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The Best Standup Paddleboards of 2023

May 20, 2024

If you're considering an inflatable standup paddleboard for exploring lakes, rivers, harbors, or even the ocean, check out our list of the best SUPs of the season.

Standup paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing water sports of the past decade. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with standup paddleboarding, but if you aren’t, here’s what you need to know.

Standup paddleboarding, or SUPing, is the act of standing (or sitting or kneeling) on a solid epoxy or inflatable plastic board tapered at both ends and using a paddle to move through the water. Whether you’re floating on a mellow river or lake, navigating Class 2 rapids, or exploring coastlines, a SUP offers freedom and exposure you don’t get in a boat or kayak.

Some paddlers use their boards for multiday adventures, while others race, fish, surf ocean waves, do yoga, run whitewater, hike to glacial tarns, or hang out with friends and family at the local reservoir.

Paddleboards are similar in shape to a long ocean surfboard but also have fins that are removable or fixed on the bottom, which help the board track well in the water while being steered.

Inflatables, which we focus on here, are a great option because when they’re deflated, they can more easily fit in a closet, trunk, or truck bed. You can even take them on airplanes. Inflatable designs have benefits on the water, too, like durability against rocks or other debris.

Below you’ll find our list of the best inflatable standup paddleboards of 2023. We’ve grouped them into categories to help you find the paddleboard that’s right for you. Be sure to check out the buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart at the end of this article if you need more help choosing.

Colorado-based Hala Gear is known for making high-quality, innovative SUPs, and the Hala Rado ($1,399) is one of its best-selling boards of all time. With a slightly longer length, playful tail shape, and sturdy deck (helpful for both balance and towing gear), this all-around board continues to top our list.

The Hala Rado is a 10’10” board, designed to function well in both whitewater and flatwater. It has a unique progressive rocker profile, meaning a slight upward curve from the tail to the nose of the board helps the board more easily and aggressively maneuver and surf whitewater and waves. The design also has a swallowtail shape at the tail for better performance in moving water, allowing agility and balance.

In terms of features, we love that this board has reinforced grab handles on the bow and rear. There is a center handle that’s soft and flattens and two cloth side handles, too. And while the bungee tiedown area on the nose is on the smaller side, there are plenty of other rigging points on the board — 12 soft rigging points plus two tail and nose D-rings.

The brand also pioneered a patented retractable fin system called the Stompbox. It keeps the center fin safe and in check in faster-moving, obstacle-ridden waters. If the spring-loaded fin comes into contact with the river bottom or rocks, it slides up into the board. And the full SUP package features a Grafik carbon paddle.

While the Hala Rado board is on the heavier end, that’s mainly due to the burlier construction, with a double-layer PVC drop-stitch and a PVC stringer that runs through the board. It also means this board is built with a greater weight capacity — to be rigged down with gear for multiday trips from simple campouts to longer expeditions or to carry multiple people on a lake paddle.

Thanks to the size, construction, and performance across flat and whitewater, this board ranks high and is definitely geared toward more dynamic paddlers. But it will also work great for beginners who plan to primarily paddle on rivers. If you’re looking for a shorter and lighter board, check out Hala Rado’s mini-me, the Hala Radito.

Our Florida-born editor and avid paddler confirms this home-based brand produces quality boards for flatwater, ocean, and canal paddling — and our testing proved so.

The BOTE’s Breeze Aero Classic Teak Paddleboard ($679) is no exception. It’s a middle-of-the-pack-sized board with great versatility and an economic price tag compared to most of our favorite SUP designs.

This SUP is constructed with military-grade PVC plus more than 10,000 composite stitch fibers along the interior core to enhance the board’s rigidity. A BVA foam pad lines the top of the SUP for added comfort.

With a slightly rockered nose, the board handles uneven waters well. The additional small side-bit fins are fixed to help the board track even in waters that are too shallow for the removable 10-inch center fin.

BOTE even came up with an innovative attachable shoulder sling that clips to the side of the Breeze Aero Board and adds another carry option.

All of those thoughtful design details at less than $700 make this one of the best inflatable standup paddleboards for the price.

We’ve ridden dozens of brands and styles of paddleboards over the years. Thanks to their versatility, the boards we keep going back to are from NRS. The STAR Phase models ($845-895) are durable, inflatable (they pack down to save space), and overall track great in flat and moving water. While these boards don’t stack as many bells and whistles as the Hala Rado, our number one pick, they have simple, solid features, making this budgeted design a go-to.

The STAR Phase boards come in three lengths: 10’2″, 10’6″, and 10’8″. They’re built with a simple yet durable PVC-coated drop-stitch, and have a sturdy webbed carry handle and four D-rings on the nose for securing gear.

Each board comes with a removable 9-inch fin, and thanks to the brand’s universal fin plate, you can easily swap out the fin for other NRS fin styles depending on where you’re paddling. We’ve got a whitewater fin and grass fin, and we love the flexibility of being able to adapt our board to different water depths and conditions.

