The great sport of paddle boarding.
Invented in Hawaii and popularized in California.
It’s no wonder you’re thinking about getting one.
Trouble is, there’s so many boards on the marketplace! There’s some for fishing, some for surfing, there’s inflatable boards and rigid boards.
Where do you even start?
That’s where we come in.
We’ve broken down everything about buying a board from size dimensions to whether or not the board has removable fins.
This way you can be sure the board you choose has the exact specifications you’re looking for.
Plus, you don’t have to trouble over scouring the Internet because we listed the best paddle boards out there below.
The Top 12
We’ve separated our favorite boards into a few different categories. And we’ll start, of course, with the best overall paddle boards.
Best Overall Paddle Boards
#1 Best Overall Paddle Board: SBBC Orca 10’6”
When it comes to the standard pull-out of the garage and take out to the ocean paddle board, this is our favorite choice. With the 32-inch wide frame that stays consistently wide throughout most of the board, you’ll be sure to be feeling the stability on the rockiest of conditions. It is the fastest of the Orca paddle boards because of its rounded rails. These allow you to slice through the waves, no problem.
Durability is a huge factor for any surfboard. This board boasts a solid 6oz resin layer, providing quality strength to the board. Meaning small dings will be not a problem for this paddle board. It is an easy to carry board with a handle near the center and is as easy to maneuver out in the water with its 2 plus 1 fin system. (2 small fins and 1 large interchangeable fin.)
A really cool feature of this board is its patented fingerprint texture which provides incredible grip even in the slipperiest of conditions. It also keeps the board clean of wax so that the look is always fresh and clean. Sure, a good wax job is always a sign of an excellent time, but it can dirty up the board quickly if not taken care of. This board takes that factor out of the water.
Still the number one feature this board is known for is its indestructible quality. It can be taken out in any condition and treated with any condition and it will still remain a solid board. (Although please don’t take this as an excuse to go chuck the board off a cliff… no guarantees on that one.) Perfect for family trips to the beach and letting every member of the family have a try. It will be able to withstand it all. That’s why this board has stolen our hearts as the best overall paddle board.
#2 BIC Sport Tough-Tec Performer
The BIC Sport Tough-Tec is a great board for beginners and professionals alike. It’s part of a Performer Series which contains three different sizes, 9-foot-2, 10-foot-6, and 11-foot-6. This way you can choose a size that fits perfectly according to your own height. With its sleek and slender design this board is perfect for any condition. Got a still body of water in your backyard that’s been taunting you? This board can help. Are you right down the street from a gnarly break that has the locals raving? This board has your back.
An important note about this board is that near the front there are two points where attachments can be put on that are great for storing gear. This means this board is a great pair for excursions that involve extra equipment. If you’re fishing, you can hook your cooler with your lunch and another container to hold all your catches in. Going scuba diving? No problem, just attach your flippers, mask, tank, and weights to the front and paddle your way out there.
The three different sized boards allow for different things and having a board of each size would be great, but say you only want to buy one… which one do you get? The first thing to account for is your own height and strength. An 11-foot board is going to be pretty heavy and tough to control, while a 9-foot board is much more manageable. When surfing, an 11-foot board will have an easier time catching waves and can even catch smaller waves than a 9-footer. While riding a wave, an 11-foot board will be harder to turn and maneuver than a 9-foot board. Lastly, while paddling around, an 11-foot board will travel faster than a 9-foot board.
So with all these factors in mind, getting the right sized stand-up paddle board is all about determining your own needs for the board. If you’re just looking for an exercise board that you want to paddle around and occasionally grab one wave here or there, maybe the 11-footer is best. If you’re trying to surfing more than paddle around, perhaps the 9-footer reigns supreme (unless, of course, the nearest surf break has tiny waves). And if you’re unsure, well, they have a middle of the road sized board just waiting to be picked. A 10-foot-6 board will never steer you wrong.
#3 Scott Burke 10’6” SUP
The Scott Burke stand up paddle board is a great all around board to take anywhere. With a light-weight frame of only 25lbs, this board can be carried on the go anywhere. While it doesn’t have the extreme feather-weight of an inflatable board, oftentimes paddlers prefer the hardtop to the squishy inflatable. If this sounds like you, you’ll love this Scott Burke board.
