Stand up paddle boarding has become an extremely popular water sport, and for good reason, not only is it a super fun thing to do during the summer with friends, family, or solo but it’s also a very accessible outdoor activity that literally anyone can learn to do, or at least have fun trying.
With popularity comes choice and there are so many different brands, and types of paddle boards for sale.
This buyer’s guide consists of two key parts:
PART 1 | BEST STAND UP PADDLEBOARDS – this is a list of the top paddle boards and brands with solid and inflatable paddle board reviews. You may plan to use your SUP on the ocean, lakes, rivers, or all three.
Yes, some perform better on different types of water. You may also plan to enjoy the watersport activity with friends or solo.
If paddleboarding solo then you’ll be better suited to getting an inflatable SUP board for its portability benefits.
Yes, there are many different types of SUPs to choose from but don’t worry, this section will make it quick and easy to find the right SUP for you.
PART 2 | THE BUYER’S GUIDE + HOW TO CHOOSE – this is a complete guide to stand up paddle boarding, including topics like how to do it properly, how to choose the right size, whether to go inflatable or solid (fiberglass/foam), what to wear while doing it, how to find local places to paddle board, advice on rentals, where to buy SUPs (new or used).
The Best Stand Up Paddle Boards
ISLE Pioneer | BEST OVERALL
- Length: 10’6″ | Width: 35″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 24lbs | Capacity: 285lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $645 on Amazon | ISLE
- Includes: 8′ safety leash / touring center fin / travel bag / hand pump / adjustable paddle
ISLE is one of the top stand-up paddleboard brands available with affordable boards, and the ‘Pioneer’ is their best seller for good reason.
The ‘ISLE Pioneer SUP’ is also our pick for the best inflatable paddle board due to its impressive feature-set and capabilities in different water conditions. We also think it looks the most classy!
This paddleboard is also a great choice for beginners because of its large 35 inches wide deck pad which gives it excellent stability on the water, important for anyone who thinks they may need a little help with their balance.
Some additional key features include a very large brushed traction pad in the center of the board which allows you to do more activities including yoga, bungee cords on the front and rear for securing your belongings, carry handles in the center, nose, and tail, and two velcro straps to hold your paddle while not in motion.
The board also has enough volume to also support a dog, child, or an additional rider. No matter your experience level, or intended use (lake, river, ocean), you really can’t go wrong with this stand up paddle board.
iROCKER Cruiser | BEST PACKAGE FOR BEGINNERS
- Length: 10’6″ | Width: 33″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 25lbs | Capacity: 400lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $600 on irockersup.com | Amazon
- Includes: 10′ safety leash / touring center fin / travel bag with wheels / Dual chamber hand pump / adjustable carbon paddle / repair kit
The iRocker Cruiser SUP over-delivered in a few key areas during our tests. We were not expecting such a high-quality package, with so many great accessories.
The board is very well balanced out on the water because of its wide 33-inch deck and large volume – this makes it great for beginners.
The maximum weight capacity is an impressive 400lbs which means it can be used as a tandem SUP with a partner or friend too, provided your combined weight is somewhere in that region.
It’s also a stable board for paddleboarding with a dog or your child. This board is available in 7 different colors and you can opt to buy the iRocker electric pump to make the whole process of inflating and deflating the board faster and more importantly, effortless.
The iRocker Cruiser is a very high-quality triple-layer iSUP, and for everything you get in the package, combined with such a reasonable price point of $600 from irockersup.com, you really can’t go wrong with this one.
REVIEWED: To learn more, read my in-depth iRocker Cruiser 10’6″ review.
1 new from $599.99
BOTE Breeze Aero | LIGHTWEIGHT ENTRY LEVEL WINNER
- Length: 10’8″ | Width: 33″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 20lbs | Capacity: 250lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $594 at boteboards.com | Amazon
- Includes: touring center fin / travel bag / manual pump / adjustable paddle / repair kit
The BOTE Breeze Aero is a very popular SUP for Bote Boards due to its attractive price point, lightweight build, durability, and good all-around features for beginners new to paddleboarding.
If you’re not planning on a mission around some headlands or anything like that then this is a great choice for your first SUP.
It’s for the beginner to intermediate paddleboarder who wants to get into paddleboarding and would like a nice attractive board to be able to enjoy it with. The Breeze Aero from BOTE, ticks the boxes for most beginners.