With the NRS STAR Phase, you’re getting a well-built and relatively affordable board from a reputable brand. However, we do wish it had more D-rings and storage capacity on the board, maybe in the tail. Also, all three models weigh under 20 pounds, so they can be backpacked to otherwise hard-to-reach places.

The SHUBU ($1,029) has a moderately spear-headed nose and one removable fin, and we found it tracks well in the water. On a few day trips to SUP some high-altitude mountain lakes, with conditions varying from glassy to choppy waves, we noticed this design managed the range of conditions well.

This board is a great choice for water yogis and shoe-free paddlers. The deck pad is covered in a layer dubbed “Honey Fomb,” which looks like honeycomb and feels like a thick, therapeutic yoga mat. A whopping three-quarters of the board is topped with this cushion, which makes standing, sitting, kneeling, or practicing Warrior II Pose that much more comfortable.

Even our GearJunkie testers who typically wear closed-toe water shoes — and have never wanted to take them off while SUPing — loved the Honey Fomb. The texturized, squishy cushion proved to be a game changer beneath bare feet.

The SHUBU board has three carry handles in the center, at the nose, and at the tail. Four tie-down points are connected with a bungee cord, which is enough space to hold a dry bag, shoes, and a water bottle for a day trip. It was definitely one of our boards of choice for day excursions.

At 21 pounds, it’s also a good option if you’re looking for a relatively transportable SUP for hikes. The one downside was a lack of tie-down points. Otherwise, it’s a great all-around SUP, especially for yogis.

In 2022, Kokopelli — a packraft brand based in Colorado — set out to make the lightest, most packable SUP package on market. And it succeeded. The Kokopelli Chasm Lite SUP ($999) weighs under 13 lbs for the 10-foot board, and the entire package (bag, SUP, paddle, pump) weighs under 20 lbs total. It is a feat of innovation.

But not only is this small SUP light and highly packable, it’s also capable and fun. We paddled on this board in testing mostly on flat water, in a wide range of temperatures and elevations, with and without gear. We tested its max PSI and max weight limit. The board is slightly shorter (10 feet) and narrower (30-inch width) than some and only has a single fin setup.

But, everything about how this board packs down, moves, and functions on the water is stellar. It’s not a board for beginners; it’s a board for those who want to hike or portage out to more remote lakes and destinations.

What started out as a bold and lofty idea from the brand on Kickstarter has manifested into something real — really light, really packable, really well-designed, and really fun. The Kokopelli Chasm Lite is at the top of our list when it comes to the lightest weight SUPs we’ve enjoyed thus far.

For an in-depth run down, check out our full review of the Kokopelli Chasm Lite.

Even after just a few paddles, it was hard not to love this board. iROCKER’s new Ultra Series takes the definition of “lightweight” and ups the ante — this board ($849) was redesigned to be under 20 pounds.

The Ultra Series includes an All Around 10′ and 11′ lead with big design changes to the materials. The All Around Ultra Series 10′ isn’t just light but is also 50% smaller, packed down in a redesigned carry bag.

In testing, this board performed great. Because it’s shorter in length, stability may be a learning curve for some paddlers depending on personal preference. We actually liked riding a shorter board and found it easy to maneuver, even in waves.

But the brand does recommend this design for shorter (5′ 5″ and below) and lightweight paddlers.

There are D-rings and extra on-deck bungee storage for strapping down gear. A creative addition we haven’t seen before — two extra handles attached between two of the D-rings on the nose also hold the bungee cords.

Rather than three fins, the twin-fin configuration is an update that allows the board to be folded in half when deflated (often a center fin’s mount is bulky even with the fin removed), which works great. And while the All-Around board was made to be lighter, it doesn’t sacrifice durability — it’s still made with drop-stitch construction.

Then comes the carrying bag; featuring padded shoulder straps, a rolltop design, and plenty of storage made it another favorite component of this SUP. One of the biggest pros (and possibly cons) is the lack of a manual pump: Ultra instead included a 12V electric pump for faster setup. Basically, plug it into a 12V outlet or AV port (like in a car, truck, or RV), choose the correct setting for the board’s PSI, and you’re set. Ours took less than 10 minutes to inflate.

Take a look at this board if you want something super packable and light for paddling at home or traveling. Overall, this is among the lightest, most compact inflatable designs we’ve tested.

Read our full review of the iROCKER Ultra Series All-Around 10′ Paddleboard.

Our tester was hesitant to use an inflatable paddleboard for a 110-mile trip, but was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the Paul Hauna Endurance Air ($1,249). The board tracked steadily through windy chop and glassy flat water. Proving itself “expedition worthy”, while retaining the portability of an inflatable SUP.

A cargo net keeps your gear secure for the long haul, and 23 D-rings offer plenty of options to ensure you’ll get the whole rig balanced to your liking. Weight distribution (and re-distribution) is key for maximum efficiency as conditions change, and this board supported 3 days of supplies, plus our 200 lb. tester with ease.

Inflating this SUP to its recommended PSI is not a quick task. It took our seasoned tester over 15 minutes to fill this 250-liter board, but it never needed to be topped off during the 3-day testing expedition. While the Endurance Air’s weight limit is sufficient for a 3-day trip, it doesn’t have the 415 lb. capacity of its non-inflatable cousin.

