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SUP shapes & designs

So lets talk SUP rocker-lines or board rocker shapes. Understanding what rocker is on a board doesn’t have to be complicated or a subject that only applies to more advanced paddlers. Understanding the basics about rocker-line shapes can really give you a good grasp on how certain boards should perform on the water. In this video we look at rocker-lines in the simplest way, and which boards you should expect to see the different types of rocker-lines on.

SUP shapes & designs – The importance of SUP fins

You might think of fins as just the things that stick out the bottom and back of your board, that you never take out and just get in the way. Or maybe you’re interested in fins and want to change them and try something new but don’t know where to start. Well, whether it be on a performance race board or first time surf SUP all fins work the same way, but the shape and position of your fin can make your board feel very different and perform in a very different way. In this, SUPboarders fourth feature on ‘SUP shape & designs’ we talk about the role fins play on your board and how the different fin shapes effect the feel of the board.

SUP shapes & designs – The importance of SUP fins
Photo : Amilcar Tioni

Before we start we need to talk about when you will really notice the difference in your fins. The rule of thumb is, the faster you are moving or the further you are paddling the more impact your fins will have on your paddling. Whether it be racing, touring, surfing or cruising you will feel the difference between fins. However if you are just paddling at 1 mph having fun with family/friends the fin becomes less important. Any fin would do the job for that!

What does a fin do?

So… what does a fin do? And why do we need a fin on our board? In simple terms, a fin provides Drag, Control & Grip.
Drag : Any fin on any board will slow the board down because it produces drag at the back of the board. But by doing this it helps keep the back of the board behind the front of the board, enabling you to paddle in a straight line. Take your fin out and you will soon discover the importance of having a fin! It will be impossible to paddle in a straight line and your board will just spin around in a circle because there are no fins to produce drag and keep the board moving in a particular direction.
Control & Grip : Having fins will give your board more stability in a sideways motion and also help you with grip and control when your board is moving at faster speeds.
In a surf environment fins play an important role on a wave, but they’re not the only thing that aids the boards performance. It’s important to remember that the rails of your board are equally as important in helping to control and turn your board. As you can see in the latest ‘Dogman’ SUP surf action video, where there’s a clip of him riding on the nose of his board and using only the rails of his board to turn and grip. It just goes to show you that fins aren’t solely responsible for riding and turn on a wave. They very much work together with the other parts of the board. When riding finless the hardest bit is paddling on the wave in the first place!

Fin position

Before we move on to fin shapes it’s very important to look at the fin position on your board. By using the words fin position we are going to be talking about position in terms of forward or backwards on the board and not side to side.

Forward position : By moving your fin to the front of your fin box it will make the board turn easier because you have moved the centre of effort further forward.
+ Pros Great for making your board turn faster for less effort.
– Cons Not as good in a straight line. Your board will tend to drift sideways more.

Back position : By moving your fin to the back of the fin box it will keep the board moving in very much a straighter line than the forward position (like a tail of a kite).
+ Pros This is a great tip for first time paddle who are finding it hard going in a straight line. And racers wanting to move as fast and as straight as possible.
– Cons Will take longer to turn the board, And if you want to do a faster step back turn your foot will have to be further back on the board to do so.

For this reason, flatwater straight line race boards will have their fin nearer the back of the board. Compared  to an all round SUP shaped board that will have their fin box set a little further forward to enable the paddle to have the ability to turn easier.

Fin shape

There are many different shapes of fins on the market, however we are going to look at the three main fin shapes… the swept back, upright and the general all-round fin.
screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-12-19-43Directional swept back
The swept back fin works in very much the same way as the fin position does. By moving the main shape of the fin back it will draw out the turn and also make paddling in a straight line easier. And also because this fin has a large surface area it will give the paddler more sideways stability too.

+ Pros This is great fin shape for paddlers wanting a super stable fin with great straight line performance. A great long distance fin.
– Cons Will really suffer if the paddler wants to turn the board quickly. And it won’t be the fastest fin due to its larger size.
Common board type : Long distance touring/race boards and larger cruising SUPs

The upright fin is the opposite to the swiped back fin, keeping most of its area forward above the fin. Because of its smaller area it will produce less drag and be faster through the water.

+ Pros This is a fin shape that will suit a paddler wanting to go fast and be able to turn too. 
– Cons Will not track in a straight line as well as a long swept back fin. 
Common board type : All round race boards

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-12-20-09General all-round
Probably the most common shaped fin that comes with 80% of SUPs. As you can see its very much a combination of the swept back and the upright fin giving you the best of both fins.

