Hey there! Looking for the best stand up paddle boards of 2020-2021?
We corralled a bunch of amateur paddlers of all skill levels, gave them two dozen inflatable SUPs, and watched as they paddled, glided, and hilariously fell off just to bring you this head-to-head review.
To make things easier, we’ve ranked our top picks according to an overall rating system. Plus, we’ve provided some must-have accessories and a very simple buying guide so you can get the perfect board, even if this is your first time shopping.
Stand up paddling is much easier and more affordable than surfing or kayaking. You’re about to have a ton of fun!
Let’s hit the waves!
First Time Sup-Buyer? Start Here!
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world.
It’s affordable, it’s great exercise, and just about anyone can do it (except a few paddlers in our clumsy testing team…).
However, we find that most new paddlers don’t even know where to start.
Your board has a HUGE effect on your experience, fun, and safety. Just ask our testing volunteers.
Some LOVED it more than anything and swore they’d never go back to surfing.
Others spent more time in the water than on the board, and we still haven’t heard back from them for our next testing phase. Ghosting is never cool!
Before we jump into the best SUPs, there are a few things you need to know.
Beginner stand up paddle boards typically come in two categories:
- All-Around Boards: These are the type of boards you can take anywhere (surprise!). Rivers, lakes, oceans—just hop on, strap in, and enjoy the ride. If you’re just looking for a day of fun, these will do just fine, You DO NOT need a super fancy board that costs $1,000. We’ve got plenty of solid deals on this list for half that or less.
- Racing or Touring boards: FEEL THE NEED FOR SPEED! These guys are designed for speed and long distances. We don’t recommend jumping head-on into racing if you’re new, but hey, it’s your money. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, be our guest.
OK, now that you know the basics, let’s get to the boards themselves.
The Best Stand Up Paddle Boards of 2020
- SereneLife Inflatable Kit: The Overall Best iSUP of 2020
- The Gili Komodo: The Best SUP on the Market
- Roc Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board: Our Top SUP/Surfing Board
- Funwater Inflatable Ultra-Light Sup: Our Top “Cheap” isup
- Runwave Extra-Long Stand up Paddle Board: Fly Through the Water
- FEATH-R-LITE Inflatable: The Cheapest Beginner Board
- DRIFT 10’8″ Inflatable Stand up: A Great Middle Ground
- FunWater Extra-Long Inflatable Board: The Best Beginner Long Board
NOTE: Dimensions are written according to the following formula: Feet long x inches wide x inches thick.
1. SereneLife Inflatable Kit: The Overall Best iSUP of 2020
Overview: This is our #1 pick for beginner children and adults due to its durability, price, maneuverability, and safety. It’s hard to fall off even if you try! No other board scored as high for balance, handling, and convenience. The rock-solid hull, extra-wide surface, and triple bottom fin for easier handling and greater stability make this the market’s top choice for rivers, lakes, and ocean paddling. And at less than 20 pounds, you can take it anywhere without breaking a sweat.
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
Dimensions: 10’6 x 32’’ x 6”
Capacity: 300 lbs.
Weight: 19.6 lbs.
Who it’s for: Beginner to intermediate paddlers of all ages
- Extra thick for added capacity
- Triple bottom fin for easy balance and steering
- Extra-wide surface for added balance (great for beginners)
Introducing: The #1 inflatable stand up paddle board for beginners of all ages and skill levels.
An extra-wide surface, extra fins for greater balance, and extra thickness for better stability and capacity—SereneLife’s inflatable SUP is one of the few iSUPs designed specifically for beginners.
We don’t recommend taking it down any Chilean Terminator Rapids, but for a fun time on flatwater rivers, lakes, or oceans, this scored the highest average of all models.
Feel free to try another board, but you won’t get the same stability, capacity, or handling.
Overall, the team agreed this was a healthy mix of most of the important buying factors. It’s not the best at any one thing, but it’s very good at pretty much everything. Including:
What We Loved
- You have to try to fall off: Seriously, the thing is airplane-hangar wide. Actually, the only issue is getting off the dang thing when you actually want to.
- Peace of mind on MOST waters: The SereneLife board can handle all calm waters easily, and even some rougher ones. Just don’t do anything extreme. And definitely stay away from rapids (especially in South America).
- A great mix of fun and safety: It’s stable and wide but still decently fast. Most boards are one or the other. That means you and your kids can have a safe time without being bored.
