Some links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Click here to learn more.
There is a water sport that is growing in popularity, based in part on the variety of experiences that it offers to a wide range of individuals. Stand up paddle boarding offers the opportunity for a relaxing afternoon paddle, an intense morning workout, a day cruise to explore nature and marine life, surfing on the ocean or even the growing number of individuals doing SUP yoga.
With a variety of activities that can be done using a SUP, choosing the best board is critical to your success and enjoyment. In this guide, we will focus specifically on paddle boards and what you should know as a beginning stand up paddle boarder when choosing a SUP.
So, what should you be looking for to find the best paddle board for beginners? Your first steps will be to consider and answer the following questions:
- How do you plan to use your SUP?
- What body(s) of water will you be using your SUP on?
- What body type(s) will be using the board?
- What is the skill level(s) of the individual(s) using the board?
- How do you expect your board to respond, maneuver and handle while you are on the water?
- How will you transport your SUP?
- Where will you store your SUP?
Key points you will want to factor into your research and decision making are:
- The shape of the board.
- Determining the best capacity and volume for your board.
- The thickness, length and width of the board.
- A solid SUP or an inflatable board.
- Additional accessories you may want or need.
When you’re new to paddle boarding, your success and enjoyment will largely depend on your ability to maintain your balance and stability. With a SUP the wider the board, the more stable the board. Stability is very important, as it allows you to maintain your focus on your techniques and enjoy the views rather than spending your time worried about losing your balance.
Additionally, as a beginner, you will want a board you can easily manage getting in and out of the water, as well as transporting and storing the board. The following information provides our recommendations for the 10 best paddle boards for beginners, a buyers guide and answers for some of the more frequently asked questions.
Top 5 Comparison Chart
10 Best Paddle Board for Beginners Reviewed
1. Thurso Surf Waterwalker
The Waterwalker is an Inflatable stand up paddle board (ISUP) that is 11 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick, making it an ideal board for beginners. It has a weight capacity of 330 pounds. The size and design of this board provides great stability and tracking. This board also comes in a touring model that is slightly longer and thinner, making it a faster board.
This ISUP includes the following accessories: an inflation pump, a paddle with a carbon fiber shaft, a roller storage and carry a backpack, and a 10 foot coiled double swivel leash. The construction and design features a military grade PVC and drop stitch construction. The deck of the Waterwalker is a non-slip Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) foam traction pad that is soft, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
The Atoll is an Inflatable ISUP that is 11 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick, making it a stable board, ideal board for beginners. It has a weight capacity of 350 pounds. This board has a 6 point front bungee system, allowing you to store and easily access gear. Additionally, this ISUP has 15 D-rings to attach other gear or allows for the attachment of a kayak seat.
The Atoll includes the following accessories: tri fin system for smooth tracking, 10 foot poly flex leash, dual action hand pump, storage and travel backpack, and a 3 piece fiberglass carbon hybrid paddle.
3. iRocker SUP
The iROCKER is an ISUP that is 11 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick, making it an ideal board for beginners. It has one of the higher weight capacities for an ISUP, coming in at 435 pounds. The size and design of this board provides great stability and tracking.
This ISUP includes the following accessories: backpack for storing and transporting, adjustable fiberglass paddle, ankle leash, a hand pump, and a repair kit. The board deck is a non-slip, diamond textured surface that covers a large area, ideal for beginners. The construction and design features a military grade quad-layer PVC.
The GILI is an Inflatable ISUP that is 10.6 feet long, 31 inches wide and 6 inches thick, making it a stable board, ideal board for beginners. It has a weight capacity of 275 pounds. The board is constructed with a cross stitched, reinforced PVC, making it durable and sturdy. This material also makes the board lightweight and thus easy to maneuver. The deck has a diamond shaped traction pad for stability and balance. Additionally there is a 6 point bungee system for storing gear.
The GILI includes the following accessories: an adjustable 3 piece paddle, a 2 stage high-pressure pump, a fin, coil leash, backpack and repair kit.
5. ISLE Versa SUP
The ISLE Versa is a rigid stand up paddle board that is 10.5 feet long, 32 inches wide and 4.5 inches thick, making it an ideal board for intermediate and beginners. It has a weight capacity of 245 pounds. The size and design of this board provides quality stability and tracking.
This SUP includes the following accessories: a carbon hybrid adjustable paddle, a touring center fin, coiled leash, a front-mounted bungee system, a lift up handle that doubles as a locking point, and comfortable brush decked pad. The construction and design that features a “eco-friendlier” epoxy material that is both lightweight and durable.
