Buying your first inflatable stand up paddleboard, also known as an iSUP, is an exciting prospect. Once you have your own board, you’ll be able to head out onto the water any time you like. You can paddle alone, or paddle with friends, and you’ll start to become a better paddler as you get used to using your very own board.
There is nothing wrong with using hiring a paddle board but, if you want to really embrace the paddleboarding lifestyle, having your own board is an absolute must. In the long run, buying works out cheaper than hiring too.
However, buying your own board can also be a daunting prospect. There are so many different manufacturers and boards to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start. Inflatable paddle boards can cost anywhere between $200 to over $1000, and while you usually get what you pay for, expensive doesn’t always mean better.
This guide is designed to help make buying the best inflatable SUP board a much easier experience and help you get the right paddle board for your needs.
Why Buy an Inflatable SUP and Not a Hard Board?
Inflatable boards are ideal for beginners. They are light, portable, easy to store, and above all, they’re tough enough to withstand all the knocks that usually accompany learning to SUP. In contrast, hard boards are much more easily damaged.
Inflatables also tend to be super-stable, which, as a beginner, is a handy feature. Most come with everything you need to get out in the water, such as a pump, paddle, and a leash. All you need to add is a personal floatation device, and you are all set for adventure.
Inflatable paddle boards aren’t just for beginners either; plenty of intermediate and advanced boarders use them too. But, where hard boards tend to be all about cutting-edge performance, iSUPs are more about ease of use. You may eventually graduate to a hard board. Still, lots of paddleboarders prefer iSUPs, and for many paddlers, their favorite SUP is an inflatable.
5 Considerations For Choosing A Beginner SUP Board
When choosing your first inflatable paddle board, you need to make sure you buy with your head as well as your heart. A good-looking board is always nice, but you need to make sure your prospective purchase is the best SUP board for your needs and goals.
Consider the following factors and features when you look at all the different boards that are available:
1. Standup PaddleBoard Construction
iSup boards are made from PVC. Some companies make their paddle boards from military-grade PVC, making them extra tough. Ideally, your board should be made from dual-layer PVC to make it harder wearing. Some manufacturers even use triple or quad layers which makes the board much stiffer and stronger, but also heavier.
For maximum rigidity, high quality inflatable paddle boards use something called drop stitching. This means they have hundreds of threads inside the board, which stop them from bulging outward under high pressure. Without drop stitching, inflatable paddle boards would lose their shape and would also bend. A well-made inflatable board should be almost as rigid as a hard board, all because of drop stitching.
2. iSUP Size
when it comes to buying your first iSUP, size matters – both width and length. The wider a board is, the more stable it will be. Boards can measure as little as 24” inches or less in width, and up to 36” or even more. However, wider boards also tend to be slower and harder to paddle through the water.
If you are heavy, tall, or just want a board for cruising, width doesn’t matter too much, and broader is probably better.
However, if you are short, light, or want a board that has the potential to go a little faster, you may prefer a narrower board.
Remember, though, as a beginner, you need a stable board, and that means you need to consider board width. For most beginner paddlers, 30-35” should be sufficient.
Regarding paddle board length, longer boards (10-12 feet+) tend to glide more easily than shorter boards (less than 10 feet) but are also less agile and maneuverable. Shorter boards turn more quickly and easily, but usually don’t glide quite as well. If you want to cover long distances on your board, a longer iSUP will probably suit you better than a short board. But, if you want to be able to change direction on a dime, or fancy taking on some surf in the future, a shorter inflatable paddle board will be best.
3. Board Thickness
Thicker paddle boards tend to be more buoyant and stable than thin boards because they contain more air. The best iSup boards are 4-6 inches thick and, as a rule, thicker is better for beginners.
4. Board Design
The shape of your board affects how it rides and handles. Longer boards with a tapered nose and tail are usually faster but less stable. Blunt-nosed boards with less taper are more stable but slower.
Choose your board according to the type of activities you are going to use it for. Wide, slow iSUPs are ideal for things like family paddling, yoga, fishing, and just getting out on the water. Narrower touring and sports boards are undeniably quicker, but balancing on them is trickier too. Choose the board design that is best suited to your anticipated needs.
