Performance in Boards and Kayaks

Photo by Nicole Finnicum. 

Photo by Nicole Finnicum. 

Recently, we were asked by a paddleboard shopper about the performance of two different boards. It’s a great question to ask, but a very hard one to answer, and it applies to both kayaks and boards. 

Typically, when we ask about performance we are thinking about speed, but most of us don’t necessarily want to go fast across the ocean. However, vessels capable of speed are usually also capable of covering more distance per unit effort – and efficiency is something most of us are looking for.

The general rule is that the longer and narrower the vessel, the faster it will be. But, we trade stability for speed. You can have stable or fast, but not usually both in one vessel.

Sanibel Sea School team members participated in a SUP demo day with  Bishop Boards . Photo by Emmett Horvath.

Sanibel Sea School team members participated in a SUP demo day with Bishop Boards. Photo by Emmett Horvath.

On paddleboards, displacement noses – those where the front of the board looks like a canoe more than a surf board – are typically designed for speed. The displacement nose helps hold a straighter course and thus you will travel farther with each paddle stroke.

We could talk about performance for a long time, but our answer to her question was an invitation to come out with us and test the two boards, to decide which one feels the best. She took us up on our offer, and very quickly picked her favorite. It is amazing how different two boards can feel on the water.

Paddling is a sport we can enjoy for years and years. In that time, many of us will change the equipment we use as our skills and desires change. Always ask for a demonstration of the boards or kayaks you are interested in buying. Good paddle outfitters are more than happy to provide a demo session, and you will very quickly find the vessel that is right for you at your stage in the sport.

With luck, you will paddle for a long time, aboard many different vessels. But in the beginning, the vessel that feels the best usually is. Happy paddling.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.