REVIEWED: To learn more, read my in-depth BOTE Breeze Aero review.
3 new from $594.00
out of stock
ROC Alliance HD | BEST BUDGET FOR BEGINNERS
- Length: 10′ | Width: 32″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 18lbs | Capacity: 350lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $399 on Amazon
- Includes: Collapsable Aluminium paddle / dual action pump / detachable fin / safety coil leash / waterproof accessory bag / travel backpack
One of the top inflatable SUPs for beginners, and not surprisingly, the best-selling SUP on Amazon, is the ROC Alliance HD inflatable SUP. The Alliance HD is a truly remarkable paddleboard for the price that offers something for everyone – it also happens to be the lightest paddleboard on our list.
We particularly like how the board can take a large weight capacity for the size of the board itself; this means that the ROC Inflatable SUP is a great board choice for larger riders who may consider themselves heavier than average.
Additional weight capacity also means you can bring extra gear, a friend, or a dog on the ocean, river or lake with you.
The dual-action pump nearly cuts inflation time in half so you can spend more time enjoying the water – plus you’ll be surprised how much easier you’ll get your paddle board inflated compared to your friends with a single pump – they may have bigger muscles by the end of it though! 😉
SereneLife Inflatable SUP | ‘ON A BUDGET’ (UNDER $400)
- Length: 10’6″ | Width: 32″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 19.6lbs | Capacity: 275lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $369 on Amazon
- Includes: 3 bottom fins / foldable paddle / manual pump / safety leash / storage bag (not a backpack)
The SereneLife Inflatable SUP is the best cheap paddle board that you can buy right now.
It’s a great choice if you want to try paddle boarding but not sure whether or not you’ll do it often enough to justify paying extra for a more sturdy one with better balance and higher quality accessories.
This Serene Life paddle board comes with all the accessories required to get out on the water and start enjoying your first paddle boarding experience.
Due to the paddle board’s 6 inch thickness, you can ride this tandem with a friend, provided you both have good balance and don’t have a combined weight of over 275lbs.
This board package has over 8500 reviews on Amazon and a nearly 5-star average rating, so this is definitely the ‘people’s choice’ budget paddle board too.
2 new from $325.37
7 used from $205.47
Pau Hana Malibu Classic | SOLID SUP WINNER
- Length: 10’6″ | Width: 34″ | Thickness: 4″
- Weight: 31lbs | Capacity: 249lbs
- Type: Solid Paddle Board
- Cost: $949 at REI
- Includes: Adjustable Aluminium paddle
The best solid paddleboard for those looking for a feature-packed, and high-quality epoxy construction is the Pau Hana Malibu Classic.
As you’ll have learned from our SUP Buyer’s Guide (How To Choose) section below, hard paddle boards have certain advantages over inflatable paddle boards (they also have some disadvantages of course).
One such advantage is how easily they glide through the water compared to an inflatable SUP as they much less ‘drag’.
The Pau Hana Malibu Classic is a planing board (rounded nose that lifts up out of the water), meaning it has great maneuverability in the water and when coupled with the fact that this is a short solid paddle board, it’s super playful/agile too.
You can even surf with this beauty. Its short 10’6″ length also makes it one of the more easily stored and transported solid paddle boards on our list.
Pau Hana is a California-based designer and manufacturer of some of the World’s finest stand up paddle boards.
Bluefin SUP Cruise | TOP WITH KAYAK SEAT
- Length: 10’8″ | Width: 33″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 24.9lbs | Capacity: 309lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $549 on Amazon | $486.50 at bluefinsupboards.com
- Includes: Kayak seat, stability fin, dual action pump, storage backpack, floating 2-in-1 paddle, safety leash
The Bluefin Cruise SUP package comes with everything you could possibly want for your paddle board adventures, including a kayak conversion kit – yes, a paddle board seat, and an additional paddle head (for kayak paddle mod) comes included in the package.
The kayak seat works surprisingly well and gives you the option of kayaking if the water is super choppy, or you’d simply prefer to enjoy a water sport where balance isn’t quite as important.
The 10’8″ Bluefin SUP is their most popular size, with a hull that’s shaped in a way that gives it excellent all-round use & provides a nice blending of balance with speed.
