Which paddle board is best? Should I use an inflatable stand up paddle board or a rigid one? How do I even paddle an iSUP? What’s the best place in the world to stand up paddle board?
There are just some of the question that we’ll answer here at Stand Up Paddle Board Guide. We’ve spent hours taking a look at loads of SUP boards, gears, and other accessories to bring you the best inflatable stand up paddle board reviews available on the internet.
Ready to get started?
Stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, originated in Hawaii in the 1950’s but has recently grown into a global phenomenon. With a low barrier to entry and a plethora of available waterways and ocean front, paddle boarding remains one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Suffice it to say, stand up paddle boarding is for all ages and all skill levels!
Whether you’re new to paddle boarding or an experienced paddler, there are three things everyone needs to stand up paddle board. 1) a stand up paddle board, 3) a paddle, and 3) a leash.
Choosing a Stand Up Paddle Board
Your stand up paddle board is probably the most important piece of SUP equipment. The board is the foundation and provides you, the paddler, a stable base to paddle from. SUP boards come in all shapes and sizes and the best board for you really depends on your height and weight, and where you plan on paddling.
Longer, wider boards can prove to be more stable as they provide more buoyancy. But they tend to be less maneuverable. These types of paddle boards are best for leisurely activities: cruising a river, fishing or even some low impact SUP yoga.
Shorter, narrower boards tend to be more a bit more difficult to find your balance on. However, once you get them going you’ll be amazing at how fast you can go! Boards like these tend to be used in races or in bigger surf.
Hard/Rigid SUP vs Inflatable SUP
Once you determine what your SUP activity of choice is (surfing, touring, racing, fishing, etc.), the next thing you’ll need to determine is do you want a rigid/hard paddle board or an inflatable SUP (aka iSUP)? In general, rigid/hard paddle boards are better for the performance paddlers. We’re talking about SUP racers and SUP surfers who put their paddle board under extreme stresses. These boards are typically made from epoxy and, as their name states, are very hard and durable. Higher end boards are made from fiberglass but these paddle boards can be very expensive – we’re talking multiple thousands of dollars. These SUP boards are really for the pros
While you’ll probably never see an inflatable paddle board in a competitive SUP race, they are arguable more popular than hard paddle boards. A casual paddle boarder may really enjoy the performance of an iSUP on rivers, lakes and small surf without having to spend big bucks. Inflatable paddle boards are much easier to transport than a rigid paddle boards. iSUP’s can usually be rolled up into a small to medium sided backpack, and fit easily into the trunk of a car. The best inflatable SUP boards are usually made of heavy duty PVC making them durable and very long-lasting. Most iSUP packages come with a paddle and a pump which, with a few quick pumps, can easily inflate your board. In a matter of minutes, you’re ready to paddle around and see the sights.
The debate between hard SUPs and inflatable stand up paddle boards will rage on but, in our opinion, you can’t make a bad choice. Just get out there and start paddling! Below are our top rated SUPs – both rigid and inflatable.
Three Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards
Tower Paddle Board Adventurer 2
|The Tower Adventurer 2 is one of the best iSUPs available. Measuring 10' 6" long by 6" thick, it provides a very stable platform and tracks just as good as a hard board would. With a 2-year manufactures guarantee, this board is perfect for both new paddlers and experts alike.|
Aqua Marina iSUP
|Aqua Marina offers some of the most cost effective inflatable stand up paddle boards on the market. The 10' 10" Vapor iSUP is very durable and performs great on the water without breaking the bank. You can't go wrong with this iSUP!|
SeaEagle Longboard 126 iSUP (w/ Electric Pump!)
|The Sea Eagle Longboard 126 could be considered the crème de la crème of inflatable stand up paddle boards. This versatile 12' 6" inflatable paddle board board comes with a back pack, slide in rear fin and, best of all, an electric pump!|
Three Best Rigid SUPs
Isle Classic Soft Top SUP
|Our top pick for best rigid stand up paddle board, the Isle Classic Soft Top SUP. This paddle board sports a soft top deck which can be customized - you can select blue and white or a wood finish. As an added bonus, this SUP is available in two sizes|
9' 6" and 10' 6" so you can tailor it to your needs. Isle really knocked it out of the park with this paddle board!
