You may have noticed a sharp drop in attendance at your local gym this season. Even though there are plenty of treadmills, elliptical machines, and bikes ready for use, they seem to always be empty. Perhaps even the city parks and walking trails seem surprisingly empty. As the balmy, summer temperatures set in, more and more fitness enthusiasts have decided to enhance their workout routine by forgoing the gym and adding a new outdoor element. People who may not normally be in the water have decided to take the plunge into stand-up paddle boarding. Strict routine and typical fitness expectations all continue to disappear and evolve, as the adventurous and challenging sport of SUP boarding continues to increase in popularity. As a solo fitness goal and as an opportunity for a loosely collaborative experience, using a stand-up board increases strength, agility, and balance by incorporating a body of water. It also gives nature-lovers a unique opportunity to appreciate the outdoor elements by incorporating low-impact water sports into their routine. Here, we will introduce different paddle board options, and provide a comprehensive overview of how to find the best stand up paddle board to use this year.
Different Types of Stand Up Paddle Boards
Racing and Touring Boards
Normally on the larger side, racing boards are built for speed on flat water. Usually reserved for experienced SUPers, racing boards are probably the least popular amongst the average enthusiast due to their lack of versatility. Touring boards are similar to racing boards but they have a wider design in order to offer stability on longer adventures. Their designs emphasize efficiency and gliding, offering a smooth paddling experience which is ideal for beginners. However, they are the longest boards on the market, can be cumbersome to transport, and are on the pricier end of the spectrum.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the SUPs designed for a surfing experience. Still a bit smaller than other SUPs they resemble and oversized surfboard, and is essence offer a similar experience. They are lighter, easier to maneuver in the water, are offer a far more dynamic experience than other boards on this list. However, for those new to the sport the surf SUPs are difficult to tame. Staying upright on one of these takes an experts touch, and may be better suited for an enthusiast who has a few years of experience.
All Around/Cruiser SUPs
The name isn’t as sexy as the others, but this category is where you want to be. First and foremost, you will find a wide variety of boards, each with slight variations to meet the needs of various boarders. Most All-Around boards find themselves between 10 and 11.5 feet, have been designed to emphasize balance, and perfect for newbies, intermediates looking for a versatile SUP, as well as children and families. Some have soft tops, for those of you who want a reliable, everyday board but also want a bit of cushion for knee paddling or yoga. Others offer versatility in terms of add-ons, for those who want their board to be sporty enough to maneuver but utilitarian enough to fish from. The boards we will discuss later will all fall into this category, or at very least share several traits.
Specialty and Hybrid SUPs
Some boards have been built for very specific water bugs. There are boards designed solely for those who indulge in aquatic yoga, with soft tops, a wide frame, and flat bottoms. Others are designed solely for the fisherman, with attachable seats, mounts and rod holders, as well as added volume. Hybrids (as the name suggests) take these specialized attributes and combine them with more of a curiser-esque design in order to offer the consumer options on the water. These boards are of course great, but are not ideal for someone wishing to enter the sport.
Size can be explained fairly simply. Shorter boards (9’-10’) are great for maneuvering. Pros use them in a variety of ways. One being to catch waves, treating the SUP more like a surfboard. Longer boards (11’-13’) are great for speed. As we discussed previously, these are termed “racing” or “touring” boards, geared towards speed and covering ground, but lacking the ability to maneuver quickly. Medium sized boards are usually between 9-11 feet long, offering a bit more stability than a short board, but (if light enough) much more agility than boards which are longer. Most paddlers, novices and experts alike, prefer medium size boards because the size offers versatility, whereas long and short boards limit your experience by focusing on very specific styles.
At first glance, each SUP may look similar to the other, but they will all vary greatly from each other in terms of length, width, thickness, and durability. All of these elements are crucial contributions to successfully integrating a stand-up paddle board into your fitness or leisure routine. Knowing what to look for is crucial in choosing the right stand up paddle board for you, whether you are a beginner or an expert. As a basic comparison, stand up paddle boards are generally divided into two different types: inflatable and non-inflatable (rigid) boards.
