So you’re going to the beach. Or, maybe you just moved to the beach. Either way, you’re looking for the best inflatable or rigid stand up paddle board for your active lifestyle.
Inflatable or rigid stand up paddle boards (SUP) are a great way to ride the surf, cruise in the harbor, and soak up some sun. I ride a stand up paddle board and love the exercise.
In this article we’ll share some important information about paddle boarding as well as some helpful tips. I’ll share my experience paddle boarding in California, the basics of paddle boarding, how to chose the right size paddle board, the pro’s and con’s or inflatable and rigid boards, the best brands for stand up paddle boards, and I’ll share our picks for best SUP for the beach.
To conclude, we’ll share tips on how to paddle board with key considerations to remember when standing up on the board. We’ll also share a video on paddle boarding tricks. Let’s get started.
My Experience Paddle Boarding
I grew up in the Golden State, sunny California. As a youngster, my time at the beach was spent building sandcastles and forts as well as throwing the frisbee.
Eventually my interests became more adventuresome and I began bodysurfing and bodyboarding. Navigating the big waves was a great way to get a workout and have fun.
After a weekend at the beach I would return home with a good tan and sore muscles.
In my 20’s I moved to the beach. For the first time I saw people standing on huge boards, gliding through the water using deep paddle strokes.
I remember thinking to myself “What is that…a surfboard?” Mind you, this was the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Paddle boarding, although it has been around forever, was reemerging in Southern California as a fun ocean activity. Some people used it for sport, others simply used it as their daily workout.
I first used a stand up paddle board as a tourist activity and rented a board at the beach. It was a good decision before buying one to decide if it was the sport for me. I picked it up pretty quick, though I had some balancing problems to start and ended up quite wet.
The following days my core was so sore from paddling, and needless to say it was a great workout. I thought about a purchase for a few weeks, looked around at pricing and bought one that was well-recommended from Amazon.
What is a Paddle Board
First, let’s cover the basics. A paddle board is a long, wide board where the user can lay, kneel, or stand. The user employs broad strokes with the hand or paddle to glide through the water.
Although paddle boarding has gained traction in the U.S. recently, paddle boards have been around for centuries and in Polynesia, they are traditionally used to travel from one island to another.
These days, paddle boarding is ubiquitous at the beach and a fun hobby for both tourists, couples, and even seniors. It’s not uncommon to see a dog on a board either! Most people who paddle board in California are doing it as a hobby or workout.
They use the stand up paddle board (SUP) method and utilize a paddle. Standing proves to be a great workout activity and demands good balance and core strength.
Ask around, anyone who is an active stand up paddle boarder is guaranteed to be in good shape. Beginners will usually fall early and often before they adjust their balance.
The harbor is a great place to learn stand up paddle boarding because of the lack of waves. At the beach, stand up paddle boarders will usually get past the wave break and move parallel with the beach. Expert stand up paddle boarders can be seen riding waves and using their paddle as a rudder.
What Size Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) is Right for Me?
The sizing chart above highlights your ideal size for when choosing your board. Note that this chart is general and many of the inflatable boards we recommend can allow a much heavier weight.
Paddle Board Length:
- Based on length and weight, most Americans should be using a board between 10.5-12.5 feet long. This will differ depending on the intended use.
- Smaller size boards are not ideal for adults not only because of weight, but because their surface area is less. A smaller surface area will make the board harder to control and it will become more sensitive to your body’s pressure. Sensitivity makes it a good board if you’re interested in paddle board surfing.
- Mid-size boards, such as those between 10.5-12.5 feet are versatile and relatively stable boards
- Large-size boards have a greater surface area with the water and will disperse your weight evenly throughout the board. This results in more stability and has a tendency to guide straight forward. Large paddle boards will be easier to stand on and control but a large width will also be slower and take more effort to paddle.
- Long boards that are narrow are your racing boards!
Paddle Board Width:
- Keep in mind that wider equate to more stability, while narrow boards equate to speed.
- If you are a thin person riding a wide board you will end up leaning farther to each side of the board with every stroke
- If you’re using the board for long distances, a narrow board will likely get you there faster
- As you can imagine, beginners do better with wider boards, mainly because they are easier to balance.
Paddle Board Depth (Thickness):
- The depth of the board will vary slightly depending on the purpose of the board.
- Depth for inflatable boards tends to be slightly larger than their rigid peers due to the air inside the board.
- Keep in mind that a very small person on a very thick board will feel like you are floating on top of the water. Your weight on the board is tricky because you don’t want too much buoyancy nor do you want the board to be submerged.