This board can also take two mid-weight people with a dog, as you can see in our detailed Bluefin SUP review.
If you are over 6 feet tall, and heavier than 190lbs then you should consider going for one of Bluefin SUP’s longer boards like the 12′ for example. And if you want to paddle in pairs, or get the kids and a dog on board, then the 15′ Tandem is definitely the board for you.
Other great features include a fixed action cam mount at the nose, bungee cord cargo storage, a kick pad at the read for quick turns, a padded deck for comfort, a dual-action pump, and three carry handles.
REVIEWED: To learn more, read my in-depth Bluefin SUP Cruise Review.
ISLE Explorer | GREAT FOR DOGS
- Length: 11’6″ | Width: 32″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 24lbs | Capacity: 300lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $795 on Amazon | ISLE
- Includes: 8′ safety leash, touring center fin, manual pump, travel bag, adjustable paddle
A good paddle board for dogs must have great stability, a large deck pad, and durability/protection from your dog’s scratchy claws. The ISLE Explorer passes in all these tests.
While it’s technically possible to SUP with a dog on many different SUPs with a reasonable weight capacity (paddle boarder and dog balance dependent), you’ll both get more enjoyment doing it on one like the ISLE Explorer Inflatable SUP.
You may think that paddle boarding with a dog on an inflatable SUP would be a bad idea for fear of your dog accidentally popping the board with his claws, and you both ending up swimming back to land.
In reality, however, high-quality inflatable paddle boards like the ISLE Explorer have an extremely durable outer construction that can take a serious beating including things like rocks and dog claws.
More reasons we have chosen the Explorer as our top pick for paddleboarding with dogs – It’s a very stable board with a good width of 32″, length of 11’6″, and a total capacity of 300lbs.
With those stats you could quite comfortably paddle with a human friend as well as your furry one. The deck is grooved and comfortable enough for paddling on your knees in case you need better balance because your dog moves around a lot (we recommend training him to sit and stay in place if you can).
The padded deck also gives your dog much better grip and stability, and will help your pup stay balanced, and more importantly on the board (and not in the water).
Discover more ways in which you can enjoy outdoor adventures with your dog here.
ISLE Versa | GREAT ON THE OCEAN
- Length: 10’5″ | Width: 32″ | Thickness: 4.5″
- Weight: 26lbs | Capacity: 215lbs
- Type: Solid SUP
- Cost: $995 on Amazon | ISLE
- Includes: Carbon hybrid 2-piece adjustable paddle, 8′ coil safety leash, nylon touring center fin
The ISLE Versa is one of the best paddleboards for the ocean due to its solid epoxy construction that gives it a responsive and well-balanced feel while navigating rough waters or surfing ocean waves.
Because it’s fairly narrow, has a planing hull, shortish length, and shallow thickness, it’s the ideal stand-up paddle board for surfing. Inflatable SUPs just don’t give you the same rigidity required to surf properly as solid SUPs do.
If you do want to surf with this board, it has a tail pad that will give you maximum grip while catching a wave, but this paddleboard has a shape that gives it true versatility meaning it works great on lakes and rivers as well.
I love that this paddle board has an extra-large brushed EVA traction pad on the deck to allow for multiple paddling and surfing positions, and that stomp tail pad is just awesome for additional maneuverability when you want to surf on it.
Other features include a bungee cord at the nose for stowing your valuables and a lift-up handle in the center for carrying the board comfortably.
DRIFT Inflatable SUP | GREAT FOR LAKES
- Length: 10’8″ | Width: 33″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 19lbs | Capacity: 250lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $459 on Amazon
- Includes: Coiled safety leash, center fin, manual pump, travel bag, adjustable paddle
The DRIFT is one of the top inflatable SUPs for lakes and beginners who want an affordable paddle board to get started with the activity.
At only 19lbs, it’s very lightweight for carrying to your destination which is important for lake paddling because more often than not you’ll have to hike to the lake if it’s a hidden alpine lake.
The 33″ width and extra wide tail will give you great balance while paddling on lakes, and although 250lbs of weight capacity isn’t the biggest on our list, it’s plenty to keep one person and a pet stable while leisurely paddling.
Worth noting too is that DRIFT sells a 8’x8′ floating island which is a fun way to enjoy time on the lake with family or friends. It’s not a paddleboard per se, but a very stable platform for doing yoga on, sunbathing, or jumping off.