- All-in-one: It’s a bit more expensive, but you actually save money. If you buy a cheaper board, you’ll still have to buy a paddle and accessories, so it would be more expensive than this kit.
What We Didn’t Like
- Weight capacity didn’t feel right: It says it can hold 300 pounds, and it does have an extra thick body, but some of the taller and heavier “squad” members struggled. We don’t recommend it if you’re over 270.
- Looks a bit cheesy: Some of us liked it but others weren’t into the early 90s graffiti style.
2. The Gili Komodo: The Best SUP on the Market
Overview: The most durable, stable, and versatile SUP in its class. Gili Sport is the #1 name in the game, and their Komodo board is their #1 product. Ideal for beginner to advanced riders looking for the ultimate experience in speed, maneuverability, and versatility. The SereneLife kit is for people looking for some safe fun. The Komodo is for paddlers looking to push every boundary, both personal and physical.
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
Dimensions: 10’6 x 33’’ x 6”
Capacity: 340 lbs.
Weight: 21 lbs.
Who it’s for: Intermediate to advanced riders, but still suitable for ambitious beginners
- Super wide surface
- Super sticky EVA grip for stability at high speeds
- Side fins for max versatility in any conditions
- Extra-high capacity so you can bring a dog too!
The Gili 10’6 Komodo is the market’s most versatile board, and would easily be #1 if it weren’t for SereneLife’s beginner-friendly starter kit (plus the price…).
The side fins, extra sticky padding, and extra-wide surface make this the ultimate in speed and stability for anyone from beginners to advanced riders in search of extreme waters. You can even do yoga on it or take your dog/children out for a ride.
The team agreed that this was easily the best board in the entire batch. No other board matched the speed and versatility in different conditions. Plus, the extra space and sticky surface make it ideal for stretching or even just relaxing on the waves.
It’s not cheap, and it’s not the easiest board to handle (there’s only one bottom fin), but if you want the ultimate experience on the water, nothing is better than Gili.
What We Loved
- There’s nothing it can’t handle: Unlike most other boards, the Komodo comes with two detachable, aerodynamic side fins. So if you want to relax in calm waters and do some yoga, snap ‘em off. If you want to take on those Terminator Rapid in Chile, snap ‘em back on and strap in for a wild ride.
- This ship can’t sink: 340-pound capacity? Are you serious? We brought a dog on board and some cinder blocks just for fun. We even hit an iceberg just to see if she’d sink…just kidding.
- The ultimate in balance: The Komodo has one more inch of space than most boards plus extra-stick EVA padding that keeps you upright in rough waters.
What We Didn’t Like
- Not very beginner-friendly: The Komodo is fine for ambitious beginners, but it’s not really rookie-friendly. Our new paddlers had trouble handling her.
- Not cheap: The Komodo is 2x more expensive than most boards. It’s worth every penny, but it’s a lot of pennies.
Overall, if we had to choose, we’d say this:
If you’re a beginner just looking for some fun on calm waters, get the SereneLife all-in-one kit. It’s easy, safe, and very affordable.
If you’re a more ambitious or advanced rider who plans to tackle tougher waters regularly or a yogi in need of a wide, sticky board for stretching, Komodo is easily your best choice.
The Best of the Rest: The Top Inflatable Sups for 2020
3. Roc Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board: Our Top SUP/Surfing Board
Overview: The Roc is a super sleek, lightweight paddle board/surf board hybrid that’s perfect for surfers, beginners, and especially children. The short design ensures maximum mobility, simplified handling, and better balance than a longer board. You can turn this thing on a dime. Parents will love the speed limitations of a shorter board, and kids will love the design and smoothing handling.
Overall Rating: 4.4/5
Dimensions: 10’ x 32’’ x 6”
Capacity: 275 lbs.
Weight: 17.5 lbs.
Who it’s for: Beginners, especially kids, or anyone who prefers an SUP that can be used as a surf board (in some cases). Also suitable for fishing or yoga.
- Extra-wide, non-slip surface
- Short design for improved stability and maneuverability
- Extra light weight
The Roc inflatable SUP is great for surfers, kids, or anyone who loves a lazy day on the lake.
This short, ultra stocky board is perfect for anyone who wants a calm, stable, super-safe day on the water but is not looking to be bored half to death.
It’s a full half-foot shorter than most other boards and up to 20% lighter, so not only is it super easy for kids and teens to transport but it has built-in speed limitations to keep a parent’s mind at ease.