Don’t Forget Fins:
- Most boards have at least 1 fin that can be replaced or removed with a screw.
- Longer fins equal stability and can help you move straight through the water
- Some boards have 2-3 fins and inflatable boards often have convenient and removable fins
Inflatable vs. Rigid Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUP)
Most people looking for a SUP consider the choice between inflatable vs. rigid a big decision. It was the same for me as I contemplated what was the best quality option. Well, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that convenience and ease of use was the most important thing. Thus, an inflatable made the most sense for me.
For those of you looking to use a SUP in windy regions or for surfing, then a rigid SUP might be a good option. Maybe you have a beach house and a rigid SUP would be more convenient because there’s no need to inflate the paddle board.
Just walk out to the beach and you’re ready to go. Or you might want a rigid paddle board because you feel the need for speed – rigid boards are better for racing and speed.
For most of us who don’t live on the water, transporting our SUP on/in our car is one of the biggest considerations when purchasing a SUP. If my assumptions are correct, most of us will be using a SUP for recreation and leisure purposes.
If your situation is similar to mine, I strongly recommend considering the inflatable options on our list.
Pros of Rigid SUP Boards:
- Less flex, more firm
- It’s ready to go once you arrive at the beach
- Usually thinner
- Handles a little better due to less flex, better response – resulting in precise control
- Better in surf situations, greater control. If you’re also a surfer or want to test the waves, rigid boards are the way to go.
- Better in windy conditions because they float lower in the water. Think of having more shock absorption and better balance.
Pros of Inflatable SUP Boards:
- Portable for easier transport in the back of a sedan
- No roof rack needed
- Easier for travel (checked backpack bag on airline)
- Easier to repair (patch only)
- Storage in a Backpack
Truth about inflatable paddle boards video:
Best Brands for Stand Up Paddle Boards
There are many paddle board options to meet your individual needs. Below we’ll share some of the best brands and group them according to budget. Good quality paddle boards start at around 500 dollars while high-end boards can reach upwards of 1,500 dollars.
For beginners, we recommend starting with a more affordable option but don’t let us stop you from gifting a high-end board to your loved one. The high-end paddle boards are often shaped with wood and look beautiful.
Mid-Range Paddle Boards
- Tower Paddle Boards (San Diego based company famous for their appearance on the TV show Shark Tank)
- Isle Surf (San Diego based surf and paddle co.)
- SUP ATX
- Ten Toes
- Xterra (quality board company out of San Diego)
- California Board Company and Scott Burke Co.
High-End Paddle Boards
- Red Paddle Co.
- Naish 800-1600
- BIC SUP (also own Earth SUP and Oxbow)
- Starboard SUP
Below we’ve created 3 sections to help you identify the SUP that is best for you:
Best inflatable paddle board | Our Pick – Atoll Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board
Best rigid paddle board | Our Pick – ISLE Classic Soft Top Stand Up Paddle Board
Accessories for SUP | Our Pick – COR Wall or Ceiling Rack
Section 1: Best Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board
No. 1 Atoll Inflatable Stand up Paddle Board (11’0″) ISUP Package
The Atoll captures our number 1 ranking for best stand up paddle board for the beach. Atoll Board Company is based out of Huntington Beach, California where they make great inflatable paddle boards designed for the everyday workout or weekend warrior. This board, in particular, is 30% lighter weight than their competitor models.
The lightweight product (19 lbs.) no doubt improves paddling efficiency and performance, not to mention makes it easier for traveling. While it is lighter than some boards, the 11′ feet board is long enough to carry the average male over 200 lbs.
Atoll is still a growing company but because the are smaller, they have great customer service and any problems can be addressed by calling or emailing them. The 2 year warranty is a huge plus for this board and one of the reasons we like it so much. Atoll stands by their products.
- 11 feet, 32 inches wide, 6 inches thick
- Ultra light construction layer (PVC)
- Bravo Hand Pump
- 3 Piece Paddle and fin (nylon)
- Travel Backpack
- Repair kit
- Waist strap
- D-rings on the top for tie downs
- 2 year warranty and good customer service
- 10′ flex leash
The look of the board is attractive and not cheap looking. Some time and effort went into the design and it shows. The color scheme goes together well as do the logos.
I like the extra D-rings on the top of the board that helps with tying down supplies like coolers and clothes. Because it is an inflatable, the board will have some flex.
Atoll is our favorite inflatable stand up board for the extras it provides and for the happy customers. I recommend this 11 foot board for beginners and intermediates who use occasionally for recreation or for an open water workout. It’s a great gift idea.
