Whether you’re looking to make your first purchase or just interested in learning more about the sport, this article will help you understand the main differences between two popular stand up paddle board types, all-around vs touring SUPs. Although they’re all quite versatile, the shape of a SUP does influence your time out on the water. Design decisions determine what activities they’re best for so, understanding how the shape affects your paddling experience will help you decide which paddle board is best for you.

man and woman paddling on SUPs with Thurso Surf adaptable kayak seats

Some SUPs can even be adapted into kayaks.

Touring vs. All-around SUP: It’s Not About Pros and Cons

Deciding which paddle board to choose is less about the board itself and more about you the paddler. You could make a list of pros and cons, but that’s not the best way to think about SUP design. Fundamentally, it’s not that one board shape is better than another, they’re simply different. Each model is designed to excel in different conditions and activities. Like a set of golf clubs, a putter isn’t outright better than a driver, it’s simply a different piece of equipment. You use a driver in a specific situation at which it excels, hitting the ball off the tee, and a putter for something entirely different, taking short shots on a tightly cropped green. Although you could line up a putter off the tee you probably won’t get the result you’re looking for.

The same holds true for stand up paddle boards. They come in all shapes and sizes because there are loads of different activities you can do with them. The key is to find the right piece of equipment for the way you plan to use it. Keep that in mind as we approach the two types of SUPs reviewed in this article, the touring vs. all-around SUP.

close up of the rounded nose of an all-around SUP and a GoPro camera mount

Regardless of shape, some brands have additional features like mounts for cameras, storage clips, and even deck cooler bags.

Touring vs. All-around SUP

All-around and touring SUPs are two of the most common shapes out there. They’re easily identifiable and distinguishable from each other because of their shape. An all-around stand up paddle board has a rounded nose. Whereas a touring stand up paddle board has a pointed nose. That might not seem too significant, but it makes all the difference on the water. In addition to that easily identifiable difference, there are a lot of other design tweaks that matter.

Touring Stand Up Paddle Board Shape

The pointed nose of a touring board is what makes it stand out. It’s drastically pointier than all the other SUP shapes. That narrow nose continues throughout the full length of the board. This allows a touring SUP to cut through the waves by parting and directing the water to either side. Even a bit of chop on the water is no problem. With some balance and a solid stroke you can paddle through.

The touring SUP’s sharp angles and streamlined shape are a great feature if you’re paddling for top speed over long distances. Over the long haul, every little bit of drag adds up stroke by stroke. By the end of the day you’ll have no question about the benefits of a touring board. With its sharp, pointed nose, it’s easier to track straight (maintain a straight line without having to steer or paddle on both sides frequently). Increased efficiency means you’ll achieve a smoother and much more efficient glide on top of the water.

However, a pointier nose and narrower deck also mean the paddle board won’t be as stable. This can be challenging for beginners as they’re getting the hang standing on water. However, if you already have a season or two of paddling under your belt and you’re looking for a board built for speed and long distances, a touring SUP is the way to go!

man stands next to Thurso Surf Expedition touring SUP

Notice the pointed nose and narrow body of this touring SUP.

What Are Touring SUPs Best For?

  • Speed (SUP races)
  • Long-distance expeditions
  • Exploring coastal regions and waterways

When Is a Touring SUP Right for You?

  • You’re looking to increase your speed on the water, for fun or maybe you’ve started competing in races.
  • You’re an adventurer looking to set off for some long-distance touring.
  • Having practiced on a wider board you’re ready to up your SUP game and add another board to your collection.

All-Around Stand Up Paddle Board Shape

The rounded nose of an all-around SUP is one of the obvious differences compared to touring boards. What makes an all-around SUP different from other rounded nose boards like yoga, multi-purpose, etc., is that they strike a balance between speedy efficiency and stability.

That makes them incredibly versatile. In fact, it’s why they’re called all-arounders. The rounded nose has a rocker to it, meaning it curves upward from the bottom to keep it out of the water. This feature, along with a wider deck helps all-around boards ride on top of the water rather than parting waves to either side. This in turn makes them more stable. All-around SUPs are a great choice for almost any conditions but there are some limitations.

Although an all-around shape can be used for long distance coastal cruising, a touring board will win the race. The rounded nose and wider deck create more drag when compared to touring SUP. However, if you’re not looking to race and just looking to cruise, an all-around SUP is hard to beat.
man stands next to Thurso Surf Waterwalker all-around SUP SUP

Notice the rounded nose and wider body of this all-around SUP.

What Are All-Around SUPs Best For?

  • Cruising (leisurely recreational paddling)
  • A wide variety of SUP activities (try SUP yoga, SUP fishing to see if you want to upgrade to a bigger SUP down the road)

When Is an All-Around SUP Right for You?

  • You’re a recreational paddler looking for some time out on the water and a leisurely cruise.
  • You’re interested in getting serious about stand up paddle boarding, but as you’re getting started you want to build up your skill level first.
  • You like to use your board for lots of different activities and on different waterways from day to day. In that case, start with an all-around SUP to find your style. See how you like SUP yoga, SUP fishing, SUP surfing, coastal cruising, river paddling etc. and then build out your quiver with more specialized boards as you get into the sport.
man surfs wave on Thurso Surf Waterwalker SUP

Stand up paddle boarder catches a wave on an all-around SUP.

All-Around vs Touring SUP: Which Is Best for You?

Great brands put a lot of thought and effort into the design of their SUP shapes. It’s not just the aesthetics that matter. The shape of your SUP will influence your time on the water. So think about what you want to use your SUP for and then find the shape that suits you and the activities you have planned for the water.

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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.

One Comment

  1. Sebastian Milgram August 17, 2023 at 4:58 am - Reply

    Nice Matt, thanks for this interesting article for beginners like me

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