Differences in SUP Shapes Image

Differences in SUP Shapes

Tails, hulls, bottoms, bows. If it all sounds like gibberish to you, we’re here to help.

While the terms “hybrid displacement” or “race-style hull” might sound complex, the differences in SUP shapes are actually pretty simple.

The shape of your SUP—and, in particular, BOTE’s obsession with mastering SUP shapes—is a huge part of what differentiates the paddle board experience across activities. For instance, if you’re interested in paddle board surfing, your board should be shaped differently from someone looking for a paddle board for fishing. Likewise, if you’re new to stand up paddle boarding and simply want to play around and get used to your new pastime, you’re probably not going to need a super sleek touring board. In short, SUP shapes say a lot about who you are as a paddler and where you want to go.

So, if you’re looking to shape up your SUP-shape knowledge, you’ve come to the right place.


First things first, let’s get the ground rules covered. There are two main shapes when it comes to stand up paddle boards: planing hulls and displacement hulls.

Planing Hull

A planing hull is probably the first image that comes to mind when you think of a typical standup paddle board or even a surfboard—hence why they call it a “surf style” board. It’s flat and wide, with a wide nose that looks almost like the head of a humpback whale. The bottom of a planing hull board is double concave but predominantly flat, which allows it to flow across the water efficiently and turn with ease.

Planing hulls are great for folks looking for the perfect mix of lifestyle and leisure. This certainly isn’t to say planing hulls can’t handle tougher conditions, they most certainly can, but where they thrive is in their recreational versatility. On flat water or open water, planing hulls are easy to maneuver and fun as hell. If you’re looking for a hull shape that suits activities such as recreational paddling, yoga, and even fishing, a planing hull is a great choice.

Front and side views of a planing hull

Displacement Hull

While the planing hull has been around for a while and serves a broad array of purposes, displacement hulls have typically been used on fast, skinny race SUPs. Fun Fact: BOTE was actually the first company to take that technology and apply it to recreational paddle boards to create a powerful crossover category.

The displacement hull has a more pointed nose that allows the board to cut through the water more efficiently. You’ll typically see displacement hulls on boards that prioritize more intensive activities: fitness, fishing, extended paddling, and so on. Design-wise, displacement hulls are similar to planing hulls in that both of their middle sections have flat and double concave bottoms. The displacement hull differs as you move toward the nose—where the angular point serves to displace water around the board, which in turn allows you to cut through the water with ease. You’ll find this hull style on our HD, Rackham, and Traveller solid boards.

Now, let’s get down to SUP-shape business with regard to BOTE boards themselves.

Front and side views of a displacement hull

The Shape of BOTE Boards

From the depths of the Darkroom to our CEO Corey Cooper’s background as a mechanical engineer, each board in the BOTE lineup is intentionally built with different technology to best maximize the experience at hand.

Here’s a look at some of BOTE’s most iconic boards, their shapes, and what activity each board and shape is best suited for.

Flood Paddle Board

The Flood is an old-school meets new-school badass board that does it all. Shaped like a longboard with a planing hull, this is one of the first boards BOTE ever made. With its predominantly flat bottom and slightly uplifted nose (which allows you to ride smoothly above the water), the Flood is all that is good about good old-fashioned paddle boarding.

BOTE CEO Corey Cooper says it best: “The Flood is our model that embodies the holistic vibe of paddle boarding. It’s just a great all-around board, and it can do a lot of different things well—flat water, waves, you name it. If you want a board that’s versatile, the Flood is definitely the board to choose from that perspective.”

Best For: Beginners & Paddle Surfers

While that might feel like opposite ends of the persona-spectrum, that’s kind of what the Flood is all about: versatility. It’s the perfect entry-level, do-it-all board that paddles really well on flat water (and can be used for everything from SUP yoga to recreational paddling or just chilling) and also handles waves better than anything. The Flood is hands down the best BOTE board there is for paddle surfing.

Breeze Paddle Board

Another fantastic planing style hull option is the Breeze. In terms of shape, the Breeze is the epitome of compact and comfortable. We’re talking a 32”-33” wide platform (depending on if you choose Gatorshell or Inflatable) with a flat-bottom planing hull. In terms of activity, the Breeze is considered BOTE’s “flagship of fun.” It’s the perfect paddle board for those who like to dabble in all the activities. And it’s also the most accessible price point in BOTE’s stand up paddle board fleet.

Best For: Beginners

Which isn’t to say experienced recreational paddlers won’t love the Breeze. But for beginners, it’s about as good (and easy entry) as it gets. When you want a no-frills, all-quality board that won’t weigh you down, the Breeze makes your decision-making process a breeze.

Man surfing on a Breeze Gatorshell paddle board
Man surfing on a Flood Gatorshell paddle board

HD Paddle Board

The shape of the HD hull is what happens when you combine a race-style board with a recreational ethos. Race boards are typically skinny and fast. But of course, skinny also means less stable. The idea behind the HD (which stands for “Hybrid Displacement”) was to combine a race board’s displacement style bow entry with a wider, flatter body of a fishing board. This way, the water will be displaced from the front and allow the HD to track better, but it’ll also be far more stable. It’s essentially a Goldilocks board.

In Corey Cooper’s words, “The great thing about having the displacement hull in the HD is that it’s incredibly awesome in both flat water and open water. It’s probably not as good in the surf as the Flood. Still, for the intended application of the HD for general recreation paddling, fishing, just cruising, and having a great time paddling, this is the best all-around board we make.”

Best For: Casual Cruising to Advanced Adventures

At the intersection of race-style technology and fishing board compatibility, the HD thrives on the in-betweens and the everythings. You can use it for literally almost every kind of paddle adventure. Sunset cruises, paddle fishing, recreational paddling, the choice is yours.

Rackham Paddle Board

Though it might look a lot wider than the HD, the Rackham is actually the same width. It differs, though, because it’s heavier, more buoyant, and full of tons of (thoughtful) bells and whistles. The Rackham features the same hybrid displacement bow as the HD but has more refined, sharper edges down the sides to give it more stability. In fact, the Rackham is the most stable board in BOTE’s fleet. With its squared-off tail and flatter edges, it’s a bona fide behemoth of a board that can support up to 400lbs weight capacity and handles even the choppiest of waters.

Best For: Angler Paddlers

In other words, it’s the best paddle fishing expedition board on the market. As Corey says, “If you’re looking to get into standup paddle fishing and want to focus on that activity, the 12-foot Rackham and the 14-foot Rackham are great platforms for that choice.”

Traveller Paddle Board

The Traveller is BOTE’s touring board and the longest in the fleet. The shape of the Traveller is similar to the HD in that it’s a hybrid of a racing board and a recreational board. But where the Traveller stands apart is with its rugged touring-class spirit. A flat bottom with rounded edges helps the board flow through the water more easily than something like the Rackham. Combine that flat bottom with rounded rails and a dolphin-nosed displacement hull, and you’re looking at a professional-grade board that can go the distance and track smoothly. It also has an open tail, so any water that gets on the deck will flow right off the back.

Best For: Expedition and Fitness Paddlers

For folks who want to go the distance, the Traveller is as good as it gets. Embodying the spirit of a racing board, but with a wide variety of other applications and experience levels, the Traveller is an elite paddle board. As Corey says, “It’s like the Ferrari in our line.”

The good news is: whichever board—and whichever shape—you choose, there are no wrong decisions when it comes to BOTE.

Woman paddling a Traveller Gatorshell paddle board
Man paddling a Rackham Gatorshell paddle board

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