Standup paddle boarding is rapidly gaining popularity as a sport. It has been reported as the sport with the largest number of first time participants in 2013. The sport is an off-shoot of surfing which originated in Hawaii, where it was referred to as Hoe he’e nalu’ in the local language.
On this page:
In terms of value, the best of all the great stand up paddleboards available right now is the Cruiser SUP Koa Wood with different sizes ranging from 10′ to 11’6″ with its 5-star rating spread over many reviews. Its performance is good for paddling and you can even try surfing with it. With an economical price it offers the best value in a multi-purpose board and a great option to get your feet wet so to speak 😉 . Read the reviews and see prices.
Although paddleboarding has existed for quite a long time, it only started gaining popularity in 2005, at which point commercial production and accelerated improvements in SUP gear took off. New techniques also continue to be developed to enhance the experience. Standup paddle-boarding can be enjoyed for its own sake or used to enhance surfing by paddling further into the ocean than normal surfing allows. Standup paddling uses self-propulsion and can be done anywhere from open ocean to smaller bodies of water like lakes and rivers.
As you’d expect, given the differences between surfing and paddleboarding, SUP boards are different from standard surfboards. SUP boards tend to be larger than normal longboards, some measuring more than 12ft. The choice of size usually depends on the activities, with some boards being suitable for both standup paddling and surfing.
SUP Board Materials and Design – A Quick Overview
A paddle-board is designed to float on water, therefore light materials are required for their construction. The choice of building materials and processes is a tradeoff between cost and performance which is related to weight. Some boards are hollow while others are solid, both with advantages and disadvantages over each other.
Plastic boards are cheap and durable which make them suitable for kids or budget paddle-boards. They however tend to be heavy and therefore unsuitable for racing. Fiber-glass and epoxy over EPS foam type paddle-boards offer a good balance between price and performance, therefore the most common type of construction. The construction techniques vary, therefore paddle-boards in this category tend to differ in weight, price and performance and durability. Plastic over EPS foam paddle-boards are very light and durable, although more expensive than solid plastic boards. Soft-top boards are tough, heavy and padded with rubber all over the upper surface. Their prices are considerably low, suiting them to beginners. Inflatable paddle-boards are light and easy to transport. They are usually made of PVC and can be implemented to suit different paddling needs. Some special boards are made from ultra-light materials such as carbon fiber, allowing for high performance implementations, although for a much higher price.
Types of SUP Boards
Although paddling boards fall into two broad categories, all-rounders and touring boards, some enhancements to SUP boards can make them suitable for specific paddling activities. The various types of paddle-boards are:
The Best Standup Paddleboards – All-Rounders Category
All rounders are long (up to 14 feet) and wide (up to 3ft) and offer more stability, therefore suitable for beginners, still water paddling and can be used for fishing. They closely resemble surfboards and can be used for that as well (all rounders, right?) though they are not specialized for that purpose. There are paddleboards that are surf-specialized or you can just pick up a paddle and used it with your surfboard if you already have one. Inflatables make good all-round paddle boards.
If you buy an all rounder at first you can try various different things with your board and find out what you like best — touring, racing, surfing. Then, if you like, trade in for the specialized board of your choice.
You could even join the ranks of the true fanatics and have more than one board.
All round paddleboard have the flexibility to do many different types of paddleboarding, but they’ll never be quite as good as a specialized board for the intended task. For instance, if you plan to paddle all the way around the Hawaiian islands you would want to buy a touring board not an all-rounder.
Our choices for best all round paddleboards:
Inexpensive: Solstice Bali Stand-Up Paddleboard (10-Feet 8-Inch) – offers a complete package from a trusted manufacturer to get you started in the sport. Includes 10’8″ board and everything you need to get paddling in one very inexpensive package. Because of its low price this board is a perfect choice if you want to try the sport out or will be an infrequent paddler.
Mid-range: BIC Sport ACE-TEC Wing Stand Up Paddleboard – this board is fast and a little longer than the Bali above. It has a reputation for being durable and light. It was awarded OUTSIDE magazine’s “Gear of the Year” award – say no more.
Best Standup Paddle Boards for Touring
The best touring stand up paddleboards are usually longer and narrower with a sharper bow (front). This combination of long and narrow allows smoother movement through water and makes them more efficient and more suited to long distance paddling.
For beginners these boards can be a little harder to handle. The length makes them more susceptible to the movement of waves. The narrower profile makes them easier to tip and fall off of. They are not impossible to learn on but it does take a little longer (and a few more soakings!).
Once you do get used to touring SUPs you’ll find they require less effort to paddle than do all-round boards or shorter and wider boards. Below are our choices for best touring paddleboard:
Riviera Paddlesurf Voyager 12’6″ – it looks good and moves beautifully. This guy is tough too, as it is made of bamboo and fiberglass for strength and light weight. At 31.5 inches wide it is a little wider than some touring SUPs and so also a little more stable. There are plenty of tie-downs for taking gear with you – a true touring board. Take a close look.
Starboard Touring Starshot 12’6″ – The Starshot is a little narrower than the Paddlesurf Voyager at 30″ but still fairly easy to get used to for a first timer. It boasts tie-downs as well and tracks beautifully through choppy water. If you are used to an all-rounder you’ll find this board accelerates significantly better.
