Glide: Stand Up Paddle Boarding

glide stand up paddle boarding

Glide: Stand up paddle boarding term “glide” describes the distance a board can travel when placed under a finite unit of power.  In this case, that “unit of power” would be one paddle stroke.  If you line up several boards of different shapes, lengths, widths and weight and paddle them each with one stroke, exerting the exact amount of power on each paddleboard- you would find that they all travel different distances before coming to a stop.  That is what glide is in stand up paddleboarding.

So why is glide important to the SUP’er and what role does it play in different types of paddleboarding?  That is what we will look at here and also the way different types of board designs provide the varying degrees of glide and why.

glide stand up paddle boarding

  • Flatwater Paddleboarding:  Glide is very important in flatwater paddleboarding because it provides the paddler with more efficiency saving energy and increasing speed.  If your board travels efficiently over the water you will need to paddle less hard to go the same distance at the same speed than someone who’s board encounters more resistance.  Paddleboard racers have a great need for boards with the most amount of glide because it allows them to conserve energy and maintain a fast pace.
  • Surfing:  Standup surfing paddleboards also need good glide although not as much as flatwater boards.  The standup surfer needs to catch the wave as it rolling towards him/her.  If the board does not respond quickly enough to the paddler’s first couple of strokes, then the paddler is at risk of having the wave move out under him and away.  The standup surfer needs to get in front of the wave and then on it with just a few quick strokes.  Glide will be a factor in determining how successful he/she will be in catching the wave.

Now let’s look at some of the most common board design attributes and how they affect a board’s glide.   If you are not familiar with paddleboard design here’s an introduction to some common standup paddleboard shapes and the function they serve.

glide stand up paddle boards

  • More Rocker = Less Glide:  Rocker is the upcurve in a board that happens towards the nose and tail.  The more rocker a paddle board has the easier it is to turn because it is exposed to less water as it is moving laterally and so it encounters less resistance as it turns.  But, enconters has more resistance when it is travelling forward because of the upturn (rocker) in the nose.  This means that it will encounter more water resistance and so have less glide.
  • More Width = Less Glide:  Width of a paddleboard helps with stability as it helps prevent the board from tipping over when pressure is applied to either side.   But, it also exposes the board to more water resistance because there more surface area in contact with water.  A narrow paddleboard will have more glide because the reverse is true- less surface area will mean less water resistance and so more glide.  (Likewise, the narrower the board, the less stable it will be side-to-side.)
  • Waterline:  A board with a longer waterline (the length of contact that a board has with the water) will tend to have more glide and travel faster through the water.  Normally, longer boards have longer waterlines but this is not always the case (a topic for another post).   Generally speaking, a longer waterline will give the board more speed, better tracking and extra glide.
  • glide stand up paddle board
  • Diplacement Hulls:  Displacement hulls have sharp, narrow and vertically shaped noses.  They often are found on touring and race boards.  They tend to cut through the water by sitting below waterline and slicing through it. Displacement hulls are often accompanied by narrower widths and more squared-off rails (we will talk about rails later), because of this, they tend have more glide than planing hulls
  • Planing Hulls:  Planing hulls have flat noses that run parallel to the water and are rockered.  The rest of the board rides on top of the water as opposed to displacement hulls that ride through the water.  They are more subject to all the variations in the water including oncoming chop, waves and wind.   Planing hulls will tend have less glide than a displacement hull but there are hybrids coming out on the market that have excellent glide because of they incorporate a displacement nose, but also have stability and excellent turn capabilities as they transition into planing hulls.  
  • Rails:  Square rails will release water more easily than rounded rails.  Because the surface area of the corner is reduced on a square rail it slides easier through the water and so contributes more glide to the board.  A rounder rail has more surface area exposed to the water and so more resistance, which slows the board down- thus reducing glide.  This is why surf paddleboards will have squared off rail sections towards the tail to allow the rider to get on the wave quickly and rounded rail sections through the middle to give the rider more purchase on the wave as he/she turns into into it.

Of course, there are other factors that determine the amount of glide a standup paddleboard, such as water and wind conditions, rider performance, etc.  Depending on what type of paddling you want to do, you will have to decide what combination of glide, stability and maneuverability makes the most sense for you.  These guidelines should give you a good start.


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