When traveling to a foreign country—or even different part of the same country—it’s valuable to be able to speak the language. At least the basics.

Have you ever been stuck in a place where they don’t speak your language? Did it leave you relying on charades to get your message across?

Knowing and speaking the language not only helps you avoid touchy situations, but gives you some credibility. When you take time to learn some of the language, you’re likely to find those on the receiving end more receptive and willing to help you get what you need.

In the world of stand-up paddling (SUP), the credibility factor definitely comes into play. It also helps you improve your overall skill set if you know what to reference and what these specific terms mean.

Below is a good starter list of terms to learn when getting into SUPing:

Paddleboard Terms

Bottom—The bottom of the board. SUP boards have two different types of bottoms: flat and convex (curved inward). A flat bottom is more stable. A convex bottom makes the board faster and more maneuverable, but also less stable.

Deck—The top part of the board you stand on. It can be either flat or slightly domed.

Deck Pad—The part of the deck you place your feet. Made of foam, rubber or other material that provides traction and cushion.

Fins—Just like a surfboard, stand-up boards have fins on the bottom tail of the board to aid in stability, maneuverability and staying straight. Most have a large center fin with 2 smaller fins on each side.

Fin Box—The slots that the fins bolt into.

Handle—The groove in the center of the board for carrying. The handle is also a good indicator of where to stand.

Leash—Attaches to the rider’s ankle, so when you fall, your board doesn’t sail to shore. When paddling in flat water, leashes aren’t usually necessary.

Leash Cup—The little plastic piece in the tail of the board where the leash attaches.

Nose—The front or tip of a SUP board. If you notice that water is coming up over the nose, it means you’re too far forward, so inch backwards on the board.

Rails—The sides or edges of the board. When you want to paddle straight, you should paddle as close to the rails as possible. Because of this, it’s common for the rails to get dinged up from paddle impact.

Rocker—Refers to the curvature of the board from nose to the tail. This makes more of a difference when surfing than paddling in flat water.

Tail—The rear 12 inches of a SUP. The design specification of the tail is more related to surfing: edgy wide tails are used for aggressive turns while rounder tails provide smoother turns.

Vent and Vent Plug—Some boards have vents that are sealed with vent plugs. Because those boards are made of foam, the gases in the board will expand and contract with the air temperature. Vent plugs can be removed to allow the gases to equalize during storage, preventing damage to the board.

Paddle Terms

Paddle Flutter—When the water isn't evenly dispersed off of the blade and it zig-zags (flutters) through the water. It makes your stroke less efficient.

Power Face— If your paddle has a bent shaft, the power face will be on the "inside" angle of the bend. This is the face of your blade you'll pull through the water with each stroke. The power face should face to the back of your board.

Blade Dihedral—(dye-hee-dral) Some stand-up paddles have a dihedral shape to their power face. It looks like a ridge or spine running down the length of the paddle blade. The dihedral's purpose is to eliminate paddle flutter as you pull it through the water, increasing your stroke's efficiency.

Paddle Bend—The elbow in the paddle where the shaft meets the blade. This bend is typically 8°-10°. The bend helps provide a more efficient, less fatiguing paddling stroke.

General Terms

Cadence—How fast you move from paddle stroke to paddle stroke. A high cadence is most typical in racing or a power workout. A more relaxed cadence doesn't expend as much energy and moves your board more slowly.

PFD—Personal Floatation Device or lifejacket. An absolute must-have with any paddling activity.

Now you’re ready to Talk the Talk with the SUP crowd, even if you can’t yet “walk the walk.” You’ll get there!

Good luck!

paddleboarding terms