6. Roc SUP
The Roc is an ISUP that is 10 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick, making it another ideal board for beginners. It has a weight capacity of 275 pounds. The physical design of the Roc creates a stable board for beginners.
This ISUP includes the following accessories: adjustable paddle, high capacity hand pump, detachable fin, safety leash, and a travel backpack. The construction and design features military grade material, providing a durable, lightweight ISUP.
The SereneLife is an ISUP that is 10 feet long, 30 inches wide and 6 inches thick, providing stability and balance for beginners. It has a weight capacity of 275 pounds. This ISUP has triple bottom panel fins that enhance maneuverability and a non-slip soft top deck, which are both ideal for beginners.
This ISUP includes the following accessories: a coiled ankle safety leash, foldable paddle, front bungee cord system, manual air pump, patch repair kit, and convenient storage bag.
The Tower is an ISUP that is 9.10 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick. It has a weight capacity of 350 pounds. This board is constructed using a Military-Grade PVC material that is drop stitched, making it extremely durable. Included is a non-slip soft top, which is ideal for beginners, supporting balance and stability.
The Tower includes the following accessories: 3 piece fiberglass paddle, a high-pressure pump, a diamond grooved traction pad, removable center fin, a hand hold strap, and a roll-up carrying strap.
9. Vilano Navigator
The Vilano Navigator is an ISUP that is 10 feet long, 32 inches wide and 6 inches thick. It has a weight capacity of 280 pounds. This board is constructed using a Korean drop-stitch, high-grade PV material, which makes it durable and sturdy. The board deck has a non-slip, diamond groove traction pad surface.
The Tower includes the following accessories: front bungee strap system, stainless steel D-rings, 3 piece aluminum paddle, pump and pressure gauge, a carry bag, a single fin, and a repair kit/valve wrench.
10. Peak Escape
The Peak Escape is a rigid soft top stand up paddle board that is 10.5 feet long, 32 inches wide and 4.5 inches thick. It has a weight capacity that will support up to 250 pounds. This board is ready to go, requiring no inflation. The Peak Escape is a stable and good general purpose board, suitable for all skill levels. It has a center fin for improved tracking.This Sup includes the following accessories: an adjustable 2 piece alloy paddle with a nylon blade that floats, a center fin, waterproof phone case and a coil ankle leash. Peak describes the construction and design features as, “wrapped in a soft EVA shell with an ABS bottom. If you drop this board, it won’t ding or scratch.” The bottom line is that this SUP has a durable bottom while offering a non-slip deck that has a soft cushion feel.
Buyers Guide: How to Choose a Stand Up Paddle Board
In this buyers guide we’ll try to focus primarily on what a beginner should consider when purchasing a stand up paddle board. Before venturing out to buy a SUP we would recommend renting or borrowing a board from a friend and going out a couple of times.
There are a large variety of boards to choose from and depending on your intended uses are designed to perform differently based on conditions, activities and skill levels. Getting a basic feel and general understanding for what you might be looking for in a board is a good first step.
So for the purposes of choosing a paddle board for beginners, we have provided the following information and tips for your consideration when buying a paddle board:
Solid or Inflatable SUP
If you go to rent a board or use a guide company typically you find that they will have rigid, solid boards. The reason is that a solid board is sometimes thought to provide more stability and are better for beginners to learn on. With the evolution of paddle boards, the stability and performance of ISUP’s has improved dramatically, to the point that their stability often rivals a solid board.
The choice of solid or inflatable will often come down to a few factors and individual preferences. The following are the pros and cons of each:
Paddle Board Length
Paddle boards generally range in length from 8 to 15 feet. Your boards length is an important factor to consider based on your skill level and intended uses for the board. A very basic overview is that shorter boards are more maneuverable and longer boards are faster. The following is a basic guide on board length for your consideration:
- Short Boards (9 feet and under): Shorter boards are easier to steer, handle and maneuver, however they are harder to maintain on a straight line and will be slower in the water. Individuals who will be surfing find the shorter board to be a good choice because of their maneuverability. Eight foot boards are typically designed for kids.
- Medium Boards (10 to 12 feet): For beginners a medium board is typically the length that works the best. This length board works well for all paddlers. Not as maneuverable as the short board and not as fast as the longer board, they do provide a balance and the best of both worlds.
- Long Boards (12 feet and longer): Long boards are usually the choice for racing or touring. Maneuverability is not a primary consideration when purchasing a long board. The key factors are speed and tracking. This board is not the best option for beginners.