Instead of telling your kids to slow down 437 times in a row, the short board ensures they can’t go that fast at all. Save your voice for yelling at your partner or dog instead.
Some of the smaller members in our team LOVED how easy it was for them to turn the board. Since it’s short and wide, alls it takes is a decent side stroke to turn on a dime.
And they loved how light it was. 5 pounds or so doesn’t sound like much…that is until you’re carrying the board on your shoulder all day. It all adds up.
Of course, a shorter, lighter board does come with some limitations. Namely:
- Speed: Don’t expect to go too fast. You won’t be going in slow-mo, but you won’t be Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drifting either.
- Durability: This board definitely can’t handle the Terminator Rapids in Chile. Probably not even the rough waters in your local creek either.
- Weight limit: Roc is all over the place with their weight limit claims. The company says 275, but their literature says 300. All we know is some of our larger team members did not do well. If you’re over 240 and on the tall tide, don’t even risk it.
What We Loved
- Easy like Sunday morning: Sticky surface, easy to maneuver, extra short for easy handling—it’s like riding on a plain bagel, black coffee, and Friends reruns.
- Save your shoulders: It’s so light most of us didn’t feel pain even after carrying it all day.
- It looks awesome: Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but this board looks killer.
- Doubles as a surfboard: If you’re light and have the skills, you can use this girl as a surfboard too. It won’t be the best, but it works.
What We Didn’t Like
Our more advanced riders didn’t like the limitations (mentioned above). The biggest gripe was that it was kind of boring. That could be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re after.
4. Funwater Inflatable Ultra-Light Sup: Our Top “Cheap” isup
Overview: FunWater definitely gives you the best bang for your buck. This ultra-light, long, and wide board is plenty to get you going on the water, but at a price up to 40% cheaper than other comparable models. This is definitely the best cheap board out there. If you’re on a budget and just looking for some easy fun with the family, we recommend this one. Why pay $100+ more if you don’t need to? You won’t notice the difference on calm waters anyway.
Overall Rating: 4.0/5
Dimensions: 10’6 x 33’’ x 6”
Capacity: 330 lbs. (VERY questionable)
Weight: 17.6 lbs.
Who it’s for: Beginners, kids, or anyone on a budget just looking for a decent, cheap SUP
- Best bang for your buck
- More durable than most cheap boards
- 3 removable fins for added balance and versatility
- Dual PVC layer for added protection
The FunWater inflatable is the inflatable SUP for everyone.
At this price, anyone can afford a fun, safe, strong paddleboard for a day of fun on the water.
Most of our team members didn’t even notice the difference between this one and the higher-end models, at least on calm waters.
If you’re looking for an entry-level model to take out once in a while in the local area, this is 100% the board you’re looking for. Why spend more when you don’t have to? You won’t get to use any of the special features of the expensive boards anyway.
The price is cheap, but it has a few features you rarely get on an entry-level board:
- An extra PVC layer for added weight capacity and durability
- An extra-wide surface for added stability (yoga and pet safe)
- Triple fin action for greater versatility
- Super easy to inflate AND holds its air for days
Of course, as a light and cheap board, you’ll run into some issues. We’ll cover those below.
What We Liked
- Fast and stable for a cheap board: We were surprised at how stable she was and how fast we could go. Normally, cheap boards can’t hold steady at high speeds.
- The Price: Nothing feels better than saving money.
- Super wide: We fit a dog and even managed to get in a few yoga poses.
What We Didn’t Like
- Can’t handle wind and waves: If the conditions are rough or the waves are heavy, do not go out on this board. It’s too light and not strong enough to handle it. You’ll do a lot more swimming than paddling if you catch our drift.
- Weight capacity not accurate: No 17.5-pound board can handle 330 pounds. In fact, it can’t even handle 275 without issues. The weight capacity is a bit misleading.
- Nothing special: This is a great entry-level board for the money. That’s all. Nothing special about it.
5. Runwave Extra-Long Stand up Paddle Board: Fly Through the Water
Overview: The longest, heaviest inflatable SUP in our top picks. It’s as close to a racing board as you can get in an inflatable at this size. You’ll fly through any water conditions and cut waves like a knife. This isn’t a beginner board no matter what the company says. If you’re an experienced rider looking for the ultimate in speed, agility, and toughness, this is your pick.
