Inflatable paddle boards were a revolutionary creation for paddle boarding that allowed it to explode in popularity over the last few years. Even mini vehicles can transport an inflatable paddle board, and with the right board bag with straps or accessories, you could feasibly transport a paddle board entirely by hand or bicycle. So, here’s everything you need to know before purchasing an inflatable paddle board…
Do you know what paddle board brand is best?
How about the quality of the latest gear?
Is that $150 paddle board just as good as the $800 one for what you’re going to use it for?
These questions (and many more) will be answered in the stand up paddle board reviews below.
Whether you’re searching for your first board, looking for additional accessories, or need a new board to replace an old worn one, it can be overwhelming to enter the market to find so many competing brands and price points.
Here, you can browse for the latest reviews on a range of paddle boarding equipment and boards, comparing and learning more to find the perfect solution for your needs:
Is Paddle Boarding Easy?
Yes, paddle boarding is an easy watersport that anyone can enjoy. You don’t have to be fit, toned, or in shape to be able to enjoy being out on the water.
That said, everyone starts at a different skill level, and you’ll face challenges as you learn to paddle the waves. Maybe you take to paddle boarding immediately and find yourself balancing like a pro – or maybe your legs are shaking and you’re having trouble standing up on your board.
No matter the challenges you face, it’s important to remember that you are learning. As a beginner, you are only this inexperienced today – take it slow, learn the right techniques, and the next time you get on the board, you’ll be even better.
Getting out on the water is one of the most freeing experiences that you can have, disconnecting from the humdrum of everyday life.
At Paddle Outside, we believe everyone deserves to experience the joy that comes from standing up for the first time, seeing fish swim underneath your board, and exploring the water in a brand new way.
It’s About More Than Exercise
You might be thinking about paddle boarding as a fun way to get fit and exercise. While paddle boarding will certainly help you achieve your goals, it’s not what the sport is about.
If you wanted to get fit, there are gyms across the country that have the equipment necessary to lift weights and run on a treadmill. In fact, a lot of paddle boarders stay fit so they can paddle better.
Likely, you want to paddle board because it’s a physically challenging sport that allows you to get outside, have fun, and explore.
Paddle boarding is about more than exercise; it is about pushing your limits and trying new things. On a board, you can explore the world one lake at a time, connecting with nature in your own way. It is a mode of transportation that helps you get from one place to another while experiencing it from a completely different perspective.
Looking for the Perfect Paddle Board?
Whether you’re beginner or advanced, there’s a paddle board out there for you. No matter if you’re on a budget or willing to invest in a good board, we’ll help you get there. Take the Paddle Outside quiz today to get personalized recommendations.
Do You Need Lessons to Stand Up Paddle Board?
No, you do not need lessons to start stand up paddle boarding. Many people try it out on their own and begin their paddling journey solo or with another beginner to great success.
Some people, however, may benefit from lessons. There is always more to learn, and professional paddle boarding instructors may have helpful tips or hints that get you to think about your technique in a way that improves your paddling.
Furthermore, lessons can be beneficial if you are already somewhat experienced with paddle boarding and want to move into a specialty activity.
Paddle surfing, paddle racing, and paddle touring are all specialty activities, and you will benefit from an instructor’s professional advice and critique when it comes to competitive races and efficiency on the water.
Whether you have had lessons or not, it is important to always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device, have knowledge of basic water safety skills, and stay cognizant of your surroundings while on the board.
Basic Water Safety Skills Are Necessary
No matter who you are, what type of paddle board you have, or what you are wearing, it is essential that you have basic water safety skills.
Without these skills, it can be dangerous to be in the water, especially if you are paddle boarding solo or out of sight of your partner.
Paddle boarding comes with an inherent risk of tipping over. In fact, we often recommend that you practice falling off your board (in deep enough water) so that you don’t injure yourself when the inevitable flip does happen.
With basic water safety skills, not only will you be able to rescue yourself from the water if needed, but you won’t be as inclined to panic should something go wrong.
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Types of Paddle Boards
Choosing a different board type can drastically change your experience on the water. Factors may include how many fins they can accommodate, their size and height, the material it is made out of, or the shape of the board’s hull.
For most people, a general all-purpose paddle board is all you need. For some paddle boarding activities, however, a specialty board is a way to get out on the water with ease. These boards are perfectly suited to your needs and are intended to be used for a specific type of activity. Trying to use a specialty board for the wrong purpose is a recipe for disaster.
For example, trying to use a racing board – which is designed to be narrow and fast – to practice mindful, calming yoga poses is not going to end well. You’ll end up soaked and frustrated instead of feeling zen.
Specialty paddle boards can often be distinguished based on their shape; from there, you can puzzle out what their specialty or purpose might be.
Surf Paddle Boards
Surfing paddle boards are typically a little smaller than an all-around board. Surf paddle boards also tend to have a medium width compared to other boards, making them an interesting but fun board to paddle with once you get some experience on the water.
These boards offer the least stability and glide in flat water, but for a paddle surfer who is contending with choppy waters, they provide the best surface area to minimize the press of waves and keep the surfer upright.
Surf paddle boards may have a planning or displacement hull; in the case of paddle surfing, it is typically recommended to go with a planning hull, which is blunt and wide, rather than pointed and narrow.