Weight limit aside, this SUP does a good job of combining the portability of an inflatable board and the performance of a hard board. If you’re looking for a SUP up to the rigors of multi-day expeditions, but won’t load your rig down during your road trip, the Endurance Air offers a great compromise. There are lighter, more packable inflatable boards, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that performs as well during long days on the water.

For a more in-depth look at this inflatable touring board, check out our full review of the Paul Hana Endurance Air.

At only 18 pounds, the Badfish SUP Flyweight ($1,199) is among the lightest designs out there. A new addition to the brand’s lineup, the design is streamlined, easy to charge, easy to lift, and easy to inflate. We found the inflated board remains stable when wakes move across smooth water, and the pointed nose helps drive the SUP forward.

We didn’t think the weight would make much of a difference, but we definitely noticed that lifting up this nimble SUP and carrying it to the water’s edge was faster and easier compared to heavier models.

While hand-pumping the SUP, we also noticed the job didn’t seem to take as long — perhaps because the volume we aimed to fill was a bit lower. Deflating doesn’t take long either. The board folds up with ease and maintains a compact shape for transport.

The Velcro strap for a water bottle is an awesome idea — usually, we clip ours to a D-ring or tie-down point with a carabiner. The only hangup we have is making sure we don’t accidentally smack our foot on our water bottle (we prefer a Hydro Flask for keeping the water cold) or tripping on it when a wake suddenly ripples over, since it’s toward the center of the board.

Right away, we received compliments from passersby on the bright stripes and colors of the top. The Badfish SUP is light, fast, and fun! While the price is on the higher end, we know Badfish SUPS are extremely durable, well-constructed boards designed with top-of-the-line materials. If going light is your top priority, it’s the best standup paddleboard you can buy.

Plainly put, Red’s MSL board ($1,499) performs great in a variety of conditions. It’s beginner-friendly (and expert-friendly), and it will last for years if you treat it well.

What really sets this package apart is the innovative roller backpack design. There’s an option to fully isolate the shoulder harness from the rest of the roller backpack, leaving behind a simple system of straps that attach horizontally and vertically around the SUP. You won’t have pockets to carry extra items, and you’ll need to plan ahead for how you’ll attach everything to your board rather than leaving random items beachside (like the pump and shoulder harness). But for a streamlined paddle day, this arrangement is great.

Measuring 10′ 6″, this board has drop-stitch construction, a generous EVA-textured-grip deck pad, and the brand’s proprietary flexible, molded fins called the iFin. This means you don’t have to fiddle with installing, remembering your fins and nuts and bolts, or making repairs. Basically, you could drive your car over the SUP and the fins wouldn’t break. The duo-fin setup stays fixed to your board so there’s no setup or breakdown.

In terms of size and weight, this board is on par with others on our list. It can hold up to 220 pounds, is wide enough to provide balance and stability, and weighs in at nearly 22 pounds. It’s not the lightest, but relative to the durability it’s fairly easy to carry, portage, and travel with.

There’s a flat bungee system on the bow as well as an updated sidewall and material construction. The new bungee system works great and is being implemented on all future SUPs. The board looks and feels a bit more streamlined than its predecessors.

Overall, we’ve found it to be one of the best standup paddleboards for stability. For use on the nearby lake, mellow rivers, or the beach, it’s a great all-around board.

BOTE’s HD Aero Paddleboard ($1,149) is a modified version of the brand’s Breeze Aero, our budget pick. But the HD Aero has a redesigned deck and grab handle, updated side rails, and the brand’s HD construction. This refers to the board’s updated overall construction to increase stability while keeping the board’s weight low. The base is wide, and the shape is slightly rockered.

We took the higher-end HD Aero out for several spring paddle excursions in central and western Colorado. On our first day out on this board, we noticed two things: the rigid, reinforced stitching and construction (including the tough military-grade PVC) and the slightly heavier weight than our go-to board at home (we typically paddle a 10’6″ board, which is a whole foot shorter). Both of these qualities are huge pluses in our book.

For an 11’6″ board as stable as this one, 30 pounds is a fine weight. The three-fin system and fin placement are spot-on, and the board feels balanced and even. And the BVA foam deck pad was comfortable.

This board propelled smoothly through flat water, even with gear strapped to the bow. It’s a fun board to paddle, especially on overnight trips when you want to cover some ground (er, water).

The design also offers tons of creative storage solutions, like the paddle sheath, a slot on the nose that holds the blade of your paddle so you can free up your hands — perfect for anglers. The brand has developed plenty of functional accessories to pair with those attachment options.

If you’re looking for a longer board that puts stability and portability at a premium and costs under $1,100, this is a great option.

ISLE’s Pioneer 2.0 SUP ($795) has been a popular model for a few years running, mainly thanks to its all-around, beginner-friendly shape, great balance, and accessible price point. Why do we like it? It works for both beginners and more experienced paddlers, the price is relatively lower compared to other designs, and ISLE didn’t skimp on quality materials.

