The Differences in Paddle Board Shapes

We want to answer your question of "Do paddle board shapes really matter?" and "What's the difference in paddle board shapes?". 

Read more to find out why they are different and which would be best for you!

Explain to me the different shapes of paddle boards?

One of the most common questions our customer service team gets is “Why are some paddle boards pointed and some round?”  This is a great question which we are going to answer in this blog posts today.

Paddle boards come in all shapes and size, tall, short, fat, skinny and all combinations in between.  So what’s the deal with all the shapes, and does it really matter?

why are there different paddle board shapes?

So the quick answer is, yes, it does matter and pointy boards are faster and used for racing and touring. Round nose boards are more are an all-around shape and perfect for general cruising, yoga, or learning to surf.


Round Nose Paddleboards

Let’s start off with round nose boards. They are by far the most common shape of SUP and most likely the first shape of paddle board that you will rent or purchase.  A round nose paddle board is modeled after the classic longboard surf board. Longboards have been around since the dawn of time in surfing history. The classic retro shape is easy to paddle and catch waves on.

The round nose shape makes it so the board has a large surface area when catching a wave, this helps to prevent the nose from diving on a wave and gets the board planning faster so you can catch all the waves! Like Pokemon you have to catch them all. But seriously don’t do that, its bad etiquette you have to share, sharing is caring…  In the surf there is etiquette to follow when you are surfing your paddle board. Please take the time to learn the rules.

Ok back on topic, so round nose boards are born from the classic surf long board, so why they are so popular if we are mostly paddle boarding on lakes?

Great question!  It really comes down to building the first SUP boards and the materials that were available. At the time there was not SUP blanks, blanks are the raw foam core of a paddle board or surfboard.  The largest surfboards at the time where tandem surf boards. Tandem surfing was made famous back in the early 1900’s be the legendary Duke Kahanamoku who was also a Olympic Swimmer.  Tandem surfing also made a big resurgence in the 1960’s and 19070’s when shows lIke Gidget were popular on television.

paddle board shapes 

Tandem boards are huge, and were the birthplace of modern SUP shapes.  Common sizes of tandem blanks were around 11’-12’ and 25” – 28” wide.  So by today’s standards they were long and narrow, but hey we have to start somewhere.   The tandem surfboard shape, which is the same basic outline as a long board, worked as a board you could stand up and paddle on.

The SUP was born!  And like Jesus we can all walk on water now. Well I guess not walk, but you get the point. We have evolved from laying on our boards to now standing on them.   Round nose paddle boards were the first mass produces shape of boards.  They were all around 11-12” long (seeing a theme here?) and about 30” wide and 4”=5” thick. 

This was the new standard which all paddle boards were to be judged by.  And what happened as with any good idea, it was copied and mass produced off shore.  And with the influx of popularity of the sport and new brands popping up every week, the market was flooded with hundreds if not thousands of the same round nose shape of board in almost the same identical specs, and now even today it is still the most popular shape of board on the market.

shop inflatable paddle boards

The round nose shape does have its place, and it is a great design. It’s a classic shape that has been proven in the surf industry for almost 100 years now. And it turns out a round nose board is a great all around board not only for surfing but for paddling on flat water and down rivers.

The round nose board provides a great platform for adjusting the outline of the board for a lot of different applications. For example a yoga specific board will have a round nose and then a very wide waist, our Lotus yoga specific paddle board is 35” wide creating a very stable platform to practice yoga on. This would very hard to achieve with a pointy nose board.

The round nose board is really a great all around shape of paddle board that is a perfect choice for your first paddle board.  When looking for an all-around paddle board look for a board that is around 10’6”-11’6” and between 32-34” inches wide.

This is the sweet spot between stability and speed. If you can only have one board then our Retro line is a perfect board to own. It has the classic shape but with modern specs. The O2 Retro is an all-around inflatable paddle board that will allow you do dip your toes into all aspects of paddle boarding, cruising around the local lake, river, or doing yoga. You can do it all on a trusty round nosed paddle board.


paddle board


Pointy Nose Paddle Boards

So if round nose paddle boards come from surfing, where do the pointy nose ones come from? 

They also have a long pedigree that comes from kayaks. Yes I know kayaks are the natural enemy of the paddle board, but wait here me out we can all be friends. (And wind is the natural enemy of the paddle board. Wind its invisible, it sneaks up on you, it tries to blow you out to sea to never been seen again, which makes me thing that wind is ghosts of people who were blown out to sea and never seen again…)

I know what you are thinking kayaks are just for lazy people who don’t want to stand, so how in the world did we take any inspiration from kayaks on paddle board designs?  Well what do lazy kayakers know that we don’t know? A pointy shape glides through water much easier than a round nose shape. 

In kayakers search for getting from point A to point B with the least amount of effort humanly possible they discovered that a pointy nose goes through the water easily and they can exert less energy paddling and more energy clubbing seals and other animals just trying to chillax on a sunny day.  Kayak is literally translated as “hunters boat” so before you fire up your twitter and attacking me for hating on kayaks, this is history I didn’t make this stuff up.  


stand up paddle board shapes


Anyhoo moving on, the kayak is a great shape for getting though the water fast and efficiently.  The pointed nose cuts through the water like a hot knife through butter, and it allows the outline of the board to tapped down to the wide point of the board, and then tapper down again towards the tail of the board. 

Having a narrow outline of the board decreases the surface are of the board in the water and less surface area makes the board take less energy to propel your board though the water. Those kayakers were crafty!

In broad terms the more narrow the board the faster it is, and the wider the board is the more stable it is.  Most pointy nose boards are either used for touring or for racing.  Race boards are long and very narrow, and touring board is long and moderately narrow.  A modern race board is typically around 14’ and as narrow as 21” Which is insane by the way, and very fast.  A modern touring board like the Quest is 12’6” x 30” Which is a great balance of speed and stability.  To compensate for narrow outline of the board you generally add length. Length, again in broad terms here, length equals speed. And speed equals stability.

So a round nose board can carry the outline of the paddle board all the way from the tip to the tail of the board and give a paddle board that is very stable when the board is at a dead stand still.  You do not need to be moving to be stable.

A pointy nose paddle board the widest part is right where you stand to paddle and quickly tapers to the nose and the tail and is relatively unstable when you are standing still. But the faster you paddle the more stable the paddle board becomes.


inflatable paddle board shapes


If you are looking to buy a paddle board and your main goal is going fast and taking chances, exploring every nook and cranny of your local lake, and in general just trying to get as many miles in every time you paddle you want a pointy nose paddle board.  A pointy nose board is going to be more efficient paddling, quicker, and will allow you cover more water than you round nose friends.



At the end of the day all shapes and sizes of paddle boards are fun and have their place. If you want a lazy day at the lake with friends and all around round nose paddle board is a perfect choice. If you are looking to get up at the crack of dawn and get as many miles in as you can a pointy nose paddle board is the board for you. Regardless any day on the water beats writing about the different shapes of boards!

And as always if you have any questions at all on the shape of our paddle boards please reach out to us either by email, chat or phone. We are glad to talk shop with you and poke some fun at the expense of our kayaking friends.


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