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 Hawai‘i, 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.
BruSurf 11’ Inflatable
- The All-Rounder: Versatile, durable
- Buy Now: $499, brusurf.com
If you want to use your board for a variety of water-sport experiences, the 11-foot inflatable board from BruSurf 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 24-pound board inflates to 12 psi and has extra-rigid construction under the foot area for additional strength. There’s also an 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 in a hiking-style carry bag, making it easy to hike upriver with the deflated board and float back down. You also get a pump, paddle, removable fin, and repair kit. This board won’t ding easily and can stand up to rocks and sand, making it an optimal choice for families.
- The Long-Distance Tourer: Cruiser, speed friendly
- Buy Now: $749, seaeagle.com
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 two sizes—comes with a backpack, paddle, pump, fin, and repair kit.
9’6” Ensatina Whitewater
- The Whitewater Chaser: Flexible, nimble
- Buy Now: $1,050, salamanderpaddlegear.co
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.
Bluefin Cruise 15’
- Buy Now: $849, bluefinsupboards.com
- The Buddy Board: Stable, partner friendly
When you want to go paddling with a pal, this board will let you do so together. This big, stable board from Bluefin SUP is ideal for tandem paddling—and there’s even room to fit your canine best friend, as well. It also makes a good solo touring option for folks who are big and tall. For this board, Bluefin uses 1,000-denier exo-surface laminate PVC and a dense drop-stitch pattern, making a rigid board with a maximum capacity of 529 pounds.
The removable, eight-inch 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 Cruise. Also included are a double-action pump for quick inflation, a backpack to carry the deflated board, paddles, an ankle leash, and a kayak conversion kit that allows you to add seats and change the paddle for a seated SUP adventure.
- The Endless Summer Surfer: Quick inflation, turn carver
- Buy Now: $1,299, red-equipment.us
For dedicated SUP surfers who don’t want to risk dinging their favorite board, this 17-pound inflatable model from Red Paddle Co. packs down to fit into a 38.5-inch by 15-inch backpack. When you arrive at that sweet surf spot, it takes less than five minutes to fully inflate your board, 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 all-terrain travel backpack, hand pump, repair kit, removable fins, and external battens—which give the board additional rigidity.
This article originally appeared in August 2019. It was updated in December 2022 with new information.