ISLE Scout | GREAT FOR YOGA
- Length: 11′ | Width: 33″ | Thickness: 6″
- Weight: 21lbs | Capacity: 315lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $795 on Amazon | ISLE
- Includes: 8′ Coil Leash, nylon touring fin, manual pump, travel/storage bag, carbon hybrid adjustable paddle
The ISLE Scout inflatable SUP is the real deal for paddle board yoga and comes with all the accessories required for a day of yoga on the ocean, lake, or river and like all ISLE SUP packages, this one comes with a lightweight carbon hybrid paddle worth $165.
The Scout is a great inflatable SUP for yoga because it’s soft, wide, and has a full-length traction pad for comfortably holding poses.
This extra deck pad space and 315lbs weight capacity allow you to take a friend paddling with you without sacrificing too much on stability.
The ISLE Scout also has a convenient paddle holder on the side which is essential for paddle board yoga – there’s nothing worse than losing your paddle overboard during your asana or vinyasa sequence.
Seeing your paddle drift away from your board is also very bad for your prana, haha. There’s also ample storage with two 4-point bungee systems to hold your gear in place.
Although not a SUP per se, you may also want to consider the BOTE Dock FX Inflatable Floating Exercise Mat and swim platform which will give you ample room and stability for doing Yoga on the water but limited maneuverability.
BOTE Rackham Aero | BEST FOR FISHING
- Length: 12’4″ | Width: 38″ | Thickness: 7″
- Weight: 45lbs | Capacity: 400lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $1,299 on Amazon
- Includes: adjustable paddle, power-pole micro mounting point, hand pump, center fin, rolling travel bag, an attachable paddle sheath, sand spear sheath, and tackle rac receivers (one set).
The BOTE Rackham Aero is an awesome fishing paddle board due to all the excellent fishing accessories that you can buy for it, and it’s a reasonable price for the base package.
BOTE SUPs are known for their high-quality design and construction and the Rackham Aero is no exception – this is the true waterman’s SUP for those with fishing skill levels of intermediate to advanced.
The Rackham Aero is compatible with the most accessories of any BOTE board, including two rac systems and all the gear you could ever need.
The full-length padded deck adds traction along the entire board, giving cushion and grip for an extra passenger like a kid, or fisherman’s pet
This SUP is compatible with the Power Rac, a battery-operated command center with built-in lights that powers electronics such as fish finders and GPS units. Also worth considering is iRocker’s Blackfin Model X which is another excellent fishing paddle board.
Bluefin SUP 18′ Mammoth | IDEAL FOR GROUPS
- Length: 18′ | Width: 60″ | Thickness: 8″
- Weight: 59lbs | Capacity: 1433lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $1,599 at bluefinsups.com
- Includes: 5 detachable fins, travel backpack, dual action pump, coiled leash, waterproof phone case, fibreglass paddle
The Bluefin Mammoth Inflatable SUP is the ultimate way to enjoy stand up paddle boarding with all your friends and family on one board.
With a massive 650kg weight limit, the Mammoth can carry up to 10 people at once – yes you read that correctly haha.
Weighing in at 27kg, this SUP is quite heavy but can be carried with its included backpack. This really is a SUP experience that is unparalleled for those who enjoy group activities on the water – and it’s super stable due to the incredible volume it provides.
This board is an absolute beast so be prepared to get your friends to help with pumping it up! It’ll be worth it when you get on the water though, I promise.
Body Glove 15′ Tandem | IDEAL FOR COUPLES
- Length: 15′ | Width: 34″ | Thickness: 5.4″
- Weight: 34lbs
- Type: Inflatable SUP
- Cost: $1,499 at bodyglove.com
- Includes: Two three-piece adjustable paddles, Additional kayak paddle pieces, High-pressure pump, coil leash, Cell phone dry bag, Repair kit, carry bag
The 15′ Tandem Body Glove inflatable paddle board package is lightweight for its size and versatile.
It has multiple paddling configurations, including double kayak seat conversion capability, making this Body Glove paddle board great for all kinds of water adventures with a friend or partner.
The multifunctional design of the Tandem 15′ allows for more than four paddling configurations; from standing to sitting so you’ll both get a lot of enjoyment in the different ways in which you can use this stand up paddle board.
