Comparing The Best Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPS)
Contrary to popular belief, inflatable stand up paddle boards are just as good as traditional hard boards. If you don’t believe us, like most countries in Europe which still purchase mainly hard boards, take it from Germany, where 98% of all SUP boards are inflatable.
We’re total converts to the inflatable SUP revolution – so much so that we’ve even dedicated entire posts to the best iSUPs – but here we’re focusing on the best of the paddle board market in general.
|PEAK Inflatable SUP||10’6"||31″||/5||Check Price|
|SereneLife Inflatable SUP||10"||30"||/5||Check Price|
|PathFinder Inflatable SUP||9’9"||30"||/5||Check Price|
|iROCKER CRUISER Inflatable SUP||10’6"||33"||/5||Check Price|
Best Soft Top
|ISLE Cruiser Soft Top SUP||10’5"||32"||/5||Check Price|
- Best Paddle Board
- Paddle Board Buyer’s Guide
Best Paddle Board
How To Choose The Best Paddle Board
The Definitive Buyer’s Guide
How To Choose A Stand Up Paddle Board?
There are a few things you should know before you go shopping for your first stand up paddle board. You will need to decide what type of board you will need, whether it should be inflatable or a hard board, what size range you should be looking at, and you will need to give some consideration to fin setup and other accessories.
Firstly, thinking about what type of SUP you want to try will have a massive impact on the number of boards available to you. Sometimes it seems like there is an endless selection of boards to choose from, but by simply deciding whether you want to do surf SUP, touring SUP, yoga SUP or anything else, you will narrow down your options as only a selection of those on the market will be the right size and shape. If you’re not sure or if you’d like to try several different types, look for an all-round board to give you versatility.
The decision of whether to choose an inflatable board or a hardshell is a personal one. As a beginner, you probably won’t notice much of a difference between the two in terms of feel on the water. As a result, much of your decision will probably come down to how easily you need to be able to transport and store your board. If you have plenty of space to store a hard board then this may not be an important factor for you, but some of the benefits of inflatable boards are that they can deflate and roll up to the size of a backpack. This means that you can throw it in the back of your car, store it at home in a cupboard, and even take it with you when you go traveling abroad.
Most boards should display their dimensions pretty clearly. The size you choose should depend on your own height and weight. As a general rule, if you’re taller or heavier you will need a longer, thicker board; if you’re shorter or lighter you will need a smaller, thinner board. You can find more details on choosing the right SUP for your height and weight here.
Finally, you should bear in mind the fin configuration of each board and the range of accessories which is included. In terms of fins, most boards will come with one central fin (although on the best inflatable paddle boards these detach for storage), but others allow you to fix two smaller fins to the bottom of the board as well, one on each side of the central fin. These help with tracking and making sharp turns, so look for these if you want quick and responsive maneuvering. Some other accessories which might be included are air pumps and backpacks (for inflatable boards), paddles, ankle leashes, fishing rod holders, and seats or back rests. Every accessory that’s included with your bundle is one more that you don’t have to pay for separately!
What Is The Best Sup Board For Beginners?
There are some fantastic beginner SUP boards on the market which come with everything you need to get set up, without costing the Earth.
Unless you specifically know that you want to specialize in a certain type of SUP, we would recommend going for an all-round board which can give you versatility while you try out the options. You’ll want a rigid, stable board which has a good surface area, but if you plan to progress quickly, don’t be afraid to go for a board with a narrower nose or tail which will cut through the surf smoothly and give you sharp turns.
You’ll be expecting value for money, so look at the lower end of the price spectrum: most are actually really good quality and come with a range of accessories which you’ll need to get started. The only thing that you might need to pay for separately is an ankle leash, but this still keeps the price pretty affordable until you’re ready to move onto an intermediate or advanced level board.
Inflatable Sups Vs Hardboards
When it comes to the way boards feel under your feet when you’re out on the water, you probably won’t notice a difference between inflatable SUPs and hard boards. In fact, the standard of manufacture has come so far that many long-time hard board users are surprised at the quality and rigidity of inflatable boards these days.
However, in order to get a level of support and rigidity from an inflatable that rivals a hard board, you will need to ensure that it’s inflated to its maximum capacity. This can be challenging on the arms – especially if you’re using a manual air pump – but it’s essential for stability.
With stiffness and support being so comparable between the two different board types, attention turns to storage and transportation as those areas are where the major differences lie.
After use, inflatable SUPs can be deflated and rolled up in a matter of minutes – often much quicker than the time it takes to lift a hard board onto the top of your roof and strap it down. Inflatable boards can be rolled up and stored in backpacks or duffel bags, so they’re more than small enough to put in your trunk, stow as air luggage, or store indoors, even if you live in a small apartment.
Hard boards, on the other hand, are much simpler to keep. They aren’t as easy to store or take on your travels, but they don’t need all the extra equipment that comes from inflatables. You don’t need to inflate or deflate it, so you can be on the water just about as soon as you’ve parked your car, and back on the journey home almost as soon as you’re back on dry land. Plus, it’s easier on the arms as there is no strenuous workout while you try to pump all the way up to 15 PSI. Still, pumping shouldn’t deter you from an iSUP, since you can buy an electrical pump which solves that problem.
In terms of performance, there is little difference between inflatable SUPs and hard boards. Both have their benefits, and both have their disadvantages. It is up to you to decide which is the most suitable design to fit in with your lifestyle, needs and wants! My personal preference has shifted towards inflatables, since easier on foot transport is critical for me.
