a skateboard

The Art and Craft of Customizing Your Handboard

Once you’ve mastered the basics of handboarding, you may be eager to make your board truly your own through customization and personalization. The ability to modify a handboard to match your style and performance needs is one of the great appeals of the sport.

Whether you want to tweak the look, functionality or both, customizing your SUP can be a fun and rewarding process. This guide will walk through the many options for customizing your handboard to reflect your personality and paddling ambitions.

hand boards and their accessories

Design and Aesthetic Customizations

A handboard’s appearance can be customized in numerous eye-catching ways. Here are some ideas for aesthetically enhancing your board:

Board Artwork

Adding unique graphics and visuals is a popular way to alter the look of your SUP. Consider:

  • Vibrant airbrushed designs that are hand-painted by artists. These create flowing, one-of-a-kind artwork.
  • Decals and stickers featuring trendy imagery like tribal prints or geometric shapes. These are easy to apply yourself.
  • Hydrographic film coatings that make your board look like wood grain, rock, camouflage or abstract water patterns.
  • Laser etching for intricate details, logos, signatures, dates and personalization.

Accent Colors

Swap out standard colors for bolder secondary hues:

  • Colored traction pads in shades like aqua, purple or lime green to accent your main deck color.
  • Coordinating leash and handle wraps for a pulled-together, matching look.
  • Metallic rails, fins or holographic foil accents for added flair.

Multi-Board Collections

Build a quiver of multiple boards, each with different graphics that represent unique moods, destinations or paddle styles. For example, one floral board for lagoons, a retro board for cruising, and a nature scene board for lakes.

DIY Touches

Add your own creative touches like:

  • Painted designs and freehand artwork using acrylic craft paints.
  • Scrapbook-style collages of photos and papers secured with outdoor adhesive.
  • Gem, stud or rhinestone embellishments for some shine.
  • Glitter spray coats for a sparkling, iridescent sheen.

Functional Modifications

Beyond aesthetics, customizing the features of your SUP can directly improve performance and usability:

Traction Pads

Upgrade to higher grip options:

  • Max Grip crocodile texture pads offer the most barefoot stability, even when wet.
  • 3D honeycomb grooved pads let water drain quickly so you don’t slip.
  • Dual-density pads with a softer heel section prevent foot fatigue.


Swapping out fins allows you to tune them for speed, maneuverability, and stability:

  • Single-fin setups provide excellent tracking and glide in a straight line.
  • Twin fins increase agility for tight turns but may compromise some stability.
  • 5 fin “thruster” setups combine speed and tracking with control and responsiveness.
  • Different fin shapes (dolphin, oval), flex (soft, hard), and lengths also impact performance.

Paddle Holders

Having paddle storage options keeps them secure yet accessible:

  • Elastic cord systems are adjustable and can retract/release your paddle easily.
  • Removable deck mounts like Clamcleats allow you to position the paddle exactly where you want.
  • Aftermarket T-handles replace your current grip and integrate storage.

Cargo Options

Add functional elements to carry gear and supplies:

  • Front/rear bungees give exterior lashing points to attach bags and equipment.
  • Bolt-on cargo racks and buckets let you carry camping, fishing, or photo gear.
  • Secure dry bags keep your gear safe from water and easily accessible.
  • Rod holders allow hands-free transport and access to fishing poles.

Technology Integrations

Incorporate tech into your board for helpful data tracking, safety, and convenience:

Telemetry Systems

Built-in sensor packages can capture and display:

  • Speed, distance, time, cadence and other helpful paddle metrics.
  • GPS mapping of your route, top speed, and locations visited.
  • Environmental data like water temperature, wind speed, and weather.

GoPro Mounts

Document your paddling adventures and progression hands-free:

  • Deck mounts allow you to easily attach GoPros or other action cams in optimal spots.
  • Waterproof lighting setups provide optimal footage even at dawn/dusk.

Bluetooth Speakers

Listen to music and media without headphones:

  • Waterproof designs are built to withstand splashes and even submersion.
  • Mountable options attach anywhere via clamps, adhesives, or suction cups.
  • Wireless syncing connects speakers to your smartphone device.

Emergency Beacons

Alert others if you get into distress while paddling:

  • PLBs with GPS tracking ability can transmit your location to first responders.
  • Bluetooth-enabled beacons sync with your phone to send alerts.
  • Some automatically activate and send your coordinates when submerged in water.

playing a hand board

Personalization Touches

Make the board unmistakably yours by adding custom details:


  • Boldly display your name, nickname or handle in a cool font.
  • Mix colors within the text for a unique, eye-catching look.
  • Spot UV coatings make parts of the text glossy.

Meaningful Quotes

  • Inspiring messages can help motivate and focus on you.
  • Lyrics from a meaningful song make a nice graphic.
  • An inside joke shared with paddle buddies brings fun memories.

Achievement Tracking

  • A mileage counter denotes your accumulated nautical distance over time.
  • Map stickers show all the places you’ve paddled.
  • Date or year stamps mark your paddling journey and progression.