1 new from $1,150.00
Pau Hana Endurance XL | GREAT FOR TOURING
- Length: 12′ | Width: 30″ | Thickness: 6.5″
- Weight: 31.5lbs | Capacity: 415lbs
- Type: Solid Paddle Board
- Cost: $1649 at REI
- Includes: board only
The Endurance XL epoxy stand up paddle board is a thing of beauty and cuts through the water effortlessly due to its narrow width and displacement hull.
It has a thickness of 6.5″ which increases its total volume giving it extra stability while touring on the ocean. The board has 35 strategically placed SeaMount™ anchor points which allow you to tie down plenty of gear while touring.
The deck provides a soft sleeping platform and can accommodate a bivy sack when pulled on to the land during the night. The hull is well protected with fiberglass armor to help protect the hull when bumping into rocks or logs.
This is an excellent touring board for anyone looking to elevate their off-grid paddle board touring adventures.
Remember to buy a lightweight paddle as this high-end long-distance paddle board doesn’t come with any additional accessories.
BONUS Inflatable Lounge Rafts!
SO COOL: Did you know BOTE also has an inflatable range called the Hangout Suite? Whether you’re doing a lazy river with friends, or just chilling at the pool with some drinks, you need to have some of these inflatable seat rafts in your life.
Stand Up Paddle Board Buyer’s Guide
For more detailed outdoor gear buying guides like this one, visit our buyer’s guides section. Topics covered in this section include:
- What is paddleboarding?
- How to stand up paddle board
- How to choose a paddle board
- What to wear paddle boarding
- Additional gear worth considering
- Where to paddle board near you
- How to rent a paddle board, or buy used
What is paddle boarding?
Standup paddleboarding is one of those outdoor activities that is accessible to anyone because of how little gear you need, and how simple it is to learn and enjoy.
What’s also great is that there’s plenty of room for development within the sport, as you can take it easy paddling on the water, or get super serious and become a touring aficionado.
You can also paddle board with your dog, do yoga on the deck pad, or even upgrade your SUP board to make it a full-blown fishing vessel.
With that being said, there are many ways to use a paddleboard, and this is all dependent on you and your desires, plus what types of water you live near or intend to use it on.
This buying guide will help you choose the right board for you and how you plan to use it.
How to stand up paddle board
I’m going to keep this section super short because I’m in the process of writing a complete guide on how to paddle board which will answer so many more questions than I can in this buying guide.
Essentially though, paddle boarding is not hard at all, and anyone with a bit of balance can learn to do it and enjoy the watersport.
Your standing form, stance and posture, location on deck, and paddling technique are the key things to think about when getting started.
You can practice balancing on dry land, too, by standing on a yoga mat or your paddleboard on a flat surface.
Oh and no sudden movements of you may find yourself having an unexpected refreshing swim.
Having the right board, and paddle, and a good PFD (personal floatation device) will also be important if you plan to paddle in deep water or in areas with fast-flowing tides.
How to choose a paddleboard
I wanted to write this guide to choosing a paddle board, because to be fair, it can be really confusing knowing which one to buy. It can be very tempting to go for the one that looks the most attractive but there are 5 key features that are important to consider when choosing which SUP to buy.
The 5 key features to consider, which I’ll explain in a moment will totally change how the board reacts in certain bodies of water, and they’ll also impact how easily you will be able to store and transport your board to and from a lake, river or ocean.
1. Solid SUPs VS. Inflatable SUPs – Which is better?
INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS – are built with a PVC exterior which is held together from top to bottom with a drop stitch construction, which for those that don’t know is a process that joins two pieces of polyester woven support fabric with thousands of fine polyester threads.
This stops the SUP from ballooning out when inflated to very high pressures.
Most inflatable packages come with a pump (all the ones our list certainly do anyway) for inflating the board, a paddle, and a storage bag for when it’s not in use.
The great packages come with a storage bag that doubles as a backpack which allows you to carry your deflated SUP board more conveniently – you can’t always park right next to the water’s edge.
A high-quality inflatable SUP will generally inflate to 12–15 pounds per square inch and will feel very rigid when fully inflated.