BIC Sport DURA-TEC SUP
|BIC (yes, the BIC that makes pens!) has a strong presence in the stand up paddle board industry. Their DURA-TECH SUP offers great performance with superior ruggedness and durability. This paddle board is available in multiple colors and lengths ranging 8' 4" to 11' 4". This SUP will suit paddlers of all skill levels.|
Journey Epoxy SUP
|The Journey Epoxy SUP is a great all-around paddle board for the entire family. Paddlers of all ages will find it very easy to balance and paddle. The 10' 6" paddle board provides a very stable foundation and multiple, stainless steel D-rings help you secure your gear. A great board for the price!|
SUP Board Dimensions
The sizing of your paddle board is key to enjoying how it rides. Dimensions play a big role and impact buoyancy. How much you weigh, how tall you are and how experienced at paddle boarding you are just a few of the physical attributes that impact the overall performance of your board. A heavier paddler may want a board with more buoyancy to help increase floatability and stability. However, more buoyancy may impact board performance I.e. maneuverability and acceleration. On the other hand, a stronger paddle might be able to overcome these limitations.
If you’re a beginner and don’t know where to start, the following infographic should help:
Picking the Right SUP Paddle
So you’ve done your research and purchased your paddle board. You’re ready to go right? Wrong. You still need a paddle and just like SUP boards, paddles come in all shapes, sizes and materials. The sheer number of paddles available on the market is immense, but fear not, Stand Up Paddle Board is hear to help!
There are essentially three categories of paddle board paddles:
- Aluminum: Cheapest by far but what you gain in costs savings you lose in weight. These paddles tend to be much heavier than the rest. The best for entry level paddlers.
- Fiberglass or Fiberglass/Carbon Blend: A bit pricer than aluminum SUP paddles but they perform a whole lot better. They weigh considerably less results in less energy input per stroke. If you’re looking for increased paddling distance or even paddle boarding in larger surf, look no further than a fiberglass paddle!
- Carbon Fiber: These paddle board paddles are truly the crème de la crème. They are super lightweight and durable they should only be considered for true professional stand up paddle boarders. Full carbon fiber paddles can cost hundreds of dollars so you need to be really committed before you buy one of these.
You’ll also need to determine if you want a fixed length paddle or adjustable. Fixed length paddles provide extra rigidity and can improve performance. On the other hand, the length of adjustable paddle board paddles can be changed to suit the paddler. Typically the length of adjustable paddles can be modified from approximately 5′ to 7′. However, because of their adjustability, they tend to have a little more flex which can impact performance. If you expect to have more than one person using the paddle, you might want to choose an adjustable.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of the best stand up paddle board paddles available:
- Alloy SUP – 3 Piece, Aluminum, Adjustable SUP Paddle
- ULTRALITE Adjustable Fiberglass SUP Paddle
- BPS Adjustable Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle
Do I Need a Leash when I SUP?
Yes! You need a leash. Your SUP leash is probably the cheapest part of your equipment but arguably the most important. When you ultimately fall off your board (and believe me, you will) your leash will keep your board tethered to you. Without it, your board could quickly drift out of your grasp leaving you stranded in the ocean/river/lake you were paddling in.
Coiled vs Straight SUP Leash
When it comes to SUP leashes, there are two factors to consider: the length of the leash and coiled or straight. A good rule of thumb for determining the length of your paddle board leash is to buy one that is a foot longer than the board itself. This will vary paddler to paddler as some like it longer or shorter than other, but if you don’t know where to start, with board length plus one foot.
Depending on what type of paddle boarding you plan on enjoying will impact what leash you might want to buy. A coiled leash has the luxury of staying on or close to the paddle board thereby reducing the amount of drag through the water. It doesn’t seem like much, but pulling a leash through the water for a few hours can reduce your overall stamina and limit your time out on the water. However, coiled leashes tend to get easily tangled in larger, rougher surf. These conditions call for a straight paddle board leash which affords the paddler the ability to walk up and down the board, shifting his/her weight as they navigate through the surf.
All leashes will attach via a velcro cuff to your leg. The paddler has the option to choose where on their leg they want to attach it. Some paddlers prefer an ankle attachment while other prefer higher up on the calf. This is really a personal preference and neither has any significant advantages over the other.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are the three best paddle board leashes available:
There you have it. All you need is a board, a paddle and a leash and you can start paddle boarding today! Now that you know the basics, use the links below to check out some of our other posts on best paddle boarding gear and accessories.
Need more help?
Check out this awesome beginner video provided by the great team over at Stand Up Paddling TV.