+ Pros Fin shape works well in the surf and for general flat paddling. Good beginner all -round fin. 
– Cons Not great for more performance specialist race SUPs.
Common board type : All-round SUPs from cruising to surf.

Other things to consider

Fin shape and position are just two of the basic factors regarding fins. There are many other things to consider re; fins including…
Fin construction : This relates to weight and stiffness of the fin. Generally the stiffer the fin the more power, drive and speed it will produce. This is why carbon is used for many top quality fins.
Profile and fin thickness : Looking down over the fin will show you its profile and thickness. A super thick fin will be slower than a thin fin. However a thin fin will have less profile shape and will most likely not be as stiff as a thicker fin (which is why many thinner fins are made from carbon)
Fin size : In general the bigger the fin the more sideways stability you’ll have but also the slower the fin because it will produce more drag. But there’s a lot more to fin size than just that! (which we will cover in a separate article)
How many? : 4, 3, 2 or 1? This is really a feature in its own right! But the basic way to think about it in the SUP world is, if you want to go fast and find it easy to paddle in a straight line then 1 longer centre fin will suit you better than 2 or 3 smaller fins. Boards that are set up with 3 (thruster) or 4 (quad) fins are really designed for a board wanting more grip i.e a surf SUP. Therefore a very common SUP fin setup that comes with 90% of all-round SUPs is the 2+1, 2 smaller side fins and 1 larger centre box fin. A great setup to enable you to paddle lots of different SUP disciplines.
2 + 1 fin setup Top Tip If you are paddling on the flat, try paddling with just your centre fin (i.e remove your side fins.) This will make the board faster to paddle because you have reduced the drag. But if you find that there isn’t enough straight line performace compared to your original set up then put your side fins back in or try using a bigger more swept back fin.

A classic 2+1 fin set up on a Starboard Atlas 12×36

Fins really do make a difference to the feel of your board. And it is a very easy and relatively cheap to play around with and replace your fins. So if you feel like changing the feel of your SUP and getting to know your board better, then have a play around with your fins. You’ll be amazed at what they can do.

This is just an overview about the importance of fins, and we will be covering profiles, thicknesses and shapes of fins in more detail in another article. But until then hope you found this article informative. To read more similar articles check out the other SUPboarder SUP shapes & designs features; 
The deck under your feet
The magic of rails
It’s all in the tail
Also for more information about how many fins check out 4,3,2,1 or no fin? How do you decide?

The tail of your board is the last part of your board that has contact with the water. But this doesn’t mean it’s the least important part to think about when understanding how your board works.

From race boards to surf SUPs, different tail shapes have a huge effect on how a board feels. In this article, SUPboarders third feature on ‘SUP shape & designs’ we talk about what the tail of your board does, and also look at some of the different tail shapes and how they will effect your board on the water.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 07.52.12
The beautiful Pin tail of the Starboard Ace.
Tail basics

The tail of your board is the end meeting point of all the board shapes… the bottom, rails and deck. When you hear the words ‘tail shape’ people mean the plan profile view of the tail (looking down on the board). How the water is released from this tail profile shape varies vastly between tail shapes, and this is what effects the boards performance. Some are better for racing and going fast because there is not much drag. And some are better for helping the board turn. There are many different tail shapes available and many are a combination of a few.  The 3 most common basic types are, the pin, the square and the round tail.  We are going to look at these 3 basic tail shapes and see how they work on our surf and flatwater SUPs.

The Pin Tail

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 19.54.52Called a pin because the tail comes to a sheer point or pin at the end of the board. Designed for maximum water flow down the entire length of the board, which improves control, tracking and straight line performance. Mostly seen on longer  long distance race boards or traditional touring boards where turning isn’t so important. They are easy to paddle in a straight line due to the water being allowed to flow down the whole length of the board right to the tail tip (like a kite flying with a long tail). The only other time this tail shape is seen is on big wave surfing boards (guns) where they give the surfer a large amount of rail surface for grip on a larger wave face. A pin tail is not as stable as other board tails especially if you are riding near the tail itself, due to the lack of volume in the board tail.

+ Pros Have good tracking / straight line performance.
– Cons Not that good at turns and not as stable as other tail shapes.
Common board type : Long-distance race/touring boards and big wave SUP surf guns.