Touring Paddle Boards
Used for traveling long distances, these boards are some of the best available when it comes to stability and the amount of glide you get out of each stroke. These boards are often a little shorter than a race board, but longer than an all-purpose board.
These boards don’t offer as much versatility when it comes to turning; only gentle turns can be made, allowing you to navigate your way around the shoreline, but these are clearly designed for long-distance sprints where you’ll be on the water for miles at a time. Be sure to bring your sunscreen and a bottle of water!
Racing Paddle Board
A racing paddle board is designed for maximum efficiency. These SUPs are extremely narrow and fast which allows the user to paddle forward with agile precision.
These boards are unfavorable for the beginner or intermediate paddle boarder who struggles with balance; the narrower the board, the more difficult it is to balance on in the water. These boards may also be longer to allow the racer to lean over and compensate for the press of waves in front of them.
Still, racing paddlers trade this balance for the ability to go faster, cutting through the water and gliding across the top, leaving their competitors in their wake. These boards are only found in hard materials to ensure the hull and fin retain their ideal shape.
Stand Up Paddle Board for All-Purpose Fun
All-purpose stand up paddle boards are great for generic fun on the water and can often accommodate either one or two people (or one person and a dog.)
These boards typically feature one to three fins, have a standard cargo area, and have grip on the floor or standing portion of the board. These boards may not have much else in the way of specialization and are available in both inflatable and hard board materials.
These boards are an excellent choice for first-timers or casual paddle boarders who value the versatility of the board and options while on the water, rather than narrowing their choices to a single activity.
SUP Yoga Boards
Yoga on a SUP might seem impossible, but with a specialty board, it’s a little easier to accomplish. (See: possible.) Yoga boards are wide and incredibly stable, keeping the user from tumbling into the water with minor mistakes in posture.
This is especially important with more advanced yoga that might require difficult poses or a stretch of flexibility; falling into the water unexpectedly in these positions poses a risk of overextending or straining your muscles.
A wide board is a great solution to this problem. These boards don’t typically have much in the way of accessories outside of a standard cargo strap.
At their tallest, these boards are a little taller than a general-purpose board, making it easy to stretch out and perform different poses no matter what your height is.
SUP Fishing Boards
Paddle board fishing has gained popularity in recent years as fishermen are looking for new ways to find the ideal catch where motorized vehicles are banned, or simply want to enjoy peace and quiet without disturbing the habitat and dumping gasoline into the precious aquatic ecosystem they are fishing from.
These fishing-specific boards often include more D-rings for attaching fishing gear and other paddle boarding accessories. The grip on these boards may also be narrower, as you are more likely to be sitting or standing in place for a long time, rather than adjusting your stance as you paddle.
Most fishing boards also come with a removable rear mount for electric motors, turning the whole board into a motorized, portable boat. These boards are most often found in hard materials since fishing involves sharp hooks and knives.
Competition Boards VS. General Purpose Boards
General purpose boards are ideal for the casual paddle out on the lake – the equivalent of a lazy stroll in the park.
With these boards, you’re not aiming to be the fastest, or to be the most balanced; you just want to have a good time in the great outdoors.
All-around boards can go fast or can be used for other activities, but they won’t be designed specifically for competition or specialty activities. This can make the experience frustrating and, in some cases, prevent you from practicing the specialty skills.
Competition boards, on the other hand, are designed to maximize the user’s paddling efficiency. Most often used in tours, races, surfing, and other activities, these boards are designed for one specific specialty.
With these boards, you have a goal and you are setting out to achieve it no matter the cost (to your balance.)
Whether it is increasing drag to keep your board in the water, extra D-loops for attaching your fishing gear, or incredibly narrow and pointed to maximize the speed you can gain in the water – each competition board has a different purpose.
What Is a Good SUP for Beginners?
If you are a beginner, chances are you just need something versatile that can hold your weight and help you understand the sport better.
At this stage, there’s a good chance that you’re not sure if you enjoy paddle boarding, or if you’ll stick with it for very long.
Don’t worry – it’s easy to get hooked on paddle boarding – but what if you do commit to a board and wind up loving the sport?
A good medium-value, the general-purpose board is all you need to get started. Nothing too fancy to overextend your wallet on the first try, but nice enough to keep you safe while getting enough mileage out of it to be satisfied.
Finding something like that can feel overwhelming. We’ve made it simple.
Below is Paddle Outside’s TOP RECOMMENDATION for beginner paddle boarders looking for a good value for price and versatility:
Alternatively, check out our top recommendation for this budget-friendly beginner’s kit.
Learn More with Paddle Outside
Paddle Outside is more than a review website; it is a community-created website that helps you elevate your paddling skills, choose the right boards for what you need, and create a space where you can learn and find information quickly.
Paddle Outside is dedicated to providing the paddling community with information and resources that might not be easily accessible elsewhere on the internet.
It’s time we made more conscious decisions about our time in the great outdoors.
By promoting safe paddle boarding habits, making better decisions about where we spend our money on gear and creating sustainable practices when we’re outside, we can each have a better time on the water.
Once you’ve found the right paddle board for your needs in one of the reviews above, it’s time to start learning different techniques for when you’re out on the water. Learn more about our paddle boarding guides and tips in other sections on the website.