Stand-up paddle (sup) glossary

The stand-up paddle board (SUP) came about as a cross between a surfboard and a canoe. The vocabulary used therefore comes from both sides of the family tree. Here are the most frequently used terms.

Below you’ll find all the technical terms associated with stand up paddle boarding explained in detail.



This is when you surf a wave on one side or the other but with your back to the wave and turning on your heel side. Surfing this way is more difficult than frontside because you feel much less balanced on your heel side with your back to the wave.

Beach race

Stand-up paddle race, with a running start from the beach with your board under your arm, which includes turning around a buoy at sea then coming back surfing the waves and turning around a buoy at the water's edge. Participants use long and narrow racing boards, which require very good technique to be able to surf with them and turn around the buoys without falling.


This is the flat, wide part of the SUP paddle that enters the water to propel you. A wide blade will be powerful but will require greater use of upper-body joints. A narrower blade will be gentler and will let you paddle with greater frequency (more paddle strokes in less time).V-shaped blades are stable during paddling and not too powerful (they drive away water); hollow blades are more powerful but require a good paddling technique to control them.

Bottom turn

In SUP surfing, it is a turn at the bottom of the wave that lets you go up the wave to link it to a top turn.


This is the protruding part that forms the nose of a stand-up paddle, mainly on racing boards.

Buoyancy aid

A buoyancy aid decreases the risk of drowning; it does not guarantee lifesaving. It is designed for strong swimmers who are close to a bank or shore, or who have assistance and help close by. It is less useful in choppy water, it cannot protect the user if they fall unconscious into the water (only a life jacket can flip you the right way up if you are face first in the water).
These buoyancy aids are mainly used for kayaking, dinghy sailing and stand-up paddling, but must not be used by children under 30 kg or adults who cannot swim (a life jacket is compulsory in these cases).



This is the adjustment system for the variable part of adjustable paddles. This system can either use a "push pin" (where a pin enters a hole and locks the paddle shaft at the desired length), which is sturdy but not very easy to use, or a clip, which is easier to use.


When surfing backside (on your heel side with your back to the wave), the paddle is on the wave side during the bottom turn (turn at the bottom of the wave). When the rider climbs up the wave to make their top turn, they move the paddle to the opposite side of the board, passing it over the nose of the board without changing hands, to turn their shoulders down the wave and plant the paddle on the side opposite the wave. This is cross-bow backside turn, a manoeuvre directly inspired by canoeing.
Then they change hands with the paddle during the descent to prepare for the next bottom turn.



This is the top part of the stand-up paddle board, the part you stand on. The deck is usually covered with a non-slip pad (foam). The front and rear parts without a pad are very slippery. On the deck, there is usually a carrying handle and straps or a net to attach a dry bag.

Double layer

In the construction of dropstitch inflatable SUPs, the outer skin is made of reinforced and coated PVC. It can be a double layer, which will give a lot of strength but also greater weight.


Practice of surfing the swell at sea with the wind at your back from point A to point B. Downwind stand-up paddle boards look like racing boards but with a more pronounced rocker to ride down the swell without nosediving.


This is the material used on inflatable SUPs. Two layers of PVC are connected by thousands of nylon threads. As the board is inflated to high pressure, these threads are stretched and prevent the top (deck) and bottom (hull) of the board from deforming. This material makes inflatable SUPs extremely rigid but easy to store in a large backpack once deflated.



Epoxy resin is used in the construction of surfboards and SUPs combined with a polystyrene foam blank. It protects the foam from the water and provides three-dimensional rigidity.



This is THE standard for surfboard fins (also called skegs), also found on rigid SUP surfboards. You need an FCS (Allen) key to attach and remove the fins


Just like on a surfboard, sometimes called skeg. It is located under the board at the back and keeps the board straight as you paddle. The fins of inflatable occasional touring boards slide easily into a rail.
You can also get "US Box" standard fins with a rail that you slot the fin into and a screw with a square metal plate to lock it in the rail. In this case, the position of the fin in the rail can be adjusted over a few centimetres. At the front, it gives better handling and at the rear, stability.
SUP surfboard fins generally use the FCS standard, which uses a small Allen key to tighten the screws that hold the fin in the right box.


This is when you surf a wave on one side or the other facing the wave and turning on your toe side. It feels more natural to surf this way and it is easier than backside surfing because you can keep your eye on the wave.


In the construction of dropstitch inflatable SUPs, the outer skin is made of reinforced and coated PVC. It can be single or double layer depending on the desired benefits (strength or lightness). This gives a lot of strength but also a greater weight. With Fusion technology, the different layers and reinforcement strips are no longer glued with PVC adhesive but have a heat-bonded assembly. The result is a lighter (less adhesive) but sturdy board.