It has a bungee holder built right into the front of the board, making all types of adventuring possible. And it holds up to 300lbs of weight on top which, for its size and weight, is remarkable. Not only can you bring along all your equipment, but bring your pup too for a duo adventure!
With its fashionable design, this sleek board will make you look like a pro just by paddling around and showing it off. While the look of a board won’t affect its performance, sometimes it’s nice to appreciate the aesthetics.
The board comes with a soft top pad mounted in the center of the board which provides great relief for the knees when paddling in that position. It also helps with the grip beneath your feet when balancing through rougher waters. You won’t have to worry about waxing your board as the grip won’t let your feet slip and slide off the board.
This stand up paddle board is made with a triple laminated wood stringer, coated in a waterproof resin. It is made of a high density and durable polyethylene, giving it that sleek shine and tough exterior.
Best Inflatable SUPs
Now that you’ve had a look at some of the hard top stand-up paddle boards, it’s time to check out the inflatables or iSUP. Inflatable boards are great for many reasons including: ability to travel with them, ability to fish on them, and more. For a deeper look at some of our favorite inflatable SUPs, make sure to check out our best inflatable SUP guide
#1 Best Inflatable SUP: Serenelife 10’ Inflatable SUP
There is an incredible number of iSUPs on the market today. But the SereneLife inflatable board is the one that best grabbed our attention. It is a ten-footer and thirty inches wide, providing a good stable base to stand on. It also has a non-slip top deck so that it’s always ready to be taken out into the water. Just need to inflate and ride. It is only about 19lbs which makes it great for traveling and carrying to the beach. Add another one pound or so for the inflating device and this is still going to be lighter than any hardtop stand up paddle board on the market.
Inflatable paddle boards are great for kids and beginners. Families love them because of their weight (as any kid can help carry it and maneuver it) and because of how soft it is. Everybody falls when first learning how to paddle, so having a nice soft pad to hit if you do fall provides some peace of mind.
The board has tie down bungee cords designed in the front of the board for easy access to all equipment brought along for the trip. Many fishermen actually prefer the inflatable paddle boards to hard tops when fishing, however, it’s all up to personal preference. The total capacity weight is about 275 lbs which is usually plenty to bring aboard a few heavy catches.
With the three fin system, the board will have great maneuverability and speed. And the best part is, all of it fits into a small duffel bag with a carrying apparatus so you never have to struggle getting it to and from the beach. When purchasing an iSUP, it’s always a good idea to buy a package deal that comes with everything you need. This includes a leash that will attach to your ankle, so you never have to go chasing after your board after a wipeout. It also includes a pump to inflate and deflate the stand up paddle board, as well as a paddle. If possible, try to find one with an adjustable paddle as people will often switch back and forth between standing on their feet and kneeling down. With an adjustable paddle, switching back and forth becomes a breeze.
#2 Pathfinder 9’9” Inflatable SUP
The Pathfinder iSUP is another great addition to the collection of stand up paddle boards. Standing at 9 feet 9 inches, with a 30 inch wide base, and a maximum carrying load of 240 lbs, this board can do it all. It even has the bungee gear up at the front to tack on extra equipment. Do note that its carrying load being lower than some of the other boards on this list can be a problem if not taken into consideration. Fishing equipment can be heavy so it might be important to do some math before taking this board out for a spin.
Besides the weight load, this board has some excellent features. It’s a bit smaller than the other inflatable boards on this list making it a great board for maneuvering around a gentle river or surfing some calm ocean waves. Depending on the conditions the center fin can actually be taken out. This allows for greater diversity of wave condition. The center fin is generally thought of as the fin that allows for straight ahead charges. If you’re using a beginner board, oftentimes this fin will be the primary fin if not the only fin. The two side fins allow for maneuverability on the wave and help create a more dynamic board. With the ability to remove the middle fin, it allows the rider a greater control when surfing a wave.
