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Published Sep 15, 2023 1:56 PM
Finding the right style of stand up paddleboards isn’t as simple as choosing the first one you come across. Each paddler has preferences, styles, and interests that work well for specific waterways. And the best way to determine the right paddle board for your pursuits is to get out on the water and try as many as possible. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time, resources, and money to test a full lineup of boards. That’s where I come in.
I used and tested many of the boards on this list. Each has its pros and cons and is suited for different pursuits like fishing, touring, whitewater paddling, or even hybrid models. My on the water experience helped me select this list, and hopefully, it will save you some time and money in finding the perfect board for your adventures. The right board will fit your body type and your pursuit so you can focus on paddling and enjoying the day. Here are the best stand up paddleboards and a few tips and recommendations to get you on the water sooner.
How We Picked the Best Stand Up Paddleboards
I chose each paddle board based on a combination of factors like pursuit, design, materials, and personal experience. I also broke down my selections into niche categories: fishing boards, dog-friendly boards, hybrid boards, beginner boards, and budget-minded options. Some of the boards were field tested on the water, and I spent hours researching and comparing the models I didn’t get to paddle.
Factors like materials, warranty programs, and trends were also considered in making my selections. In fact, all the picks in this article are inflatable designs because they are the best option on the market. And why wouldn’t you want the best? Other considerations like weight, storage, and accessories also played a role in my final picks. But the goal was to find the best of the best for niche-specific pursuits, and that’s what this article delivers—a guide to the best stand up paddleboards for a variety of activities.
Best Stand Up Paddleboards: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Hala Gear’s Radito
- Weight: 26.5 lbs
- Dimensions: 10′ x 34” x 6”
- Carry capacity: 300 lbs
- Paddle accessory kit: yes
- Materials: PVCs and plastic welded seams
- Retractable fin box
- Industry-leading five year warranty
- PVC plastic welding construction
- Higher price point
- Very specific design for whitewater
Designed for smaller paddlers, this stand up paddle board is great for whitewater and flatwater touring. It includes features specific to downriver and whitewater paddling, like the patented StompBox2 fin system, which automatically retracts when it comes in contact with an obstacle like rocks. The board also includes a PVC construction with reinforced welded seams, a thick side profile, grippy textured deck padding, d-rings, and ample handles for transporting.
Five years ago, I took the Radito down the Grand Canyon on a 21-day SUP journey, and it performed flawlessly. I haven’t found a better paddleboard since. Other features include a comprehensive paddle kit with every accessory under the sun, including a backcountry rolling backpack, a lever-lock carbon travel paddle, fins, a hand pump, and a repair kit. If you are a larger paddler, check out the Radito’s sister board—the Rado. It is essentially the same board with a little more length and one more inch of girth.
Best for Beginners: Cascade 10′ Paddle Board Package
- Weight: 22 lbs
- Dimensions: 10′ x 32” x 6”
- Carry capacity: 180 lbs
- Paddle accessories kit: yes
- Materials: 12cm drop-stitch construction
- Includes a leash
- Two year warranty
- Extremely comfortable River Crossing carry backpack
- Might be small for some users
The Cascade has been in production for almost a decade. It’s a great board for beginners because it is stable, user-friendly, and isn’t as pursuit-specific as other boards. It even has a fantastic accessories package, including a patch kit in case the beginner makes a deflating error. This model was the most popular pick in a rental fleet I shared with the public when working at a kayak and paddle board shop in Bend, Oregon. And all of the beginners enjoyed using it.
With a snub nose, reduced overall length, and swing weight, the Cascade will track and perform like a longer board but be easier to propel than one with larger dimensions. Other accessories include a river crossing storage/transportation bag, a focus 3-piece lever lock paddle, a fin, an ankle leash, a hand pump, and a repair kit.
I really like how comfortable and easy the storage bag is to transport. I walked several miles with this board on my back and was surprised by how good I felt.
- Weight: 28.8 lbs
- Dimensions: 11′ X 36” X 6”
- Carry capacity: 450 lbs
- Paddle accessories kit: Yes
- Materials: 15 cm drop-stitch construction and Aero Rail Stringers to reinforce rigidity
- One of the highest carry capacities offered by a paddle board on the market
- Can double as a tandem or support a pet because of the carry capacity
- Specialized for angling with component mounts, handles and tie-downs
- It’s a large board designed for a large load and angling, not for speed
The biggest and burliest board in the Aquaglide lineup, the Blackfoot Angler has multiple universal mounts and an integrated Molle plate that provides many attachment points for fishing accessories. This includes everything from rod holders to fish finders. A frame seat attachment allows for fishing from a seated or standing position while the size and dimension of the boat create a stable platform perfect for casting. In addition to fishing-specific features, the Blackfoot possesses a full accessory package and a two-year warranty.
