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Surf & Paddle Board Glossary

If you are new to the word of stand up paddle boards or surfing, it seems like there is a whole new language to learn. Between the differences in board construction and some of the far out slang that people use, it can get pretty confusing.

Below, we have put together a glossary of the most common expressions used to describe surfboards or paddleboards and even some of the lingo people use when they are describing their day on the water:

All Rounder: Designed to handle all conditions – "all rounder" boards are typically long, wide and often have planing hulls. They are used mainly for general recreational purposes and are often found at SUP rental facilities and SUP camps.

Beam: The width of a board at its widest point.

Blade: The flat end of a paddle - the part that goes into the water.

Blade Edge: The outer edge of a paddle blade.

Brace: A method of paddling used to keep a board from heeling.

Buoyancy: The floating capacity of a board, directly related to its composition and volume.

Cargo Net: A compartment, usually consisting of mesh and bungee cords, that allows you to store things on your SUP. It is usually fastened to D-Rings or tie-downs on the board.

Catch: The second step in paddling a stand up paddle board when you place your paddle in the water before your power move.

Cuff: The Velcro strap or belt on a board leash that attaches to your body (usually the ankle).

D-Ring: A "D" shaped metal or plastic ring that is part of a surfboard or SUP, used to attach things like leashes or cargo nets.

Deck: The top part of a stand up paddleboard or surfboard - the part that you stand on.

Deck Pad: Extra layer of padding applied to the deck of a surfboard or paddleboard to add traction and comfort.

Deck Grip: Synonym for Deck Pad.

Displacement Hull: Not ordinarily used for most surfboard designs, a displacement hull rides lower in the water and tends to plunge the tail of a board deeper into the water. They give surfers a better "feel" of the water and are best used for smaller wave surf conditions and a more weight-forward position. Stand up paddleboards that use displacement hulls are usually racing or touring SUPs because, although the hull design makes a board a little less stable, it allows for faster penetration through the water.

Doming: The amount of curvature of the rails and/or the bottom of a stand up paddle board. Higher doming translates to more maneuverability, especially when surfing waves. Less doming leads to more stability.

Downwinder: A one-way paddle board trip with a different pickup point made with a strong wind at your back. Because the speeds are faster and the waves tend to be higher in strong winds, downwind paddleboarding is usually more dangerous and should only be done in groups.

Drag: Something hanging over the side or end of a board that slows down progress. This could be your foot, the paddle or something hanging out of a cargo net.

Dry Bag: A water-tight pouch (usually plastic) carried on a board that keeps miscellaneous items dry (your watch, for instance). They typically also float.

EPE: (Expanded Polyethylene) Material used for the deck of foam surfboards.

EPS: (Expanded Polystyrene) The core of most surfboards, it is better known as Styrofoam. It is made stronger with stringers that run the length of the board and watertight by layering it with fiberglass, epoxy, vinyl or other materials.

EVA: (Ethelene Acetate Vinyl) The material that deck pads (also called "deck grips") are typically made out of.

Fin: A flat, perpendicular protrusion, usually curved, under a board that could be anywhere from 3 inches to 8 inches (or more) in length. It provides stability, making a board harder to topple over and also keeps your board tracking straight.

Fin Box: The slot(s) that fins are attached to.

Fin Tab: A small square plate or nub that fins screw into. Often, you can move a fin forward or backward in a fin tab securing it with a fin tab.

Flutter: In most cases, a derogatory term used to describe a paddle stroke that moves from side to side to some degree, rather than straight backwards. The more flutter, the less forward propulsion you get from a stroke.

Foam Board: Also called a "foamie", "soft board" or "softie", these are fairly inexpensive boards made entirely of foam with no hard exterior shell. They are softer underfoot, not prone to dings and are a lot safer if you are hit by them. Foam SUPs and surfboards are not as rigid as hard boards, slightly less stable and generally cannot support the same weight per volume as a hard board.

Foamie: (see foam board)

Glass: Extremely calm, still water.

Goofy Foot: Surfing slang for someone who is riding a board backward with the right foot forward and the left foot in back. The opposite of "regular foot".

Handle: Could refer either to the top, T-shaped handle of a paddle or a part of a stand up paddle board that you use to carry the board.