The Square Tail

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 19.55.07Pretty much the opposite to the pin. This type of right angle finish across the back of the board makes the square tail feel very stable due to there being more volume (area) in the board at the tail. The shorter tail also makes the board easier to manoeuvre. Seen on many flat water all round race boards mainly due to its ability to turn easier than the pin tail, and the fact the water releases equally from the tail at the end square section. These two combinations make the square tail pretty much the fastest tail shape out there for most all round race boards doing more technical courses. Even though the square tail is the oldest of tail designs it’s not really seen on surf shapes anymore. It has been replaced by the squash tail which looks like the square but has the square corners slightly rounded off.

+ Pros A great all round tail for a faster board, that provides stability and the ability to turn too.
– Cons May not be quite as fast in a straight line as a pin tail. And not as easy to use in the surf as the newer tail shapes like the round tail. 
Common board type : All round race/touring SUPs and traditional surf shapes.

The Round Tail

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 19.55.18This is the most common tail shape you will find on most all-round and surf SUPs. It’s basically a combination of a pin and square tail on the same board, giving you the best of both sides. It’s stable, easier to turn and paddles in a straight line well. This shape is super user friendly in the surf, which is why it is shaped into many boards on the market. If you want to do a bit of everything this is the tail for you!

+ Pros Great for all round SUPs and easy to use in the surf.
– Cons Not the fastest, so not ideal for race boards.
Common board type – All round SUPs and surf SUPs. Generally not on race boards or high level performance surf SUPs.

Other Tails

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 20.07.06As we said in the intro we have just scratched the surface of tail shapes. There are many other tails shapes on the market today, including the diamond, swallow and the asymetric. And then there are the combination of tail shapes such as the round pin, round square (image left) and the squash. Different shapers and designers play around with all tail types to find the perfect combination of speed, grip and ease of use for the board and the right ability of rider.

SUP shapes
Racers Ollie Shilston (left) and Aaron Rowe (right) racing with their Square tail design all round race boards.

Put a certain tail shape together with a certain rail, bottom and deck shape can give a winning combination. But put together wrong and they can feel like you are towing seaweed! This is why top shapers and top SUP brands put in so much RnD before boards are put into production. Understanding why they have done what they have done, is not only better for the wallet to know that your board has been thoroughly thought about, but also by understanding why the boards do what they do makes you understand and helps you make the right buying decision in the future.

Hope you found this article informative. To read more similar articles check out the other SUPboarder features, SUP shapes & designs – The deck under your feet and SUP shapes & designs – The magic of rails

Amilcar Tioni
Amilcar Tioni

The rail shapes of your board and the connection they make with the water are the most important features when it comes to any SUP.  The design of rails on surfboards is nothing new, but do you know what the rails do on your SUP and how they effect your riding?

In this, the second part of the SUPboarder series ‘SUP shape & designs’ we look at the 3 basic rail shapes and how they effect a SUPs performance.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 13.40.47

Rail basics

The way a board rail works is pretty simple. When forced into the water, the rail wraps and holds the water around its surface, which creates certain amounts of grip, drag and release depending on the rail shape. This then allows the rider to track forwards or turn the board if they wish by shifting their body weight around the board. The important thing to remember is that certain rail shapes will work better at certain speeds. That’s why when out SUP surfing you can lean on your rail at speed and effectively turn your board, but if you try this when slowly flat water paddling you’ll find your board doesn’t really react at all.

The rail is there to help you control your board going through the water. Whether your boards travelling fast or slow, rails all play a part in the boards performance. The easiest way to think about rails and rail types is to break them down into two categories – hard and soft.

Hard Rails

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 13.50.19This is the type of rail that you will find at the back (tail) of SUPs. The hard rail does a number of things. It creates a sharp edge for the water to flow off quickly, making the board fast across the water. This is why all race boards have a hard, sharp rail along most of the boards length especially at the tail. Combining the sharper flat bottom shape with thinner rails (less volume) this also gives the board a lot of bite into the wave face when surfing. The more performance designed boards will have harder shaped rails allowing the riders to travel faster across the wave, and ride steeper hollower waves too. So think of hard rails as the driving force of your board.