Overall Rating: 4.3/5
Dimensions: 11’ x 33’’ x 6”
Capacity: 350 lbs.
Weight: 25 lbs.
Who it’s for: Experienced riders looking for a fast, durable board for all conditions
- Extra long for greater speed
- Super sticky, water-resistant surface
- Wider than normal long boards for greater stability
- Extra-tough PVC stands up to tough conditions
The Runwave Extra-Long SUP is the racing board of inflatables.
The super long, sleek design cuts through waves at 5-6 miles an hour (fast for an inflatable). And the super sticky, non-slip surface keeps you glued to the board even with water coming at you from every angle.
If you’re looking for a BEAST of a board that can handle fast-moving rivers and creeks at high speeds, this is our top choice.
The team members on this board glided a good 25-40% ahead of everyone else.
It all comes down to the length and design of the board. With lightweight but military-grade PVC, the extra length doesn’t result in extra flimsiness. It maintains all its strength, durability, and weight capacity even with the added footage at the end.
And at 11 feet long, it can cut waves way better than a 10.5-footer. It’s a game of inches out there.
This definitely isn’t a beginner board, and she’s a lot heavier than she looks. So, be prepared for a good fight. If you’re in search of an adrenaline rush, this is as close to a racing board as it gets from an affordable inflatable.
What We Liked
- Speeding-ticket fast: For an inflatable, she moves fast and nimble. You won’t be losing any races.
- Take it anywhere with confidence: You aren’t limited to calm lakes or shallow water with this one. Take it on choppy water without worrying about falling off. She can handle it.
- Extra durable: The Runwave comes with Drop Stitch tech, ensuring extra strength. Don’t worry about crashing into rocks or scraping the bottom of the river. You’ll be fine.
What We Didn’t Like
- Not beginner-friendly: It’s not easy to handle. Most of our newbie team members struggled.
- HEAVY: slugging around 25 pounds all day is NOT FUN. This will be a good workout.
- Difficult to inflate: The company claims it inflates fast, but we struggled a few times. And you have to attach the fin halfway through or else it wobbles. Not easy at all.
6. FEATH-R-LITE Inflatable: The Cheapest Beginner Board
Overview: The Feath-R-Lite is the perfect choice for any cash-strapped buyer. If you absolutely need the cheapest board that will at least stay together on the water, we recommend this one. It costs next to nothing but comes with everything you need for a decent day of safe fun. Don’t expect much, but at this price, you can’t complain.
Overall Rating: 3.6/5
Type: Beginner board
Dimensions: 10’ x 30’’ x 6”
Capacity: ~300 lbs.
Weight: 17.6 lbs.
Who it’s for: Children, or budget shoppers in the need of the cheapest board possible
- Costs next to nothing
- Thin and short for easy riding and stability (could be a positive or negative)
- Extra PVC layer of board rails for stability (not common in cheap boards)
The world’s most affordable iSUP is just enough to give you a fun, safe day on calm waters and it costs as little as humanly possible for this market.
This was the cheapest board of our entire batch, and to be honest, it really surprised us.
The extra layer of PVC rails really makes a difference. Normally, cheap boards sink, wobble, or do some combo of everything you don’t want them to do on the water.
This one actually held up really nicely, albeit in calm waters.
This board is for you if:
- You absolutely can’t spend the extra money to get a better board
- You’re buying for a child who won’t use it very often
- You need a beginner board and you only plan to use it once or twice
If you fit those criteria, you’ll love this board so long as you keep your expectations low. Like “I just want to go out and do some stand up paddling without drowning.” Then you’ll love it.
Anything else and you’ll be disappointed.
What We Liked
- Calm under pressure: The board didn’t wobble. Everyone reported a nice, calming day of paddling.
- Price: Obviously. Nothing else needs to be said.
- Extra durable: The extra layer of PVC is a nice touch. You can really feel the difference compared to the super cheap SUPs (which weren’t good enough to make our list).
What We Didn’t Like
- Super thin: It’s only 30-inches wide, so it’s not ideal for larger people, fishing, or yoga. And, you can’t fit a furry friend on the board with you either.
- Slow and plodding: This could be a good thing for beginners, but at this length and width, you can’t get much speed or tracking.