This is the surfing stance where the back foot is the left foot. So called because the majority of surfers (or skaters, snowboarders, wakeboarders, kitesurfers) are "regular" (right foot behind). This does not necessarily correlate with being left-handed.
To find out whether you are goofy or regular, stand with your feet together and let yourself fall backwards. The foot that naturally moves back to stabilise you will be your back foot for surfing.


High-pressure pump

These are pumps used to inflate stand-up paddle boards up to 19 psi in some cases. These pumps have a specially designed tip for high-pressure SUP valves and cannot be used to inflate low-pressure kayaks for which the maximum pressure is 1.5 psi.

High-pressure valve

Used on inflatable stand-up paddle boards, it lets you connect the high-pressure pump to inflate the board. It has a spring-loaded system that opens the valve when the pump is attached and automatically closes it when the pump is removed. This spring-loaded system is also used to deflate the board by pressing on it.
Caution! The valve must NEVER be taken apart when the board is inflated because the high pressure will cause it to be ejected violently.


This is the part under the board that is in contact with the water. Hulls are usually flat on occasional touring boards for stability. On racing boards, they can include "channels," concave parts whose role is to accelerate the flow of water under the board for more speed.



"ITIWIT" is a contraction of "ITInerary" and "InuIT," the inhabitants of the Arctic and Greenland who invented kayaking thousands of years ago! The name ITIWIT is the name of the first inflatable TRIBORD kayak marketed in 2014. ITIWIT wants to make stand-up paddling and kayaking accessible to everyone by making the equipment more compact. The brand's headquarters where all of the kayak & paddle products are developed is located in Hendaye (France) at the Decathlon Watersports Center.


Kick tail

The pad at the back of a SUP surfboard can be extended by a "kick tail." This is a thicker piece of upwardly slanting foam that you can rest your back foot against when moving on the wave.



This is the cord that connects the board to the user, attached by Velcro at the ankle or calf. An essential security item whatever your style (occasional or long touring, racing, surfing), a leash keeps your board near you should you fall.
It is usually straight for occasional use, coiled or spiral for racing and long tours so that it does not drag in the water, and strengthened for wave riding.


These are neoprene salopettes with long legs. This type of wetsuit is perfectly suited to the practice of stand-up paddle boarding because it leaves the shoulders completely free to move as you paddle.



This is the material used for all surfing or diving wetsuits. Made from petroleum, this polymer contains thousands of air bubbles, which provide heat for the practice of water sports in temperate or cold water. Another advantage of its construction is that it lets you float more easily, particularly if it is a steamer suit (long sleeves and legs).


This is the front of the board. We talk about the nose to describe its shape: pointed for speed, rounded for stability.



This is wind that blows inland from the sea. It is ideal for surfing because it creates hollow waves but it can be dangerous because it pushes you out to sea.


This is wind that blows inland from the sea. A surfer's nemesis because it creates a lot of chop if it is strong; it is however reassuring when paddling at sea because it brings you back to shore.


This is the overall shape of the board seen from above. A short and round outline for handling, a long and narrow outline for speed.



A pad is the piece of foam stuck to the top of the board. Its primary function is to be non-slip but it also provides comfort under foot (cushioning).The pad at the back of a SUP surfboard can be extended by a "kick tail." This is a thicker piece of upwardly slanting foam that you can rest your back foot against when moving on the wave.
Caution! The front of the board that does not have a pad is very slippery, avoid stepping on it.


Paddleboarding involves travelling long distances at sea while lying on a large surfboard and propelling yourself with your arms. This sport can also be done kneeling but not standing up, unlike stand-up paddle boarding, because the boards are narrower to make it easier to move your arms. Equipped with handles, a paddleboard can become a rescue board used for coastal rescues.

Palm grip

This is a canoeing term for a shape of handle at the top of a single-blade paddle. The ergonomics of this handle are very important because it must be comfortable but also allow a firm grip when the paddle is in the water.


The peak is where the wave starts to break. This is the starting point for surfing.


Proprioception is the sense of awareness at any time of your position in your surroundings. Sensors located inside our muscles, tendons and joints transmit their information to the central nervous system, which will "react" to balance and stabilise the body in relation to its current and future situation. Stand-up paddling is a very useful activity to improve your proprioception because even on flat water, your lower body constantly manages the instability of the board on the water.


Literally "pound-force per square inch", psi is the measurement of pressure when inflating the SUP. Boards are typically inflated to between 15 and 19 psi, which is equivalent to more than one bar of pressure.



A term used in archery, it was adopted in surfing circles to designate all of the boards used by the same surfer to tackle all wave conditions.


Rail saver

These are two protective strips that are stuck on the rails of a rigid board (sides) to protect it from paddle knocks that the rails are often subject to, regardless of your level.
Rail savers are unnecessary on inflatable stand-up paddle boards because they are much more resistant to impact than rigid boards.