Reasons to choose an inflatable SUP:
- You don’t have much storage space at home – If you live in a small house or apartment, you probably don’t have room for a solid board. When I got my first SUP, I knew it was going to be over 10 feet tall, but wow it still gave me a shock seeing it in our house – a SUP is one huge imposing thing to have to store. Inflatable SUPs are pretty compact when deflated and packed into their carry bag (which is essentially a large backpack), and can easily be stowed in small spaces, like a cupboard or the trunk of your car.
- You plan to travel with it: If you’re taking a road trip or flying somewhere, you can take your inflatable SUP and do some paddling when you reach your destination. Packed away in its storage bag, an inflatable can be checked on an airplane or stowed in the luggage area on a train, bus or car. Inflatable SUPs are really good for traveling because they pack down so well, and can be carried in the backpack that comes with the package. Remember to check that the bag that comes with the package does in fact have backpack straps, the cheaper SUP packages don’t always have them.
- You plan to hike a remote to a lake or river: If you want to paddle in a remote, pristine alpine lake, carrying a solid board is just not practical. An inflatable one in its backpack is still heavy, and a little unwieldy but it’s the only practical way to do it.
- You plan to do Yoga, or paddle with a dog: Inflatable SUPs are good for yoga because they tend to be a bit softer on the deck than solid alternatives, making them more comfortable for yoga poses. The thicker nature of inflatable SUPs keeps the deck from getting wet and slippy also.
- You plan to take your SUP on white water rivers: Like an inflatable kayak, an inflatable stand-up paddle board handles bumping up against rocks and logs better than a solid one. You can get one with a kayak seat attachment too, which is perfect for white water kayaking with your iSUP.
SOLID PADDLE BOARDS – or ‘hard paddle boards’ tend to have a foam core that’s wrapped with fiberglass and epoxy.
Epoxy/fiberglass paddle boards are a surprisingly lightweight, durable and affordable way to build a SUP. You can also get carbon fiber ones, which are lighter and more rigid, but they are much more expensive.
Plastic SUPs are more affordable, but can be very heavy. Some of the most popular SUP brands like Pau Hana incorporate lightweight wood for a beautiful traditional appearance in some of their higher-end solid options.
Reasons to choose a solid SUP:
- You want a performance SUP: Solid boards move faster, more smoothly and with less drag in the water than inflatable SUPs. If you plan to paddle fast and long distances then a solid SUP with a displacement hull is for you.
- You want more stability: A hard board is marginally more rigid than inflatables, which can feel more stable on choppy water or while surfing on your SUP. Solid ones also tend to sit lower in the water as they are less thick, this can also make them feel more stable.
- You have space to store it and you have the means to transport it on your vehicle: Solid SUP’s can’t be deflated and stored in a bag like inflatable ones. If you have room in your garage (or wall space to hang it), plan to SUP very often, and own a vehicle that can transport it, then a solid SUP is a great choice.
- For a more custom fit: Because there are more options of board lengths, widths, and shapes, when choosing a solid SUP you’re more likely to find one that fits you perfectly and maneuvers the way you want.
2. What size SUP do I need? (length / width / thickness)
LENGTH OF BOARD – As a general rule for how a board handles due to its length; longer stand-up paddleboards are faster than shorter ones, but shorter options are more playful and maneuverable.
The below guide will give you an idea of which length to go for:
- Short (under 10 feet long) are good for surfing and/or kids, and they will generally have a planing hull to help with maneuverability and surfing waves. Kids SUPs are usually around 8 feet in length.
- Medium (10’ to 12 feet long) are by far the most popular because due to their balance of good weight capacity and not being too large to store or transport. Most medium-length boards have a planing hull to keep them playful and maneuverable.
- Long (12 feet 6 inches and above) are great for speed and long-distance touring and will tend to have displacement hulls to help them cut through the water in a straight line, while making paddling more efficient. These boards are for those wanting to do endurance / touring, or paddling fast. A longer one will increase the volume and total weight capacity, which will make the board feel more stable and allow you to carry more on the board with you, that includes people, pets, and fishing gear. Read more about volume and weight capacity below. NOTE: longer boards can be trickier to carry and may need a second person to help. If you’re going for a long solid option, remember to plan how you’re going to transport and store it.
WIDTH OF BOARD – The wider the board, the more stable it will be but there are caveats. Wide SUPs can be slower and if it’s too wide for you, can be awkward to paddle.