For these reasons, this board is often thought of as a great surfboard for beginners who are trying to learn how to surf. Because of its inflatable nature, it’s easy to carry from car to beach and beach to car. It can be taken anywhere and packed into smaller cars. It has a soft landing pad for accidental wipe outs. It’s smaller and more maneuverable than other boards. And last but not least it has all the benefits of its fin system. So while catching fish might not be on the agenda, you can be sure catching a swell will be.
#3 ISLE Airtech 10’6” Inflatable SUP
The ISLE Airtech is a newer board that came out in 2018. It has a great sleek design and is incredibly lightweight coming in at 21 lbs. For a 10-foot-6 board, that’s about as light as it’s going to get. Made with a patented airtech fusion-lite material, they guarantee this iSUP to be more durable and stiffer than the other brands on the market. They even advertise that you can run it over in your truck, or just toss it out the window, or pile drive it into some rocks. The material is damage-proof.
The paddle that comes with this particular iSUP is not the best and it might be the reason why it comes in third place and not right up there at the top. It’s made with aluminum and is a bit heavier than most paddles that come with other boards. It is adjustable, which is a great bonus, but you really want something more lightweight to paddle with.
This board can support up to 240 lbs, which is the same as the Pathfinder. With this comes a little but of restriction when it comes to activities like fishing. Other than that, though, this board has all the features needed for a great time on the river or beach. With removable fins and a travel pack, this board can be taken anywhere at any time. Just inflate it and go. Most people report taking between 5-10 minutes to fully inflate the board with just using a hand pump. Another option is to get an electronic pump. Make sure it’s the right sizing by checking its website for all the details.
Best Paddle Boards For Beginners
So we’ve looked through a few of the best overall and inflatable stand up paddle boards. Now which one is the best paddle board for beginners? Well here are our top choices:
Also, for a deeper look at our favorite beginner paddle boards, make sure to check out our best paddle board for beginners page.
#1 Best Paddle Board For Beginners: Lifetime Horizon 100
Some boards are designed with the beginner in mind. One way to tell is if the boards has larger hull rails ensuring maximum stability on the rougher waters. The Lifetime Horizon 100 is ten feet in length and about 34 cm in width and more than 7 cm in thickness. Overall, I’m sure based on the previous boards on this list you can tell that this is a tanker of a board. It’s going to take a lot to tip this board over. For this reason it is perfect for beginner surfers.
Attached to the top deck of the board are grip pads for extra traction and near the front of the board are bungee holders for additional activities out in the water. The padde has adjustable length allowing the user to be any size and to use any stance.
One common mistake novices make on the stand up paddle board is they ride the board all the way into shore. This causes surfers on the beach to cringe because they all know this can easily mean a broken fin. Luckily with this board, the central fin is retractable meaning it will slide into the board upon force. This will prevent many broken fins and ruined days.
Made of polyethylene, the board is a little bit heavier than most boards, coming in around 44 lbs with a maximum weight capacity of 230 lbs. The heavier weight means the board is also more durable than most boards.
#2 Roc Inflatable SUP 10’5”
This inflatable board is a staple when it comes to classic beginner boards. Much like the previous board, this ten-foot-five, 32-inch wide board is great for balancing out on the water. It comes with all the necessities you would want in a stand up paddle board from the attachable wires up at the front to the removable fins on the back. It has a maximum capacity load of about 275 lbs, so you can be sure this board will be able to go anywhere on any adventure.
Most people enjoy this board for the sheer stability of it. A lot of times when you’re out paddling the ocean or lake, there are jet skis and boats that create extra turbulence that throws you off your balance. But with this board beneath your feet, you can be sure you’ll be standing tall against the wildest of currents.
Because it’s inflatable, once again this board is perfect for any type of trip from camping trips to weeklong excursions. Or if you’re heading out on a boat, tuck it away in a corner and pull it out when there’s a break. This board is fast and easy to assemble and in minutes you’ll be enjoying all the great benefits that come along with paddle boarding. (For a more in depth look on the benefits, check out the FAQ down near the bottom.)
#3 Ten Toes Weekender 10’
Not only does it have a great name, but it also has the content to back it up. The Ten Toes Weekender is a great ten foot board that can be taken anywhere and everywhere. With a backpack style bag to hold it in, not only does it store away nicely but it is so easy to carry.