The name says it all. Inflatables are boards filled with air. They are great for those who need to take storage or transportation into consideration. Most deflate and breakdown in to small enough parts to fit into backpack (normally included). Even when fully inflated most way a great deal less that epoxy and other rigid boards. In previous years, inflatable boards were less costly than their ridge counterparts, but the technology and materials that go into their design nowadays make quality inflatables some of the most expensive boards on the market. However, traditional thinking would suggest that an inflatable board would sacrifice a great deal of stability, but that is simply not the case. When fully inflated they are firm, stable, and offer and experience quite similar to rigid boards.
Non-inflatable (Rigid) SUP Boards
Rigid boards are created from a variety of materials. Your Epoxy molds are going to be your most common. They are sturdy, durable, and resistant to most forms of wear and tear. They can be heavier, but advanced designed have decreased their overall weight while maximizing their use of space and volume. Foam core boards are often wrapped in fiberglass or other lightweight materials. They are incredibly buoyant and usually much lighter than epoxy or rotomolded plastics. Yet, they do not offer the same durability as the plastics, and surface damage during transport or on the water is inevitable. All rigid boards need to be stored and transported, so for those without such comforts a rigid board may be difficult to keep. Additionally, pricing varies. Some rigid boards are bargains and others can cost into the thousands. It all depends on the size, make, and specific design of the SUP.
Reviews of Top 6 Best Stand Up Paddle Boards
For those who are searching for a more dynamic, adventurous experience on the water, it can be difficult to determine what stand up paddle board is right for you. Factors like overall stability, maneuverability, durability, price, and weight capacity are all major factors in purchasing a stand-up paddle board.
Combing through the top reviewed products can assist in narrowing down your search considerably. With so many available options, it is helpful to look at commentary and reviews from other sup paddle board users. The following list is a compilation of the top-rated board reviews to help you pinpoint the best board for your needs.
ISLE 10’5 Versa ® Standup Paddle Board Package
Best Overall Paddleboard for Beginners
ISLE is making gigantic waves in the sup board community. Based from San Diego, California, ISLE has taken twenty years of working with surf and fitness professionals to create an all-around dynamite paddle board. With the volume of glowing paddle board reviews, it is not difficult to see why ISLE has claimed the number one spot.
The Versa SUP is a model that gives you many of the perks that you would find with a more expensive, professional model, but it still offers many of the comforts (including price) of a board designed for beginners. When purchasing your first board, size and weight should play a large part in your decision, because after it arrives in the mail you need to find a spot to keep it and a way to move it from place to place. Simply put, the heavier and larger it is the more difficult it will be to transport and store. Even though this is an extremely durable epoxy board, it still only ways 27 lbs., and it comes equipped a LIFT SUP handle in order to make transport that much easier. According to the company, ISLE used Thermal Molding Technology to create this board, which combines a generous size without increasing its heft. Designed with versatility in mind, its light weight and 10.5’’ length make the board easy to maneuver on the pond, which is key for beginners learning how to steer around objects or in choppier waters. Supporting up to 275 lbs., it defies its relatively thin 4.5-inch thickness. Additionally, reviews have pointed out that the Versa’s 32.5inch width offers surprising stability; which is going to be the difference between spending time on your feet, learning how to paddle, and falling into the water regretting your purchase. Equipped with a carbon paddle, removable fin, and front bungees for storage, this board had everyone in mind when it was designed.
The long, slender shape of this paddle board may resemble its close cousin, the long board, but this provides a few important benefits. Its rigid shape allows for versatility in any body of water, allowing for freedom of easy movement when traversing across bodies of water, or to come back to shore. Because it is thicker and wider, your water-bound travel is supported by a greater sense of balance. ISLE effortlessly fulfills a top-rated concern for paddle board enthusiasts: can I balance and shift my weight on the water without tipping over all the time? With ISLE, the answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”
For those with eco-friendly concerns, rest assured: ISLE manufactures each of their epoxy boards while minimalizing excess waste. This process results in a lightweight, durable board guaranteed to last through years of paddling sessions.
Pros: Durable, lightweight, versatile, firm and sturdy ride.