5. Extras To Look Out For
Inflatable paddle boards are usually supplied as packages. They may also have a variety of extras. In addition to the board itself, look out for the following:
- Paddle – usually a two or three-piece paddle made from aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. A good-quality paddle can have a significant impact on your comfort and performance. In contrast, a lower-quality paddle may soon break.
- Pump – your iSUP should come supplied with a pump. Dual and triple-chambered pumps make inflating your paddle board much easier and quicker. Some boards also come with an electric pump ut in most cases, this is at an additional cost.
- Bungees, D-rings, and accessory mounts – if you anticipate carrying personal items on your paddle board, you’ll need bungees, D-rings, and accessory mounts. You can place things like water bottles or a spare paddle under the bungees, or clip or tie things to the D-rings.
Some boards have special built-in mounts for action cameras, Bluetooth speakers, and fishing rods. If you want to go exploring on your new inflatable stand up paddle board, make sure you have the facility to carry everything you need for a safe and enjoyable trip.
- Repair kit – although inflatable paddle boards are built to last, they can still be damaged. The best boards come with a repair kit so you can fix minor damage yourself. This usually consists of patches, glue, and a valve spanner.
- Leash – you’ll need a leash so that, when you fall off your board, it doesn’t float too far away from you. Leashes are usually coiled lengths of plastic covered rope that attach to your ankle and a mount on the board. You should not paddle board without a leash.
- Board bag – a proper board bag makes transporting and storing your iSUP much easier. They usually have backpack straps for easy carrying. They should be able to hold your board, paddle, pump, and even a wetsuit and towel. Some board bags also have wheels for even easier transport. A good-quality bag makes moving and storing your paddle board much easier.
- Kayak seat and paddle – some boards come complete with a removable kayak seat and paddle so you can use your iSUP like a sit-on canoe. This is useful if the water is too rough to stand up, but you still want to get out on your board. Some manufacturers include a kayak seat and paddle as standard, while others sell them as optional extras.
The 10 Best Inflatable Paddle Boards (2020)
I’m lucky enough to live on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where the calm waters and mild winters mean we can paddle board all year round. This has given me the perfect opportunity to test lots of different paddle boards. I know how daunting choosing your first iSUP can be, so, to save you the stress, I’ve compiled a list my 10 favorite inflatable paddle boards for beginners.
1. ISLE 10’6″ Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
You can tell just by looking at the ISLE 10’6″ Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board that’s it’s going to have excellent stability. If you are looking for an easy to use iSUP, this could be the one for you.
- 10’6” x 31 x 6”
- 240 lbs. weight capacity
- Dual-layer PVC
- Two storage areas with bungees
- Comes complete with full iSUP accessory pack including pump, paddle, leash, and backpack
ISLE makes great quality paddle boards. They use only the best materials and manufacturing processes to create iSUPs that are designed to last. They might not be the cheapest boards around but, if you want a board that’s as tough as it is enjoyable to use, the ISLE 10’6″ Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is highly recommended.
- Wide and stable
- Very comprehensive accessory kit
- Light and very packable
- Ideal all-round board for beginners
- Maybe a little expensive for some beginner paddlers
- Shaped for stability and not speed
If you are already in love with paddle boarding and don’t mind spending a little more on a good board, the ISLE 10’6″ Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is an excellent choice. Stable, buoyant, and easy to use, this is an excellent all-round beginner’s inflatable paddle board. It’s not especially fast, though, so if you’re a speed demon, you may want a more streamlined board.
2. iROCKER All-Around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
IRocker has a reputation for making almost indestructible boards. This allrounder is supremely stable but also shaped for smooth gliding. If you want a board that’s more than just a slow, stately cruiser, this inflatable paddle board is highly recommended.
- Quad-layer military-grade PVC construction
- 10’ x 32” x 6”, and also available in 11’ length
- 370-450 lbs. weight capacity
- 3-way interchangeable fin set-up
- Full accessory pack including triple-action pump, fiberglass paddle, leash, and backpack
My first ever board was from iRocker, so I have a soft spot for their range of top-quality inflatable paddle boards. The quad-layer construction means that they are every bit as rigid as a hard board, but you can still pack it away for easy transport and storage. Arguably the toughest iSUPs around, iRocker paddles and pumps are also excellent quality.