You’ll see SUPs in our list ranging in widths from 30 inches up to 60 inches for the group paddleboards but a typical width is around 32 inches.
The type of paddling you do, your build, and your ability level are things to bear in mind when choosing what width to go for.
If you’re going on a long standup paddleboard tour and need things like a cooler with food and drink, and maybe even a tent, go for a wider deck with extra storage space.
The same holds for those wanting to do yoga on their SUP. Narrower options will allow you to paddle faster, be more maneuverable, and surf on them.
All this information can be a little overwhelming, I know! So, bear with me but if at any point you’d just like to see our top paddleboard recommendations, jump back up to the top of this buyer’s guide.
Ok, let’s continue! You’ll also want to consider your body type when choosing width. If you’re a small person, go with a narrower board and if you’re a big person, go with a wider one.
Good balance will be easier to accomplish for those with larger builds when riding on a wider board. Conversely, if a smaller person rides a board that is too wide for them, they’ll have a very awkward paddling style, reaching past the edge.
And finally, if you’re a beginner, a wider board will offer more stability while you learn to master the art of paddleboarding.
BOARD THICKNESS – The third factor in determining what size paddle board you need is its thickness. The thicker the board, the higher the volume, weight capacity, and buoyancy it can provide.
An example of why you may want to consider board thickness on a displacement hull is that if you want a skinny paddleboard with a displacement hull for gliding through the water fast, and in a straight line but you’re a small, lightweight rider, then go for a thinner option to ensure the hull is contacting enough of the water to efficiently displace it.
3. Volume & Weight Capacity
Volume and weight capacity are two factors that affect how stable you will feel and how well a board will travel through the water. Volume and weight capacity are determined by length, width, and thickness.
The total volume of a board gives an indication of the its ability to float with weight on it. The higher the volume, the more weight it can support.
To keep things simple, in this buyer’s guide, we give you the direct value of the weight capacity, to make it easy to determine the total weight (including yourself) that the board can carry on the water.
If you’re too heavy for your board it will ride low in the water, making it inefficient to ride, and not a very enjoyable paddling experience for you.
Most planing-hull boards are very forgiving, so as long as you’re below the weight capacity, the SUP should perform well for you, however, with displacement hull SUPs, volume and weight capacity are more significant, and it’s important to get the right one for your weight, to ensure it paddles the way it was designed to.
4. What hull type should I go for?
The hull, or body shape, of a paddleboard, determines how well it performs in the water, and hence the type of paddling it works well for.
You’ll find that most paddle boards will have either a ‘planing hull’ or a ‘displacement hull’.
PLANING HULLS – are rounded and wide, similar to that of a surfboard, and are designed to ride on top of the water and be very maneuverable.
The nose of the board generally sits above the water which allows for quick turns and a playful ride. Planing hulls are good for leisure paddling, surfing, SUP yoga, and whitewater situations. Planing hulls are the most popular choice for their all-round ability.
DISPLACEMENT HULLS – have a pointed nose like a kayak or canoe. The hull cuts through the water, displacing it around the nose to the sides of the SUP to improve efficiency and create a direct, fast, and smooth ride.
Displacement hulls allow you to paddle longer distances at faster speeds, more easily than a planing hull would. The caveat of displacement hulls, however, is that they are less maneuverable than planing hulls.
5. SUP fins
Fins on the bottom of a sup SUP will add tracking (directionality) and stability, and in general, larger fins will track straighter and provide more stability than smaller fins but smaller fins provide better maneuverability.
Most fins are removable, so you can swap them out and take them off for easier storage.
What to wear while paddleboarding
One of the great things about paddleboarding is that you really don’t need to wear much at all! Paddleboarding tends to be a warm-weather summer activity so you can do it in just your regular swimwear.
Be sure to wear good sunscreen if you plan to be out on the water for a long time as the sun can be more intense out there due to the UV rays reflecting off the surface of the water back onto you.
If you are hardcore and plan to do it in cold weather, consider buying a good wetsuit to protect you from the cold if you end up in the water.
If you are paddleboarding in cooler weather and you don’t plan on going in the water at all then there are some great paddle board clothing options at REI.
PFD (personal floatation device) / Life vest
A little-known fact is that the U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand-up paddleboards as vessels (when used outside the narrow limits of swimming or surfing areas), so it is actually required that you wear a personal floatation device in these situations.