An added bonus we haven’t seen on other designs: the Pioneer has two Velcro straps along the right side of the board for attaching and carrying your paddle. Carrying the SUP and paddle all in one go leaves your other hand free for carrying a dry bag or cooler.

The Pioneer, pumped up to its recommended PSI, felt super stable in the water. It offered good maneuverability and a comfortable soft EVA deck pad — one of the best we’ve felt on an inflatable SUP. We often paddle barefoot if we’re not in sandals, so foot comfort is a priority. The Pioneer was also super balanced in flatwater (both in mild and windy conditions).

Compared to other SUPs, we liked this one most for its comfort and control on the water. Paddlers of all experience levels will have a good time on this board. If you’re looking for quality and stability and plan on paddling frequently, this board is versatile and works on flatwater or waves.

Read our full review of the ISLE Pioneer 2.0.

One of our staff members started using this board years ago for family lake outings and loves the 11’6″ length model. Minnesota-based Paddle North makes especially gorgeous, wood-grain-style inflatable boards. To match their local waters, a lot of Paddle North’s boards are geared toward river touring. They have a stiffer, rigid feel, and they excel in lake and river cruising.

Plus, the Portager ($899) has the highest weight capacity of all of our SUPs we’ve tested here — up to 350 pounds. The Portager XL even carries up to 650 pounds.

The design features a sharp, tailored nose for slicing through windier or moving waters. (Inflatable boards sit higher on the water, which can decrease tracking ability, so the hull nose increases the speed and tracking.) And the design is slightly wider to make room for gear on deck.

It’s made with 1.2mm drop-stitch PVC, and has a three-layer seam-joining system to provide as much durability as possible. The Portager is a good choice if you’re looking for something with the portability of an inflatable with the style of an epoxy surfboard and the capacity to carry heavy cargo.

The heavy-duty NRS Thrive ($1,245) — which comes in 9’10” to 11′ sizes — is a do-it-all SUP that’s stellar for multiday tours. The D-rings and handles are plentiful and versatile, making strapping down gear and transport easy. Our tester used the 10’8″ Thrive for an overnight canyon trip across mostly non-wake water.

In a unique design, two cushioned handles are angled 45 degrees from the board edges on the upper section of the EVA deck pad, which are helpful for ergonomically carrying and maneuvering the SUP — like pulling it onto a beach — and serve as extra strap-down points while paddling. One of our testers was able to strap his camera in a Pelican case to the 45-degree angled handles, which most SUPs don’t have —a nice feature for the gear you want easily accessible.

This SUP’s mid-center cushioned handle is prime for single-person carry, and another non-cushioned handle on the tail assists for two-person carries. Five D-rings on the board’s nose — one is beneath the nose (on the underside of the SUP) — and another D-ring on the tail provide multiple tie-down points.

The Thrive SUP held its air — it inflates to a stocky 20 PSI for super rigid performance — and never dipped below the surface, even when loaded with gear and two adult paddlers.

A personalized pump includes multiple adapters for other SUP valves. The fins are removable — ideal for storage and rocky bottoms — and the SUP tracks well without the need to constantly alternate lead arms.

A budget choice for beginner paddlers, GILI Sports touts “you can buy a cheaper SUP, but you can’t buy a better one!” At $545, we found this true with the AIR 11’6 Inflatable Paddle Board model.

Quality components and good on-water performance were apparent with the first paddle. The board inflates to 32 inches wide and supports nearly 300 pounds. But it still paddles fast on flat water or in moderate waves.

GILI uses a “military strength” PVC as its main material, and with a high-pressure valve the AIR inflates to a taut platform that feels like a hard board underfoot. It’s 6 inches thick and has an extra-large traction pad that we found comfortable and supportive on the lake.

The company includes everything needed for a beginner to get on the water and learn to SUP, including a paddle, pump, leash, and a nice backpack with pockets for the fins and other gear. The board folds up and stows away in the pack in minutes, making it transportable on a trail to the beach or for storing out of the way at home.

On top of extensive research, we enjoyed putting these SUPs to the test. Among our testers, Editor Mary Murphy is an avid standup paddleboarder for day trips and overnighters. Contributor Morgan Tilton also SUPs and has a self-supported first SUP descent down the 100-mile wild whitewater of the Escalante River, in Utah.

We took these SUPs on meandering river outings, through turbulent whitewater, and on calm waterways through canyons. We hiked our SUPs to high-altitude mountain lakes, paddled on wide-open reservoirs, and loaded them up for multiday trips.

For this guide, we looked at the overall construction, durability, and features of each standup paddleboard across a range of prices and applications. Our metrics for each board included quality, construction, and value. We put a huge focus on inflatable standup paddleboards and all-around models. They are a great option for all experience levels, have a variety of uses (flatwater and whitewater), and don’t require special racks or extra storage.

We tested all of the boards on this list — with and without gear bags strapped down — to get a feel for how the boards handle at different weights.

In addition, we considered the newest, highest-rated, most popular, and bestselling models on the market today.

A variety of standup paddleboard designs exist that are tailored to specific activities and user goals. Boards can also have hybrid designs that work well for a variety of applications.