Cons: It is not inflatable so transportation and storage need to be accounted for before purchasing. A bit more expensive than some other models on this list.
- SPECS - 10'5" x 32" x 4.5" | 175 liters of volume to support beginner paddlers up to 245 pounds |...
- ALL-AROUND SUP DESIGN - Our most versatile paddle board is rigid and stable for riders of all skill...
- RUGGED CONSTRUCTION - New thermal molded technology eliminates waste in the construction process and...
ISLE Cruiser Soft Top Paddle Board Package
To begin, let’s address a fact that is apparent to experts and essential to the buying experience of any beginner: many of your best boards are going to proudly wear the ISLE logo. The Cruiser Soft Top is no different, and for beginners it standouts amongst its brothers. When you first get your hands on the board you notice the textured croc skin and soft top, allowing for versatility rarely found in boards made for beginners. The EVA deck pad gives the extra cushion needed for amateurs prone to falling, or for those who enjoy yoga out on the water, and the textured surface allows for the type of traction which is essential to a beginner. At 10’5 it is long enough to give extra stability but still easily maneuverable in light chop or flat water.
These specs are perfect for the beginning boarder who needs a SUP that is going to allow for various conditions but is always stable. Getting the board from place to place is going to be taken into consideration a great deal when buying your first board. The board could be considered a featherweight, with only 23.5 pounds (half the weight of traditional hard boards) to carry down to the lake. Additionally, its SUP handle and string foam core with a fiberglass wrap is easily strapped to the top of any vehicle and transported with ease. Even with its lightweight build, it keeps up with plastic and epoxy models in terms of weight limit. Maxing out at nearly 275 lbs., the Cruiser allows you to take a first mate, perhaps fury or family. This versatility makes this particular model coveted by even fisherman, looking for a board that allows them a variety of options. So, as you become more comfortable with this board, do not shy away from taking along some tackle. All in all, the Cruiser is similar in style and design to many ISLE epoxy hard boards, but its soft top and lightweight make it ideal for the newcomer looking to get his or her feet wet for the first time.
Pros: Lightweight, versatile, solid body with a soft top, great size for combining stability and maneuverability, and cost effective.
Cons: Some user reviews pointed out that the string foam core may show indentations from being strapped down during transportation.
- SPECS - 10'5" x 32" x 4.5" | 175 liters of volume to support beginner paddlers up to 235 pounds |...
- ALL-AROUND SUP DESIGN - Rigid and stable for riders of all skill levels | Perfect for activities...
- RUGGED CONSTRUCTION - Ultra-durable soft-top deck with croc skin padding for comfort and grip |...
PEAK 10’5 Escape Soft Top Aqua Stand Up Paddle Board
Best Soft Top Paddle Board
A common theme throughout these reviews is going to be size. Boards appropriate for beginners are going to offer stability without sacrificing the pilot’s ability to maneuver. To achieve this ideal union of stability and agility you are going to look for a board about ten and half feet long, like many on our list. The Peak Escape is another 10’5 board and one with a soft top, much like the ISLE Cruiser. However, this one is nearly 4 pounds lighter (23.5 pounds) without sacrificing width (32’’) or depth (4.5’’). The soft-top makes it ideal for the beginner who may fall on uneven water, or the intermediate paddler eager to attempt yoga on the lake. The EVA shell is the key to its lightweight, but unlike many of the other soft-top models which damage easily, the Escape has an ABS bottom which will prevent dingy or scratching if dropped or bumped during transportation, all while adding a bit more stability. The recommended weight limit is 250 lbs, a bit less than other models, but still plenty to work with if you are planning on adding a passenger to the board. To top it off, this board is one of the most affordable on the list. A beginner should take versatility as well as price into account before purchasing, and this board checks all the boxes.
Pros: Lightweight, durable, extremely versatile, ideal size, great price
Cons: It is not inflatable so transportation and storage need to be accounted for virtually none, before purchasing.
- [ULTIMATE ALL AROUND SOFT TOP] 10'5 x 32" x 4.5" | 175 Liters. Weighs only 23.5 lbs. Stable and...
