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Differences Between Planing and Displacement Hull Paddleboards

Buying a paddleboard is a big decision on any day with endless choices, variables, and factors, the process of choosing can take a while. To help our community with their buying decision, we wanted to explain all the differences between planing and displacement boards.

The three main things to think about when deciding which hull type is the best for you are:

  1. Your ability

  2. The type of paddling you will be doing

  3. The water conditions you will be in

So …

Let’s discuss the differences between the hull styles of Planing, Displacement and Hybrid paddleboards!

What is a Planing Hull?

Known to be very flat bottomed with a rounded nose and a rocker (upward curved) shape at the front, a planing board is designed to skim over the surface of the water to allow for agile maneuverability. While this allows for efficiency in turns, planing boards do not track go straight very well. They do require greater effort to paddle in a straight line but with good fins and learning some forward stroke technique, you can get by just fine.

Boards with planing hulls are a good choice for leisure paddling, surfing, SUP yoga, and whitewater.

What is a Displacement Hull?

Almost always looking like a cross between a surfboard and a kayak is the displacement board. With a sharp point, the front of a displacement board aids to cut through the water rather than plane over the surface.

What a displacement board sacrifices in maneuverability, it more than makes up for in tracking a straight line. Slicing through the water with greater efficiency helps when you do a long-distance paddle or a race.

These boards help create a fast, smooth ride but sometimes the V shape and often narrower overall width can sacrifice stability.

Displacement hulls are ideal for fitness paddling, racing, SUP touring, and camping.

Did you know there’s a combination displacement/planing board?

Designed for versatility, a combination hull (also called a Hybrid SUP) attempts to blend the best features of planing and displacement hulls into one board.

Let’s Compare Specs!

The biggest difference between the two is the displacement’s aim is to have the water go around the board whereas the planing board creates a lift by having the water go underneath.


  • The displacement hull is the faster of the two because it cut’s through the water, with its kayak-style shape. These hulls are more efficient because they track straighter. If you want a faster board that can handle long distances, one with a displacement hull is for you!

  • The planing hull is the slowest, requiring some speed in order to get on top of the water.

  • The hybrid hull is the medium speed hull style, using both techniques (slice and plain) to get through the water.

Type of Water

  • Displacement hulls are fast and better on smooth water.

  • Planing hulls really shine on more dynamic, choppier water.

  • Hybrid hulls are ok at both and not great at either!


  • Displacement boards range from 11 to 14 feet long and 17 to 34 inches wide. A narrower board allows for greater speed and tracking.

  • Planing boards range from 8 to 12 feet long and wider at 30 to 34 inches wide. A wider board is more stable but the trade-off with stability is speed.

  • Hybrid boards typically range from 10-14 feet long and depending on if they are inflatable or a hardboard, determines the width and thickness.


Volume refers to the capacity that a particular board has available to create buoyancy or remain buoyant under the pressure of an added weight (the paddler + gear). With both displacement and planing boards, it is essential for safety and paddling efficiency to match the rider’s weight with a board of sufficient volume. A heavier paddler will require a board with a greater volume than a lighter paddler, to not sink too deeply into the water. Disregarding this advice could cause less stability, poor maneuverability, the need for greater effort to move through the water and possible damage to the board over time.

Where to stand?

  • On all hull types, the sweet spot for both is around the handles in the middle with feet shoulder-width apart.

  • The nose of the board needs less weight to allow it to plane or displace properly so depending on what you're carrying you will have to adjust accordingly! So if you have a dry bag on front with your lunch and water etc - you will need to move slightly back to counter balance it.

Which hull style is the right one for you?

A displacement board is ideal for you if you:

  • Have good balance and strong skills

  • Are paddling on smoother water

  • Are looking to partake in a race or SUP touring or wanting to improve your fitness.

A planing board is ideal for you if you:

  • Have kids who just want to play and have fun.

  • Want to practice skills such as pivot turns that require maneuverability.

  • Want a leisurely paddle, to do SUP yoga, or like surfing.

A hybrid board is ideal for you if you:

  • Want to explore a bit of both flatware and ocean or slightly choppy water.

  • Want the tracking of a displacement board but the stability of a planing board.

  • Are looking to tour longer distance but still play with it day-to-day.

Favourite Paddleboard Brands

My top favourite brands available in Canada for all hull types are:

  1. Starboard

  2. Cascadia

  3. Red Paddle

  4. Sunova

  5. One SUP

I hope this helped to clear some things up and work out which is the best option for you.

I’d love to know which you think is the right choice for you and your needs so drop a comment below.

As always feel free to message me - I always welcome a conversation!

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