+ Pros Great fast rail that lets water release off the board quickly. Less volume than other rails allowing for better bite on steeper waves.
– Cons Not as good in weaker soft waves. Can be harder to use for beginners. 
Common board type : Race and more performance surf SUPs

Soft Rails

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 13.49.58A soft or round rail is smooth and without any sharp edges. It has a very similar shape on the top and bottom of the board. A soft rail is the opposite to a hard rail. It allows the water to wrap around the entire rail which gives you grip, but reduces speed. The thicker, fuller shape also gives the rail more volume. This rail shape usually starts at the front to middle part of the board and therefore this will be the first connection between the board and water. The soft rail gives the rider grip when entering turns and also helps to provide more board volume where needed. This is especially important for SUP around the standing area. If you are getting into SUP surfing a softer railed board will allow you to turn easier and the larger volume will also help you to keep speed up during manoeuvres e.g cut backs.

+ Pros Great for smooth long lasting turns and mushy not so powerful waves.
– Cons They tend to struggle to hold an edge on steeper faster waves.
Common board type – All round SUPs and surf SUPs. Generally not on race boards.

Amilcar Tioni


Other Rails

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 13.50.08There are so many different rail names and different rail combinations you can have on a board. And they are all there for different reasons. 50/50, pinched, rolled, low/hard, tucked under edge… the list goes on. But probably the other most common rail shapes that you will have on a SUP are 60/40 rail or 60/40 tucked rail. This rail shape is the transition rail between the soft rail and hard rail found at the mid section of the board, and also at the very nose of the board too.

Rail shapes really are one of the most important things on any board, race or surf. But there is no right or wrong combinations. Certain rails work better in different conditions for different riders. And they can make the difference between winning a race, and making or breaking your first bottom turn. Getting to know your rails and how they work is a good step in becoming a better paddler.

So next time you pick up your board and feel the rails, or rub your hands down the rails of the boards in the racks at the shops, just think about how these rails will work under your feet, and what  you want out of the boards rails. If going super fast on big steep waves is your thing then get yourself a board with a more of a harder shaped rail, to give yourself a bit more bite and speed. Or if you fancy giving SUP surfing a go for the first time then look towards a softer rail to get you carving with ease.

Hope you found this article informative. To read more similar articles check out the other SUPboarder feature, SUP shapes & designs – The deck under your feet.

Featured image: Rider Amilcar Tioni Photographer Nils Finnern

SUP shapes & designs - The deck under your feet

A few years ago SUP shapes were a lot simpler. Some were designed just to get you on the water and therefore the R&D was very limited. Many people I’m sure would say they were not as good and definitely not as user friendly. But now with the growth and progression of the sport, new board shapes are coming up everywhere. There are now boards out there for all disciplines, all types of paddling conditions, and all ability riders. If you own a board it’s likely you’ll know what length and width it is. But one important aspect of a SUP board that many people over look is the deck shape. Do you know what deck shape you have on your board and what effect it has on the board and you when you’re paddling it? 

The board deck is the connection between the board and your feet. So it’s pretty important! There are 3 basic shapes of deck… domed, flat and concave. Here SUPboarder takes a look at the different deck shapes to find out what difference they really make to you, the rider. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 09.08.43The domed deck has to be one of the most popular board deck shapes. They’re not just found on SUP boards, also surf boards and windsurf boards. Domed decks were very much the staple of every SUP produced back in the day, but now they’re becoming less common for general all round paddling.

The domed deck allows the centre of the board to have the most volume and also allows the rails (sides) to be pulled in and be thinner which can make the board have a more positive feel in the surf. For this reason domed decks put on larger wider boards can make them perform better in the surf. Another reason why a domed deck works well on surf SUPs is that when paddling normally (i.e feet parallel) if your board is small enough or has a lower amount of volume for your body weight, the board will be sitting lower in the water and when the water starts to pull around the rails this can aid the stability of the board. This can make the board feel very planted to the water. Many top SUP surfers have domed decks for these reasons. A domed deck can also make your board feel more responsive on a wave, allowing you to turn the board more effectively from the centre line of the board.

Many paddlers with larger boards however find that domed decks can feel harder to stand on. And also the curve of the deck can sometimes effect your ankles and knees, causing them to ache because they are forced slightly outwards when paddling normally. This is especially the case if the board is only ever used in a flat water environment. But not every paddler experiences this though.