- A great combination of stability and speed
- Extremely durable
- Available in two lengths to suit most paddlers
- Big enough for carrying your kids or dog too
- One of the fastest pumps around
- Quite heavy
- Large pack size
Your first-ever paddle board should be one that is enjoyable to use, and that lasts a long time. The iRocker All-Around will do both these things. It’s not the cheapest (or the most expensive) board you can buy, but you do get a lot of iSUP for your money.
3. Bluefin SUP Stand Up Inflatable Paddle Board with Kayak Conversion Kit
Bluefin boards come with many of the accessories that other companies tend to charge extra for. Available in 10’8”, 12’ and 15’ sizes, these versatile boards are ideal for beginners who want a complete start-up package.
- 32” wide and 6” thick for stability and buoyancy
- Triple-layer construction
- 410 lbs. weight capacity
- Streamlined shape for superior speed and easy gliding
- Supplied with two-piece paddle, coiled leash, dual-action pump, kayak seat and paddle, and good quality paddle board bag
The Bluefin SUP Stand Up Inflatable Paddle Board is stable like a cruiser but quick like a tourer. It’s a great all-rounder for paddlers who want the best of both worlds. It can be used on lakes, rivers, and the sea and is an ideal board for beginners and intermediate paddlers. This is not a board you will quickly grow out of!
- Many extras included in the price
- Strong, lightweight construction
- Versatile and suitable for most types of water
- Only one of the three fins are removable, so it has a larger packing size
- Inflatable to 15 PSI only, so is not as rigid as other, higher pressure boards
The Bluefin SUP Stand Up Inflatable Paddle Board is highly recommended. Versatile and capable of handling most water conditions, this is an iSUP that is capable of taking you from a complete beginner to a seasoned intermediate paddler.
4. Atoll 11′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Atoll paddle boards have a reputation for lightness. That’s good news if you want to travel with your board, or just want an iSUP that’s easy to carry from your home to your car. The Atoll 11′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board combines this lightness with supreme stiffness and stability to make a great paddle board for beginners.
- Dual-layer construction
- 11’ x 32” x 6”
- 350 lbs. weight capacity
- Accessories include a high-quality carbon/fiberglass paddle, pump, leash, and board bag
- Bungee storage area and plenty of extra D-rings
- Ultra-rigid design
Despite their dual-layer construction, Atoll inflatable paddle boards are also tough. Covered by a comprehensive two-year warranty, the Atoll 11′ Foot Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board should be able to handle everything a beginner can throw at it, but without a whole lot of cumbersome weight.
- Very stable but also shaped for speed and gliding
- High-quality accessories
- Very light and easy to transport
- High weight capacity makes it ideal for bigger, taller users
- Perfect for longer trips and tours
- Fins held in place with screws so not as easy to remove as other models
- Side fin blades attached directly to the board so not easy to replace if damaged
The Atoll 11′ Foot Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is stable enough that even nervous beginners will feel comfortable. However, they are sleek enough that, after a little practice, those same beginners will start to get a real taste of paddle boarding speed and gliding. This lightweight iSUP is especially suitable for anyone anticipating traveling with their paddle board.
5. Retrospec Weekender 10′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
Most triple-layer paddle boards are expensive. That makes a lot of sense considering the amount of PVC material used to make a triple-layer board. The Retrospec Weekender 10′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard bucks that trend and is a mid-priced paddle board made with three layers of military-grade PVC.
- Tough triple-layer construction
- 10’ x 30” x 6”
- 250 lbs. weight capacity
- 10+ colorways available
- Supplied with paddle, pump, leash, and optional board bag
- Very stable design
The Retrospec Weekender 10′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard is not the most comprehensive paddling package. Still, it does have everything you need to get your board out on the water. This iSUP is shaped for stability rather than speed, so if easy-paced cruising is your goal, this is the board for you.