Best for Dogs: Hala Gear Asana
- Weight: 22.5 lbs
- Dimensions: 10’6” X 34” X 6”
- Carry capacity: N/A
- Paddle accessories kit: Yes
- Materials: Thick fusion construction with welded seams
- The Asana doubles as a yoga and tandem paddling-appropriate board
- Five-year warranty
- Extensive accessory package
This twin-tip, largely symmetrical board is an honorable mention for the best beginner category. It offers a wide, stable platform that makes it perfect for someone just starting out and allows for a bit more user error. This wider platform also makes it an ideal board to bring your pup along. Hala markets this board as stable enough for yoga which means it is more than sturdy enough to bring your dog on and some extra gear. They offer a full accessory package with a level-lock paddle, rolling backpack, hand pump, fin, and repair kit. And the Asana comes with a five-year warranty.
Tips for training your pup to SUP:
To train a pup to paddle with you on a stand up paddle board, bring treats. Let the pup explore the board on their own before you force them on. And let your dog see you paddle the board around before they come aboard. Choose a board that is wide, long, and stable—anything built for 1.5 to 2 people will do just fine.
Best Budget: iRocker Nautical Go Cruiser
- Weight: 20 lbs (+ or – 5 lbs)
- Dimensions: 10′ X 34” X 6”
- Carry capacity: 275 lb
- Paddle accessories kit: Yes
- Materials: Standard
- One- to three-year warranty on board and accessories
- Patch kit included
- This board goes on sale often for over 50-75% off retail pricing
- This is a beginner board with few features and standard durability
Needless to say, a stand up board on a budget is probably more for a beginner than an advanced paddler. That said, the Go Cruiser is an outstanding value for the price and accessory package. Its construction is standard for its price, and the same goes for dimensions and design. With such a high weight capacity, a child or pet could easily accompany the captain on a paddle trip. The accessory package includes a paddle, leash, carry strap, patch kit, and fins. Additionally, a convertible kayak seat and other accessories are available, when purchased separately.
Best Paddle Board/Kayak Combo: Isle Explorer Pro
- Weight: 23 lbs
- Dimensions: 12′ X 31.5” X 6”
- Carry capacity: 350 lbs
- Paddle accessories kit: Limited
- Materials: Airtech Prolite construction
- Patent-pending Isle-Link system for endless customization, kayak hybrid
- Four-year warranty
- Doubles as a tandem and touring board
- The board is narrow. It allows for speedier distance travel but can feel tippy
- The detachable seat used for kayaking mode is sold separately
Isle claims to deliver the lightest and most rigid inflatable paddle board on the market. And while I haven’t used every paddle board ever made, this one is pretty light. The Explorer Pro comes in two lengths, 12 feet and 14 feet. The longer board is better for taller and larger body types as it offers greater stability. On the flip side, the shorter board will be easy to maneuver.
While the Explorer Pro comes with limited accessories—backpack, fin, and leash—Isle offers extensive accessories sold separately. A foot brace, shoulder carry straps, fishing kits, kayak seat, and more are available and compatible with the Explorer Pro. But you will have to shell out some more money.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Stand Up Paddle Board
As I mentioned earlier, there is more that goes into finding the right paddle board than just picking the first one you see on the shelf. Here are some other considerations to think about before making your final decision.
Weight & Dimensions
How you will transport your stand up paddle board from the garage to the car to the beach? Inflatables are often lighter and easier to carry when rolled than heavy rigid boards. When deciding what activities or niche fields you want to use your paddle board for, a good rule of thumb is narrow boards are better for racing and touring while wider boards can be better for stability in whitewater—with pets and for tandem rides.
As the paddle board industry has evolved over the last two decades, retailers have standardized including extensive accessory packages as part of the paddle board pricing. Take advantage of this. All pricing being equal, there is no sense in choosing a paddle board with no accessory package. Look for ones that offer a paddle, leash, carry strap, patch kit, fins, and more.
What are you going to use the stand up paddle board for? Yoga, touring, whitewater, or fishing? Maybe you want to bring along your kids and dogs? There is a board made specifically for whatever activity you want to do. Determine what features are most important to you—stability, speed, surface area, maneuverability, etc.—and then tailor your purchase to that.
Q: Do inflatable paddleboards last?
Yes. Inflatable paddleboards are durable and last season after season. Especially when you store them inflated, at a reduced PSI, in a dry environment. Another way to increase an inflatable paddle board’s longevity is keeping the board clean. A good regular wash and removal of gritty debris go a long way. And even if an inflatable is punctured, it can be easily patched.
Q: What are the disadvantages of inflatable paddleboards?
The only disadvantage of an inflatable board is they don’t perform quite as well in racing as a rigid board.
Q: Can inflatable paddleboards go in the ocean?
Inflatable paddleboards are often used in the ocean. They are great for surfing waves and for touring an estuary or bay. But you should always know your limitations and carefully watch for dangerous conditions.
Best Stand Up Paddleboards: Final Thoughts
In a relatively short time, the sport of paddleboarding has grown to dominate a significant market share of the paddle industry. Outside of niche paddle board dimensions, design, and features for specific paddleboarding purposes, buyers should seek out full accessory packages and maximum warranty options. Although rigid paddleboards offer some benefits, particularly when surfing, inflatables dominate when it comes to avoiding damage and repairs for obstacle collisions on rivers and lakes. Needless to say, inflatables are superior on the space-saving front and for ease of transport.
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