Interested in getting in on one of the hottest growing sports across the globe? Stand up paddleboarding (SUP for short) has exploded in popularity over the past decade, becoming one of the most popular water sports around.
Inflatable SUP boards are an even newer development, allowing you the convenience of owning a full-sized paddleboard that folds up into the size of a small duffel bag! No longer must you sacrifice valuable space to enjoy the sport.
There are a large variety of inflatable paddleboards to choose from, from beginner boards to expert boards and everything in between. This article will help you choose from the abundance of different models out there, and pick a board that is just right for your skill level, needs, and preferences.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Inflatable SUP Boards
Criteria for picking the best Inflatable SUP
There is a lot of variation within inflatable SUP makes and models. So, to help narrow it down, we used the following criteria for ranking the best models:
One of the key advantages an inflatable SUP has over its fiberglass and plastic cousins is great portability. An inflatable SUP should easily fit into a small suitcase and be light enough to travel with. The lighter and smaller the board is when it’s fully packed away the better in this category.
A key consideration when selecting the right board is how stable it is on the water. Board stability is largely determined by board thickness. The thicker the board, the more stable it will be on the water. Most boards fall into the 4” to 6” range for thickness.
Keep in mind that thin boards can also be stable and are especially useful for choppy water paddleboarding. These boards allow the rider to dig in and “ride” the wave rather than be tossed around as a heavy board would. These types of boards are typically for more advanced riders.
Board durability is mostly affected by its material and manufacturing quality. The newer generations of inflatable SUPs are extremely rugged and can take quite a beating without suffering any nicks or cracks that you would expect to find on a traditional fiberglass paddleboard. Rocks are not really an issue for most inflatable boards as they will “give” rather than sustain any damage.
Construction varies from simple one layer PVC boards, which are lighter and less expensive, to two and three layer PVC boards, which are more rugged, heavier and more expensive. There are also boards with a fusion construction, which have a layer of additional reinforcement while still remaining light.
User Friendliness includes the pump quality, how long it takes to pump up the board, storage space, and the quality of the included accessories.
Inflatable SUP boards vary widely in price, and overall value is an important point to consider when shelling out your hard earned money. Most boards fall in the $300 – $1500 price range. However more expensive doesn’t always mean better value. Highly capable and versatile boards that fulfill a multitude of roles can be purchased in the lower end of the price range.
5 Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards
What to consider when choosing an inflatable SUP?
The board’s shape will determine what its best for. Longer boards with narrower noses are faster but less stable. The streamlined profile of these boards mean they will travel through the water with less effort from the paddler. These boards are suitable for touring and more advanced users.
All around boards with flatter noses and wider centers increase stability, but will not cut through the water with the same speed. They are suitable for all types of rider and are very versatile.
Specialized boards for Yoga are also available; they tend to be long and wide with a rounded nose and tail.
Length and width
Generally, the wider the board the more stable it’s going to be. The length of the board also affects stability, as short boards less than 9 feet will be less stable for adults. Most all-around boards will be over 30” wide and 10 feet long, which provides a good amount of stability.
Long and narrow boards like the Red Paddle Co Voyager will increase the speed and maneuverability of the board, but sacrifice stability.
Larger boards will also be able to hold more weight than smaller ones. So, if you plan to use the board for longer excursions, look at a larger board.
The paddle board’s thickness effects rigidity, stability and weight capacity. The thicker the SUP is when inflated, the more rigid it will tend to be. More rigidity is preferable as it gives better feedback with the water and feels more like a traditional paddle board. The thickness will also impact stability, as thicker boards place the rider farther away from the water which means less stability. Also, the thicker the board is the more weight it will be able to hold.
Generally, 4” to 6” is the sweet spot for board thickness.
The rocker is the curve in the front of the board. Beginner boards will have very little to no rocker which is better for use in calmer waters. More advanced boards will have a larger rocker that keeps the tip of the board above the water in choppy conditions.
On the bottom of the board are the stabilizing fins which help keep the board cruising along smoothly. There are a variety of fin setups, from a long single fin, to three smaller fins, or two small fins on the sides and one medium sized fin in the center. Long single fins are best for flat water cruising and provide more stability, while three fin setups will be better for making turns in choppier water and are more suited to intermediate and advanced users.
Many inflatable paddle boards come with a good set of accessories, but sure to have everything you need before you head out on the water.
- Paddle. Many boards come with a paddle included. Look for a paddle in the 6 to 8 foot range to ensure comfortable paddling. If you plan to paddle board a lot, look into getting a quality fiberglass or carbon fiber paddle. They are super light and are often much better than the stock aluminum paddles.
- Leash. Make sure you have a leash before heading out on the water; you don’t want to lose your board! Some boards come bundled with a leash but many do not.
- Carry Bag. All the models reviewed here come with a carry bag. Some come with a wheeled carry bag, which is great for long distance travel.
- Pump. Most models come bundled with a dual action hand pump. These works well and usually will inflate the board to the proper PSI in 5 to 10 minutes. If you are inflating and deflating your board a lot, an electric pump will make the task much easier.
- Life preserver/PFD. It’s always a good idea to wear a life preserver when paddle boarding and it may be the law in some areas.