This board boasts top of the line material to ensure no popping happens while you’re out there trying to have fun. Made to be just as durable and withstanding as a typical epoxy board, this inflatable board has two layers of thick plastic as well as military grade PVC in order to ensure no damage is done to the board.
With the adjustable paddle length and pump included, there’s really not much more to say other than, when can you get out to the water! It’s a great starter board as it comes with a padded top for a nice cushioned feel beneath your feet and knees. Weighing only 27 lbs, this board is a great travel companion allowing you fun and adventure wherever you choose to go.
For a more in-depth look at the Ten Toes Weekender, make sure to check out our Ten Toes Weekender review.
Best Paddle Board For Fishing
The best paddle board for fishing might not necessarily be the same as the best paddle board for surfing. So we’ve separated a few of our picks for which are best to be used for catching some swimmers.
If you want to check out a more in-depth guide on our favorite fishing paddle boards, make sure to visit our 9 best paddle boards for fishing page.
#1 Best Paddle Board For Fishing: Atoll Fishing SUP 11’
What makes a paddle board right for fishing versus just a stand board to go exercising on? Well one key component is the ability to tie equipment down onto the board. With the Atoll Fishing SUP, getting all your gear ocean ready has never been easier. Check down the length of either side of this board and you’ll see D-rings attached all the way down. This means, whether you’re a front loader, a back loader, or both, you can tie down your equipment anywhere.
Another good component to any fishing board is a strong weight capacity. When you’re hauling your 10 lb tuna onto the board, you don’t want that extra weight to be the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. Be sure any board you purchase is mathematically sound to fit you, your gear, and some extra weight that’s going to be brought on board. This board boasts a capacity of 350 lbs, which is far higher than most boards on the market.
This 11 foot board is 32 inches wide and is advertised as 40% lighter than any comparable board. Coming in at 19 pounds, we would have to concur with that statement.
Another great feature of the Atoll board is that it comes with a carrying backpack which makes it tremendously convenient for taking the board to and from the beach or lake. Especially when sometimes parking is as much as a mile away!
#2 Z-Ray 11’ Fishing SUP
This inflatable stand up paddle board is another great tool for your fishing adventure. Coming in at 11 feet and 32 inches, this board has a maximum capacity of 330 lbs. Attaching equipment to the board is not a problem as there are 11 grommets on each rail of the board allowing the placement to be perfect for each individual.
It is easy to carry and has a portable backpack bag that is spacious and ready to use on the go. Also rocking the adjustable paddle, ensures ease of maneuvering the board whether you’re standing, kneeling, or already sitting and trying to catch some fish.
One downside of this board has been noted by users who’ve experienced some bowing in the board. This is when the board angles upward at the front and back giving the board more drag and making it harder to paddle. Although with proper care not to overinflate (or underinflate) and to keep it in good condition, this is not a problem.
See further down this article for more tips on proper stand up paddle board care.
#3 Aqua Marina Drift Fishing SUP
This board almost feels like a miniature boat when you’re riding it. With dimensions of 130 inches by 38 inches, you’ll feel nice and snug in this tanker. Fishing while you’re paddle boarding definitely has its disadvantages when it comes the stability of the aircraft beneath you. That’s why the Aqua Marina is such a great asset for the avid fisher.
With built in fishing rod holders, you can be sure you’ll be getting the best experience when it comes to iSUP fishing. Also included is a fishing cooler than can be set right into the board and while you’re out there can be used as a back rest so you can kick back, have a drink, and enjoy some easy fishing.
The maximum capacity of this board is about 300 lbs which is more than plenty for all your fishing needs. This combined with its sizeable waist, you’ll find comfort atop this stand up paddle board.
Inflatable Paddle Board vs. Rigid
When you go with an inflatable paddle board versus a rigid one, most people agree what you sacrifice in performance and speed, you gain in travelability and durability. At least, that’s the general consensus. But let’s go a little more in-depth so that you have a good sense why.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the hard polyethylene beneath your feet when out surfing the break. Its heavier hard plastic material is just plain more efficient on the water. So you’ll be cruising at higher speeds. Combine that with its hard fins you’ll find it has less give and you’ll be able to push the board more to its limits.
