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Can You Surf on a Stand-up Paddle Board? | Key Adjustments

I was at the beach the other day, and there were some surfers out riding the waves. A friend of mine who knows I ride a SUP asked me if it’d be possible to use a stand-up paddleboard as a surfboard. I have been SUPing for seemingly forever and can give you a definitive answer.

You can surf on a stand-up paddleboard. In fact, stand-up paddleboard surfing or SUP surfing is one of the most exciting activities that you can do while riding your paddleboard. However, your paddleboard should be of appropriate shape and size so that you can ride those unpredictable waves.

Before you go out and brave the waves, please read on to learn about how to do it as well as the pitfalls to look out for.


Do I Need to Make Any Adjustments to Surf on a Stand-Up Paddleboard?

At first glance, surfing and stand-up paddleboarding, better known as SUP, might look like two peas in a pod. However, aside from riding a specialized board in the water, these two sports have nothing else in common. Hence, even if you master one of them, you’re not automatically a master of the other one as well.

Luckily, if you are into SUP, you have the option to try another kind of SUP called SUP surfing, which incorporates the elements of surfing so that you can use your SUP board to ride the waves. But before you get too excited, you should note that there are many adjustments you need to do first to experience this kind of SUP in the safest way possible. In that regard, the following are some of the key adaptations that are worth noting.

The Water

In SUP surfing, you’ll naturally want to go to waters that have a lot of waves that you can ride, which could be beaches or some lakes. These waters are drastically different from the usual calm waters that you typically do SUP in. Therefore, it is vital to get used to the unpredictability of these waves so that you can rework your balancing skills in order to adapt to this new environment.

Related How to Stand up Paddle Board in the Ocean | 5 Main Keys.

The Board

If you already consider yourself an expert in SUP, you can probably use any boards to ride any waves whatsoever, but if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re not. So, you probably need to find another SUP board if you want to use it for surfing.

The main reason for this correlates with the first point– you need to adjust – the water. SUP boards have different widths, lengths, and weights to cater to different body types and sizes and the condition of the water you are using it on.

Typically, for cruising or racing, you would want a SUP board that is shaped just like a canoe, which is usually long and heavy. However, in SUP surfing, you want your board to be as lightweight as possible and should resemble a typical surfboard to a great extent for you to have an easier time when riding the waves.

The People

If you are transitioning to SUP surfing, you need to prepare yourself mentally, not just for the activity itself but for the crowd as well. Unlike in typical SUP locations where you are by yourself, or only a few individuals are riding alongside you, such as in rivers or streams, SUP surfing is usually done on beaches and other coastal areas, typically having hundreds and hundreds of people. You’re more prone to accidents since you might bump into other surfers while trying to ride an incoming wave that they are also eyeing on.

Is Paddleboarding Harder Than Surfing?

Objectively speaking, SUP is technically easier than surfing. Although we say that paddleboarding is easier, it does not mean that you can just get right into it without doing any kinds of preparations. To further clarify the notion, paddleboarding is typically done in calmer waters, which is considerably less dangerous than the sea where surfers are swallowed up by the enormous waves they’re trying to ride regularly.

However, if you are doing SUP surfing, surfers can no longer gloat that they’re having it harder than you since the case now becomes a typical apple versus oranges comparison. The technicalities now become pretty much even between the two camps, and it’s only now a question of preference. Even if you’re already familiar with paddle boarding, once you do SUP surfing, you’ll simply feel like a beginner again, so you have to maintain an open mind in order to learn faster.

Boy stand up paddleboard surfing

What Is the Best Stand up Paddleboard for Surfing?

Paddleboards for SUP come in many different shapes and sizes. In the case of SUP surfing, your regular paddleboard might not be enough. The following are some of the essential factors you need to consider before purchasing the paddleboard you’ll be using for surfing.


The general rule of thumb when choosing your paddleboard for SUP surfing is that the smaller it is, the better it will be in terms of dealing with the incoming waves.

  • If you are currently using a board that is about 9″ and up, go for an 8 ft. board instead.
  • Width is also a significant factor that could greatly affect the maneuverability of your board. Pick something which does not go beyond 30 to 31 inches wide.
  • Lastly, choose a board that you can casually carry from the beach to the water without any difficulty, as this will be your measure if it’s too heavy for the waves or not.


Since surfboards are technically proven to be the best design in terms of riding waves, you need to look for a SUP board that closely resembles them. Avoid those boards which look like floaters or canoes as they’re more suited for cruising and racing.

Here is the inflatable SUP I recommend for surfing. It’s smaller and narrower than the typical model.


Your paddle plays a crucial role when you do SUP surfing. It’s the one responsible for those precise movements that you can do while riding the wave on your SUP board. Hence, if you don’t mind the price, you should invest in a paddle made from carbon entirely since it’s the most lightweight SUP paddle out there. Here is the sup paddle that I recommend.

Final Thoughts

You now have the knowledge to go out and have a blast in the waves on your SUP. I hope this article has been helpful.

Have fun out there, and thanks for reading!

Related Is Stand up Paddle Boarding Fun? | 18 Reasons to Try It.