These popular boards work for many types and experience levels of paddlers from whitewater to flatwater. But the designs do not excel at a specific type of paddling such as racing or whitewater.

The majority of the SUPs in our guide are all-around boards, given the designs are often suitable for beginners, families, groups, individuals, and laid-back paddling in addition to more aggressive missions. All-around SUPs can be solid or inflatable, and we focus on inflatable designs in this guide.

SUPs for whitewater are typically inflatable, which increases the durability while running against rocks, trees, or other debris. While they’re lengthier than a river surfboard, they’re generally shorter than the longest SUPs that are speed- or race-oriented on flatwater.

Touring boards are made to be stable and move fast in water for paddling over long distances. The shape, or hull, is pointier to displace the water. Touring SUPs can be solid or inflatable.

For greater stability, fishing-oriented SUPs are often wider, which makes them a tad slower than narrower boards. These boards also usually have plenty of attachment points for angler accessories. Fishing SUPs can be solid or inflatable.


The length of the SUP is longer, and the width is narrower. The longer design helps the board track straighter. The three primary race categories are 12′ 6″, 14′, and everything that’s longer than that. The shape, or hull, can be pointier to displace the water (called a displacement hull), which is good for flatwater races and long distances. Or, a planing hull sits more on top of the water, which is useful for choppy or ocean water.

If you frequent the ocean and want to surf waves, you can do so on a SUP. These designs are usually shorter in length and narrower for maneuverability.

Performance-wise, solid SUPs travel stronger through water and with more stability compared to a lighter, air-filled inflatable. A rigid board is typically made of EPS foam that’s reinforced with fiberglass and epoxy. The blend is durable and fairly light.

Another solid material option is to invest in a carbon fiber board if you want an even lighter-weight, stiffer build. Carbon fiber is pricier. Designs can also incorporate wood, which is aesthetically attractive. Those options include bamboo, which is strong, light, and less expensive than carbon fiber. Other types of wood include cedar, paulownia, and beetle-kill pine.

Generally, rigid boards have a broader range of shapes and sizes compared to inflatables. If you do go with a solid board, be sure you have the proper transportation setup, like a vehicle rack, as well as a place to store the full-length board year-round.

Inflatable SUPs usually are made of plastic with reinforcements, such as along the rail and beneath where the paddler stands. They are pumped up with air for use, similar to pumping up your bike tires before a ride. The materials of the deck pad are soft underfoot.

Inflatable designs are super popular because they’re easier to store and transport than a solid board. But they do require energy and time to inflate every single time you use the board. Typically, it takes us about 10 minutes to pump up a board — it’s a great warmup before a paddle. It can raise your heart rate and make your biceps burn depending on the PSI needs of the day!

They are also generally less performance-oriented than rigid boards in regard to speed and stability.

Inflatable SUPs are a great choice if you will be in low water depths or near rocks or sharp sticks or logs because they can absorb and handle abrasion and impact better than a solid board.

The hull is the shape of the board. There are generally two types of shapes for SUPs, which are in simple terms rounder and pointier.

This SUP design is flatter and rides toward the surface of the water. The wider, rounder nose (and tail) and overall shape are stable and easier to turn. Planing hulls are used for all-around SUPs. These shapes are generally good for whitewater, surfing (the shape is similar to a surfboard), and practicing yoga on a SUP.

A displacement hull is narrower, and the nose is pointier so the board efficiently, smoothly cuts through the water, and tracks well. The tail is often flat instead of round. Flatwater or touring and race-specific boards typically have a displacement hull. This design is a good choice for competitions, events, and speed-oriented workouts or covering long distances.

With boards, the length and width correlate to overall volume and weight capacity. Overall size influences how nimble a board is in waves or whitewater (relative to the paddler size and cargo weight) as well as the board’s stability.

If ocean surfing is your focus, go shorter. For an all-around board, choose a moderate length. If your priority is long-distance tours, opt for a long board.

Otherwise, if you weigh 140 pounds (and want the board to be extra speedy or maneuverable), you have the option of choosing a shorter length — and therefore less volume — board. If you weigh at or over 180-200 pounds — or if you want to paddle with a dog, child, or partner — consider a longer length and wider board.

Also, consider if you want to travel super lightweight such as on short day trips. Or, if you need plenty of storage for cargo, such as dry bags and a cooler.

In general, here are the guidelines of a short, moderate, and longboard:

Short length (less than 10 feet)

Medium length (10 to 12 feet)

Long length (greater than 12 feet)

Widths range from nearly 25 inches to 35 inches or more. Adding width increase the volume, which improves stability, as well as capacity for hauling gear. Narrower boards have less drag, move faster, and can more easily pivot.

Generally, we recommend a slightly larger board to new paddlers to offer more stability.

The most common size boards are 10′ 6″ or 11′. But there are plenty of lengths, shapes, and sizes beyond that range.

If you’re shopping for a family, you can save buckets by purchasing one longer, wider board instead of two (or four). For instance, two 140-pound adults can comfortably fit on an 11′ board (the fit and weight limit will vary by brand). Like kayaks, there are even tandem-specific models out there (ranging from 12 to 15 feet in length).

