Talk the Talk

Can you “talk the talk”?

When traveling to a foreign country (or even different part of the same country), it's valuable to be able to speak the language- at least the basics.

Being stuck in a place where they do not speak your language and needing to find a bathroom without knowing how to properly ask where the nearest restroom is...well….could leave you relying on a not too amusing game of charades in hopes your partner can guess your question before it’s too late!

Yes, it’s true that knowing and speaking the language not only helps you avoid such touchy situations but gives you some credibility as well. If you’ve taken the time to learn some of the language, you’re likely to find that those on the receiving end are usually more receptive and more willing to help you get around or get what you need.

In the world of SUP, while you’re not likely to end up in the same predicament as mentioned above, the credibility factor definitely comes into play. It also helps you improve your overall skill set if you know what to reference and what these specific terms mean.

While some of the terminology of the SUP is the same as surfing, there are a few extras that paddlers should know. Below is a good starter list of terms to learn if getting into SUP’ing.


Bottom: The bottom of the board is simply known as the bottom. Most are flat. Some are convex in shape (curved inward) which make them faster and aids in maneuverability, but they are less stable.

Deck and Deck Pad: The top part of the board where you actually stand is called the deck. These can be flat or have a curved or domed surface. What you are actually standing on ( either foam, rubber, or another surface) is called the deck pad which is there to provide traction, paddling, and style. Traditionally, surfers use wax on their boards to provide the traction when standing and carving. When you are on a SUP board, you’re standing the entire time, so the deck pad acts as a cushion while floating.

Fins and Fin Box: Just like on a surfboard, stand ups have fins on the bottom tail of the board to aid in stability, maneuverability, and staying straight. Most have a large center fin with 2 smaller fins on each side. The slots that the fins bolt into is known as the fin box.

Handle: Because stand ups boards are so long and wide, manufacturers have molded in a groove in the center of the board so that you can easily carry it under your arm. The handle is also a good indicator of where to stand.

Leash and Leash Cup: Just like in surfing, the leash attaches to the rider’s ankle, so when you fall, your board doesn’t sail to shore. A leash cup is a little plastic piece in the tail of the board where the leash attaches. When paddling in flat water, leashes aren’t usually necessary.

Nose: The front or tip of a sup board is often called the nose. When you are standing on a board and notice that water is coming up over the nose, it means you’re too far forward, so inch backwards on the board.

Rails: The sides or edges of the board are known as the rails. When you want to paddle straight, you should paddle as close to the rails as possible. For this reason, it’s common for the rails to get dinged up from the paddle impact.

Rocker: The rocker refers to the curvature of the board from the nose to the tail (tip to tip) of the board. This makes more of a difference when surfing than paddling in flatwater.

Tail: The back or rear 12” of a SUP is referred to as the tail. The design specification of the tail is more related to surfing where edgy wide tails are used for aggressive turns while rounder tails provide smoother turns.

Vent and Vent Plug: Some boards have vents that are sealed with vent plugs. Because those boards are made of foam, the gases in the board will expand and contract with the air temperature. Vent plugs can be removed to allow the gases to equalize during storage and to prevent damage to the board due to over-expansion of the gases.


Blade dihedral: Some stand-up paddles have a dihedral shape to their power face. The dihedral often looks like a ridge or spine running down the length of the paddle blade. The dihedral's purpose is to eliminate fluttering of the paddle blade as you pull it through the water, increasing your stroke's efficiency.

Paddle bend: The "elbow" in the paddle where the paddle shaft meets the paddle blade. For paddle boarding, this bend is typically 8° to 10°. This bend helps provide a more efficient and less fatigue paddling stroke.

Power face: This is the face of your paddle blade that you'll be pulling through the water with each stroke. The power face of your paddle should face to the back of your board. If your paddle has a bent shaft, the power face will be on the "inside" angle of the bend.


Cadence: How fast you move from paddle stroke to paddle stroke. A high cadence is most typical in racing or a power workout. More relaxed cadence doesn't expend as much energy and moves your board more slowly.

PFD: Personal Floatation Device or lifejacket.

Hopefully this list will help you “talk the talk”- even if you are only somewhat able to “walk the walk”.

Good luck!