+ Pros Great on more progressive shaped boards for that thin rail shape. 
– Cons Can be harder to stand on and not so good on your body. 
Board type – Suits all boards but better for surf and performance boards.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.05.08
The Fanatic Stylemaster has a classic domed deck allowing the board to still have a thin progressive rail shape for it’s thickness. Photo of Will Rogers SUPboarder Team

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 09.10.16The new generation of flat decked SUP boards started hitting the open market about 3 years ago. This shaped deck results in there being less volume in the centre of the board, pushing the volume out towards the rails instead. This produces an overall thinner board with slightly thicker rails, compared to a domed deck board of similar volume. Because of this, a flat deck suits many board shapes and lends itself to slightely wider boards. A flat deck designed well however can have the same surf performance as a domed deck. A flat deck feels more stable under foot, can aid your balance and feel more comfortable to paddle as your ankles, knees and hips are in line when in the normal paddling stance.

+ Pros Allows for a thinner and more stable board, that many find easier and more comfortable to paddle. 
– Cons Can sometimes make rail shapes thicker resulting in poorer rail performance in the surf.
Board type – Suits a wide range of boards including surf, all round and race.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 09.13.41
A Naish Raptor is a good example where a wider board can have a flat deck but still be thinner in overall thickness and have a good rail performace. Photo of Naish rider Federico Piccinaglia. Photo by Thomas Tumbarello

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 09.10.28Again a newer development in the SUP world and very common in the race scene. The basic principle behind a concave deck is that it allows you to get lower to the water, thus aiding stability. With race boards it allows you to keep a large volume area in the nose, tail and also the rails, keeping the overall width of the board down and therefore increasing its speed. Without a concave deck many race boards would sit too high in the water, making them unstable. And sometimes if you are paddling a thicker board without a concave deck you may even have to change your paddle height or style. This drawing above shows a basic concave deck but note that some concave shapes on some race boards resemble more of a larger wider concave section.

+ Pros Lowers the centre of gravity on the board, giving the rider more stability, better connection to the water and overall a better ride.
– Cons Reduced deck space and therefore moving around the board can be more of an issue. 
Board type – Suits a larger volume board and race boards.

The concave decks on race boards such as Starboards allow the paddlers to be lower in the water, and also allows for more volume to be kept at the nose to displace water. Photo of Ryan James by Greg Dennis

This is just an overview of the 3 most common SUP deck shapes and the basic effect they have on your boards performance and your paddling. There are lots of other reasons for each SUP designers choice of deck. If you look closely you’ll see that some of the latest boards have decks with a combination of all three shapes!

The important thing (especially when buying a new board) is to look at the deck shape and think about the effect it will have on the boards performance and your paddling. What do you want out of a board and what’s your paddling ability? There are so many good boards out there. But don’t be tempted just because it looks good. You’ll never know what it’s really like to paddle until you take it for one!

There’s no hard and fast rules when it comes to board designs but we hope that this helps you understand a little more about what’s going on under your feet next time you go paddling.


Production SUP Vs Custom SUP

You may have heard the terms ‘production’ and ‘custom’ being chatted about in the carpark between paddlers before. Or maybe you haven’t…. well.
There are so many types of SUP boards on the market today. All different shapes, sizes, constructions, and prices. The most common type of boards are ‘production boards’ but there are also ‘custom boards’ out there too. At SUPboarder we have been asked several times, “Whats the difference between a production SUP and custom SUP?” and “What is best?!”?

There is obviously no simple answer to say which is best, they both have their pros and cons and their place in the market.

The SUPboarder team uses many SUPs across different brands and constructions and we thought it would be useful to explain the difference and highlight the issues worth considering when making a choice between production and custom boards. But please be aware that this is a general overview about production and custom kit, and we are aware that individual brands and custom shapers production and prices may vary.

So, lets start off by explaining the terms production and custom.
Production – When you hear the words production it is generally referring to a product that is made in a production line. Usually in a factory or controlled environment where more than one board of the same shape and construction is made at the same time. Some of the top named production brands in the world include JP Australia, Starboard, Naish, Fanatic, Hobie, Bote to name a few. And at present 99% of inflatable boards are production boards too. Most production boards are made in China or Thailand and shipped around the world.
Custom – This refers to a board that has either been hand shaped out of foam, or designed on computer and then the foam cut on a CNC machine and finished off by hand with glass, carbons and resins in a shaping bay. Generally these boards are one offs or at most, only a very few made. They have been designed by the surf shaper or the customer themselves to suit their own needs and colour ways. Custom shapers can be found all around the world but very much make surfboards/SUP for their local market. i.e.. not overseas.

