Making sense of it – SUP jargon and terminology

If you’re new to stand up paddle boarding then you may be wondering what all this new language and SUP related jargon is. Even if you’re a seasoned paddler some terminology may have gone straight over your head. With this in mind we’ve listed some of the more popular phrases and words that you’ll come across and what they refer to.

SUP Board

SUP – stand up paddle.

Nose – the board’s front.

Tail – the board’s back end.

Hull – the SUP’s underneath.

Deck – the SUP’s top.

Cockpit – the area you stand and paddle from.

Rail – the sides of the SUP.

Rocker – the general curve (nose to tail) of the SUP. Can also be used to describe individual areas of the board’s shape i.e. nose rocker.

Deflection – a term used to decribe the ‘bend’ point of an inflatable SUP.

Stability – how planted the SUP feels in the water.

Volume – a measurement in litres suggestive of the SUP’s float properties.

Thickness – a measure in inches used to describe the top to bottom thickness of stand up paddle boards.

Vent plug – only found on hard shell SUPs: a way for expanded warm air, inside foam boards, to escape.

Fin – the foiled upright that protrudes from the SUP’s tail giving directional stability and manoeuvrability.

Fin box – where the fin sits. (Types can be US box, powerbox, Tuttle box, FCS, Futures, click fins as well as a few more).

D-ring – attachment points usually found on inflatable stand up paddle boards.

Camera mounts – a fixing point for a waterproof action cam.

Bungee chord – usually fixed to the SUP’s deck as a place to stow your paddling essentials.

Leash – the thing that attaches to the SUP, and the paddler, keeping the two in contact.

Leash retainer – heavy duty chord that attaches the SUP leash to the board.

SUP paddle

Blade – the power part of the paddle that immerses in water.

Face – the part of the blade that faces the paddle during each stroke.

Back – the reverse of the paddle blade.

Edge – the sides of the paddle blade.

Dihedral – a spine or pronounced/raised part of the paddle’s blade designed to aid/direct/deflect water flow during each paddle stroke.

Shaft – the long straight part of the SUP paddle.

Handle – the top part of the paddle.

Clamp – the adjustable fixing point of a telescopic paddle.

Paddle wax – applied to the paddle shaft for extra grip.

Stand up paddling

Stroke – the act of placing the paddle in the water, drawing it along the board’s rail and recovering to start again.

Catch – the part of the stroke where the paddle’s blade enters the water.

Power – the middle part of the stroke that propels you along.

Release – letting the ‘power’ of the stroke off ready to ‘recover’.

Recovery – lifting the paddle out of the water and swinging it back ready to ‘catch’ again.

Cadence – the rate at which you paddle.

McConks idyllic summer SUP

SUP stance

Stance – how your feet are placed on the SUP’s deck.

Offset stance – one foot slightly in front of the other.

Regular – left foot forward; right foot back across the board’s centre line.

Goofy – right foot forward; left foot back across the centre line.


Put in – the location you launch your SUP

Take out – the place you get out of the water

Portage – exiting the water with your SUP and paddle to walk around an obstruction/obstacle.

Tracking – how straight and true a SUP board paddles.

Glide – how much momentum a SUP carries with each paddle stroke.

Displacement – a term used to describe a craft that cuts through the water instead of on it.

Planing – a term used to describe a craft that rides on top of the water.

Offshore – when the wind blows straight off the beach.

Onshore – when the wind blows straight on to the beach.

Sideshore/crossshore – when the wind blows left to right on right to left along the beach.

Rip (current) – a surge of water heading back out to sea having dispersed initially as waves break, following the path of least resistance.

Eddy – water flowing back upstream (in rivers) against the main flow of current.

Backwash – tidal or wave energy infused water hitting a solid object then rebounding back.

Surf speak

Session – the duration of time you’re on the water.

Stoke – a feeling of euphoria following a good session.

Dawnie – going afloat as the sun rises.

Sick – a positive way to describe a good session, wave or move.

Gnarly – a word used to describe something extreme within the context of what’s happening on the water.

Wipeout (also referred to as a bail) – falling off.

Frothing/amping – excitement.

These are just some of the terms you hear within stand up paddle boarding circles – there are plenty more…

Are you a coach or guide wanting the best gear?

drop us a line and keep in touch