- Durable, but not that durable: Compared to other boards, this one can’t handle much. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
7. DRIFT 10’8″ Inflatable Stand up: A Great Middle Ground
Overview: Drift’s 10’8 board is a great compromise between the ultra-long 11-foot “racing” SUP and the standard 10’6. If the shorter models aren’t fast enough but you don’t feel confident enough for an 11-footer, this is an excellent board that tops out at high speeds and can handle tough waves.
Overall Rating: 4.2/5
Dimensions: 10’8 x 33’’ x 6”
Capacity: ~250 lbs.
Weight: 19 lbs.
Who it’s for: Intermediate to advanced riders wanting a lighter, shorter board than the Runwave
- Extra length for greater speed
- Long but light for easy portability
- Super strong drop-stitch for extra durability
The Drift 10’8 board gives you nearly the same speed and versatility as the Runwave at 2 inches shorter and about 6 pounds lighter.
You’ll get pretty much the same speed, handling, and strength as you would the super-long, and heavy Runwave, but you won’t have the same difficulty handling it or lugging it around.
You’ll have to sacrifice a bit of what makes the Runwave so awesome, but if you aren’t used to handling a super-long board, it’s more than worth it to improve your experience.
Darting around at 5 MPH was a breeze, and nobody severely damaged their board even after crashing into some rocks. The drop-stitch tech makes this thing nearly indestructible. Smash it all day if you want (please don’t do that, we’re kidding).
Want to know how durable it is? We had a dog out on one of them for 3 hours, and there were 0 scratch marks. That’s insane!
If you’re an intermediate to advanced rider looking for speed and easy handling, Drift’s board is definitely your choice. Heavy waves and fast waters won’t ruin your fun, and neither will falling off repeatedly when you don’t make the turn right!
There definitely are some drawbacks that make it a step down from the Runwave or Gili, though. The surface is not that sticky, so we don’t recommend going above 5.5 MPH. And it only comes with one fin, which is a huge bummer. You lose out on some versatility and handling.
As long as you don’t have any extreme plans or ambitions, this is a great board. If you want the absolute best, choose the Runwave or Gili.
What We Liked
- Greased Lightning: It’s not the Usain Bolt of iSUPs, but it still gets above 5 MPH easily.
- Adamantium build: The drop-stitch tech is dog-nail resistant and pretty much everything-else resistant too.
- Fast but stable: Even at speeds of 5 MPH, we felt safe and stable. That’s a must-have for any speedy board.
What We Didn’t Like
- Some extra fins, please?: Only one fin? Not cool. This will stop you from stabilizing in tougher waters or making sharp turns.
- The surface isn’t exactly glue: Fast boards need a glue-like surface that is water-resistant. This one did fine with the water, but we didn’t feel like our feet were glued down by any means. Kind of discomforting at top speeds.
8. FunWater Extra-Long Inflatable Board: The Best Beginner Long Board
Overview: FunWater’s 11-foot long board is a great beginner long board. It’s longer than a normal board for greater speed, but unlike the Runwave, it’s only 17.6 lbs, so it’s way easier to paddle and lug around. If you’re younger, smaller, or just generally not a fan of heavy boards, this is a perfect option. You’ll bolt around the water without tiring your arms and core.
Overall Rating: 4.1/5
Dimensions: 11’ x 33’’ x 6”
Capacity: ~300 lbs.
Weight: 17.6 lbs.
Who it’s for: Beginner, younger, or lighter riders needing a light but fast SUP
- Extra light for easy paddling
- Extra length for greater speed
- 3 removable fins for greater versatility
Finally, a long board that doesn’t feel like a killer arm workout.
You’ll get all the speed, traction, and versatility of a longer board without the muscle fatigue or steering issues.
If you want a high-speed board that can handle some killer waters but don’t have the strength to push a 25-pound board around the water all day, this is a great alternative to the Runwave.
A few pounds doesn’t seem like much, but after 100 strokes out on the lake, you’ll feel it in your arms, core, and shoulders. Not to mention, it’s much harder to make a turn if you don’t have much experience.
You’ll sacrifice durability and strength in tough waters in exchange for a more fun and easier paddling experience. If you don’t plan to take on tough waters, this is a much better alternative.
Our team loved this one. A few even said it cut the waters like a knife but still felt like butter. At 11-feet long, it’s not surprising.
The 3 removable fins are a nice touch. If you need extra stability in tough waters, snap ‘em on. Adding the fins will balance out the board and keep the back from slipping, making it easier for you to turn and control.
What We Liked
- Super fast: 5.5 MPH? Make it 6! Let’s get crazy.