Production SUP Vs Custom SUP
Custom board in the glassing process at the Escape SUP shaping bay.

The factors you have to consider when buying and owning a production or custom SUP are;
What board shape do you want? Or more importantly, do you know what board shape you want?
What is the price difference between production and custom?
Market trends and lead times to getting a hold of a production or custom board
Life expectancy and durabilty
Making it your own

We will look at each deciding factor now in more detail.

What board shape do you want?

You may know or you may not. But this is probably the most important question you need to ask yourself, as it can be one of the biggest deciding factors on going for a production or custom board.
A production board company will have a large range of SUPs, which are most likely available to have a look at and try through shops and SUP schools. With a wide range of shapes and sizes you are more than likely to find one to suit your needs. If you’re unsure exactly which board in the range you want it’s always a good idea to demo a board first, do your research and talk to an expert about what you’re after. The SUPboarder equipment guide and reviews are a good place to start to find out more about what kit is available, who it’s best suited for, and what we think of it here at SB! Production brands push their equipment out into the market place through adverting, shops, pro riders and reviews, generally way more than a custom board brand ever would.

Production SUP Vs Custom SUP
Starboard Pro rider Marie Buchanan paddling a production Sprint race board. Also Starboard showing brand awareness with flags.

If you know more about the exact shape and sized board your after then you may decide to go down the Custom board route. Generally a SUPer would go to a custom board shaper with a certain board in mind. Or they may have demo’d one of the custom SUPs and then decided to have one made with a few alterations or with their choice of graphics. Either way, by going custom you have more choice and can have a board made exactly to suit your needs. Not always, but generally it is the more experienced SUPers who go for a custom board as they have the confidence to approach a shaper with their ideas. It’s obviously not something you want to get wrong! Custom surfboard shapers are generally very talented and have a vast amount of experienced regarding board shapes and riding styles. But please be aware that although many custom shapers know a lot about SUPs, and have been making them for a long time and are willing to help you shape your perfect board, there are still plenty of shapers out there that don’t do SUPs! You’ll soon find out when you ask them to shape a SUP. Just see what reaction you get!
Obviously, regardless of whether its custom or production, the most important thing is to do your research, find a respectable brand or shaper, and if possible demo some kit first before you hand over the money. Talking to other SUPers with the same or similar board is always a good move too.

Price difference between production and custom

This is a widely talked about when it comes to buying a board. These are the basic facts (but remember prices will vary in local areas).
Production Boards range in price from £800 – £2500.
Custom Boards range in price from £500 – £1500.
There are so many different constructions and ways of making a SUP which is why prices vary from board to board within a board range, let alone vary from brand to brand. A basic Epoxy white production SUP from a well known and established brand will cost you somewhere between £800 – £1000. The equivalent basic Epoxy glass SUP from a custom shaper would more likely be £500 – £800. So yes, on average a custom SUP is cheaper… but there are many other elements which can change the prices of both board types including – materials, build quality, colourways and how complex the design is to be made. All these factors can make custom board prices vary. For example, if you were looking at buying a 9ft all round shaped SUP from a custom shaper in a basic Epoxy glass construction, it might not be cheaper than a production board of the same size if you added, two extra colours, a large deck pad plus thruster (3 fins) and quad (4 fins) fin boxes and fins. It would probably be the same price or possibly even slightly more expensive than a basic production board with the same deck pad, colours and fins.

This is the hardest topic to nail down in one paragraph and prices between custom shapers do vary massively. But that’s why you have to do your research first and way up the costs for what you want.


When it comes to selling your SUP, there are some things that will make it easier to sell on the second hand market.
A good brand name – Selling a used SUP from a well known, respectable brand is far easier and you will always get more money for it. Why? Well because everybody already knows about it! They’ll know all about the board, what it cost new, what age it is (roughly) and therefore what it should be worth taking into consideration the condition its in. A production brand named SUP will nearly always hold its value more then a custom SUP.
Age of board – Unlike a production board, whose age and subsequent price tag can be determined from it’s graphics (which change from one year to the next), a custom board is unique and to a certain extent ageless, as it is not from a particular board season. Therefore it is more about the condition not the age of a custom board which will determine its resale value. So if you look after your kit this can be a good thing with a custom board. You’ve just got to find someone who wants your exact custom board!