Working with a Board Artist

For pro-quality designs and modifications, consider hiring an artist to conceptualize and execute your custom SUP vision:

  • Find local board artists via reviews and recommendations to see examples of their work.
  • Provide inspirational images, color preferences, hobbies, goals, etc. to help them design for you.
  • Give them creative freedom to suggest bold, vibrant options you may not have considered.
  • Review digital mockups and proofs until the design is exactly how you envisioned.
  • Expect added costs but superior, one-of-a-kind results from an experienced artist.

DIY Customization Strategies

If hiring an artist isn’t in your budget, you can still customize your SUP yourself:


  • Brainstorms design ideas and create rough sketches of concepts.
  • Gather artwork elements like photos, stickers, and papers to incorporate.
  • Purchase needed supplies – paints, decals, and sealer based on your plans.

Prepping the Surface

  • Light sandboard with 220 grit sandpaper to help paint adhere.
  • Clean with a tack cloth to remove all dust particles before painting.
  • Mask off sections you don’t want to paint using painter’s tape.

Painting Techniques

  • Carefully painted by hand using acrylic craft paints.
  • Use painter’s tape for clean lines and crisp edges.
  • Try simple gradients, dots, and geometric shapes using painter’s tape.

Finishing Touches

  • Seal paint with waterproof outdoor acrylic sealant when dry.
  • Apply any decals, stickers, or embellishments.
  • Topcoat with clear spray paint for durability and UV protection.

Maintaining Custom Features

To make your design last, be sure to:

  • Avoid dragging your board on rough surfaces that could scratch the design.
  • Rinse with fresh water after paddling in saltwater to prevent salt buildup.
  • Keep the board covered and out of direct sun when not in use to avoid fading.
  • Apply wax occasionally to the deck to protect against fading and oxidation.
  • Touch up paint chips as needed to avoid peeling or damage spreading.
  • Replace grip tape sections whenever they appear worn or smooth.

Things to Avoid

Steer clear of these customization fails:

  • Excessive weight additions that bog down and compromise performance.
  • Dark colors on the deck can absorb heat in hot, sunny paddling areas.
  • Cheap paints and finishes that easily chip, scratch or peel with use.
  • Cluttered, busy designs that look haphazard and chaotic.
  • Anything that covers important vents or blocks valve access points.

Picking a Theme

Selecting a fun theme or inspiration for your design can help drive the aesthetics and details:

Nature Scenes

  • Forest landscapes, mountains, night skies
  • Ocean waves, sea turtles, splash effects
  • Leaf patterns, flower fields, animal prints

Abstract Art Styles

  • Geometric triangles, grids, lines
  • Psychedelic and hippie motifs
  • Graffiti, pop art, or surrealist elements

Surfing Culture

  • Surfboards, ocean waves, beach scenes
  • Retro 60s and 70s vibes
  • Surfing logos, icons and typography

Local Pride

  • Skylines or landmarks of your hometown
  • State flags or college mascots
  • Meaningful slogans

Planning Your Design

Carefully planning out your custom SUP design ensures you achieve the look you desire:

Set a Budget

Factor in costs for:

  • Professional design fees if hiring an artist
  • Paints, finishes, grip tape, embellishments
  • Additional accessories like mounts or speakers

Make Inspiration Boards

Curate images, color palettes, fonts that you love to guide aesthetics.

Sketch Concepts

Draft designs and layouts. Take measurements to help with mapping.

Decide on Art Mediums

Determine if you paint, use decals, hydrographics, laser etching, etc.

Consider Performance Elements

Factor in functional additions like new fins or paddle holders.

Allow Time

Some elements like airbrushing or hydrographic take days for preparation and application.

Applying Custom Touches

Use proper techniques to safely add decor elements to your board:


  • Light sand and clean the board first
  • Use proper primers and prep coats
  • Carefully hand paint details or use spray paint
  • Allow adequate dry time between coats
  • Seal with waterproof varnish when done


  • Wipe the board down with alcohol to prep the surface
  • Apply stickers smoothly without wrinkles or folds
  • Use a plastic smoother to adhere the decal edges
  • Topcoat with a sealer to prevent lifting or damage

Grip Pads

  • Remove the old pad fully with a heat gun
  • Clean and dry board surface
  • Measure and cut new pad to fit deck shape
  • Remove the paper backing and press it into place

Protecting Your Design

Take steps to keep your custom SUP looking its best:

  • Use UV-resistant paints and clear coats
  • Keep the board covered and out of sunlight when not in use
  • Rinse with fresh water after saltwater use
  • Avoid dragging the board to prevent scratching
  • Wax periodically to protect against fading
  • Patch any chips quickly to avoid damage spread
  • Reapply grip tape annually or whenever worn

When to Go Pro

Consider hiring a professional board artist for:

  • Large-scale, full-deck airbrushing or hydrographic artwork
  • Intricate details like photorealistic portraits
  • Complex multi-layered designs
  • A cohesive theme across your full quiver of boards
  • If you want a stunning showpiece board


The search for the perfect handboard never has to end – you can continually customize your SUP to be exactly how you want it. Whether you crave speed, stability, looks or multifunctionality, there are endless possibilities for modifications.

By thoughtfully enhancing both form and function, you can craft a one-of-a-kind board that helps you paddle your way. The whole process of designing and personalizing your own SUP can be incredibly rewarding.



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