- Versatile: 3 removable fins and an extra-long design let you take on anything within reason.
- Easy on the arms: Most of our Squad said they didn’t feel muscle fatigue even after paddling all day. They couldn’t say the same thing about the 25-pound board.
What We Didn’t Like
- It’s a bit light in the waist: Some of our more advanced riders didn’t like giving away the extra strength in return for comfort.
The capacity is misleading: They claim the max weight is 330 lbs, but that can’t be true. It’s too light. If you’re on the heavy side, get a heavier board.
Buying an inflatable SUP is a lot harder than you think, and the web is full of misinformation.
There’s nothing worse than finding out you have the wrong board after you hit the water.
If you’re looking for the best beginner’s board out there, take the safe pick with the SereneLife kit.
If you’re more advanced and want the best iSUP available, go with Gili.
If neither is good enough for you, then feel free to get whichever one on our list floats your board.
Top Inflatable Sup Accessories: Make Life Easier and More Fun
The only thing better than an iSUP, your dog, and the open water is all of that plus these awesome accessories.
Pretty much everyone in our test group said these add-ons made paddling easier, safer, and more fun, especially if you’re touring or doing yoga.
These are our top picks from the team:
Keeping your phone with you on the water isn’t just about social media addiction.
There are a ton of awesome apps that allow you to track calories burned, map your route, or snap photos while paddling, so you’ll need something to keep your phone dry.
Since paddling is a bit water-intensive, you’ll need something that’s extra waterproof. If you don’t want your phone to short circuit out on the water, get the Joto. It’s really cheap, big enough for most phones, and acts as an invisible force field around your phone.
We gave one to everyone on the team. They all loved them.
Want to paddle at night? You’ll need a light.
The Kayalu SUP light is far and away the best SUP light for the money. It illuminates the entire surrounding area so you’ll never lose your paddle party, and you won’t smash into unforeseen flotsam and jetsam.
It’s even waterproof down to 1,000 feet.
Koozies are a lifesaver on long trips. Instead of stopping, reaching down into your bag for your water bottle (or “other” beverage), fighting with everything you packed, THEN getting a drink, you’ll have it at hand so you’ll never waste time or energy…or miss a sip!
The best thing about the Sup Buddy is that it keeps your drink hot or cold, and is super sticky, so it sticks to any board without falling off.
A PFD could be mandatory, so you might as well save money and live in comfort the whole day. If you don’t, you’ll be miserable on the water.
Stohlquist is one of the biggest names in the game, and its Fit Life Jacket is one of the world’s most popular paddling PFDs.
It fits just about any adult, so there’s no need to measure yourself. And it’s insanely comfortable. The last thing you want is the Coast Guard ticketing you and ruining your day of fun. We’ve seen it before.
Easily the best replacement fin that we tested. This thing is nearly unbreakable.
If you buy an iSUP with only a single fin, it’s a good idea to have a few spares in case you want to take on rougher waters.
We find that a lot of beginners like to start out slow, but once they get some experience, they’re ready to take on the tougher waters almost immediately. It’ll be helpful to have an extra fin for flexibility.
In that case, you’ll want a tough fin that works for both beginners and surfers. This is one of the top choices in the world at the moment, and it’s our favorite.
Inflatable Sup Buying Guide - How to Get the Right Board on the First Try
If there’s one thing we learned from testing a few dozen SUPs with a group of mostly beginners, it’s this:
BUYING AN INFLATABLE SUP IS NOT EASY.
There’s a lot that goes into it. And getting the wrong one will completely change your user experience.
Think about it this way:
Say you’re a complete beginner and you want to go have some fun on the lake with your friends. So, you buy a cool looking SUP for like $500 and take it out on the water.
Except it’s 11 feet long and 33 inches wide, and it doesn’t have a super sticky surface.
So you can’t turn it.
You can’t handle it.
You can’t speed up or slow down.
Actually, you can’t EVEN STAND UP on a STAND UP PADDLE BOARD.
Instead of a day of stand up paddling, you have a day of swimming in the lake fighting to get back on your board while everyone laughs at your expense.
Didn’t think so.
So please, read our buying guide. It’ll make sure you get the right one for your skill level. It matters!
First, let’s start with the most important factor: YOU.
Step 1: Evaluate Yourself as a Rider
What do you want to do with this board?
Are you just trying to have some fun on the lake for a day or do you plan to use it heavily on rough waters?
