Paddleboarding has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, leading many to wonder if a surfboard can double as a paddleboard. While the two water sports share similarities, there are key differences in the design, size, and purpose of surfboards and paddleboards which may impact their interchangeability.

Surfboards, designed for riding waves, are generally smaller, with less volume and buoyancy than paddleboards. Paddleboards, on the other hand, are constructed for stability and floatability when paddling at low speeds in-between waves. As a result, paddleboards are typically thicker, wider, and longer than surfboards. Because of these differences, using a surfboard as a paddleboard can present challenges, especially for beginners in either sport.

That being said, it is possible to paddleboard using a surfboard, although it may not provide the same experience as using a dedicated paddleboard. Existing surfboard owners might give paddleboarding a try to test their skills and adaptability, but are generally advised to invest in a proper paddleboard for optimal enjoyment and ease in the sport.

Surfboard vs Paddleboard

Physical Differences

Surfboards and paddleboards differ in design and size. Paddleboards are generally wider, thicker, and longer than surfboards. This increased volume, due to a higher foam volume or air volume, provides more buoyancy, stability, and floatability when paddling at low speed. Surfboards, on the other hand, are sleeker and narrower, enabling more maneuverability and responsiveness.

Functional Differences

The functional differences between surfboards and paddleboards come down to their intended use. Surfing focuses on catching and riding waves, requiring a board that is agile and responsive. Paddleboarding, or SUP (stand-up paddling), is intended for more straight-line paddling, often in calmer waters, making stability and balance a priority. While surfing focuses primarily on wave riding, paddling forms an essential part of paddleboarding, with the rider using a paddle to propel themselves through the water.

Why Paddleboard on a Surfboard?


Paddleboarding on a surfboard allows surfers to experience a new challenge and have fun while making use of the existing equipment. By paddling while standing on a surfboard, they can improve their balance and maneuverability, essential skills for surfing. Moreover, the faster speed attained by paddleboarding can provide a unique experience in catching and riding waves.


Despite the excitement, there are several obstacles when attempting to paddleboard on a surfboard. Surfboards are typically narrower and less stable compared to paddleboards, making it difficult for beginners to maintain balance while standing and paddling. Furthermore, due to their thinner tails and smaller fins, surfboards offer less stability, making it harder to maneuver on waves and maintain a straight line. As a result, paddleboarding on a surfboard can be more challenging and less efficient than using a dedicated paddleboard.

Paddleboarding Techniques on Surfboard


When attempting to paddleboard on a surfboard, keep in mind that balance and flotation are crucial. Position yourself in the center of the surfboard, both lengthwise and widthwise, in order to maintain stability. Skilled riders who have already developed their balancing skills may find it easier to adapt to the different surface of a surfboard compared to a traditional paddleboard.

Paddling Techniques

Paddling techniques on a surfboard are similar to those used on a paddleboard. To generate power, utilize a wide grip on the paddle and make deep, smooth strokes. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm, as an uneven pace might cause the surfboard to sway and throw off your balance. Remember, the fins on a surfboard are not designed for stability, making it essential to master these paddling techniques for a successful experience.

Paddleboarding in Different Water Bodies

Paddleboarding can be enjoyed in various water bodies, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers. In flat water environments like lakes and calm rivers, paddleboarding offers a smooth and relaxing experience. The lack of waves and stable surface area in these locations provides an ideal setting for novice paddlers and those who prefer a leisurely SUP activity.

On the other hand, oceans and some rivers with challenging rapids present a more dynamic paddleboarding experience. The presence of waves and currents in these water bodies require increased skill and balance from the paddleboarder. Ocean paddleboarding, in particular, exposes paddlers to varying wave conditions that can test their abilities and techniques.

Overall, the choice of water body for paddleboarding depends on the individual’s skill level and preferred challenges. Whether it’s the gentle surface of a lake or the excitement of tackling waves in the ocean, paddleboarding offers rewarding experiences across different water environments.

Choosing the Right Board

Surfboard Types

Surfboards come in different shapes, sizes, and constructions. Traditional surfboards are made of foam and fiberglass, while some modern variations utilize materials like epoxy or carbon fiber. The choice of surfboard depends on the surfer’s skill level, height, weight, and personal preferences. Surfboard types include shortboards, longboards, fish, and hybrid boards - each designed for specific surf conditions and styles. Note that using a surfboard for paddleboarding might require more skill due to its lightweight and smaller structure compared to paddleboards.

Paddleboard Types

Paddleboards, also known as SUPs (stand-up paddleboards), are designed specifically for paddleboarding activities. These boards are typically wider and thicker than surfboards, providing more stability and easier balancing. Paddleboard types include inflatable paddleboards (iSUPs) and rigid foam or epoxy boards. iSUPs can be inflated and deflated for convenient storage and transport. On the other hand, rigid paddleboards offer better performance and durability but might be less portable. Fins and leash attachments are common features in paddleboards, enhancing tracking and safety. When choosing a paddleboard for surfing, consider factors such as size, construction, and overall stability.


While it is possible to use a surfboard for paddleboarding, there are limitations to consider. The size, volume, and fins on a surfboard can make it difficult for beginners to balance and maintain a straight paddling trajectory. Surfboards are not designed for the stability and buoyancy required for efficient stand-up paddling.

On the other hand, there are paddleboards specifically designed for surfing, called SUP surfboards. These boards offer greater maneuverability and control in waves while still providing the stability needed for paddleboarding.

In summary, although using a surfboard for paddleboarding can be an option, it might not provide the optimal experience. Those new to paddleboarding may benefit more from using a board specifically designed for the sport to enhance stability, control, and overall enjoyment.