No. 2 Ten Toes Weekender Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board – Bundle (10′ feet)
Ten Toes makes fun boards in a variety of colors. As the product title mentions, this board is for the recreational user who needs a decent board to get around the harbor and surf. Ten Toes Weekender doesn’t include all the bells and whistles like the Atoll above, but it is a quality and more affordable option for beachgoers.
Even though it’s a 10 foot board, it can easily support riders up to 275 lbs.
- 10 feet long, 30 inches wide, and 6 inch depth
- Military-grade PVC
- Can be rolled into 11 inches x 36 inches for transport or storage
- Aluminum paddle
- 3 fins
- Repair kit
This board weighs 30 lbs so it’s one of the heavier boards on our list. Ten Toes also offers a 2 year warrant a plenty of colors to chose from. The reviewers on amazon share that it is great for storage in small places and also is perfect to ride with dogs.
It is easy to assemble, blows up quickly, however, the few d-rings make storage on top of the board more of a challenge. You get what you pay for with this board; good quality at a decent price.
No. 3 ISLE Airtech Inflatable Explorer Stand Up Paddle Board with iSUP Package (11′ feet)
Isle is a relatively well-known name in the boarding industry. They make surfboards and have crossed over into the paddle boarding market. With this board, Isle offers one of the best ISUPs on the market.
This board lines up well with the Atoll board in terms of price and package. It’s 11′ feet long, weights a reasonable 19 lbs and can support paddlers upwards of 275 lbs.
The width of this board is slightly wider than average which will help the novice rider and let you carry more beers or pets! I like the anti-slip grip on the top of the board and grey and yellow color contrast. Isle offers plenty of d-rings to ensure adequate tie down space on the surface.
- 11′ feet x 32 inches x 6 inches
- 19 lbs
- Carrying bag
- 1 year warranty
The warranty isn’t quite as good as the others on our list (1 year warranty / 30 day guarantee. The paddle board includes some additional accessories like the travel paddle (breaks down), carrying bag and pump.
Due to the decent width of this board, some reviewers also bought this board for ISUP yoga! A few large guy reviewers (220 lbs +) said they had no problems with this board and recommend it as well.
No. 4 Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer Inflatable SUP Package (9’10”)
Tower Paddle Boards became a household name when they appeared on the TV show Shark Tank in 2011. Despite a poor presentation Tower Paddle Boards managed to convince Mark Cuban to invest in the company. Now they are a well-known paddle boarding brand out of San Diego that continues to grow.
At first glance you might notice the size of this board 9’10”. While one of the shorter boards on our reviews, Tower Boards pack a punch.
These boards are manufactured in a way that resembles a rigid board. In doing so the board can accommodate up to 350 lbs (so don’t worry about being to big for this one). The compact size makes it easier to deflate and store in small places.
- Smaller board 9’11” x 31.9″ x 5.9″
- Stronger than many of the others – weighs 25 lbs
- 350 lbs rider limit
- 2 year warranty
- 3 – piece adjustable paddle
While you won’t be getting all the extras that some other products provide, you will get a strong and durable board, a pump and paddle, as well as a comforting 2 year limited warranty.
I like the design of the board and the appearance, but one thing is very noticeable: there is no d-rings to tie down cargo. There are some accessories that can be added to the board later, but this board is simple and straightforward.
No. 5 SereneLife Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board | Universal SUP Wide Stance
SereneLife makes paddle boards for the beginner and offers them at prices that won’t break the bank. Even though there isn’t anything special about this board we decided to add it to our reviews because of its affordability and generally positive reviews.
- 10′ feet, 30″ inches, 6″ inches thick
- Non-slip top grip
- Inflatable for easy storage
- Kit includes: ankle leash, paddle, pump, and storage bag
- Board weight 19.6 lbs and 275 lbs rider limit
The simple design and board package is similar to our Ten Toes review above. It also makes for a decent yoga board. Reviews are almost all positive with an good average rating.
Most people buying this board are newcomers to the sport and want to test the waters before buying a higher quality option. My recommendation: try the ISLE or Atoll boards instead and pay close attention to the warranty!
No. 6 Xterra Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board Premium SUP Bundle | Includes Package (10′ feet)
This Xterra ISUP Board had to be included on the list because this is a high-end company selling their products at a great deal – sometimes offering their inflatable paddle boards at a 50% discount on amazon. Xterra is another company based out of San Diego, California. I know this board well as its the same brand I learned on.