Some boards are good for yoga (more on this in a bit) while others are better for touring or racing.
If you want to go out all day, you may need a board that can handle a lot of gear.
If you’re just going for quick leisure trips, you might only need a thinner, cheaper board that provides a more stable, relaxing ride.
What’s Your Skill Level?
It sounds obvious, but if you’re a beginner PLEASE get a beginner board.
You’ll regret it if you don’t. Beginner boards are normally shorter and wider (but not always). Beginners usually find it easier to control a smaller board and to balance on a wider one.
Most of the models on our list are beginner-friendly, but be sure before purchasing.
Reread what I wrote above: You don’t want a day of paddling to become a day of swimming.
The more experience you have, the more you can start looking at longer, tougher boards.
What Size Are You?
Larger, stronger people need boards with a wider surface and higher weight capacity. They can also handle heavier boards (21+ pounds).
If you’re on the smaller side, we highly recommend a board that weighs LESS than 21 pounds.
Paddling a board 100 times a day is HELL on your body. That’s why paddling is such great exercise. Heavier boards are harder to turn and even harder to push all day.
Go with something lighter.
Key Purchasing Factors for SUPs
Here are all the factors you need to consider in no particular order.
If you’re too heavy for your board, you’ll sink too low in the water.
This will make it nearly impossible to gain traction or speed and drastically reduce your turning ability and balance. We recommend underestimating a board’s weight capacity (rather than overestimating your own weight).
Make sure to leave plenty of headroom. If you’re 250 pounds, go for a board that has a 330-pound capacity just to be safe. The board might say 275 pounds max capacity, but if you’re pushing too close, you’re going to feel it.
Of course, if you weigh 160 pounds, pretty much any board can handle you.
Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)
This is an often-overlooked factor that actually matters A LOT.
PSI is the measure of how much pressure you can put on an inflatable board. This improves both strength and tracking (basically, moving in a straight line).
Smaller boards in the 12-15 PSI range track fine in normal conditions, but if you’re going to take on rougher waters you’ll want something closer to 25 PSI.
As a beginner, this might not matter that much. Just go with something that’s about 15 PSI. If you’re more advanced and plan to go on fast rivers or creeks, look at 20+ PSI boards for improved resistance to waves and easier handling.
SUP Board Length
Inflatable SUPs can reach 17 feet long or sometimes even more!
But for the sake of this review, we’ll define a “long board” as anything 13 feet or longer.
As a rule of thumb, the longer and narrower the board, the faster it can go and the easier it is to maintain speed.
Short boards (10 feet or less)
Perfect for kids, absolute beginners with balance issues, or surfers. If you want your board to double as a surfboard, stick with something in the 9-10 foot range depending on your size. If you’re a smaller rider, an 8.5-foot board is fine.
Medium boards (10-12 feet)
Medium boards are usually all-around boards that are best for touring, relaxing, or yoga-ing.
They’re long enough to get enough speed but not so long that they’re tough to handle.
If you’re a more experienced rider, go for a board in the 11-12-foot range.
Also, boards of this length are better for touring all day since there’s extra room to store gear or bring a pet. If you want to tour around, be sure to get a board with plenty of “D-rings” for storing gear.
Long boards (12 feet and up)
Long boards are ideal for racing and long-distance paddling because they track straighter and go faster.
Plus, a longer board is a lot easier to keep in motion than a shorter one. Once you get going, it’s a lot easier on your arms and core to keep the SUP at the same speed.
Width is a key factor in determining your paddling experience. A wider board is almost always easier to stabilize, but you’ll sacrifice speed.
Plus, if the board is too wide for you, you’ll have difficulty turning. Here are our general recommendations:
- 30-inch boards: Narrower boards are fine for kids (32-33-inch boards might be too wide for them to handle). They’re also fine if you have experience on a SUP because they’re harder to balance but can go faster.
- 32-inch+ boards: We highly recommend this range for beginners since it’s the right mix of speed and balance. The wider surface gives you more room to plant your feet and a greater margin for error. But it’s not so wide that it completely slows you down.
Here are a few other things to take into consideration on board width:
- Do you want to do yoga?: If so, you’ll need a wider board. 30 inches isn’t enough room to stretch out.
- How tall/wide are you?: A shorter person will have an easier time finding their center of gravity on a narrower board. If you’re on the taller side, definitely go for a 32-inch+ board. A few of our taller team members couldn’t even stand for more than 5 minutes on a 30-incher.
