At face value, it’s easy to think that the answer to the question of can you paddleboard on a surfboard would be yes. After all, it’s hard to notice that much of a difference when you look at a paddleboard and a surfboard beside each other.

When you really start to analyze the question, however, it becomes abundantly clear that while you may be able to paddleboard on a surfboard on rare occasions, it’s not really ideal.

Nine out of ten times, you’re not going to want to use a surfboard as a paddleboard. But if you’re brave enough to try it out, then you’ll first want to know the main differences.

What’s the difference between a surfboard and a paddleboard?

Photo by Reed Naliboff / Unsplash

Paddleboarding involves standing up on a board and using a paddle to traverse through the water. Surfing is a bit different as you need to lay on your stomach and paddle with your arms until you find the sweet spot to catch a wave and surf.

The distinction between the two water activities is very important in the grand scheme of things, as it makes it apparent that the two types of boards are designed for different reasons.

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We’ve written an entire article covering the differences between a paddleboard and a surfboard if you’re interested.

Why paddleboarding on a surfboard isn’t ideal

At their core, paddleboards and surfboards are just boards that are designed to be used on the water. It’s simply amazing how even though this simple ideology is true, the two perform so much differently due to a plethora of reasons.

There are 4 primary reasons as to why a surfboard doesn’t work very well for paddleboarding:

  1. Surfboards are too wide
  2. Not as stable
  3. Buoyancy
  4. The rocker

Let’s take a closer look at the first of the four reasons.

1. Surfboards are too narrow

Quite honestly, you could answer the question can you paddleboard on a surfboard like this:

It’s not going to work very well due to the size difference that’s present between surfboards and paddleboards. Surfboards are simply too narrow and don’t provide a lot of stability.

Generally speaking, paddleboards are going to be longer, wider, thicker, and heavier than surfboards. Paddleboards can reach lengths of up to 14 feet and widths of up to 3 feet. With that being said, narrower and shorter paddleboards exist for performance reasons.

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As a side note, check out the size of paddleboard you should get as there are many different sizes out there.

It’s not so much the length of surfboards that’s the biggest issue as some can be as long as 12 feet. Such boards, known as longboards, will be plenty long enough. However, longboards will still only have a maximum width of about 24 inches. 24 inches in width is about as narrow as the smallest paddleboard is going to get (and is going to be really tough for anyone other than a pro-level rider to use, though a very small rider may also be fine).

On top of that, surfboards also tend to be thinner and in addition to being narrower, this allows them to have better control. Again, you have to remember the difference in activities. While not riding waves, in fact, most surfboards won’t float well when you stand on them.

Surfboards being much narrower, thinner, and shorter (most of the time when compared to paddleboards), simply makes them inferior for stand-up paddleboarding.

2. Surfboards lack overall stability

As previously mentioned, surfboards lack stability compared to paddleboards due to their smaller width and length (for the most part).

Yet, there are also a few other ways that surfboards aren’t quite as stable:

  • The amount of standing – The thing about paddleboarding is you remain standing virtually the entire time. You use a paddle to maneuver in the water while standing, after all. On a surfboard, you don’t stand the entire time and go from laying down to standing up when attempting to catch a wave.
  • The stance – This one is so easy to overlook but it makes a lot of sense. On a surfboard, you typically will have one foot forward and the other one back. However, on a paddleboard, both feet are next to each other, square with the board.

3. Surfboards don’t float as well as paddleboards

You know, we could’ve just said buoyancy to the question of can you paddleboard on a surfboard and just gone home. We’re here to deliver the goods, though, so that wouldn’t have been too kind of us.

Anyway, more or less, buoyancy is the ability of an object to float in a fluid.

One could argue that when it comes to stand-up paddleboarding, the most important element is buoyancy. The idea is to stand and paddle yourself around on the water, after all. This is one of the main reasons why paddleboards have high volumes, and also why they tend to be so wide and long.

Meanwhile, a surfboard will often sink when you try to stand still on top of it in the water. Mainly due to their lack of volume, such a board doesn’t offer optimal floatation for that. When surfboards start to gain a lot of speed, it prevents them from sinking in the water.

A surfboard with more volume will be necessary if you want to use it as a stand-up paddleboard, but surfboards, in general, aren’t designed with the same volume and flotation prowess as stand-up paddleboards.

Now, some surfers are good enough to properly distribute their weight evenly across their surfboards to help with this issue. Additionally, if you find your surfboard sinking a lot it may be due to other factors such as damage to the board or the board being too small for your body weight.

4. The rocker on a surfboard is too narrow

Yep, even the design of the rocker can come into play when answering the question of can you paddleboard on a surfboard. When you hear or read people refer to the rocker of a board, it simply is referring to the curve of the board from its nose to its tail.

Due to performance reasons, the rocker on a surfboard will differ from that on a paddleboard. Typically, surfboards will have more curvature rockers to allow them to better dive into waves. Paddleboards, on the other hand, will generally be made with long flat rockers to allow them to glide better along the water.

Why this is a factor for this question is if you were to paddleboard on a surfboard, the rocker of a surfboard would require you to exert more effort to maintain straightness on the water and to propel it forward, in the first place.

So, can you paddleboard on a surfboard despite the few pitfalls?

a surfboard ready for the sea
Photo by Daniel Stanitzki / Unsplash

Yes, you can. Wait a minute. What? So, you get through telling us the reasons why we shouldn’t use a surfboard to stand-up paddleboard and then you say we can do it. Is that accurate to what you’re thinking right about now? Let’s explain.

It was alluded to earlier but one important thing needs to be remembered. Some paddleboards are much smaller than usual and will have much smaller volumes. The reason this is important is that skilled riders will be able to handle such boards out on the water.

As such, an advanced paddleboarder could probably take a surfboard with decent enough volume and do some stand-up paddleboarding on it. They’d still probably prefer a small paddleboard, though.

What about longboards? Can those be used for paddleboarding?

Longboards were talked about briefly before, but now they’re the focus. Longboards are the longest types of surfboards that you’ll find, and you can find some longer than the smallest paddleboards. As was discussed earlier, though, it’s not just the length of the board that matters.

Longboards can even have close to the volumes of smaller, performance-based paddleboards. However, the maximum width you’re going to get out of one is going to pale in comparison to the average paddleboard. Additionally, so will the thickness as a regular longboard will typically be thinner than even a small paddleboard.

Such a board could possibly be used for the activity, but it still won’t be as comfortable, efficient, and stable as it would to use an actual paddleboard.

Final thoughts

It’s best answered like this. A surfboard is going to make a poor stand-up paddleboard pretty much no matter how you slice it. Yes, it could probably be pulled off with the right board and the right rider. Let’s just put it like this.

Under no circumstance should you buy or use a surfboard primarily for stand-up paddleboarding. If you are trying to find a board that does both, you’d be better off buying a stand-up paddleboard that can perform well for surfing.

A surfboard’s thinness, narrowness, shortness, rocker, and lack of volume make it lackluster for the activity of stand-up paddleboarding.

Plain and simple, surfboards are built for surfing and to perform well for that specific activity. Gee, do you think we’ve placed enough emphasis on that?

Before you go, we’d like to make mention of a few other posts that are good reads if you enjoyed this read. For starters, no matter if you’re surfing or paddleboarding, it’s probably best to tag along a life vest with you. Check out our list of the best life vests for non-swimmers.

Secondly, if you have smaller ones at home, perhaps you want to know how old you have to be to paddleboard. Well, wonder no more! Thanks for reading, everyone!