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The Difference Between Planing and Displacement Paddle Boards

The Difference Between Planing and Displacement Paddle Boards

All SUP boards are the same, right? Well, not exactly, though they may look very similar once they’re in the water. Just like there are many different kinds of boats, and the design purposes of those boats serve different functions, so paddle boards have different designs to suit different advantages and functions. For instance, there are two major types of paddle board hulls: planing hulls and displacement hulls.


If you’re familiar with kayaking, you may already know of these terms. Hulls can affect the speed and smoothness of your paddle board experience. The biggest distinction between the two is this: displacement hull paddle boards move through the water and planing hull paddle boards move atop the water.

Displacement Hulls

Paddle boards with displacement hulls look almost like a cross between a surfboard and a kayak. The most distinctive quality is the sharp point at the front, designed to cut through water rather than resting on top of it. Because of that, these boards have a little more volume to them, particularly at the point. They’re also longer and narrower than other paddle boards. The purpose of this design is to increase your speed and maneuverability. Displacement hulls are excellent for freshwater SUP paddle boarding. These can be exciting paddle boards for experienced riders, but are something of a challenge for beginner or only occasional paddle boarders.

Planing Hulls

Planing hull paddle boards look almost indistinguishable from surfboards if not for the paddle. These boards are flatter and wider than paddle boards with displacement hulls, with rounder hulls. These boards are designed to rest on top of the water rather than cut through it. These are the boards you might see with leisurely paddle boarders at the beach. They’re great for beginners, but that doesn’t mean they lack speed. With a good wave, you can enjoy thrilling speed. Rather, much like a surfboard, your speed depends on the water.


It’s challenging to paddle a planing hull SUP board through flatwater, but possible — to an extent. There’s a slight bow under the nose of the board to help you paddle through flatwater, but the board’s ability to hold up to flatwater depends on things like size, rocker and rail. To the extent that you can paddle in flatwater, it can be a great way to strengthen your arms.

Which Should You Choose?

There’s no one rule that says which boards are better. They simply have different purposes. If you’re a competitive SUP boarder and participate in races, especially in flatwater, a displacement board is probably your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for an easygoing paddle at the beach or you’re learning to paddle board, a planing hull will probably serve you better.


Whatever paddle board you choose, you should make sure to choose quality. At The Rental Shop in 30A, we offer a wide variety of paddle boards of all types, all sizes, for all ages and levels of expertise. All paddle boards come with a textured deck pad to help you stay on board, and of course all come in excellent condition. Call us today at (850) 260-0001 to rent one today.