playing skateboard

Hand Boarding vs. Skateboarding: Key Differences Explained

At first glance, handboarding (or stand-up paddle boarding) and skateboarding may seem quite similar. Both involve riding atop a deck on wheels or in the water.

However, the two board sports actually have many distinct differences when it comes to equipment, techniques, skills, culture, and more.

Understanding the unique features of each surface board sport can help enthusiasts pick the activity best suited for them. This guide will examine the key differences between handboarding and skateboarding in great detail.

Equipment Differences

The boards and gear used for each sport create foundational differences between stand-up paddle boarding and skateboarding.

Board Composition

  • Hand boards are typically made of epoxy, fiberglass, wood or carbon fiber to be buoyant. Skateboard decks are constructed using layered Canadian maple wood.
  • SUP boards are much larger – usually over 9 feet long and 30 inches wide to provide stability. Skateboards average 32 inches long and 8 inches wide for maneuverability.
  • Hand boards are thicker with rounded rails to cut through water. Skateboard decks are slim with sharp edges for tricks.
  • The grip surface is coarser on SUPs for barefoot traction. Skateboards have finer grip tape for board feel.

Wheels vs. Fins

  • Skateboard wheels are urethane with steel bearings for smooth rolling. SUPs use nylon/plastic fins for directional stability in the water.
  • Larger skateboard wheels maintain speed over cracks and debris. SUP fins provide tracking and are removable.
  • Skateboard trucks hold the wheels and allow steering by leaning. Some SUPs have single fin boxes to adjust the fin angle.

Additional Equipment

  • Handboarders use a long paddle for propulsion through the water. Skateboarders rely solely on their feet to push off the ground.
  • SUPs require an ankle leash to attach to the rider if they fall. Skaters use specialized shoes optimized for board feel and grip.
  • Helmets and pads are strongly recommended for new skaters to reduce injury from falls. Lifejackets are vital for paddle boarding safety in deep water.

Riding Surface Differences

Skateboarding and stand-up paddle boarding by nature take place on two very different riding surfaces:

Solid Ground vs. Water

  • Skateboards perform on concrete, asphalt, wood or composite ramps and terrain.
  • SUP boards ride along the unstable, shifting surface of the water – oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.
  • Hard surfaces provide consistent rolling friction for skateboard wheels. Water environments are dynamic and create instability for balancing.

Flat vs. Variable Terrain

  • Ideal skate spots are smooth, flat areas like empty pools, skateparks, ditches, and ramps.
  • Paddle boarders ride swells, currents, wakes and maneuver through obstacles in the open water.
  • Skaters seek out inclined features like half pipes, stairs, handrails and jumps. SUP terrain is the natural water environment.

Stationary vs. Dynamic

  • Skate spots remain fixed, allowing the practice of flip tricks and runs. Waterways constantly change, requiring continual adaptation and balance.
  • Roads and structures do not move – water flows, swells, and crashes continuously, challenging paddle boarders.

Skill Differences

The skills needed to effectively ride each board sport vary in key ways:


  • SUP paddling relies heavily on dynamic balance using core muscles to stay upright in instability.
  • Skaters focus more on low, centered stance plus weight distribution between the trucks.
  • Handboarders work on balance through paddling motion. Skaters build balance by riding different surfaces.


  • Using a paddle to stroke the water propels an SUP forward and steers.
  • Skateboarders kick push using their back foot against the ground to generate speed.
  • Paddling works the upper and lower body. Skating uses legs and core to push off the ground.

Turns and Carving

  • SUP carves use torso rotation and weight distribution to steer the board.
  • Skaters pivot their feet and lean to turn the board and trucks.
  • SUPs have a wide turn radius for smooth carving. Skateboards can turn sharply.


  • To stop, paddle boarders drag the paddle in the water as a brake.
  • Skaters use a foot to slow the board by friction dragging or executing a power slide.
  • SUPs require forward planning for gradual stops. Skaters can stop spontaneously.

hand board and their accessories

Learning Progression

New riders progress through unique phases of learning each board sport:

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

  • Basics – popping up, kneeling, proper stance
  • Balance exercises to get comfortable standing
  • Forward paddling for propulsion
  • Turns and steering for navigation
  • Surfing small waves
  • Downwind open ocean courses


  • Pushing off and riding on flat surfaces
  • Kick turns and pivots for changing direction
  • Transitioning on mini ramps and inclines
  • Ollies, jumps and air time
  • Balance tricks – shuvits, manuals, wheelies
  • Flip tricks and grabs like kickflips, heelflips
  • Grinds and slides on ledges, rails

Style and Culture

Though growing in popularity, handboarding and skateboarding foster different cultural identities:


  • Skating originated as an edgy, rebellious youth subculture.
  • Paddleboarding appeals more to adults and wider age ranges drawn to tranquility.