Features To Look For
Each stand up paddle board that you look at will come with a wealth of information on why it is better than all the others. In order to help you sort the key information from the sales pitch, there are a few key things that you should look for.
By now, you should realize that whether a board is a traditional hardshell or an inflatable is a really important feature. This will impact how easy your SUP is to store and transport, but not its performance.
The size and shape of the board are important features, as well – and not just because you need the right amount of stability to support your weight. Boards with straighter sides are great for SUP racing as they help you pick up speed in a straight line; curved sides and narrow tails are designed for sharp maneuvers and tight turns; boards with narrow noses are best for SUP surf.
Regardless of which type of SUP you choose, look for a board which has plenty of D-rings to attach your gear (including an ankle leash in case you fall off), as well as bungee cord or lockable storage compartments. This will mean that you can take everything you need for a day on the water with you, without worrying that you will lose it if it gets wet.
The selection of accessories is another feature which you should look at – but don’t base your whole decision on what is included with your board. Paddles which are adjustable and buoyant are preferable to those which come as a fixed length or those which don’t float. Similarly, if you can adapt your paddle into a dual-ended kayak paddle and attach a seat to your board, this will give you more versatility. There is a very wide range of added accessories available to buy, all of which enhance an already awesome activity and make it even more fun.
Finally, one of the most crucial factors when comparing the best stand up paddle boards is price. You can pick up a board for a few hundred dollars, while at the other end of the spectrum you could end up paying thousands. You should weigh up the balance of what good value means for you, but normally beginners should start looking at the cheaper end of the market as you will find some really impressive quality.
The more you practice your stand up paddling, and the longer you spend out on the water, the more you’ll learn what works for you, what doesn’t, and what to look for next time. As your skill level and experience grows, you’ll learn which of these features should be highest on your list as you look to upgrade to your next board.
Q: Who makes the best paddle boards?
A: Some of the most popular SUP brands include the Red Paddle Co., Tower, ISLE, Bic SUP, Bluefin, iROCKER, Ancheer, ZRay, Boardworks, Pro-Lite, Imagine Surf; the list goes on. There is a wide range of SUP boards on the market, including hard shell boards and inflatable stand up paddle boards, so you should do plenty of research and read as many SUP reviews as you can – preferably from people in a similar position to you. If you can, sign up for SUP lessons and try out some different boards to find out what works for you, then read our paddle board reviews to find the most suitable SUP for your needs.
Q: What is the best SUP board for fishing?
A: If you’re interested in trying fishing SUP, you’ll need a board which can offer you stability, comfort and practicality for hours at a time. You shouldn’t need to speed up quickly or do hairpin turns, so look for an all-round board with a wide nose and a round tail to give you support. You will need to take your fishing gear, rods and tackle with you, so choose a board which has a large surface area to put your belongings, and plenty of D-rings and bungee cord to hold them in place. Some boards will even come with rod holders affixed so that you don’t have to worry about holding onto your rod all afternoon. Remember that you could be out there a while, and although it’s called stand up paddle boarding for a reason, standing on a SUP can be tiring on the legs. Look for a board which has attachments for you to add a seat or a backrest, letting you sit back and enjoy fishing in beautiful surroundings in comfort.
Q: What is the best paddle board for yoga?
A: Yoga will test your balance even on dry land, so it’s even more of a challenge on water. If you’re looking for a SUP for yoga, you’ll want a stable platform which can give you rigid support while you change positions. Narrow noses are good for picking up speed and narrow tails let you turn tightly, so look for a board with a slightly wider shape and a round tail.
Q: What size paddle board is best?
A: The real question here should be: what size paddle board is best for your height, weight, and the type of paddling which you’ll be doing? As a general rule, taller or heavier people need larger boards to support their weight, while smaller, lighter people and kids find large boards too heavy to maneuver, so are better suited to smaller boards. As a rough guide, if you weigh less than 170 lbs, you’ll want a board that’s a maximum of 11’6″ long; if you’re anywhere between 170 lbs and 220 lbs you should be looking at boards between 11’7″ and 12’6″; any heavier, and you’ll need the support from a board measuring 12’7″ or longer. However, do bear in mind whether you’ll be specializing. SUP for surf, yoga, fishing and touring require boards to be different shapes, so remember that size isn’t always as important as design.
Q: What size paddle board do I need for my weight?
A: All boards should clearly state their maximum weight capacity – in other words, the maximum user weight that it can support. If a board’s weight capacity is higher than your own weight, it should be suitable for your use. There are a few factors which you should bear in mind, though, as they may affect your SUP experience. Firstly, think about whether you will be doing SUP alone, with kids, or with the dog. You will need to add your weights together to be sure that the SUP you are choosing can support all of you put together. In addition, in order to receive a proper level of support, you need to ensure that your board has been inflated to its full PSI (if you are using an inflatable board). If you don’t inflate it properly, you will notice some buckling under your weight, and your board may not sit high enough in the water.
The Bottom Line
SUP is insanely fun. Sure, it’s a good workout, but it’s also one of the best ways to get out in the fresh air, enjoying the scenery, trying out new hobbies, and engaging with nature. You can put in as much research as you like and spend hours doing comparisons, but nothing beats heading outside and trying SUP out. We can recommend SUP brands and make suggestions based on our own experiences for you to start from, but SUP is a personal activity so the best advice we can give is for you to get out there and experience it for yourself. If you don’t get it right first time, don’t worry…falling in and getting wet is half the fun!