REI stocks all the popular life vests brands for watersports on their site, so I recommend checking them out using the button below if you need to buy one.
NOTE: Regulations also require you to always carry a safety whistle and have a light available when paddling after sunset, as well as a paddle board life jacket.
I’d recommend that you pack a good headlamp if you plan to paddle after dark, as they can be operated hands-free and some will also have a red light on the back as well as a bright white light on the front.
Take a water-tight dry bag with you to store your headlamp, spare clothing, and other non-waterproof valuables on deck, just in case.
Depending on where you plan to paddleboard, whether on the ocean, lakes, or rivers you should consider buying some good waterproof shoes for paddle boarding.
Paddleboarding sandals will give you extra grip while standing on the board, and more importantly, protect your feet from sharp rocks as you walk your paddleboard into the water, or if you fall off in shallow water.
Quick-Dry Pack Towel
Quick-dry pack towels like these sand-repelling towels from Slowtide are awesome for activities like stand-up paddle boarding because they pack down small, dry you quickly, and then dry off themselves very quickly too, which means they don’t get stinky of heavy.
Read our ‘guide to choosing which quick-dry towel to buy’ to learn more about those little wonders.
Additional gear to consider
It’s worth noting that although many stand-up paddle board kits come with all the gear required to start paddling on the water, you may want to consider upgrading some of those accessories.
Choosing a pump
Most inflatable paddle boards for sale come with a manual pump, but be aware that not all pumps are made equal, and there are different types of pumps to consider too.
Pumping up a medium-sized SUP board doesn’t take all that long for the average person, say around 10 to 15 minutes but my goodness it takes some pretty serious muscle power.
A dual pump with two chambers will inflate your stand up paddle twice as fast as a single-chamber manual pump – it will also be easier to do when the pressure starts getting close to the maximum that the board needs to be at.
Our paddleboard pump recommendation would be the Red Paddle Co Titan.
You can also use powered pumps which will inflate your paddleboard most of the way and sometimes even to maximum pressure if you get a good one.
These electric pumps usually need to be powered by your car so you will ideally have to park close to the water you plan to paddle on, unless you’re happy carrying the inflated board to the water.
Choosing a paddle
Similar to your pump, the paddle that comes with your SUP package may not be of great build quality if you decide to buy a budget SUP.
It’s worth knowing that if you ever wanted to upgrade your paddle, you can get a new SUP paddleboard paddle made from a lighter material like a carbon composite, for example, which will make paddling much easier on your arms.
When paddling becomes more efficient you’ll have more fun on the water and will be able to paddle for longer and much further distances while touring or endurance paddling.
How to find places to paddleboard near you
Where to go paddle boarding
Paddleboarding is awesome because you can do it on lakes, rivers, and even the ocean. This makes it a super accessible activity because you don’t have to live near the ocean to do it.
That being said, how do you find the best places to paddle board near you? Well, start by looking at Google maps, type in your location, and search for bodies of water near you.
Then you can type a search term like “where to paddle board near me” into Google (or just click my link), and because Google uses your current location, it actually does a great job of finding local businesses or posts that share the beautiful and practical places to paddle in your area – give it a try!
Organized Classes and Events
If on the other hand, you are looking for expert classes and organized events, REI host some excellent ones.
Have a look at this page for a listing of all their paddle boarding classes and events across the USA, there may just be one in your area happening soon!
Rentals & Buying Used
Find a paddle board rental company near you
One of the easiest ways to find local paddle board rental companies near you is to do a quick Google search like this.
Buying a used paddleboard
There’s a great selection of Stand Up Paddle Boards at REI, and because REI partners with good shipping partners, they also have a large selection for sale that can be shipped to you, or picked up in-store.
If you’re looking for used paddle boards, REI usually has some available on their Used Gear site.
To learn more about how to buy discounted outdoor gear via REI’s Used Gear initiative read our post all about how to make the most of REI’s Used Gear sustainability initiative.
If on the other hand you’re looking to trade in your used SUP, or other used outdoor gear, consider becoming an REI member for $30 (one-off payment) so that you can trade-in your used gear for REI Gift Cards, and get 20% off new gear in REI Co-op sales.
I hope you enjoyed reading this buyer’s guide – let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.