- [LONG LASTING DURABILITY] All the features of a hard SUP wrapped in a soft EVA shell with an ABS...
- [PERFECT FOR FAMILIES] This is a Great SUP to share with your Friends and Family because it's...
BIC Sport TOUGH-TEC Cross Sup Stand Up Paddleboard
Best Stand Up Paddle Board for Large Riders
When you think of BIC you probably think of pens, razors, and various office supplies. But, the have made a name for themselves in the SUP world. The French company founded BIC Sport in 1979 and has been making everything from kayaks to windsurf boards ever since. The Bic Sport TOUGH-TEC Cross SUP is one of their most popular SUPs, and is another ideal board for the eager SUP novice. To begin, it is exactly as the name describes: sporty, tough, and a cross between a variety of designs. Its flat deck and hull with a keeled nose allow for what is termed “plaining” on the water, making balance and comfort this board’s focal point.
Coming in a variety of sizes, the 10’5 is ideal for the beginner SUPer, but the 11’ is not out of the question. Once again versatility is key. With ten attachment points across the board allows paddlers to secure everything from their yoga blocks to tackle boxes when they feel a bit more comfortable on the water. The ergo grip handle is key with this one, as it is one of our heaviest on the list. At 42 lbs., it is a bit more to carry down to shore, likely stemming from the fact that in order to allow for such a balanced and comfortable ride they had to widen the board (34”) by a few inches. On the other hand, its increase in size and weight offer a bit more volume, which in our world equals buoyancy. This board is marketed as being able to hold up to 285lbs! Far more than the other beginner’s boards on the list.
Pros: Stable, wide, advanced design, versatile, great for bringing items or another person along
Cons: A bit bigger than the other boards, much heavier, transportation and storage may be an issue
- Family-friendly/fitness/yoga/fishing/adventure ready ultra stable design ideal for new Paddlers: 10'...
- Keeled nose allows the cross to track straight + Glide effortlessly - flat deck area for full use of...
- Bic SUP's exclusive tough-tec construction delivers true board sport performance w/exceptional...
iRocker 10’6 Cruiser
Being the first inflatable board mentioned on our list, it must be quality. The iRocker 10’6 Cruiser is one of several models that the relatively new company designed with greenhorn SUPers in mind. Inflatable paddleboards have a distinct advantage in the fact that they are easier to transport and store after they have been deflated. One would think that such a board would sacrifice stability, durability, and weight capacity, but that is simply not true. When fully inflated to 15 Psi, the Cruiser’s 33” frame allows for the stability and balance of rigid boards. Where it surpasses it rigid counterparts is in its ability to hold up to 400lbs! Nearly doubling the limit of other boards on this list. Versatility was obviously kept in mind, as it comes equipped with bungees for storage purposes, and a mount for a kayak seat or shoulder strap. The crocodile grooved deck pad reduces the chances of a paddler falling, but even if he or she did, the inflatable hull is far more forgiving than its epoxy counterparts. With 4 layers of protection, dual fusion welded seams, and high-density drop stitch internal core, there is no need for concern when bumping into rocks or branches in the water. As far as inflatables go, the iRocker Cruiser is a purchase no paddler would find disappointing.
Pros: Easy to transport, durable, light weight (25lbs), incredible weight capacity, 2-year warranty
Cons: The pump included is not automatic and it may become laborious to reach 15psi. Less versatile than some rigid boards.
6. The ISLE Explorer Inflatable Paddle Board
Best Inflatable SUP
The ISLE Explorer is one of the most advanced boards on this list. Constructed with military grade PVC in a process dubbed Airtech Fusion Lite, this is as durable as an inflatable SUP gets. The 11-foot board is 32” wide and 6” thick, giving it a tough and sturdy platform as well as increased volume. The front and rear bungee system coupled with several d-rings offers versatility in terms of storage or add-ons, such as a kayak seat or shoulder strap. Armed with three rear fins, the balance and tracking of this board surpasses even many rigid boards. The brushed EVA traction is as comfortable as it is effective in keeping the paddler planted firmly on the board and offers an ideal surface for knee paddling. The Explorer’s front, rear, and center handle are not just for transport but can be used as tie down points for docking purposes. Furthermore, the high-pressure valve makes inflation and deflation easier than other models, most reviewers stating that they could meet the 12 psi maximum in under 5 minutes. Overall, one might think that because of the technology of this board that it is better suited for advanced paddlers, but its moderate size, versatility, and emphasis on comfort make it suitable for beginners as well.