Inflatable SUPs generally weigh less than solid boards. All of the inflatables in our guide weigh under 31 pounds. The heavier boards include the 31-pound NRS Thrive Inflatable SUP Board and the 30-pound BOTE HD Inflatable Paddleboard. The lightest board is the 12.9-pound Kokopelli Chasm Lite, followed by the 18-pound Badfish Flyweight.

The weight capacity is how much a SUP can safely carry including paddlers, pets, catch, or cargo.

When you trim a SUP’s grams, typically the board has a lower capacity for weight overall, however, there’s not a direct correlation so pay attention to those numbers. For instance, the NRS Thrive Inflatable SUP model has a 275-pound capacity. The BOTE HD Inflatable Paddleboard weighs a tad less, has a greater overall volume, and can carry 315 pounds.

The Badfish SUP Flyweight can tote up to 230 pounds, and the iROCKER All-Around 10′ Ultra Paddleboard can carry 260 pounds. The lowest weight capacities among our choice SUPs are the NRS Thrive Inflatable SUP Board and the NRS STAR Phase Inflatable SUP Board that can each carry 180 pounds.

On the highest end of weight capacity, the Portager can carry 350 pounds. The upgraded Portager XL even carries up to 650 pounds.

The deck pad covers the top of the SUP where the paddler will sit or stand. Coverage varies per board, and some boards have wider, longer patches of pad than others. The material blend is unique to each brand but often includes plastic.

The materials offer traction and grip, and they generally feel soft and cushioned. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get burnt from friction! If you plan to paddle whitewater or uneven water, don’t be ashamed to wear knee pads, especially on a long trip.

One of our favorite deck pads is on the Boardworks SHUBU Solr. The deck pad is covered in a layer dubbed “Honey Fomb,” which looks like honeycomb and feels like a therapeutic, thick yoga mat. A whopping three-quarters of the board is topped off with this cushion, which makes standing, sitting, kneeling, or practicing Warrior II Pose that much more comfortable.

All-around or whitewater boards typically have a deck pad that covers the majority of the board’s surface and at least covers the center to the tail, given the paddler will be making more dynamic paddling strokes and moving around to shift weight on the board. For instance, the Hala Gear Hala Rado is nearly entirely covered in an EVA cushioned deck pad, which is even topped off with a 1.5-inch raised stomp pad in the back, similar to the upturned tail you see on a skateboard deck.

In comparison, the EVA deck pad on the iROCKER All-Around 10′ Ultra Paddleboard is split in the middle with two strips where the paddler is likely to stand, which helps trim down weight. The deck pad is also strategically placed on the Paddle North Portager Paddleboard, marking where a paddler can stay centered on the board.

The SUP rail is the edge around the board. The rail materials can vary and the shape can be rounder or more angled.

Rails are good to pay attention to because they can often be the first place on a board that can get dinged or begin to deteriorate through use. It’s good to know how to repair a rail and to have your repair kit on a trip.

Many SUPs are designed with a well-cushioned, ergonomic carry handle in the center of the SUP, so you can carry it under your arm. There can also be carry handles at the nose and tail. Some carry handles are more comfortable than others, and not all are cushioned.

Various tie-down points exist on SUPs. Many designs feature bungee cord nets fixed to the front or back of the board (or both).

For overnight paddle trips and whitewater trips, our favorite feature is stainless steel D-rings — they’re easy to clip or thread tie-downs into, reliable, and super sturdy.

Other rings include soft rings, which are not as quick to thread, and plastic rings, which are not as durable as stainless steel.

Certain SUP designs feature specific attachment points for brand accessories tailored to certain sports like fishing and touring. The BOTE HD Aero Paddleboard is compatible with removable rack receivers for the brand’s tackle rac or bucket rac accessories for anglers.

Fins beneath the board near the tail help a board track well (read: stay straight) in the water and help increase stability. Sizes and shapes vary. The longer the fin, the more influence it will have on tracking and stability. In contrast, shorter fins are great for shallower water like low-volume rivers, certain beaches, or areas with lots of vegetation like seagrass. Often folks refer to fin size in regard to the length of the fin or how much it protrudes into the water.

Lots of paddle brands offer removable and interchangeable fins for various types of water. Certain boards have a mix of both fixed and removable fins, like the ISLE’s Pioneer 2.0 SUP, which has two fixed side fins and a removable larger center fin.

A removable fin attaches to a board via a fin box or plate, which is where the end of the fin slides or snaps into place. Note: not all fins are compatible with all types of fix boxes.

A variety of fin configurations exist:

Single fin: One single, usually longer fin that is placed in the center

3-fin: Three fins that are equal in length and size and spaced evenly apart

2-fin: Two fins that are equal in length and size and space evenly apart

2 plus 1: One single larger fin in the center and two smaller fins on either side

If you know you want to take your board out on both flatwater and whitewater (or the ocean), invest in a brand that has a surf fin in its lineup.

Some brands also offer spare fins with a purchase.

