Look over popular bodies of water, and chances are you’ll see someone on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP)—whether they’re surfing sweet waves in Hawaii, cruising the Llubljanica River in Slovenia, working on SUP yoga poses in Isla Holbox, or downwind paddling along California’s coast. It may seem as if you need the balance of a well-practiced yogi to enjoy this fast-growing water sport, but in reality, it’s easier than you think. And it’s becoming increasingly popular on lakes, rivers, and oceans around the world.
Once you’ve fallen in love with the sport and all its possibilities, you might consider purchasing a board instead of renting one. For many people, that first board is an inflatable stand-up paddleboard. Rollable or foldable, blow-up boards solve many problems for those who have limited storage space or don’t want to travel with oversize, bulky items. But which one should you choose? That depends on which type of excursions you have in mind. Here’s our list of great inflatable SUPs for various watery adventures.
10’ Moon Mist TPU
If you want to use your board for a variety of water-sport experiences, the 10-foot Moon Mist TPU board from Pau Hana is a stable SUP that does everything well but isn’t built to specialize in any one thing. Take it out on the water for a yoga session, cruise around the marina, or drop in to a perfect south swell.
This 16.9-pound board is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that’s tough enough to stand up to your water adventures, but still supple enough to pack away. There’s also a five-millimeter, soft ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) pad on top of the board, which is easy on your feet. You can stash your gear on the nose using the secure bungee cords. The board comes rolled into a travel bag with wheels and a backpack-style harness that can accommodate another 30 pounds of clothes and gear, yet still weighs in under the airlines’ 50-pound limit. You also get a pump, paddle, removable fin, and repair kit.
Buy Now: $1,149, pauhanasurfco.com
The Long-Distance Tourer
If your favorite SUP activity is heading out along the coastline for a few miles and catching faster rides back in downwind conditions, you want a touring board like this one from Sea Eagle. The long shape with narrow, pointed nose is optimal for tracking in a straight line over long distances with good glide—getting you from Point A to Point B comfortably and efficiently.
This 12-foot, 6-inch board weighs 30 pounds and has a large, removable rear center fin and two side fins, which contribute to its great tracking. The hard needle nose helps you slice through the wind and waves on your marine journeys, and the sleek design further increases the board’s performance and speed. The EVA foam deck pad and kick tail make it more comfortable for your feet over longer paddle sessions and also assist you when performing more advanced kick and pivot turns. The NeedleNose—which is available in a larger and smaller size—comes with a backpack, paddle, pump, fin, and repair kit.
Buy Now: $749, seaeagle.com
9’6” Ensatina Whitewater
The Whitewater Chaser
If your SUP heaven is a river with whitewater rapids and surfable waves, you’ll want a board that’s both durable and nimble enough to navigate the conditions along the way. And because the nose of the SUP is likely what will hit a rock first, it’s important that your inflatable whitewater board has a strong, double-reinforced nose.
This 27-pound board from Salamander Paddle Gear has three detachable fins and foot wedges in front and back for added control so you can stay stable while running river rapids. If you have gear to carry, the daisy chain on the board’s nose lets you adjust how you lash it down—flexibility that comes in handy during multi-day trips. And five handles are helpful for both carrying the board and for getting back on when you’ve wiped out. Included with the Ensatina Whitewater is a travel bag, pump, fins and fin key, and repair kit.
Buy Now: $1,050, salamanderpaddlegear.com
The Behemoth Splasher
Not all SUP activities need to be extremely active. This big, stable board from BruSurf is ideal for paddling with groups—adults and kids, even dogs—and also makes for a great family base camp on the water. Attach an anchor (not included), and it serves as your lake platform and lounger. The heavy-duty grade, double-walled PVC material makes the MonsterBru a great rigid board that has a maximum capacity of 1,000 pounds.
Plenty of hands can help carry the 45-pound board thanks to the eight attached handles, and bungee cords let you secure gear without worrying about it getting knocked off and floating away. The removable center fin helps the board track well (without one, it would be like piloting a raft) and makes it easier to fold and pack up when you’ve deflated the MonsterBru. The included pump is useful for quick inflation, and you also get six adjustable paddles with the package, plenty for all the people you want to bring along (the dogs don’t need paddles).
Buy Now: $1,895, brusurf.com
The Endless Summer Surfer
For dedicated SUP surfers who don’t want to risk dinging their favorite board, this 16.28-pound inflatable model from Red Paddle Co. packs down to fit into a 37-inch by 15-inch backpack. When you arrive at that sweet surf spot, it takes less than five minutes to get your board fully inflated, and then you’re ready to go.
The Whip has a narrow tail so you can carve great turns; a removable and adjustable fin that allows you to make unbroken, sweeping turns; and a rounded nose for easier nose riding. The embossed deck pad provides additional grip, and the raised kick pad near the back supplies the stability you need to make tight turns. The Whip comes with its travel backpack, hand pump, repair kit, removable fins, external battens—which give the board additional rigidity—and even a water-resistant phone case.
Buy Now: $1,199, redpaddleco.com