Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flatwater SUP speed test: the fastest unlimited Stand Up Boards

Last week Evan Leong and I had a chance to test Mark Raaphorst's S-16 Standamaran prototype that he was shipping to New York for a race with a stopover on Oahu.  I have been wanting to organize a speed test for SUP race boards for a while, so this was a good opportunity to comparison test unlimited boards in flatwater conditions.  Please check the spreadsheet for detailed results and watch the video for more information on the test.  Next up will be speed tests for 14' race boards and 12'6" race boards.  For manufacturers, please contact me if you have a board you would want to have included in future tests.

The S-16 standamaran came in a big wooden crate.
It looks like something Batman would paddle if he was into SUP, although his would probably be all black.

Flatwater speed comparison test of these 6 unlimited SUP race boards:

Listed in order from fastest to slowest in test results:

18' x 25" Ohana
17'6" x 25 1/8" Dennis Pang
16' x 28.5" Standamaran SIC S-16
17'4" x 26 1/2" SIC Bullet
18' x 26"   Bark
17' x 26 3/4" Naish Glide

distance .21 miles, 
Est. wind speed= 5 to 15 knots

test pilots:
Jared Vargas
Anders Jonsson
Robert Stehlik

For the spreadsheet with test results, click on this link:
Please watch the video with voiceover for more information on the test

Related posts:
Is lighter really faster? Weight comparison test
Unlimited race board comparison- planing vs. displacement hulls
See the discussion of this test on the Standupzone

I realize more runs are needed to get meaningful data.  We will also try to include more data, like board weight, price (I like the idea of speed per $), board photos from different perspectives (outline, rockerline) in future tests.  We originally planned to do two rounds of testing but ran out of steam after doing 12 sprints, so it will help to have more paddlers next time.

Run 1 times were with the wind and Run 2 times are going back upwind, so that's why Run 2 times are slower.

Regarding which boards we are used to, these boards are usually used/ owned by:
Jared: Ohana
Anders: Bark
Robert: Pang

Here are some of my thoughts:
I expected the standamaran to do well upwind with the smooth entry but in the test it did not compare well in the upwind legs.  Why?  I'm not sure but my theory is that the wakes coming from both tips and intersecting at the center of the board create a wave that adds drag at higher speeds and limits the top speed.  Going into the wind the small chops might exaggerate  this effect.  I'm not sure though, just a theory.
At normal speeds (not sprinting)  the standamaran seems to have very low friction and it takes very little to maintain a speed of around 5 mph.

All the boards have pros and cons and which board will be fastest depends on the paddler and the conditions.   So why were some boards faster than others?  There are so many variables and to try narrow it down to just the width is just not realistic even if the numbers seem to indicate that.  I have tested two 12'6 prototypes with identical length and width with the main difference being the rocker and entry and the board with more rocker was actually faster and had a cleaner entry.   Regarding length, I know that most 14' boards are significantly faster than most 12'6 boards and that most unlimited boards are faster than 14' boards but at some point (over 16' it seems to me) adding more length does not always translate into more speed.
Shaping a fast race board is more art than science, I think.
Paddler weight is important too, as the same board will have a different entry and exit depending on the weight of the rider, so the rocker line and volume have to match the rider weight

I also want to stress that this was a flatwater test that only compares speed in very limited conditions.  In open ocean races many other factors come in, including stability and I just want to point out that the 17' Naish board, which came in slowest in our test has a great track record with many wins in downwind races.

Aloha, Robert Stehlik


  1. Great work Robert! You're providing a great service to the community and filling a void by performing these rigorous head to head tests.

  2. cool test robert!

  3. I'm tempted to call that Standamaran a 'Standup Paddle Boat'...


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