The majority of SUPs include a paddle with purchase but not all. Generally, an inflatable SUP includes a multi-piece or three-piece paddle that breaks down and fits well in the travel bag. The length is adjustable.

A paddle has a handle at one end, connected to the shaft, and then a blade (which goes in the water) at the other end. Nicer paddles have more ergonomic handles.

Paddle shafts are usually made of aluminum, glass fiber, carbon, or Kevlar. Carbon is the most performance-oriented because it’s lightweight and strong, and the investment could be worth the long haul.

A leash is helpful if you fall off your board and don’t want it to float away, especially if it’s breezy or there happen to be wakes, or if you pushed the board away as you toppled over. A leash is also a tool used by flatwater racers, given they are moving faster. Many SUPs are made with a leash attachment point like a D-ring.

Some SUP packages include a coiled leash, which attaches to the board. The other side of the leash is padded and Velcros around the paddler’s ankle, such as the one made by BOTE ($44).

However, there is major contention nationwide regarding the safety of whether or not a leash should be used on a SUP (and on a river surfboard), especially in turbulent, quick-shifting, debris-laden water. The industry lacks universal standards regarding this piece of gear. Fatalities have occurred due to leashes getting lodged in underwater debris when a SUPer falls off in fast-moving river water.

To help increase a paddler’s ability to disconnect themselves from their setup multiple brands have designed quick-release leashes such as NRS ($64), Hala ($80), and Level Six ($50).

If you purchase a quick-release leash, be sure to practice and confidently know how to effectively and efficiently use it in the water.

And no, a leash doesn’t replace the buoyancy and safety of a PFD (personal flotation device). Be sure to follow the PFD, or life jacket, regulations where you plan to SUP.

Travel bags are usually included in the package for an inflatable SUP, and they often have a backpack design with padded shoulder straps. Nicer travel bags even have durable wheels so they can be rolled. Typically, the bags have zippered pockets, too.

The bags are a great way to keep all of the accessories in one place including the fins, hand pump, and patch kit.

The most unique travel bag design we’ve seen is the one made by Red Paddle Co., which comes with the MSL 10′ 6″ Ride SUP. Great for minimal approach hikes, the SUP offers the option to fully isolate the shoulder harness from the rest of the roller backpack, leaving behind a simple system of straps that attach horizontally and vertically around the SUP. For a streamlined paddle day, this arrangement is great.

Another top consideration to look at when purchasing a board is what comes with it.

This wasn’t always the case, but many boards are now sold with a paddle, fin, pump, and travel bag included in the package.

Buying the board and paddle together saves time, research, and often money. And at the very least, these combo packages ensure you’ll get an adjustable paddle that works with your board.

Inflatable SUPs can be deflated, rolled up, and easily stashed inside a truck bed or inside your rig.

If you plan to transport a SUP on the outside of your vehicle, be sure the board is completely locked down and secured. For instance, Thule makes a SUP roof rack and Viking Solutions make a truck bed rack.

SUPs that are sketchily or incorrectly fixed to vehicles can fly off and into the windshields of rigs behind them. Be sure your board is correctly affixed!

The SUPs featured in our gear guide range from $699 on the low end to $1,399 on the high end. Typically, SUPs cost around $1,000.

If the board you love is out of your price range, wait for a sale. You could rent or demo the board you like through your local retailer until you find the one you like.

Some outfitters will even sell off their demo fleet boards after a couple of seasons. These are all great options for setting yourself up for success. Wait, plan, invest.

In terms of quality, especially with an inflatable SUP, it will be well worth it in the long run.

There are a few common practices you should know once you invest in an inflatable SUP.

Never leave your board sitting out in the sun. This can degrade the strength of the material over time, delaminating the board. Not to mention, UV rays could cause the surface and colors of your board to fade.

Always inflate to the recommended PSI. You want to keep the max weight in mind if you have two riders, whether two adults or an adult and cargo (dog or kid). If you are a heavier rider and want more stability, feel free to inflate to the maximum recommended PSI when starting out.

Invest in some boat cleaner for your SUP. An inflatable boat cleaner is designed to remove any dirt, oxidation, and marks from a SUP or kayak (works on PVC or urethane materials). Alternatively, you can wipe down your board after use with a damp cloth. This is crucial if you are paddling frequently in saltwater. We always carry a soft microfiber towel in my trunk.

Inspect the valve and board before you go. Most SUPs nowadays include a repair and patch kit, but no one wants to have to deal with that on the water. Always inspect your board before you head out for the day.

There is no “best” brand.

However, some SUP brands have been around long enough that we’d consider them at the top of the market. The list is short: NRS, Blackfin, Starboard, BOTE, and Hala Gear. More top brands are emerging, including ISLE (founded in 2008) and Glide and Atoll (both founded in 2014).

As noted in the intro, the inflatable SUP market has skyrocketed over the past 6 or so years. Why? Inflatable boards are fantastic. You don’t need a special roof rack, garage, or special straps to carry a 12-foot, 40-pound piece of gear around.

