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SUP boards typically run between 10 and 11 feet long. They are long boards, but can they be used as longboards?
Well, first things first, we need to understand what longboards are.
Longboards in the surfing and water sports world are boards that come in at 8 – 12 feet in length. The increased size makes these boards fairly good at floating. This is why they are preferred by beginners.
Even on smaller 1 – 2-foot waves you can stay afloat on a longboard. When you do catch a wave, you get a smooth glide across the surface of the water. This makes it easier to get up and stay up.
Also, the added width and length of a longboard makes it much more stable in the water. It lets you practice and perfect all those beginner techniques and get to grips with more advanced moves too.
In essence, longboards are designed to catch even the smallest of waves. They give you a smooth ride, they’re easy to paddle, and easy to balance on.
How do SUP boards compare?
Well, the truth is, you can surf on a SUP board provided you take a few things into account.
First and foremost, you’ll need the correct size and shape SUP board. Larger 10- and 11-foot boards are designed for cruising and touring. These boards are too large and heavy to be used for surfing.
For SUP surfing, you’ll need an 8-foot board. This is significantly smaller than the standard SUP board size but still available in both inflatable and composite boards.
As well as the length, you’ll need to make sure that your board isn’t too wide. SUP boards are typically over 32” wide. This creates a good, stable space for you to stand. Unfortunately, it also makes the board quite unwieldy in the water.
For SUP surfing you’ll need a board 30” wide or less. This is still wider than your typical longboard, but you’ll struggle to find a narrower SUP board.
If you get a board that matches the above description, you will be able to surf on your SUP board. These boards should be able to ride smaller waves just like a longboard.
There are some differences between a SUP board and a longboard in terms of the way you ride and carry.
SUP boards, even those used for SUP surfing, are wide and difficult to carry. You’ll find that you can’t carry your board under your arm like you can with a surfboard.
You’ll also find it difficult to paddle a SUP board like a longboard. Again, this has to do with the width of the board. Unless you have particularly long arms, you will struggle to get enough of your hand in the water to make a difference.
But, yes, you can use a SUP board as a longboard. However, your surfing style will be half SUP boarding and half surfing.
Can You Use a Longboard as a SUP Board?
You’re not going to have a lot of success if you try to use a longboard as a SUP board. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to the fact that longboards just aren’t big enough and floaty enough.
Think about how you use a longboard, you lay on it to paddle out meaning you evenly distribute your body weight.
When you do stand on a longboard, the board is being propelled by the waves. Those waves provide some lift which stops your board from sinking.
When you SUP, you tend to do so on calm or still water, and you spend nearly all of your time standing up.
SUP boards can cope with the concentrated body weight because they are much wider and thicker than longboards and surfboards.
The added width makes the boards more stable in the water. They are less likely to rock or roll in the water as you paddle.
The additional thickness helps the board stay afloat. It provides flotation to counterbalance the concentrated weight of the rider.
Longboards may have length, but they are generally about 10” narrower and at least 2” slimmer. You just can’t get the flotation and balance you need on a longboard.
That being said, a small and skilled rider may be able to ride a longboard like a SUP board. The rider would need to be child sized and have significant SUP skill.
Even under those conditions, the ride would not be comfortable or particularly stable. You’d have to keep your speed up to add some buoyancy to your ride and have incredible balance.
Ultimately, it’s not really worth the hassle. You’re better off buying a SUP board if you want to SUP. You could save money by using your longboard, but you won’t actually enjoy the experience.
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I’m an Colorado native, who learned to surf in the Pacific Northwest, and SW Canada. I live inland near the mountains now, and love to get out on my SUP. It’s weird, but I love windy, choppy days as no-one is out and I like the challenge.