Hard Board: High performance SUPs and surfboards that have a shaped foam inner core that is wrapped in fiberglass, epoxy or other composites, which creates a hard outer shell.

Heeling: Action caused by improper weight distribution and/or waves that causes a board to tip to the side (or completely over).

Hosed: A term for when wave conditions are so rough, they interrupt your normal paddling tempo.

Inflatable Board: These stand up paddle boards and surfboards are popular because they are light and can be deflated, making them much easier to transport. Inflatable paddleboards and surfboards are made of heavy duty layers of material that are dropstitched together. Because the dropstitched material is not airtight, one or more PVC outer layer(s) is glued or laminated onto the top and bottom of the dropstitch material. A well made inflatable SUP or surfboard with superior dropstitching and multiple PVC layers can be quite durable. The cheaper, Chinese made ones that are sold at major superstores are usually not very durable.

Kook: A derogatory term used to describe a stand up paddle boarder (usually inexperienced) who has terrible form, cannot keep the board going in a straight line or who is inconsiderate of other paddleboarders in the area (or all three). Most of us start out as "kooks" to one degree or another ;-)

Leash: Something that should always be used, a leash is a cord that tethers a rider to their board so that if they fall, the board will always be close by and can be used as a flotation device. Available in various different lengths, leashes can be straight or coiled.

Leash Plug: The place where a leash connects to a hard stand up paddleboard.

LOA: (Length Overall) The total length of a board.

Nose: The front part of a surfboard or SUP. They can be round or pointed.

Nose Runner Fin: Sometimes seen on inflatable stand up paddle boards, this long shallow fin sits on the underside of the nose and helps a board track better.

Pad: Synonym for deck pad.

Paddle Clamp: The tightening mechanism used on some adjustable paddles. A paddle clamp allows for an infinite amount of paddle lengths.

Paddle Fitness: Using a stand up paddle board specifically for fitness activities like yoga, Pilates, strength training with weights or cardiovascular exercises.

Paddle Push Pin: The spring-loaded pins that align with holes in an adjustable paddle that allow you to change the length in small increments.

PFD: (Personal Flotation Device) Also called a life jacket, it is required for kayaks and stand up paddle boards when operated beyond the limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area but not for surfboards. Please see our article, Stand Up Paddle Board PFD Law, for more information.

Planing: When a stand up paddleboard is traveling at a great enough speed to be skimming on top of the water, versus trudging sluggishly through it.

Planing Hull: A flat or concave bottom that causes a board to ride higher on the water, skimming the surface. Planing hulls are the most common hull design for surfboards or SUPs intended to be used for surfing big waves. They are the opposite of displacement hulls, which are designed for smaller waves, racing or touring paddle boards and greater "feel" of the water.

Power: The third step in paddling a stand up paddle board when you pull the paddle through the water from the front of the board to the back.

PP: (Polypropylene) A relatively new fiber being used in surfboard construction. It cuts board weight and offers more durability.

Quad: Board with four sidebite fins.

Quiver: A person's collection of surfboards and/or SUPs.

Racing/Touring SUP: A stand up paddle board designed for going very fast or very long distances. Typically, they have displacement hulls, pointy noses and are thinner than traditional SUPs.

Rails: The side edges of a board, running from the nose of a board to the tail. How much doming the rails have is a large determining factor of how stable a SUP or surfboard is.

Reach: The first step in paddling a stand up paddle board when you reach forward with your paddle before placing it in the water (a.k.a. catch).

Recovery: The final step in paddling a stand up paddle board when you bring the paddle forward in anticipation of the next reach.

Regular Foot: Standing the proper way on a surfboard or SUP with the left foot forward and the right foot back. The opposite of "Goofy Foot".

Release: The fourth step in paddling a stand up paddle board when you pull the paddle out of the water after completing your power move.

Rocker: The amount of curvature (or doming) on the underside of a surfboard or paddleboard from nose to tail. A board with more rocker will seem more like a seesaw when it is laid flat on the ground versus one with less rocker. Boards with more rocker tend to perform better in waves. Boards with less rocker tend to be faster and easier to use on flat water.

