Choosing a surf sup

Let's talk about what you need to look at and consider when choosing a surf sup board

Having that knowledge is so important when you’re looking to take up a new sport or advance further. Our stand up paddleboard guides, give you an easy way to gets answers to those burning questions.

We have a vast amount of surfing experience and as such, we know how our boards work. We’ve tried them in a wide range of conditions all over europe and are happy to share some insights with you here.

What is a surf sup?

A surf sup is a board that is designed to perform in waves. This type of performance involves:

  • being able to turn easily on the wave
  • quick to accelerate
  • easy to handle and manoeuvre on the water

When you’re looking at the boards on the market, you’ll see that they come in a range of sizes and shapes, so we’ll touch on that in a bit.

“An important thing to realise, is any board can be surfed on a wave, but not all boards can surf properly.”

We’re not going to discuss inflatable boards in this guide, as I’d like to focus on real surf shapes which are more refined and specific than current inflatable paddleboards offer.

Choosing a surf sup board

What do the shapes mean?

Our picture shows 4 shapes, each one being slightly different in purpose and performance that you may come across when choosing a surf sup board.

  1. This is a nose rider, an old school shape that isn’t fast and is designed for being a bit groovy. It’s got very parallel rails (edges in the middle), but more importantly it is very flat, not much of a rocker.
  2. A general all round longboard like this is great for general paddling and surfing. This board is 11ft long, has a gentle rocker line and is very stable. You can’t slash this board about in hollow waves, but tend to ride it in a more relaxed style.
  3. A performance short board with pin nose and tail. Very fast and highly manoeuvrable, they can be used in big surf, hollow surf, but do require a more advanced surfer to ride them.
  4. This is a bit of a hybrid, often called a Mini Mal. They don’t always come this small. They’re fun, short boards, easier to paddle than high-performance boards, delivering huge smiles.
It’s not possible to detail each shape as there are so many, but in a nutshell, a good all rounder, (2) will suit everyone for some relaxed surfing, but if you want to go more serious then either (3) or (4) is here you find yourself.

Rocker line

Surf sups are shaped very specifically to give a certain feel and perform in a certain way on a wave.

The Rocker Line is the curve a board has from nose to tail as you look side on.  It’s quite subtle, not a banana thing, but if a board has more rocker it would possibly be slower, but more turny and vice versa, but that is quite a generalisation.

The board in this picture is 9ft long and is long a MiniMal type shape. It doesn’t have too much rocker, so it gets going on a wave really quickly. The surfer is turning it easily, using foot pressure and weight shift over the rails of the board (the edges).

Tail shapes

So many shapes, but what do they do, I hear you ask.

PIN – very fast tail shape and controllable at speed
ROUND – fast and controllable, with a smoother turn
SQUARE – super stable, but not really used in surf sups
SQUASH – very relaxed ride, not so fast
ROUNDER SQUARE – much like the squash, it is an easy to ride shape, not so quick, so found on bigger boards, including old school boards.
SWALLOW TAIL – loads of control acting a bit like 2 pin tails in turns.
FISH TAIL – much like the swallow
The tail shapes also determine how far back the wide point of a point goes, so if you want stability, you won’t find it with a pin tail as that is designed to go narrow quicker.


If you’re a beginner to sup surfing, then it is important to not get hung up on kit just yet.

You can surf pretty much any board, so it’s important to get going before throwing money at it.

If you’ve got an isup, then go for it, but do bear in mind that they do not perform like proper shaped hard boards.

Get some lessons or just get out and give it a go, but remember “Surf Etiquette”… Never steal waves and keep clear of busy spots if you’re learning.

If you can get a hard board, then go for something about 10ft long as this will give you plenty of performance and room to learn.

regular or goofy foot sup surfer

Advancing paddlers

Don’t feel forced to progress, by simply downsizing to more rad style boards as this may not the right thing or your style and location.

If you’re moving on with your skills, then going down in size will open up more advanced moves, but that could be a simple shift to a 9-10ft board that will deliver more speed and turning.

When considering better boards, look at your local waves, does it get windy and choppy, how big are you as volume could become an issue as will balance.

For me at 95kgs, I ride boards down to 115 litres, but that’s when it is super clean waves. If it is choppy then I go bigger in volume, but also longer board as that makes the board glide and paddle easier out through the break.

Most of my pals who aren’t beach locals, so have less time on the water have boards about 9’5 like the Jimmy Lewis Super Frank, Infinity New Deal, whilst some jump down to more radical shapes like the Infinity RNB.

We stock some of our preferred surf sups, so if you’re looking at choosing a surf sup board, why not check our online list of surf sups and see what you’d like under your feet.

More guides

Choosing a surf sup
Buying your first standup paddle board
A general guide to sups
iSUP board size guide
Learn to paddleboard
Storing and transporting boards
Practicing for a downwinder
Paddle board lessons near me
Choosing a surf sup
Infinity Blackfish Review 2021
Aqua Marina Beast Review
Severne Pyro UK
Buying your first standup paddle board

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