Production SUP Vs Custom SUP
With a good brand name like Fanatic, their solid construction makes the board hold their value when it comes to reselling it.
Market trends, lead times and availability

Market trends – This is about what boards are being made right now and what boards are going to be made next year. This year short, stubby nosed, surf SUPs are in, and from our reviews they have been working well so far. This is a classic market trend. Custom shapers can easily react to any market trend as they are making boards for the here and now.
Lead times – Whilst you’re reading this a production brand have already designed their next years board range, but you won’t be able to get your hands on it for another year! All production boards start their life as a custom one-off board. They’re then tested, tweaked, re-tested and tweaked some more before being put into production. On the other hand a custom shaper can usually have a board made for you in 3-6 weeks, reacting to trends and make what riders want way quicker than a production brand ever can.
Availability – This is all about how fast you can get hold of a board. If a shop has a board you want in stock, you can just go in and buy it. If they don’t have it, most shops can get hold of production boards from their local distributor within a week. But if you’re after a super small, full carbon, light weight, top end board then you might not be able to get your hands on it for up to 4 months! That’s because the distributor in your country doesn’t have it and therefore it has to be made for you in china, shipped to the distributor and then sent to your local shop. Whereas, if you knew what you wanted you could get it made by a custom shaper and on the water within a month (if you’re lucky!)

Life expectancy and durability

This is a really board specific thing. What is the board made of? How well has the board been made and what environment has it been made in? e.g a controlled factory environment.
Generally a production board will have a longer life on the water than a custom board. It will see more owners, catch more waves and win more races… hopefully! This is due to the manufacturing process and what has gone into the board. A basic epoxy board from a production brand will have a harder wearing gelcoat finish compared to most other basic epoxy glass custom finishes. Custom boards are very well made but due to the scale of production boards being made on a production line, there are different processes and finishes available to the production brands which 9 times out of 10 will make them harder wearing.
A custom shaper can make you a super strong carbon board that could well last for ever too, but it will cost you! And you’d need to take that into consideration if choosing between production or custom.
The real thing with a custom board is that if you had it made for you and you look after it, then there is no reason you would need to change it. So therefore a custom board could well be a board for life. Custom shapers can easily touch up or repair any of the damage you have done to your board because they know the board and know how they made it.


There are some amazing production boards out there for so many different disciplines and abilities. And the same can be said for custom shapes… even if they haven’t been made yet!
3 years ago we would have said that a high performance custom board shape would out perform a production performance shape easily! But in the last 2 years the construction and materials now used in production boards puts them up there with some of the worlds best custom shapes. A very personal thing but both board types are working well and we find it hard to choose between the two for that high performance market.

Making it your own

If you are after making your board feel very much your own, with its own shape, feel and colour ways, then you can’t go wrong with a custom board. That’s what they’re there for… to be custom, one offs, unique and something very much your own. You can be sure yours will be the only one on the water. The only thing you can do with a production board is change the fins around, and change the colour of your leash!

Production SUP Vs Custom SUP

So there you have it. Lots of things to think about and look at when you are deciding between Production and Custom boards. As you can see its not all about money. There are so many other factors to consider. But the most important thing is getting the right board for you. And that’s something that we are very passionate about here at SUPboarder. We see too many people riding the wrong boards. Think about what you want to do with the board, how long you plan to keep your board, how good you are at looking after your board (!) and if you want to be different from the rest!
We hope you’ve found this article useful when considering ‘Production Vs Custom SUP’. All that’s left to do now is try lots of kit, talk to lots of SUPers and enjoy the ride.

If you have any comments about Production SUP Vs Custom SUP please leave them in the comments section below. We would love to hear what you guys think.
Words : Reuben Ellis

JP- Australia RivAIR

SUPboarder Magazine columnist Chris Jones looks at some of the shapes of SUP we have in the industry today… from white water shapes to custom boards and graphics.

Now that the 2015 ranges have been announced by the major brands it’s a good time to look about for what’s new in the world of SUP boards. Here we look at the evolution of some board shapes, new developments of niche shapes in an already niche sport. This is by no means an exhaustive list so if there’s something that I’ve missed then let me know…

The first 2015 board to catch my eye, as an inflatable man, was the Red Paddle Flow, a more specific whitewater board than this iSUP brand have offered before. This 9’6” x 34” x (nearly) 6” board has an eye-catching set of graphics in line with the new Red Paddle branding, is equipped with grab handles front, back and sides and 4 fixed short fins. This is something I want to have a go on, just for giggles as I’m sure that whitewater SUP is just an even quicker way to get me swimming than surf SUP is. Which is exactly why I need to have a go, once I’ve found some pads, a helmet, a few qualified first aiders and a stretch of easy whitewater. And you cannot go wrong with an Orange SUP!