That being said, let’s say you bump into a rock. Well your rigid board probably will get a ding and you might have to go through the extensive process of surfboard repair. However, with the inflatable boards, there’s more give and hitting the board will probably not tear the durable outside (unless you really pierce it with some force). That being said the typical inflatable stand up paddle board lasts longer than the typical hard top.
Now where the inflatable stand up paddle board really makes its mark is on the ability to travel. Inflatable boards are going to be lightweight and can easily be stuffed into a small duffel bag. This doesn’t even compete with the larger and heavier, awkward to carry rigid stand up paddle board. With inflatables, you just strap them onto your back and you still have a free two hands.
Top 5 Tips For Beginner Paddle Boarders
Wear a Leash: It’s hard to describe to beginner paddle boarders why a leash is so necessary. It’s also ironic to see how many beginners don’t wear one. Wearing a leash is paramount for an enjoyable time. The thing is, you will fall off a few times when first learning to paddle. If you aren’t wearing a leash, that means swimming after your board wherever it goes. If you’re in the ocean and there are waves to deal with, this becomes dangerous as a loose board can mean a 30lb blunt object crashing into someone at high speed. Remember to be smart and wear a leash!
Practice on Calm Waters: Learning to paddle board is so much easier on still or calm waters. That’s why it’s always recommended to start out on a still lake or river. The tides, currents, and waves of the ocean are all added features to the learning process. So why not just get an understanding of the board first before trying your luck out on the ocean.
Use the Gear Properly: Before racing out to Mavericks and hitting the 20-foot swells, be sure you know the basics. Understand which direction the paddle faces properly and which direction you’re supposed to be surfing. Always wear a leash and if you have tied down equipment, make sure they are properly stowed.
Avoid Crowds: You’re probably anxious enough, focusing on not flying off the paddle board every few minutes. So it’s better to take out any extraneous stress out of the equation by avoiding those large crowds so you’re not falling on anybody or hitting them.
Talk to a Lifeguard: It’s important to understand currents, swells, wave size, and wind speeds when going out into the ocean with a paddle board. Don’t be afraid to talk to your local lifeguard about any or all of these factors. They will keep you safe and help you to understand what to do in emergency situations. Just because you’re a good swimmer means nothing in the face of a heavy current, so always ask before heading out into the water.
For even more paddle boarding tips, make sure to visit our paddle board tips page!
Choosing Your Paddle Board
When deciding between paddle boards, there are a few different factors to keep in mind. Size dimensions like length, width, and the board’s thickness will determine the weight, the buoyancy, and the stability. While other attribute of the board will determine the activities available. We’ll go through each one individually so you’re fully informed of what’s necessary.
Length: Paddle boards come in all sizes. Most boards are around 9 to 12 feet in length although you’ll find some shorter and some longer. In general the longer the board, the quicker the ride, the more poundage it can support, and the harder it is to maneuver.
Width: Much like the length, the width of the board determines its ease of rideability. Wider boards will be more stable to balance on, while they will also be harder to turn and maneuver.
Thickness: The thickness of the board generally provides the buoyancy of the board and its durability. The thicker the board the more durability and buoyant. However, the thicker the board, the heavier it will become.
Accessories For Fishing: Board will often come with a few different accessories for fishing near the front of the board (although sometimes near the rear. The front is preferred so that you can keep an eye on it while paddling). A wire mesh or hooks for bungee straps are usually found near the front and have benefits to both.
Rocker: The rocker of the board helps it from tipping completely over. Like boats, you can see the slight design of the sides of the board (generally looking from the bottom). Its shape allows a little bit of give from the board without being unstable.
Fins: Boards generally come with one long fin on the back of the board and two smaller fins, one on each side. These help with turning on a wave and staying straight while gliding.
Paddleboarding Vs. Kayaking
The ultimate debate, should I paddleboard or should I kayak? It’s a question as old as time… Well, maybe not that old. Seriously though, it’s a tough choice and either sport has its advantages and its disadvantages. We’ll run through a few to give you an idea.
Workout: Only the stand up board has the true full body workout experience. While it is by no means easy to kayak through rushing rivers, the main difference is with a stand up paddle board, not only are you getting the upper body and core workout, you’re also hitting the lower body too.
