It’s time to hit the books and learn SUP and Surf Slang 101. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) has its own language; a mix of slang terms borrowed from surfing and other paddle sports, and terminology invented for SUP itself. Since SUP is a combination of sports with their associated equipment, some of the common words may be familiar. Pick up the lingo so you can speak to your fellow paddleboarders in their own language and understand what these words actually mean. Bookmark this SUP glossary for easy reference and you’ll be speaking the lingo of a pro in no time.

all-around SUP

A stand up paddleboard shape that’s designed with versatility in mind. All-around SUPs have a round nose and generous width making them a great choice for most activities and conditions.


The flat, wide part of a paddle, located at the end that goes in the water.

blade angle

The angle at which the blade of the paddle is offset from its shaft. SUP paddles are different from traditional paddles found in other sports like canoeing because the standing position changes the dynamics between the user, paddle, and vessel. The blade of the paddle is at an angle because it helps to push the water down, which in turn pushes your board up (creating less friction on the water) while propelling you forward.


The ability of your paddleboard to float. Buoyancy is the upward force proportionate to the volume exerted by water that is displaced by a partially or fully immersed board.

carbon (fiber)

A lightweight, durable material consisting of strong filaments of carbon, used to improve performance. Carbon fiber construction is a major upgrade to paddle blades, paddle shafts, and even boards, adding strength and reducing weight.

carbon-enhanced rail

Carbon-enhanced rails use lightweight carbon fiber to give the board added rigidity and responsiveness.


The top surface of the board designed for you to stand on.

deck pad

The soft padding found on top of the board that provides comfort and traction.

deck rigging

The system of D-rings and bungees found on the deck of your SUP for managing or attaching gear like sandals, a cooler bag, a kayak paddle blade, etc.


A ring shaped like the letter D that’s used to attach things to your paddleboard (usually found toward the edges of the board).

dual chamber pump

A type of manual air pump for SUPs that has two chambers to increase the volume of the air injected with each stroke.


Shaped like the fins of a fish, they provide tracking while paddling and are located underneath the tail end of the board.

fin box

The mechanism found under tail area of the board where the fins attach to the paddleboard.


1. Small waves mostly made up of whitewater foam that are too small for a shortboard surfer but can still be fun on larger, more buoyant paddleboards.
2. A foam top surfboard made for beginners.


Sometimes “grommet”, a young paddler or surfer.


The handle found in the center of the stand up paddleboard used for carrying the SUP.


An acronym for inflatable stand up paddleboard.


A feature of some stand up paddleboards that allows you to attach a kayak seat to your SUP and kayak blade to your paddle.


A poser or overconfident surfer who is unconsciously embarrassing themself or making life difficult for their fellow surfers through lack of skill or ignorance of surf etiquette. Can be used as an insult.


A safety tether between the user and their SUP, attached to the tail of the board and the ankle or under the knee of the user to prevent the board floating away if the user falls off.


Place on the board specifically designed to attach (or mount) objects like action camera, GoPros, speakers, lights, or other devices.

multi-purpose SUP

A larger version and similar in shape to an all-around SUP, designed for multiple riders (pets welcomed) and extra gear (great for fishing!). Multi-purpose boards often have a full-length deck pad.


The front of the board, often pointier than the tail end of the board.

personal flotation device (PFD)

Also referred to as a life jacket, life preserver, life vest, or flotation aid, a piece of equipment designed to keep the wearer afloat in water *There are a variety of PFD classification types designated by the U.S. Coast Guard.


The common unit of measurement for pressure derived from pound-force per square inch. It’s good to know your iSUP’s PSI range so you inflate it properly.

quick-lock fins

A tool-free mechanism for quickly and securely attaching and detaching your fins with ease by simply sliding the fin into the fin box and pushing down the lock to clip them into place.


A paddleboarder’s collection of boards for different activities and conditions. Often accumulated over time throughout one’s paddling career.


The edge or side-wall of the board that runs from nose to tail on each side of the SUP.


The curve of the board that keeps the nose from being submerged when paddling.

roller backpack

A type of paddleboard storage and transport bag that has built-in wheels on the bottom that allows you to pull the bag comfortably and easily along the ground next to you or carrying its weight on your back for more challenging terrain.


The long cylindrical part of the paddle that the blades are attached to and where one hand is placed when paddling.


One complete cycle of paddling which can be broken down into reach, catch, power, release, and recovery phases *Learn more about the 5 phases of a perfect stroke here.

T-bar grip

T-shaped ergonomic top of the paddle designed to fit comfortably in your hand.


The back end of the paddleboard, less pointy than the front. Underneath are where the fins are located.


Where the shaft of the paddle meets the blade and begins to widen out.


The end of the paddle blade.

touring SUP

A narrower board shape with a pointed nose designed for paddling long distances and faster travel because its shape is better able to cut through waves.


The measure of how well your board travels in a straight line, determined by your fins, stroke, and the shape of the SUP.


The part of the paddleboard where you connect a pump to inflate.

valve cap

The screwable cap you find on the valve that protects the valve head from damage.

valve pin

The spring loaded pin that seals an inflatable stand up paddleboard’s air pressure, usually activated by pushing down and turning to seal or release the air.


The air capacity or amount of air inside an inflatable stand up paddleboard related to buoyancy.

yoga SUP

A wide and stable paddleboard shape developed specifically for yoga and fitness practitioners that offers excellent stability for practicing asanas, an extended-length deck pad, and thoughtful features like soft handles that are not in the center of the board.
family carries Thurso Surf stand up paddleboards to the water

Now that you’ve learned to talk like a paddleboarder, it’s time to paddle!

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.

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