Best Hybrid Paddleboards
These SUP’s possess features of both standard paddleboards and kayaks, allowing paddling in both standing and sitting positions.
Some hybrid paddleboards will have a seat that you can attach to the top of the board. Others, like those pictured here will have a comfortable area to sit while extending your legs.
Even the best hybrid paddleboards, though, have a small drawback. Your weight will be distributed on the board differently when you are standing compared to when you are sitting. When you are sitting the bow of your board will generally be a little higher in the air than when you are standing. This can make turning a little more awkward as well as make it more likely that gusts of wind will push you off course. Nevertheless these boards can be a lot of fun in sheltered waters and on coastlines. It can also be really nice to take a break from standing and continue paddling while sitting.
Our picks for top hybrid are:
Ocean Kayak 11-ft. Nalu Stand-Up or Sit-On-Top Paddleboard – at 11 feet long this board can move fast making longer distances and touring a possibility. It has bungee storage area and an integrated fin at the stern to improve tracking and allow you to paddle hard without adjusting course too frequently. 5-star rating and great price.
Sea Eagle LB11 Hybrid SUP – This model has D-rings for attaching an optional seat which looks very comfortable indeed! As an inflatable the LB11 is easy to transport yet also very rigid when ready to go. As if sitting and standing paddling are not enough this hybrid can serve well as a longboard in case you want to dabble in surfing. Comes with built-in front skegs and a removable rear skeg. Cost hovers around $950 with free shipping.
Surfing Paddleboard Reviews – The Top Two
Surf paddleboards could be considered another form of hydrid. Though any paddleboard can be used to surf some are better than others. Those that are geared towards surfing are shorter and narrower than standard paddleboards to make it easier to move through waves. Paddling a surf board helps you to reach waves that are further out than those that are within range of someone lying down using their arms and hands to paddle.
If you, as a beginning paddleboarder were to get on a surf paddleboard you’d find it much more unstable than the wider longer all-around paddleboards. Unless you are already familiar with surfing it is usually advisable to start with a wider longer board. Once you are accustomed to surfing using a regular board you will know what you are looking for when you trade up to the best surfing paddleboard for your needs. If you are lucky you might be able to find a place that rents surf paddleboards to try a few out.
Here are our picks for top two surfing paddleboard brands:
Creed Surf Paddleboards – They cost a little more but if you are looking for high performace this is the best choice for a surfing paddleboard. Even though some models use bamboo for rigidity they are lighter — by several pounds — than most boards on the market. Many have nice built-in carry handles and a GoPro mounts as well. Check out a variety of models.
Another longboard SUP option is the 11-foot Surfboard/Paddleboard by Greco Surf. It has just enough rocker to make for great on-wave performance and three detachable fins. This board is THE choice if you are looking for good value. It sacrifices very little – if anything – in quality and performance when compared to pricier boards.
The Best Women’s Paddleboards
If you are looking for a woman’s stand up paddleboard you can go a little smaller than a man’s. Depending on the woman’s size, both length, thickness and width can be on average 10% less than the average man’s board. That being said for a beginner board size is not too important.
Once you get comfortable stand up paddleboarding and want to start catching waves then it becomes important to get on a smaller board. Bigger board with thicker edges are harder to turn. Lighter women can also use boards with more rocker (the bottom end-to-end curve on the board) making on-wave turns easier.
Weight can be an issue when purchasing a board. Older boards tend to be heavier and harder to carry. Nowadays most builders try to make paddleboards as light as possible and with a convenient grab handle in the board’s center.
Here are our picks for best women’s stand up paddleboards:
Newport Vessels Women’s Umami Stand Up Paddleboard – this inflatable is 9 feet 2 inches with an 8″ removable fin, pump, and takes weight of up to 200 pounds. Best of all it is a great deal and on sale at almost half price. This is a perfect woman’s beginner’s board and as mentioned is well-loved by those who purchase it.
BIC Sport ACE-TEC Original Stand up Paddleboard – This board is available in a 9 foot 6 inch size perfect for anyone 120 pounds or less. As a solid board (not inflatable) it has excellent durability and has enough rocker for surfing once you’re ready for that. This board will last many years and keep pace with you as your skills evolve.
The Best Children’s Paddleboards
These are paddleboards designed to be lighter and safer, sometimes they are designed as inflatable or padded boards to minimize injuries due to falls.
What’s with the fins?
Long paddle-boards (12.6-14ft) are faster than shorter ones, which explains why racing/touring paddle-boards are the longest of all. Fins are added to paddle-boards to enhance stability and tracking. Three possible fin setups can be chosen depending on the sporting activities. They are:
- Large single fin – it is attached to the paddle-board such that it can be moved and secured either close to the bow or to the hull for better turning or better tracking respectively.
- Thruster and side-bite – the thruster comprises three fins while the side-bite has two. Both setups enhance tracking and flat-water surfing.
- Race fins – They can be rigid or flexible, but are all suited to tracking with the choice of flexible or rigid type usually depending on the paddling environment.