- Strong construction
- Light, compact board that packs down to a small size
- Made for easy, relaxed paddling
- Very basic accessories
- Board bag is an optional extra
This tough little board is ideal for smaller, lighter riders who want to paddle for fun rather than speed. You will probably want to upgrade to a better paddle after a year or so. Still, the board itself should provide many seasons of enjoyment.
6. THURSO SURF Waterwalker All-Around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
Thurso makes beautiful paddle boards. Their colors, graphics, and designs mean that Thurso boards really stand out in the crowd. Many even have a wood-paneling effect so that they could be mistaken for hard, wooden boards. If you want a board that looks as good as it functions, the THURSO SURF Waterwalker All-Around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is an excellent choice.
- Dual-layer construction for lightness
- Available in three sizes – 10’ x 30”, 10’ 6” x 31”, and 11’ x 32” – all 6” thick
- 260-330 lbs. weight capacity
- Very high-quality accessory pack including dual-action pump, carbon fiber paddle, and roller/backpack board bag
- Three removable fins for easy packing and versatile set-up
- Reinforced side rails and stress points
- Large bungee cargo area
THURSO SURF Waterwalker All-Around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is a top-quality inflatable paddle board at a mid-range price. The dual-layer build means it’s lighter than other boards, so it won’t be quite as robust. This is not a board for white water paddling. Supplied with top-quality accessories, this iSUP will be a joy to use. The bigger you are, the larger of the three sizes you choose.
- Very light and stable
- Supplied with one of the best paddles available
- A very good-looking board
- Sizing options mean you can buy the right paddle board for your height and weight
- An ideal family cruising board
- Not the most robust board around
- Tends to be slow and won’t glide well
If cruising on calm waters appeals to you, the THURSO SURF Waterwalker All-Around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board could be a good choice. Supplied with some of the best-quality accessories around, this board is perfect for beginners who want a leisurely paddleboarding experience.
7. Airgymfactory Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
The Airgymfactory inflatable paddle board might not be a name you recognize. Still, this budget-friendly iSUP is ideal for beginners. As well-made as many more expensive boards, this high-quality paddle board package will have you on the water and loving it without breaking the bank.
- Triple-layer military PVC construction
- Available in three sizes – 10’, 10’6, and 12’6 x 32” width and 6” thick
- Supplied with a high-quality carbon fiber paddle, double-action pump, coiled leash, 10L PVC waterproof bag, heavy-duty backpack board bag, repair kit, and three interchangeable fins
- Built for stability and handling
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- 400 lbs. weight capacity
With its three layers of military-grade drop-stitched PVC, this is a tough board that should be able to shrug off all the bumps and scrapes a beginner can throw at it. Able to support 400 lbs., this is an excellent board for bigger riders and those who also want to take their kids or pets out on the water. The carbon fiber paddle is an especially nice feature and is both light and strong.
- Light, tough, portable board at a very competitive price
- Stable ride but also streamlined enough to glide well
- Very good rucksack board bag and light, durable paddle
- Only four D-rings for securing baggage, and only one bungee storage area
The lack of bungees and D-rings means you won’t be able to load this board down with kit. But, providing you don’t want to go long-distance touring or camping, it’s still an excellent choice for beginners. This iSUP is built to last, and the accessories are better than those supplied with some more expensive boards.
8. Vilano Navigator 10′ 6″ Inflatable SUP
At less than half the price of some of the most expensive boards in this review, the Vilano Navigator 10′ 6″ Inflatable SUP is an absolute bargain. If you want to try paddle boarding but don’t want to spend a fortune doing it, this paddle board is an excellent option.
- 10′ 6″ x 32″ x 6″
- Dual-layer construction
- 280 lbs. weight capacity
- Light, compact board for easy storage and transport
- Price includes a pump, paddle, leash, repair kit, carry strap, and board bag
- Single fin for quick and easy setup
- Nine D-rings plus bungees for attachments and baggage storage
The Vilano Navigator 10′ 6″ Inflatable SUP is a simple, no-frills board that is ideal for beginners. It’s both light and stable, and the accessories are more than adequate for the price. The single fin adds to the simplicity of this board but also means you can’t customize your board according to the water conditions. However, a single fin makes for less drag, so this board may be faster because of it.