Rotomolded Board: One of the most durable board construction types, rotomolded boards have a hard, molded plastic shell around a foam inner core. They also tend to be heavier than other types of boards.

Sesh: A casual way of saying "session"

Session: A common term used to express a block of time spent on a SUP or surfboard.

Shaka Sign: A popular Hawaiian hand gesture made by curling the middle three fingers toward the palm, extending the thumb and pinkie and facing the palm outward (similar to the University of Texas "Hookem Horns" hand signal, but with a slightly more relaxed pinkie and thumb). Meaning "hang loose" or "chill", it also is used to express approval for an especially cool move or as a friendly greeting to other surfers or SUPers.

Sidebites: Small outside fins set near the rails of a board.

Single Fin: Board with one large center fin.

Skeg: Another term for a surfboard or paddleboard's fins.

Skin: Term used to describe the top and/or bottom layers of an inflatable stand up paddle board.

Soap Dish: Slang term for a board's carrying handle.

Soft Board/Softie: Other terms for a foam board.

Stringer: Typically one or more strips of wood that run the length of a board from nose to tail that add strength and rigidity to a SUP or surfboard. Better boards have multiple stringers and the best ones use aluminum stringers, which do not warp or degrade over time.

SUP: Abbreviation and common synonym for a Stand Up Paddleboard.

Surf SUP: Boards that are specifically designed for paddling in waves. They are typically short and have more rocker than other types of boards.

Tail: The back end of your board. Your leash is usually attached on the top side of the tail and fins are on the bottom side of the tail.

Tail Runner: A very long, short fin found on the underside of the tail on some inflatable SUPs that aids in tracking.

Tail Width: A common surfboard measurement of the width of a board approximately 12 inches in front of the tail.

Thickness: One of the more important surfboard and paddleboard measurements, thickness is a measurement between the top and bottom of a board. It affects the volume of a board, which is important for buoyancy. It also affects the rails which contribute to the stiffness of a board.

Thruster: A common setup for surfboards, a thruster is a three fin configuration with one large fin and two smaller sidebites that are set a little forward, closer to the nose.

Tie Down Point: One or more D-Rings on a SUP that are used to secure gear (a water bottle, suntan lotion, your watch, etc.), usually with bungee cords, straps or a cargo net.

Tracking: How straight a SUP moves through the water. The shape of a board affects how straight it tracks as does the number and placement of the fins. Touring and racing boards are longer and have a pointy nose and displacement hull that allows them to track straighter. Short boards, boards with fewer fins and those with flatter or rounded noses do not track as straight, requiring more shifting of your paddle from side to side.

Twin Fin: A two fin alignment under the tail more commonly seen on surfboards than SUPs.

Valve: The protrusion on an inflatable stand up paddle board where an air pump connects to inflate it.

Valve Cap: The cap that you screw onto a an inflatable SUP's valve that keeps out dirt and debris as well as protecting the valve against damage - similar to the cap on bike or car tire valves.

Valve Pin: Also called a "valve head", this is a spring-loaded mechanism that maintains the air pressure in an inflatable paddleboard. Similar to the metal insert you see on car and bike tire valves.

Vent/Vent Plug: Found only on hard boards (not inflatable boards), a vent or vent plug allows you to release air pressure that builds up inside of the inner foam core due to expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes. If you do not release this pressure, catastrophic delamination damage can ruin a board.

Volume: The length times width times thickness of a board. Because of the shape of surfboards and paddle boards, this can only be accurately measured by fully submerging the board and measuring the amount of water displaced. The volume of a board is the greatest determining factor for the amount of weight it can carry. Hard boards are shaped in a way that allows volume to be distributed to the most advantageous parts of the board. Inflatable boards generally have the same volume throughout.

Wetsuit:
Garment worn by surfers and SUPers in colder water. Many surfers also wear them to protect their bodies from sunburn and from board abrasions. O'Neill makes the best wetsuits. Although we do not sell them, you can click here to buy an O'Neill wetsuit.

Width: A measurement taken from the widest part of a surfboard or SUP. Wider boards are generally more stable while thinner boards are usually faster and more maneuverable.

Wind SUP: A stand up paddle board that is equipped with a mast screw and mast track for adding a sail; thus, making it a both a paddleboard and wind surfer.