginners and they can be more forgiving. Generally, they are the cheapest option and not ideal for performance paddle boarding.

Paddle Board Types by Activity

a man and woman posing on a beach with their paddle boards

We can go one step further and look at paddle board types by activity too as some key differences affect how the board performs in different waters.

All-Round Paddle Boards

When looking at top tips for board selection my best piece of advice is to consider the all-round paddle board. This is the perfect choice if you haven’t quite decided what types of boarding adventures you want to go on or simply want to try a little of everything!

All-around paddle board types are the jack of all trades - they are especially versatile and usually have a rounded nose and wide deck. They are ideal for beginners and can be used in various scenarios but they remain a great choice as your skill and experience grows. You can get all-round paddle boards as both inflatable and soft top models.

Surfing Paddle Boards

Surfing paddle boards are amazing if you want an alternative to a surfboard and allow you to easily ride waves along the UK's coastlines. Surfing paddle boards are usually shorter with a narrow, pointed nose and a planing hull so you can slice through the waves effectively. These are NOT beginner paddle boards though as they are harder to master and do not offer great balance when stationary.

Touring Paddle Boards

If you want to go on epic adventures where you paddle for miles along secluded rivers and coastlines, a touring paddle board is the way forward. These boards are for the adventurous, for the people who intend to be paddling all day.

Touring boards are usually streamlined and longer and allow you to paddle for longer distances with less effort due to their excellent cutting power. They may also have additional tracking and storage to make longer journeys easier.

Racing Paddle Boards

The last type is for the speed demon - the people who want to glide across the water like a penguin or dolphin and test their paddling skills. Racing paddle board types are also streamlined and longer like touring paddle boards and they allow you to cut through the water with ease to gain maximum speeds. You can get inflatable racing paddle boards, but usually, these are soft top models made from epoxy.

Get the Right Paddle Board for Your Skill Level and Activity

I’d love to tell you exactly which of the paddle board types is the best, but I can’t. Instead, you have to look at a range of factors including your skill level, experience, height and weight, and what you intend to use the paddle board for. With these things in mind, you should be able to choose the most suitable board.