Just as there are many different types of boats, there are just as many different types of boat hulls. They come in different sizes, different shapes, and every single one of them is a feat of design and engineering. Despite having so many different types of boat hulls to choose from, they’re only designed to do one of two things: displace water or plane on top of it.

Hulls that displace water are usually reserved for sailing boats, cargo ships, and cruise ships. They’re mainly used to pull heavier loads at slower speeds, and moving lower and slower in the water. Their hulls need to push a lot of water out of the way.

Planing hulls are built for speed. They’re most commonly found on smaller boats that don’t have tricky weight demands. These planing hulls are designed to rise out of the water as they reach higher speeds. Power boats and smaller watercraft are often equipped with planing hulls for these reasons.

Now that you know the two main styles of boat hulls available, let’s look at some of the more specific designs that you might see around the marina.

Types Of Boat Hulls

Flat bottom boatFlat bottom boat – These boats are generally less expensive to build and have a shallow draft (the part of the boat that’s under the water). They can get up on plane easily but unless the water is very calm they tend to give a rough ride because of the flat bottom pounding on each wave. They also tend to be less stable and require careful balancing of cargo and crew. Examples of flat bottom boats might be Jon boats, small utility boats, and some high-speed runabouts.

Vee bottom boat

Vee bottom boat – The vee bottom tends to have a sharper entry into the water which provides for a smoother ride in rough water. They do, however, require more power to achieve the same speed. Many runabouts use the vee-bottom design. Some have a deep v for better performance.

Round bottom boat

Round bottom boat – These move easily through the water, especially at slow speeds. They do, however, tend to roll unless they are outfitted with a deep keel or stabilizers. Many trawlers, canoes and sailboats have round bottoms.

Multi-hull boat

Multi-hull boatCatamarans, trimarans, pontoon boats, and some houseboats use a  multi-hull design. The wide stance provides greater stability. Each of the hulls may carry any of the above bottom designs.

Here’s a closer look at the two most common kinds of multi-hull boats.

Catamarans: These boats feature two separate hulls with a deck or a stretched material suspended between them. Having two hulls gives them great stability, and a lot more living and storage space compared with other vessels. Having two hulls makes them very stable on the water, reducing seasickness for the passengers. They also come equipped with two engines which makes them very easy to pilot. However, having two hulls means they have a wide footprint and require a lot of room to maneuver. They are very popular for charter use.

Trimarans: A trimaran is like a catamaran but it has three hulls instead of two! A typical trimaran has a main hull in the middle that’s flanked by two side hulls that keep the whole thing stable. These boats can be quite wide, though some have foldable arms that can make them smaller and easy to transport out of water. Most trimarans are sailboats, and they only require small engines for propulsion thanks to their smaller profile.

What About Those Funny Shapes On The Hull?

These funny shapes are strakes and chines. The strakes are the strips that stretch across a boat’s hull from the front to the back. They’re almost always found on planing boats. The reason for this is that these little strips can help lift the front of a boat out of the water, reducing drag, and increasing speed. Most modern boats with a planing hull will have them

What’s interesting is that they are also beneficial to a boat’s stability and passenger comfort. These strakes can help to soften the impacts made when a boat charges through a choppy wave. They also help deflect any spray from the water back towards the sea rather than up into the cockpit. Finally, they also act like little flat bottom hulls in places to boost stability.

The bigger folds that you see in a boat’s hull are chines.

Chines are the folds you see where a boat’s hull meets the sidewall. Kind of. Under normal circumstances, they don’t do much. However, some boat designers have exaggerated the fold to further assist a boat from lifting out of the water. Some chines are quite large, and these help a boat remain stable when at rest. The chines act like flat-bottom hulls, which can help fishing boats stay stable when an angler walks from one side to another. They can also reduce rolling motions and improve maneuverability in some cases.

Which Boat Hull Design Is Best For You?

Different hull shapes will suit different boaters. Here’s a quick rundown of which hull types work best for different pursuits.

Speed Enthusiasts

For real speed enthusiasts, there are two ways you can go. Flat-bottom boats can work very well on flat, calm water such as a lake or river. Unfortunately, flat-bottoms aren’t so great at speed if the water is a little choppy. That’s when a deep v hull design will help. Out on the ocean, a deep v is the best way to go faster without getting thrown around by rough waves.


For fishing, the best choice of boat hull will largely depend on what conditions you’re fishing in…and what you’re fishing for. An angler casting for perch will have different needs to an Ahab harpooning a whale! Freshwater fishermen can get away with a shallow hull bass boat, while deep-v or catamaran vessels will work better on the coast. Even better, some anglers might prefer a pontoon fishing boat, or even an inflatable kayak instead.

Sports Junkies

Wakeboarders and waterski enthusiasts will need a special modified-V boat shape to get the best performance for their sport of choice. There are plenty of different modified shapes to choose from, specially crafted for different sports, different waters, and different equipment needs.

Casual Boaters

For casual boaters looking for leisurely family outings, then a v-shaped hull will offer the best level of versatility and practicality. You’ll be able to enjoy a gentle put around a lake or explore your nearest coastline without having to worry whether your boat is capable enough. Then again, if you’re only after a casual boat that you only use now and again, a sturdy inflatable boat might be a better option, and more cost-efficient too.