Red Paddle Co 96-FLOW

Bright colours make a lot of sense in a white water environment and JP-Australia SUP have their Rivair in red and yellow which really stands out. This is also a 9’6” board but with a 4 or 5 fin set up, the center fin is removable which may give more options away from the river.


Where the Red Paddle and JP have a sharp profile with a distinct bow and tail Starboard, with their Astro Stream, have gone for a different shape with a much more rounded bow and a wide tail. They’ve also got a 4 fin set up but made theirs removable, for those days when you’ve not got enough water or fancy pushing your limits that little further.

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This board type has been around for a little while now with a number of options for whitewater paddlers. Examples include US brand Badfish with their i-SUP options and US kayak brand Jackson offering their SUPercharger board. Until recently though there was limited availability for this type of board here in the UK, something that brands and importers are addressing this season. Time will tell if this is the start of the next big thing in the UK.

Next up, as much because of the catchy name as the catchy board shape is the Starboard Nut, already featured here on SUPBoarder Mag with this video. An 11’2” x 30” surf SUP that is a mix the best of short board and long board and with a shape that looks a lot like a peanut or groundnut. Personally I like the graphics and the name, would be good to see one in the flesh, or the nut. Again not a new shape as such but a migration for this shape further into the mainstream, will be interesting to see if this shape stays around and evolves further.

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A big jump up in size now to the category of Monster SUP. Not a new shape by any means as these big boards are definitely surf sup shaped. But in these times of austerity it’s nice to see the opposite of cutbacks. Manufacturers have been upsizing in a strategic board race, Starboard with their new Starship i-sup which at 18 feet long is pretty big, and Fanatic have their own big inflatable too. But the biggest board around at the moment is SUPzilla, is possibly the first i-Sup with it’s own song, “a surfboard that’s a ship” and is a board for a party if ever there was one! Taking the concept of tandem paddling and adding all your mates plus their partners, friends and pets, probably. I cannot imagine how long that would take to inflate but at the beach with a group it would be hard to beat for sheer fun.

Back to something approaching reality and a board shape that I find fascinating, the Standamaran, or twin hulled SUP board. The first time I saw one of these was in this video from SIC , the Ding King where the standamaran plays a bit part in an entertaining down winder video. This type of board would probably be harder to live with than the party board but it looks so fast that even with me on it I reckon in the right conditions I’d be paddling solo, leaving anyone else behind. Feel free to send one to SUPboardermag for a test paddle.


Back to something most paddlers could live with and enjoy regularly, the like-a-race-board but not quite a race board. Fast touring boards seem to be getting more and more popular as race boards gravitate to 26” width. While this undoubtedly makes them faster on the right day these more specialised boards will be more of a challenge in less than ideal water conditions, something that everyone reading this will know about! And as a result more weekend racers are turning towards the slightly wider and nearly as fast touring board. An example that I like the is the slightly retro looking, wood decked Loco SUP Race/Tourer in 12’6” or 14’ x 29 wide enough for most paddlers to use all the time yet shaped for speed and distance. With a trend to slightly shorter but still fast boards Fanatic have the Ray, available as an 11’ x 30” and a 12” x 31 1/2” board with the option of a mount for a windsurf mast.

Loco SUP Race/Tourer

Finally, from now anyway, the ultimate board for any paddler would surely be a custom SUP, something made the way you want. For the more discerning paddler this allows them to specify everything from the nose shape to fin options and everything in-between. If you need a little more, or less, volume, 6 GoPro mounts, of course! Or a rocker that’s just right for a local break. Just talk to your local shaper. Or maybe chose a stock board and let your creative side out, creating a paintjob to make you smile when you open up the board bag on a wet miserable January day, like this custom Escape SUP which is nothing short of striking.

Escape SUP

There’s a huge range of boards becoming available in the SUP market to suit all needs and abilities, with some interesting shapes appearing who’s success will ultimately be judged by the consumer.  Its great to see so much innovation and competition in the industry already, something that will continue to deliver an improved product year on year that is ultimately going to give us, the SUPboarders more value for money. Get out and enjoy some new shapes…. Happy Paddling!

Words : Chris Jones