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Is a Surfboard as Able to Be Used as a Paddleboard?

Surfboards can be used for a lot of different things, but can you use them as paddleboards? If you’re thinking about picking up the sport of stand-up paddleboarding and want to know if a surfboard can work in that capacity, then this article will answer your question.

Surfboards make for poor stand-up paddleboarding as they are lower in volume. Paddleboards have a high volume due to their width and thickness which lends them much better stability at all speeds. A surfboard is built for waves and speed and will be a challenge to use successfully for SUP riders.

While they may seem very similar on the surface both these boards are quite different from each other in their overall size, length, and volume which makes riding them a very different experience than someone may anticipate initially.

What are the differences between SUP and surfing?

People who are new to board sports in general often ask what makes SUP, or stand-up paddleboarding, different from surfing since they use very similar boards. Let’s clear up some of this confusion today by answering a few common questions newbies ask:

With a paddleboard, as the name suggests, you control your movement which standing and using a paddle to generate movement. Whereas a surfer you utilize your hands while laying down to generate movement to get out to waves.

Another difference between paddleboards and surfboards is in the overall size of the boards you use in both sports, with the stand-up paddleboards being much longer than a regular surfboard with lengths up to 14 feet.

This helps to make a SUP board much more stable for standing used along with being heavier and thicker, and surfboards come in around five to nine feet in length and are much lighter.

These are different from each other as the use of the boards is dramatically different. A SUP paddleboard is used to glide over the waves and to allow easy movement. A regular surfboard on the other hand is built to ride with or along with an incoming wave along with having a need for more maneuverability.

Paddleboard vs Surfboard: Differences Matter

To the normal onlooker, both boards are the same but let’s dig deeper into the skilled or advanced riders and the big things that split the two from each other and give you a better understanding of why these exist.


Basically, a displacement in the water and the length and width to help provide a stable platform for the beginner or the highly skilled riders. A Surfboard only holds a rider upright for limited times whereas a paddleboard needs to hold a rider for much longer while being comfortable.

While volume is a benefit for a paddleboard rider, for a surfer it is a negative as they need their surfboard to be more agile and functional for surfing on waves with only limited times being stood on.

A surfer will use their body to exert force on the board with their weight and motion to help shift the front end while riding waves so the duration is much more limited.

When comparing them directly against each other the average volume of a normal surfboard comes in around 75 liters but for a SUP inflatable board, this can be much higher at around 250 liters or more!


When you are riding a SUP, you stand on your board and are moving and shifting constantly while paddling so a wider board helps to keep you stable with all the motion you have to do.

Whereas when you are surfing you are using the wave for motion itself and not your own large body movements so you have a narrower board. The drawback on a narrow board though is that they are much harder to maintain balance and provide you less support overall.

The more narrow the board the more maneuverable they become which is why they are liked by surfers and allow them to move through only slight movements and shifts in their body.


As you may now expect due to the above information, a surfboard is much less stable than its similar cousin the paddleboard. If you try to ride a surfboard like a paddleboard on flat water for any length of time you may realize quite quickly how fast you begin to sink!

Overall, paddleboards are built for the best ability to handle the difficult needs of standing, maintaining balance, and the motion of paddling all combined where a surfboard is built to be tight and compact for maximum maneuvering.

The benefit of having better stability allows a hard or inflatable paddleboard to accomplish many more fun hobbies like fishing, yoga, along riding waves. Most paddleboards are slightly shaped differently to perform better for each of these other hobbies.


While both surfboards and paddleboards are built to float on the water they differ in the amount of flotation they provide to the rider based on the overall needs.

Paddleboards though are built and designed specifically to hold the weight of the rider without sinking at all on the water due to the riders standing for long periods while paddleboarding.

A stand-up paddleboard can feature a foam core that is equal to or greater than about 100 liters to provide them a buoyancy but there are inflatable paddleboards that just use air itself to provide their overall buoyancy.

A surfboard on the other hand is drastically lower on the foam core size coming in around 23 liters in its core. This means they don’t have the same natural buoyancy as they don’t have the same core size, so 9-10 foot surfing longboards can be 85+ liters moving it closer to paddleboards in overall flotation.

Surfboards can get away with less foam in their core due to the fact that the riders will frequently lay on or sit on the board which means the weight is much more distributed as they aren’t on two feet only the entire time.


Another distinction between surfboards and SUP boards relates to volume. Because they must sustain the user for an extended period of time, SUP boards have a higher volume than surfboards.

The athletes in surfing ride their board for brief bursts of time, but never as long as SUP riders do. In addition, surfers must strain themselves to remain standing on their boards for longer periods of time.

Because you must be more agile to catch the waves, surfboards require less volume than SUPs.

The volume of a surfboard is about 75 liters. A regular SUP board has at least 250 liters, whereas a normal SUP surfboard has three times the volume and more than 250 liters. This is an important distinction that cannot be overlooked when comparing SUP boards.


Rocker refers to the board’s curve or arc, which begins at the nose and extends all the way to the tail. A board’s curvature is dependent heavily on its intended use. The primary goal of a board’s curve is to ensure that it fits well with the waves’ curvature.

Rockers are found on both paddleboards and surfboards. Surfboards include more rockers, making it easier for surfers to propel them into the waves. The rocker helps surfers to react faster. It also allows them to turn quickly in any direction.

Paddleboards are generally long and flat, with the paddleboarder’s seat usually positioned at the center. Tracking and gliding are aided by this feature. It also improves glide efficiency, allowing people to paddle more effectively while using less effort. Because of this, paddleboards perform best on flat water like an open sea, a lake, or a bay.

Paddleboarders can propel their boards without much effort or expertise. Paddleboards do not require a lot of energy or skill to propel them straight. Some paddleboards also have extra rockers, making them easier to use in waves.


Surfing and SUP boarding are two different activities. While some SUP boards look like surfboards, the typical board has significant variations in cornering and tracking.

Surfboards have excellent turning capabilities, so they seldom need to travel in a straight line. As a result, surfboard tracking can be quite difficult. This is due to the fact that a surfboard’s weight is low. Even minor movements in the water may cause the surfboard to stray off course.

Things are a little different with SUP boards. Unlike surfboards, the majority of SUP boards are larger and heavier. They must be because they need to transport the rider for a long distance and travel in straight lines so that the SUP rider can arrive at their goal and have a pleasant ride if that is what they desire.

As a result, SUP boards have excellent tracking and poorer cornering performance.

Board Construction

Surfboards and paddleboards are similar in construction. But it’s the various qualities that distinguish one from the other, such as how they’re built, that make them more suited for different purposes and uses.

The deck of a paddleboard is often reinforced to support all of the rider’s weight in one area. Even with this reinforcement, lightweight paddleboards’ decks may sag before stabilizing.

Because a surfboard lacks this reinforcement, it would collapse beneath the rider’s feet after continuous use as their weight is concentrated there.

Final Thoughts

It will be difficult to SUP while riding a surfboard. Surfboards are not designed to transport people for lengthy distances and provide insufficient volume to work as a SUP. There are obvious distinctions between the two boards.

If you just want to go for a pleasant paddle, you could certainly use a surfboard; however, don’t expect it to be simple. However, if you’re serious about SUP and intend on doing extended excursions or paddling in wild water, you’ll need a real SUP board.

An inflatable SUP board is a wonderful starting place for anyone getting started with stand-up paddleboarding. They are not overly costly, and transporting them is simple. If you want to give the sport a go, these boards are perfect for you.

If you are just starting to look into paddleboarding we have a wide selection of guides to help assist you in finding the best option to suit your needs, check them out here!