Terrain: When it comes to staying upright, the kayak takes the win here. It can handle raging waters while, the stand up paddle board has to stay on relatively calm waters.
Versatility: Both watercrafts have their own specific uses. An activity like fishing is a preference based choice. Some people like the ability to stand up and fish, others prefer the speed of the kayak.
Top Paddle Board Brands
When thinking of paddle boards, our minds immediately drift toward brands like Tower and Atoll. These brands have been making quality brand boards since paddle boarding first took over the hearts and minds of the surfing public. But then are also a few other brands like BIC, who make pretty great boards despite starting as just a pen company. A couple other hot brands to keep an eye out for are brands like Surftech and Riviera, two other great stand up paddle board makers.
When Was Paddle Boarding Invented?
Paddle boarding has a complicated history. Historians have a hard time pinning down when the paddle board was actually invented because of its myriad usage over the years. A few examples from the past include the tup which is thought to be traced all the way back to 3,000 B.C. Peru. These rideable boats were thought of as the early predecessors of the paddle board and were used for intercoastal trade.
The more modern boards started popping up in the early 1900’s in Hawaii and were popularized and brought to California in the later 1900’s. They were originally used as instructor boards so that the teachers could teach surf lessons while having a higher vantage point.
For a more in-depth look at paddle boarding history, make sure to check out our page on the history of stand up paddle boarding.
What Are Some Benefits Of Paddle Boarding?
There are so many benefits of paddle boarding it’s hard to fit them all here, and could use an extensive article on their own. To start with it’s a great physical workout. Stand up paddling involves everything from upper body strength to lower body stability. Shoulders, arms and chest are all used in order to paddle and steer the paddle board, while legs and stabilizer muscles in the ankles, knees, and hips, help keep a stable rhythm against the ocean’s currents.
Not only is it great physical exercise, but paddle boarding also has great mental benefits as well. Meditation is a great way to keep you feeling mentally and spiritually balanced. And what better way to relax than with the ocean’s calm ripples underneath you. Being at the beach or out on a river is also known to be a natural relaxer. Being out in nature, in general, allows us to feel more centered and grounded in our lives.
These are just a few of the many benefits available to paddle boarders. If you want to see more, check out our health benefits of paddle boarding page.
How Do I Take Care of My Paddle Board?
Now that you’ve purchased a paddle board, you’ll want to be sure to take good care of it. If done correctly, a quality board can last generations. The basic idea to surfboard care is to understand the elements it’s going up against. Things to consider are sun, salt, dings, and carelessness. (Yes, as we’ll explain, carelessness is a big preventable element to keep in mind.)
Giving your board a quick rinse after usage can keep the salt away from slowly eating away at your board if you store it away for a while. When you do store it, be sure to keep it away from direct sunlight as it’ll cause a yellowing effect over time. That’s why older boards tend to be discolored.
Investing in a surfboard rack or creating a space to house your surfboards is an important part of caring for your paddle board. Countless times has a board gotten tipped over, or the leash has gotten caught on something only to fall to it’s cracking detriment. This is an easily avoidable mistake that happens too often with surfers.
Our SUP repair and maintenance page has everything you need to know on how to take care of your injured SUP.
What Are Some Good Paddle Board Accessories?
A leash is the first important accessory to invest in with a paddle board. Often times the board comes with one already, but if not save yourself the frustrating time of needing to swim all the way into shore to retrieve your surfboard and purchase a leash. Other accessories are used for different activities like fishing or scuba diving. In either of these cases, having tie-downs and gear racks attached to your boards can be a lifesaver. Holding all your equipment and not being afraid to be challenged by the ocean ripples is a must to have a fun and safe time.
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
While we can’t give you the advice necessary to choose a board for you. I hope with all this information, the choice has gotten easier. Truth be told, any board that floats and rides is a good board to start with.
Whether you’re looking for a good workout or you’re preparing for a fishing trip, there are options for each one. And while having the perfect dream board seems like the goal, it’s not.
It’s all about finding an enjoyable board that allows you to get out into the water. Anything more is a bonus.
At least, that’s our philosophy.