Pros: Incredibly durable as far as inflatables go, easier to inflate than other inflatable models, versatile, great balance and tracking.
Cons: Like all inflatable models, it can be difficult to reach the recommended PSI. A bit more expensive than others on this list.
Aside from this list of models that have received the best stand up paddle board reviews, there are boards that continuously attract customer praise. If the above-mentioned stand up paddle boards don’t quite seem to fit your needs, here are some additional products that are worth looking into before beginning your paddle board journey.
- Asana SUP Yoga Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
While the price climbs substantially higher than previously discussed models, it is clear to see that Asana is truly dedicated to the tradition and fitness potential for stand up paddle boards. Not only is the board much longer and thicker, but extra care is taken to alleviate stress and pressure on joints, through a soft, inflatable surface.
- BIC Sport Sup AIR Inflatable Stand up Paddleboard
Yes, that’s right, the brand behind one of our most popular ballpoint pens have also created a sup board! Don’t let that steer you away: the BIC Sport Sup has been getting lots of attention for its portability and durability. With an affordable price combined with attractive, brightly colored designs, the BIC Sport Sup is a competitive force in the stand up paddle board
What To Know When Buying the Best Stand Up Paddle Board
Even with so many available options, you’ll notice that certain criteria regularly appear throughout each description, and play a large role in determining the highest-rated stand up paddle board reviews. By paying attention to this particular group of characteristics and features, you can ensure that your stand up paddle board purchase will be an educated one. Purchasing the best paddle board for your needs is an important consideration.
- Most of all, you want a board that has been constructed well and tested for stability. While on a stand-up paddle board, you will be constantly shifting your weight and using your core strength to keep the board stable. You don’t want to add unnecessary stress to your body by using an uneven, unstable board. Our board reviews all highlight superior stability. These boards are usually wider throughout the deck pad, and tend to be at least six inches thick.
- Storage and Transportation. Keep in mind that a board can potentially take up quite a bit of room. If you’re a little tight on extra space, consider choosing an inflatable stand up paddle board. This is the best way to keep transportation and storage simple.
- Weight limit. This varies between different models of paddle boards. Your weight and your height are important factors in choosing how many pounds your paddle board needs to sustain. Are you going to be sharing the board with anyone? Are you going to be using it for leisurely or for athletic purposes? Will you ever want to bring a passenger on your stand up paddle board? Without considering these questions while looking at weight limits, you might find yourself severely limited in future use.
- Deck pad construction. The deck pad is essentially the top surface of the paddle board, and it is where you will primarily be standing. Whether your SUP board is made of wood, carbon fiber, or plastic, the deck pad should always have some sort of foam or soft plastic covering. Some deck pads are smooth, while others have patterns stamped into them. The purpose of a deck pad is to offer additional traction, but its softer surface also provides extra comfort for knees and joints when out on the water. You need to be sure that the foam covering is thick enough to offer both comfort and stability. A comfortable deck pad can do wonders to prevent joint pain, and it can also ensure that you avoid falling into the water.
Take a look at this quick tutorial for some additional tips on what to look for when purchasing a board.
Whether you are purchasing a paddle board for leisurely, recreational paddling, or looking to break away from tradition and use stand up paddle boarding as an athletic endeavor, there are certainly many things to consider when purchasing a board. Looking at highly rated SUP board reviews can be a great tool in eliminating products that may not fit your needs. One of the best methods of product analysis comes from personal experience, and listening to the experiences of others can be a great guide in your sup board search.
By providing a refreshing break from the monotony of enclosed spaces indoors, stand up paddle boarding is certainly here to stay. With a little bit of research, you can find the paddle board that is best suited to your individual recreational needs.