- Are you a skilled rider?: I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. If you have experience standing on an SUP, a narrower board won’t be a challenge. If this is your first time, you might have difficulty staying balanced in motion on a narrow board.
Some iSUPs come with just the board, but others provide incredible value with more accessories than you’ll know what to do with.
Personally, we don’t ever recommend buying any SUP unless it comes with a carrying bag and paddle. Every board we recommend on this list does.
But why not try to get even more? Here are a few extra goodies to look out for:
- Fins: A single fin is fine for tracking in calm waters, but 3 fins are ideal for tracking in calm water AND improved control in rougher waters. Look for SUPs with 1 fin plus 2 detachable ones for maximum versatility. TIP: A single tall fin on the bottom is ideal for speed but won’t provide much stability or tracking.
- D-rings: D-rings secure your equipment to the board. If you plan to tour around all day with yours, you might as well buy a kit that includes a bunch of these. You will need them. If you don’t, then you’ll be on the hook for buying at least 3 or 4 of them.
- Leashes: your dog’s leash won’t save you in fast water. But a human leash will! Most SUPs come with a leash that attaches you to the board. If it doesn’t, consider buying a separate one. Again, you will need it. It could be a lifesaver.
- Clothes: We highly recommend wearing a wetsuit if you’re going into cold waters. In normal conditions, a normal swimsuit that dries quickly is fine.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Depending on where you’re paddling, you may be required BY LAW to wear a PFD. A personal flotation device is more than just a life jacket. It’s designed to be more comfortable so you can wear it all day on the lake. If you’re outside of normal swimming areas, then a PFD could be mandatory.
Q: Are inflatable SUPs any good?
A: Yes, inflatable SUPs are great. They’re much cheaper, easier to handle, and easier to store and transport than hard paddle boards. Plus, you can carry them in a bag instead of on top of a car.
Q: How long do inflatable SUPs last?
A: Inflatable SUPs normally last anywhere from 5-10 years, but it depends heavily on the model and how often you use it. Obviously, the most you use it, the more likely it is to wear down. Higher-end models last close to 10 years no matter how often you use them. Consider well-known names like Drift or Gili for maximum durability.
Q: Should I leave my inflatable SUP inflated?
A: No, you should not leave your inflatable SUP inflated. However, you CAN leave it inflated if you store it away from the elements in a cool place. The best thing is to deflate your SUP and stick it into the carrying bag. If you don’t have time, just keep it in your basement.
Q: Do inflatable SUPs puncture easily?
A: NO, inflatable SUPs do NOT puncture easily, at least not the good ones. Most inflatable SUPs are made with ultra-hard PVC and drop-stitch tech that is puncture-resistant. A cheap SUP might puncture on the sea bottom or against some rocks, but quality models can handle anything without breaking.
Q: Are inflatable paddle boards good for beginners?
A: Yes, inflatable paddle boards are good for beginners. They are cheaper, lighter, and way easier to handle, so you won’t have to invest a lot of money upfront and you’ll have a better time. In fact, inflatables are the best way to learn. If you want a hard board, practice on your cheap inflatable a few times, then upgrade when you’re ready.
Q: What is the best size SUP for a beginner?
A: The best SUP size for a beginner is anything between 10-11 feet long and roughly 32-inches wide. The wider the board, the more stability, which is what beginners need. Anything thinner and you may have difficulty staying upright. Anything longer and you’ll have too much difficulty steering or you may go so fast you fall off.
Q: Should I get an inflatable SUP or solid?
A: You should get an inflatable SUP if you’re a beginner, if you’re on a budget, or if you don’t have any way to transport a solid board. You should get a solid board if you need it for heavy use, racing, or if you’re an advanced rider looking to take on extremely difficult waters that an inflatable can’t handle. Be prepared to spend a lot of money though. Solid boards are not cheap.
You may also like
Ping Pong Doubles Rules
Just because an idiom like “the more, the merrier” exists, doesn’t mean that we should constantly get our entire tribe involved in every single activity.Read more
Ping Pong vs Table Tennis – Is There Difference?
A decade ago this article wouldn’t have been possible.Read more
How to Host a Ping Pong Tournament
The last thing you want is the runner-up complaining afterward how they only lost because the winner played with a better paddle or that the ping pong table wasn’t up to their elevated standards.Read more