This board is a strong looking 10′ feet and weights 29 lbs when fully inflated (not cheap!). It supports riders up to 250 lbs. partly due to its use of high-grade military PVC.
- Quality product w/ competitive price
- 29 lbs – one of the heavier inflatable boards
- 250 lbs max rider weight
- Ankle leash
- Repair kit
It comes with a competitive package including: adjustable paddle, pump, backpack, ankle leash, and repair kit. Multiple fins can be used on board and there are enough d-rings.
For the price and quality, I think you can’t go wrong with this board. The included package makes it a better deal as well!
Section 2: Best Rigid Stand Up Paddle Board
No. 1 ISLE Classic Soft Top Stand Up Paddle Board w/ SUP Package (10’8″ feet)
Since 2004, two guys from San Diego have grown ISLE boards into one of the premium ocean board companies in the world. With this board you get what you pay for…and trust me, it won’t break the bank.
I’ve used ISLE paddle boards a number of time and can recommend them as a solid rigid option.
- 10’8″ x 31 inch x 5 inch
- 27 lbs
- Carrying capacity 275 lbs
- Adjustable paddle
- Center board carrying hand (very cool)
- Non-slip deck grip
- Rigid boards 180 day manufacturers warranty
This board is an all-around board for all skill levels and works well whether cruising in the harbor or riding some waves for fun. The look is nice and wide enough for your dog or children to join you.
What sells me is the included paddle and center carrying handle (middle of board to hold). If you’ve ever carried a rigid board you know it can be trick. ISLE boards found a way to simplify the issue. With overwhelmingly positive reviews, you know you’re getting a quality product.
No. 2 BIC Sport ACE-TEC Wing Stand up Paddleboard (11-12′ feet options)
We’re not the only ones who like this boad. The BIC Sport ACE-TEC was recently Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Year Winner for Best Paddle Board.
You might also be wondering about the BIC name…isn’t this the pen maker? Yes it is, however after introducing the pen the company in 1979, the family evolved into a water sports maker as well. These boards are high-quality so don’t be discouraged.
- Outside Magazine’s Gear of the Year Award
- 2 year warranty
- 11-12 feet options
- Pointed nose for speed
- Anti-slip, carrying handle and tie downs
- Paddle sold separately
The design is slick and sporty with a 11-12′ choice of board and a pointed nose to help you cut through water. This can be considered as a recreational race board, great for long distance paddling and fitness paddling workouts. Its width is 34 inches and depth is 8 inches. The weight is 27 lbs.
The BIC Sport ACE-TEC includes a anti-slip pad, carrying handle and plenty of attachments points on the top of the board so you can tie down cargo. The 2 year warranty is comforting for buying confidence. One negative that you’ll find with most high-end boards is that the paddle is sold separately – keep this in mind as you look at other rigid boards on this list.
No. 3 Scott Burke Stand Up Paddle Board (10’6″ feet)
Scott Burke boards offer paddle boards, paddle/kayak crossovers, and surf boards. Scott Burke boards have been around a while in the surf industry and now offer some solid choices for paddle boarding.
This board is made from fiberglass and reinforced nylon. I really like that it comes with a padded roof rack…no need to buy or install one on your roof.
This board in particular is a good choice for intermediate riders who require a rigid stand up board at an affordable price. I like the design and style. I also like the size which is adequate for average height and weight.
- 10’6″ size
- 27 lbs
- Max weight 275 lbs.
- Comes with bungee straps on deck, surf leash, and roof racks
- No paddle
What I don’t like about this board is the 30-day warranty. Its seems pretty short for such a good brand and expensive investment. I know if I’m making a new paddle board purchase I’d probably find another option on the list that can give me 1-2 years confidence.
There aren’t a lot of reviews to back up the satisfaction of buyers however they do mention that the soft top of the board is nice on the feet and knees and the functionality of the board is great. One reviewed said there were some cosmetic issue with the painting but was still happy with the board.
No. 4 Naish 2015 Nalu GS Paddle-Board
Naish is a premier boarding company. They specialize in paddle boards and surf boarding. If you’re willing to pay a premium, you’ll get an awesome board from a great Hawaiian company that’s been making boards since 1979.
- 11′ x 20 inches x 6 inches (narrow board)
- High quality – High price
- Wood reinforce board
- Supports riders in low 200 lbs
This board uses wood reinforcement in the standing area with a comfortable pad. Its core is a molded EPS (Expanded polystyrene) that makes it lightweight and resistant to potential water leakage.