All you need is an oversized backpack and some space in your trunk. Inflatable boards, by nature, deflate and pack down small. They’re easy to travel with, are fairly easy to care for and maintain, and come in at a great price.

Even better, almost all inflatables (all the ones we’ve listed) come in a package: SUP, paddle, backpack, fin, and pump. There’s no need to buy any SUP gear separately.

That being said, the quality of inflatables does vary widely based on materials, construction, and design. The stability and feel of the board are a little different.

If you know you want to invest in the sport or are going to be paddling in extremes (cold or whitewater), you’ll want to spend extra time researching a board’s construction (welded seams, thicker PVC) and performance in your intended environment.

Of the paddleboards we’ve tested and reviewed, we’d mark the 11′ 6″ BOTE HD Aero as the most stable on our list. This is due to its width, sidewalls, weight capacity, and overall construction. This is a middle-of-the-pack, not-too-heavy, and well-balanced board that measures a full 34 inches across.

It’s got lots of D-rings for strapping down gear, or a kayak seat if you are looking to feel extra grounded and stable on your board. And the HD Aeros also clocks in at a great price point for its size.

It’s worth noting that if you are looking for other stable board choices, fishing expeditions, yoga SUPs, and touring boards are commonly a bit wider across. Any board that is 34-36 inches across is a good choice.

Of course, other factors contribute to stability. But, width and sidewall depth as well as overall shape are the big ones.

The best SUP for beginners is the one that fits you best. For most people, that’s a board that is larger so it has a higher weight capacity and provides more stability to accommodate riders of different weights (say, if you’re sharing a board with your partner). We frequently recommend an inflatable model as a first board due to its durability and ease of storage.

Contrary to newbie beliefs, inflatable boards are very durable, can pack down small, are convenient and easy to use and store, and are usually more budget-friendly. Even better, if you learn on an inflatable SUP, you’ll have great balance for when you decide to tackle ocean or whitewater paddling or upgrade to an epoxy board.

Our recommendation would be to look for an inflatable board at least 10′ 6″ or 11′ in length, with a weight capacity of at least 230 pounds.

Standup paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing water sports of the past decadebuyer’s guideFAQcomparison chartLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeight (inflated)Fin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesHala Radopatented retractable fin systemStompboxHala RaditoLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesBOTE’s Breeze Aero Classic Teak PaddleboardBreeze Aero BoardLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeight (inflated)Fin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesSTAR Phase models10’8″whitewater fingrass finNRS STAR PhaseLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesSHUBUpracticing Warrior II PoseSHUBU boardLengthWidthThicknessWeight CapacityWeightFin setupTie down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesKokopelli Chasm Lite SUPKokopelli Chasm LiteLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesthis boardand 11′All-Around boardRead our full review of the iROCKER Ultra Series All-Around 10′ Paddleboard.LengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesPaul Hauna Endurance Airfull review of the Paul Hana Endurance AirLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesBadfish SUP FlyweightBadfish SUPLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesRed’s MSL boardLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesHD Aero PaddleboardBreeze Aero11’6″LengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesISLE’s Pioneer 2.0 SUPRead our full reviewISLE Pioneer 2.0.LengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesPortagerPortager XLPortagerLengthWidthThicknessWeight capacityWeightFin setupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessoriesNRS ThriveThrive SUPLengthWidthThicknessWeightWeight capacityFin SetupTie-down pointsFeaturesAccessories Paddle with adjustable aluminum shaft, nylon bladeGILI SportsAIRHala Gear Hala RadoNRS STAR Phase Inflatable SUP Boards Aero Classic Inflatable PaddleboardBoardworks SHUBU SolrBadfish SUP FlyweightiROCKER All-Around 10′ Ultra PaddleboardPaul Hauna Endurance AirRed Paddle Co. MSL 10′ 6″ Ride SUPBOTE HD Inflatable PaddleboardISLE Pioneer 2.0NRS Thrive Inflatable SUP BoardsGili Sports 11’6 AIR inflatable Paddle BoardAll-AroundWhitewaterTouring (Flatwater)FishingRaceSurfWide and Blunt (Planing Hull)Narrow and Pointed (Displacement Hull)Short length (less than 10 feet)Medium length (10 to 12 feet)Long length (greater than 12 feet)Like kayakstandem-specific models 12.9-pound Kokopelli Chasm LiteBOTE HD Inflatable PaddleboardPortagerPortager XLBoardworks SHUBU Solrpracticing Warrior II PoseHala Gear Hala RadoiROCKER All-Around 10′ Ultra PaddleboardPaddle North Portager PaddleboardBOTE HD Aero Paddleboardinterchangeable finsISLE’s Pioneer 2.0 SUPSingle fin:3-fin:2-fin:2 plus 1:BOTENRSHalaLevel SixMSL 10′ 6″ Ride SUPThule makes a SUP roof rackandViking SolutionsNever leave your board sitting out in the sun.Always inflate to the recommended PSI.Invest in some boat cleaner for your SUP.boat cleanerInspect the valve and board before you go.BOTEHala Gear11′ 6″ BOTE HD Aeroyoga SUPs