The rails are the sides of the board. Touring boards have thick rails for volume and stability. SUP surfboards have thin rails for good grip in the water on the wave.


This is the surfing stance where the back foot is the right foot. It is the stance used by the majority of surfers (or skaters, snowboarders, wakeboarders, kitesurfers). This does not necessarily correlate with being left-handed.
To find out whether you are goofy or regular, stand with your feet together and let yourself fall backwards. The foot that naturally moves back to stabilise you will be your back foot for surfing.


Stand-up paddle boards have more or less of a curve at the front. This is what we call the rocker.
The more pronounced it is, the more curved the board will be and the easier it will be to handle (SUP surfing).
The flatter it is, the straighter and faster the board will be (racing).


This term comes from "roller coaster" and consists of linking turns at the top and bottom of the wave when SUP surfing. For beginners, rollers will initially be close to a straight line across the wave. Then as they progress, the turns will become increasingly tight at the very top and bottom of the wave.


When you paddle on one side of your stand-up paddle, the board tends to turn towards the other side. This is called the row effect. To compensate for this, you must regularly change sides with the paddle.
The shorter a board is, the stronger the row effect will be (SUP surfboards). The longer and narrower it is, the straighter it will go and the longer you will be able to paddle on the same side (touring or racing boards).
The row effect is of course used to turn: simply paddle hard on the opposite side of the way you want to turn.



By this, we mean the overall shape of a board. In the surfing world, the people who craft made-to-measure boards are called "shapers."
So we can find different shapes of stand-up paddle boards: short and round for surfing, long and narrow for racing, long and wide for touring.


These are neoprene salopettes with short legs. This type of wetsuit is perfectly suited to the practice of stand-up paddle boarding because it leaves the shoulders completely free to move as you paddle.

Single layer

In the construction of dropstitch inflatable SUPs, the outer skin is made of reinforced and coated PVC. It can be single layer, which will provide minimal strength but also a lighter weight.


This is a neoprene wetsuit with long legs and long sleeves. They are 3 to 5mm thick and are used for surface water sports in winter.


This is a strip of wood on epoxy surfboards that runs from the back of the board (tail) to the nose and provides stiffness and flex. There are also PVC or polyethylene stringers on inflatable boards that serve the same purpose.


The term "SUP" is an abbreviation of "Stand-Up Paddle." It is generally used to refer to the practice of stand-up paddle boarding but can also be used to talk about the board. SUP surfing is also sometimes called paddle surfing.



This is the back of the board. Its width determines the speed and stability of the board. A pointed tail provides speed, a wide tail provides stability for touring and racing boards.
In surfing, a wide tail gives lift in mushy waves, a narrow tail gives speed in big waves.


This is the moment in SUP surfing where the board catches the wave and accelerates down the face without the rider needing to paddle again. The difficulty of the take-off is properly positioning yourself on a wave that has not yet broken, paddling as hard as you can so that the board catches the wave and getting your feet into the surfing position (right foot behind for regular stance, left foot behind for goofy stance) by moving back so you can then carve at the bottom of the wave (bottom turn) to ride back up to the top (top turn). The combination of these moves on the wave is called a "roller."


This is a surfboard or SUP surfboard with 3 identical fins at the back. This is the most common set-up that provides handling and speed for shortboards or short SUPs (short, rounded, very easy-to-handle boards for carving turns on the wave).


The tide is the variation in height level of the oceans and seas, caused by the combined effect of gravitational forces due to the Sun and the Moon, and the inertia force due to the Earth revolving around the centre of gravity of the Earth-Moon system.
Almost invisible in the Mediterranean, the tide can vary in strength in the Atlantic. If you are going out to sea, always get information about the tide (rising or falling) and its coefficient (from 20 to 120, the higher it is, the stronger the tide and therefore the stronger the generated current) because if there is a strong tide against you, you will be at a standstill and you will not be able to return to your starting point.


Us box

This is the standard for surfboard fins on longboards, which require a big fin. A rail built into the board houses the fin, which is attached using a screw and a square metal plate. This type of fin box is mostly found on touring and racing stand-up paddle boards but also on "longboard" SUP surfboards.



Measured in litres. This is the volume of the board (length x width x thickness). It determines the user weight that the board can hold without sinking into the water or becoming unstable.
Occasional touring boards usually have a large volume to provide stability.
On the other hand, SUP surfboards are shorter and thinner for good grip in the waves and therefore have less volume but are also more unstable.



The Wairgo is a manual-inflation buoyancy aid with a gas canister. Its main advantage is its compact size. With its bolero shape, it leaves the shoulders totally free to move while you paddle. Please note, to inflate it, you must pull on a handle to trigger the canister (whereas self-inflating life jackets inflate automatically if you fall in the water).
The Wairgo Hydra model also has a water bladder with a straw close to your mouth so that you can easily stay hydrated as you stand-up paddle.