Its is 11′ feet x 20 inches wide and 6 inches deep. I believe the weight is 28lbs, given their other comparable boards that are this length and size. If you are interested in this board I’d recommend visiting their site for more information and clarity (Naish Surfing).
No. 5 ISLE Versa Epoxy Standup Paddle Board w/ SUP Package (10’5″ feet)
The ISLe Versa is another slick paddle board by a reputable company. I’ve already told you about the quality of the company so let’s jump right into this board.
It’s a good size board for the average height and weight but you’ll notice it’s only 4.5 inches thick. This makes it a lighter option for the rider at 27 lbs.
- 10’5″ x 32 inches x 4.5 inches
- Weighs 27 lbs
- Supports riders 275 lbs
- Limited warranty 180 daysEasy return within 30 days
- Comes in 2 color schemes and a few extras (fin, paddle)
The board supports riders up the 275 lbs. so it can even work for NFL players (haha). We like this board similarly as the other rigid ISLE board – solid option for beginners and intermediate riders.
And just the same it comes with their SUP package including: a paddle, carry handle, and fin.
Section 3: Best Paddle Board Accessories for the Beach
No 1. THURSO SURF SUP Deck Bag Cooler Bag
Thurso Surf manufactures a fun cooler meant to fit on the top of your board. The cooler is 14″ x 12″ x 4″ and can easily fit 10 cans for a day long adventure.
Not a drinker?..then pack a lunch and some water for you and your travel buddy. It uses a mesh pocket that will keep other items safe as well and water-resistant insulated
The deck bag can fit under your bungees or be fixed to the board with suction cups and bungee hooks. This is a cool SUP accessory and would make a great gift for your active partner.
No. 2 SUP-Now Paddleboard Deck Bag with Waterproof Insert
This product uses a similar storage as above, without the cooler. The outer mesh holds items that can get wet while the insert protects valuable like your ID, wallet, and papers.
This is a practical and budget friendly add-on for any serious paddle boarder
No. 3 COR Wall or Ceiling Rack for Stand Up Paddle Board
COR offers a simple yet effective designed wall rack to store your boards. Once you purchase a board you’ll need to figure out where to put it.
Will it be in the garage, on the patio, or in your room? In any case, this wall or ceiling rack will securely hold your board and do-so at an inexpensive price.
It’s made out of galvanized steel and won’t sag nor rust. The design will look nice but also allows you to quickly install then forget about it.
How to Paddle Board – For Beginners
If you’re interested in learning how to paddle board, we’ve included a helpful video below. It’s always easier to watch others when learning, but we can provide some written instruction too.
(1) Make sure you walk the board far enough out in the water. If your try to get on the board in shallow water, there’s a good chance the paddle board’s fins will get stuck in the sand. I recommend walking to knee or hip depth – yes you’ll have to get a little bit wet.
(2) Always begin paddle boarding on your knees. This is especially important if you’re in the ocean and there are waves.
Waves can easily knock you off your board but if you start on your knees, you’ll have a lower center of gravity and more balance. If possible, sit back on your feet and sit in the middle of the board.
(3) Once you’re out past the waves, you can stand up. Standing up can be tricky. Try to do it quickly and look forward.
Looking down at the board or water will reduce your balance. Focus on the horizon and stand up straight while holding onto the paddle.
(4) The paddle will be angled to the front or to the rear. When paddling you want the angle to be forward. Most people believe the paddle angle should be going backward – a common mistake.
(5) Regarding paddling, try to hold the paddle straight up and down. You don’t want your strokes to be wide (far away from the board. The paddle can go out to the side when turning, but not when going forward.
(6) Place one hand on the end of the handle and the other hand half way down the paddle. Keeping your hands too close together can make paddling more difficult.
(7) Foot placement on the board. Occasionally check your foot position. If you stand too far back on the board, the nose will point upward and the back of the board will slightly sink.
Remember to stand in the middle of the board so the board is flat in the water.
Paddle Boarding Tricks
Here is another sweet video to get you in the paddle boarding mood. Watch Laird Hamilton show off in this trick boarding video;
So there you have it. In this article we covered a lot of information ranging from the concept and origins of paddle boarding, to sizing and the differences between the various types of paddle boards.
As you develop your paddle boarding skill you’ll realize the subtle differences of inflatables, rigid, racing and wave riding. Each has its own benefits but if you’re a recreational rider like myself, these boards can be versatile.
When ever I see a paddle boarder in California it always brings a smile to my face. Sometimes they are alone, other times with a child or dog sitting in the front. However you use your board, I wish you happy paddling, sunshine, and great workout. Thanks for reading.