  • Street skating fashion is urban – caps, baggy jeans, sneakers.
  • SUP style is active or beachy – boardshorts, bikinis, rashguards, and shades.


  • Skaters value being fearless, aggressive and pushing limits.
  • Paddleboarding encourages relaxation, environmental appreciation and safety.
  • Skating involves daring physical risk of injuries. SUPs require cautious awareness since falls mean hitting the water.


  • Skaters form crews bonded like family who travel and skate together.
  • SUP groups are recreational clubs, classes and meetups centered on water fitness.

Physical Differences

The sports challenge riders physically in contrasting ways:

Fitness Aspect

  • SUP paddling provides a full-body cardio workout to build endurance.
  • Skateboarding is more about power, intensity and explosive movements.

Muscles Used

  • Handboarding engages the core, back, shoulders, arms and legs.
  • Skating primarily uses leg strength and stability with some core engagement.

Injury Risk

  • The consequences of falling off a SUP are low since you land in the water.
  • Falling while skating can result in scrapes, bruises, broken bones or sprains.

Impact Intensity

  • Paddle boarding is a lower-impact activity, easier on joints.
  • Repeated landings from skate tricks jolt the body with intensity.


Hand boarding and skating happen in very different settings:

Natural vs. Urban

  • SUP boards explore rivers, lakes, oceans and natural waterways.
  • Skaters ride in cities amidst buildings, streets, parks and concrete infrastructure.

Public Perception

  • Paddle boarding is allowed and welcomed almost everywhere.
  • Security often prohibits skating on private property for liability and noise reasons.

Proximity to Water

  • SUPs require access to bodies of water for participation.
  • Skaters can ride anywhere with a smooth hard surface, no water needed.
  • Skateparks must be built manually; paddle boarding uses natural terrain.

a black hand board and a purple one

Learning Techniques

Each sport has unique techniques for successfully riding:

SUP Techniques

  • Stance – feet perpendicular, shoulder-width apart
  • Forward paddling – alternating reach and pull
  • Steering – paddle strokes aimed at one side
  • Stopping – dragging paddle blade in water
  • Turning – sweeping paddle as rudder

Skateboarding Techniques

  • Stance – feet parallel, knees bent, centered
  • Pushing – kick off ground with the back foot
  • Turning – shifting weight to pivot the trucks
  • Stopping – powerslide with heels or toe drag
  • Ollies – pop tail, slide front foot up

Gear Maintenance

Keeping equipment well-maintained is key in both sports:

Caring for an SUP

  • Rinse with fresh water after use
  • Check for any hull cracks or holes
  • Store out of sun and heat to avoid board warp
  • Wax deck to prevent fading and increase glide

Caring for a Skateboard

  • Clean bearings to reduce grit and rust
  • Replace worn-down grip tape
  • Check for cracked or warped decks
  • Tighten/adjust loose trucks or wheels

Safety Considerations

Safety gear and awareness are important to prevent serious injury:

SUP Safety

  • Personal flotation device/life jacket
  • Ankle leash to secure board
  • Helmet if paddling rapids or waves
  • Avoid overhead power lines
  • Don’t paddle alone initially

Skateboard Safety

  • Helmet to protect your head
  • Knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards
  • Only ride within your ability level
  • Avoid water, stick to dry surfaces
  • Look out for debris, rocks, sticks

Pros and Cons

Each board sport has unique advantages:

Pros of SUP

  • Full body workout
  • Experience nature and scenic views
  • The low learning curve for beginners
  • Peaceful, meditative activity
  • This can be done solo or in groups

Pros of Skating

  • Develops balance and coordination
  • Creative personal expression
  • The thrill of landing tricks
  • Tight-knit skate community
  • Accessible urban activity

Cons of SUP

  • Need proximity to waterways
  • Falling in water can be unpleasant
  • Large boards are heavy and awkward to carry
  • Higher cost of equipment

Cons of Skating

  • Higher risk of minor injuries
  • Limited by urban terrain
  • Negative stigma remains in some areas
  • Requires protective gear
  • Tricks have a steep learning curve

hand board


While handboarding and skateboarding may appear similar at first glance, they are quite distinct sports. From differences in gear and surfaces to skills and culture, each board sport is unique.

Understanding these key differences allows enthusiasts to pursue the activity best suited to their goals, desired experience and interests.

Both can provide an exciting ride – just of a very different form requiring specialized equipment and learned techniques.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Posts

make a tech deck ramp

How to Make a Fingerboard Ramp? Easy Guide

Ever since I discovered fingerboarding, the scaled-down cousin of skateboarding, I’ve been hooked. There’s something truly mesmerizing about executing intricate tricks with just my fingers

Related Posts

make a tech deck ramp

How to Make a Fingerboard Ramp? Easy Guide

Ever since I discovered fingerboarding, the scaled-down cousin of skateboarding, I’ve been hooked. There’s something truly mesmerizing about executing intricate tricks with just my fingers