- Versatile board suitable for calm seas, lakes, and slow-moving rivers
- Light and compact for easy transport
- Good mix of stability and performance
- A very affordable beginner paddle boarding package
- Two-layer PVC construction is not as durable as three or four layers
- Paddle is not the best
If you want to try paddle boarding but aren’t sure it’s the sport for you, the Vilano Navigator 10′ 6″ Inflatable SUP provides a great way to try it without spending your life savings. This board is more than adequate for most beginners, and you can always pass it on to your kids if you want to upgrade to a board with a little more performance.
9. FunWater Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
This budget-friendly board more than lives up to its name. It’s light, surprisingly stable, and reasonably durable too. Shaped for maximum glide, this board will give many of the more expensive iSUPs on this list a real run for their money!
- 11’ x 33” x 6”
- Dual-layer construction plus reinforced side rails
- Supplied with a 3-piece aluminum paddle, pump, coiled leash, three removable fins, repair kit, 10L waterproof bag, and a board bag
- Cruiser-style board for glide and speed
- 330 lbs. weight capacity
The FunWater Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is shaped like a tourer. This means it has a narrow profile at the nose and tail, but a wider central body. Because of this, the FunWater Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is stable and will also glide through the water relatively easily. If you want a board that can go further with less effort, this inflatable paddle board is a good choice.
- Very competitively priced
- Light and compact for easy storage and transport
- Decent accessories for the price
- A good all-rounder
- Dual-layer construction not as rugged as triple and quad-layer construction
- Only one baggage storage area, and no additional D-rings
- Not as rigid as other boards tested, so may not be suitable for very heavy riders
The FunWater Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board won’t make you think you are on a hard board. It lacks rigidity, which means it may flex during use and won’t feel as stable or responsive as a stiffer board. But, for less than 50% of the price of some of the other boards on test, this is still an impressive board that is perfect for beginners.
10. Goplus Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board
The Goplus Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board is the lowest priced board in this review, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent paddle board. It’s not as rigid or stable as some of the other boards, but it will still provide hours of paddleboarding enjoyment. It’s light, compact, and easy to use – everything a beginner paddle board should be.
- Available in two sizes – 10’ x 32” x 6” and 11’ x 32” x 6”
- Triple-layer construction
- Supplied with a dual-action pump, paddle, repair kit, removable fin, and board bag
- Cargo storage area with bungees
- Rear D-ring for leash (leash not supplied)
- Light and compact for easy transport and storage
- 225 lbs. weight capacity
The Goplus Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board might not have all the bells and whistles that come as standard on more expensive boards, but that’s how the manufacturer has managed to keep the cost down.
This is a perfectly rideable board that is ideal for smaller, lighter paddlers looking for their first board. It’s reasonably rigid, offers good stability and buoyancy, and comes supplied with almost everything you need to start paddle boarding. You should, however, get a leash so that your board won’t float away from you the first time you fall off.
- Very low price point
- Shaped for stability and speed
- Removable central fin for customized fin set-up
- An ideal starter board
- Not as tough or hardwearing as other, more expensive boards
- Low-quality accessories
- No leash
- Not suitable for riders over 250 lbs.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get into paddleboarding. The Goplus Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board is cheap, cheerful, but also functional. If you don’t want to spend much on your first board and are happy to upgrade/replace it in a couple of seasons, this board is a good choice.
Final Words: Picking The Best SUP Board
The best beginner inflatable paddle board is not necessarily the most expensive. In fact, buying a very expensive inflatable iSUP board might not be a good idea. After all, while beginners need a stable, buoyant board, you may want to upgrade to a faster board once you realize that yes, you can paddleboard without falling in all the time.
That said, your first board is a good one; you want to make sure you enjoy paddleboarding to the max, and a good board makes that much more likely. Balance your budget against what you need from an iSUP board, avoiding too many compromises in either category.
Take your time choosing your first iSUP board, and then, when it arrives, get out on it as often as you can. Paddle boarding is hugely addictive but, unlike so many habits, this one is actually very good for you!