Additional factors to consider regarding the length of your board, especially solid boards, is transporting, storing and carrying your board (wind can make managing your board a challenge).
Paddle Board Width
Paddle boards come in a variety of widths, ranging from approximately 25 to 36 inches. The width of a board significantly impacts the stability of your SUP.
A narrow board of 30 inches or less will be faster but are not recommended for beginners because they are less stable. A wider board over 30 inches make it easier to balance yourself, however are slower and if too wide, for your height, can make paddling more difficult.
Wider boards are generally recommended for beginners but you should also consider the following:
- Paddle Board Uses: Are you looking for a good workout, a leisurely paddle, touring, or doing some SUP yoga? Going for a long paddle will make speed and tracking (a narrower board) a priority. If your a beginner or planning to do SUP yoga a wider board will provide more stability and space. If you are going to try surfing a narrower board will work the best. Give some consideration to how you plan to use your board.
- Body Size: A general guideline is that a smaller or shorter person has a lower center of gravity and thus able to balance on a narrower board more easily. It contrast, it makes sense that a larger or taller person should choose a wider board. Additionally, smaller individuals may find a wider board more challenging to paddle.
- Skill Level: Your skill level and general athletic ability (balance) should be factored. If you’re new to the sport extra width will support your skill development. A more experienced paddler can opt for a narrower board.
Paddle Board Thickness
A third consideration, relative to board size, is the board’s thickness. A simple principle for understanding the thickness of a SUP is that the thicker the board the more weight it can support. You want to find a board that is appropriate for your weight to ensure the most efficient and productive outcomes for your experiences.
Using your weight, combined with your skill level allows you to calculate the volume of a SUP you should be considering. Manufactures provide a volume rating for their boards that can help guide your decision.
SBS boards provides a calculator to determine the volume, in liters, that is ideal for you. To convert your weight from pounds to kilograms divide your weight by 2.2. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, divide your weight by 2.2 = 81 kilograms. The calculator shows that the ideal board for an individual weighing 81 kilograms has a volume of 164 liters.
Paddle Board Nose Rocker
A paddle board nose rocker refers to the shape or angle of the front of your paddle board. If you plan to go in rougher water or go surfing, you will want more nose rocker. Boards with less of a rocker arr more likely to have water come up over the nose in rougher water and potentially submerge your board.
Paddle Board Fins
The primary benefit of fins on a paddle board is they create stability and aid in tracking. Generally speaking, the larger the fin and the wider the base the more stable and better the tracking of your board. Oppositely, the smaller the fin the easier it is to handle and maneuver.
There are a variety of configurations for paddle board fins and the following are three of the more common fin designs:
- Single Fin: A single fin provides tracking for you SUP and produces minimal drag, which makes it a good choice for calmer, flatwater paddling.
- 2+1 Fins: This configuration has one larger center fin with 2 smaller fins, one on each side of the board. This design is ideal for surfing.
- 3 Fins: The purpose of this configuration is optimize the paddle boards tracking and supports better control when surfing. The fins are typically of the same proportions.
Fins are available on both solid and inflatable SUPs. The differences you may find is that an ISUP may feature an attached rubberized fin or a detachable rigid fin(s). Most fins are removable and either use a nut and bolt to attach or have a channel the fin locks into. Detachable fins help with storage and transporting your board and allow you to change the style or size of fins.
Paddle Board Accessories
As a beginner you may not have a need for a lot of additional accessories or gear but a few items you may want to consider, especially as you gain more experience and skills:
Paddle: Not really an accessory. You aren’t going to have much success without a paddle. Not all boards come with a paddle and of those that do, you may not be getting the best quality paddle. You can always upgrade your paddle. A lighter paddle makes paddling easier and less tiring, which makes carbon fiber paddles a popular choice.
To determine the best length of paddle for you is to simply hold the paddle vertically, with the paddle blade on the ground. Holding the paddle, raise one arm to reach the top of the paddle. If your fingers can cup over the blade, you have a paddle that will likely be a good fit for you.
Bungees Straps and D-rings: Located on the front, rear or side of your board, a bungee system allows you to store and secure equipment, while D-rings provide attachment points for things like a kayak seat.
Ankle Leash: Some paddle boards include a leash, others do not. A leash should be considered an essential accessory if not included in your purchase. The leash secures your board to your ankle. Due to the obvious potential for falling, being attached to your SUP is important; for your safety, as well as to save you time and energy tracking down your board when you fall off, a leash is a great idea.
Backpack: This is only necessary when you choose an ISUP. For both storing and transporting your ISUP a backpack becomes an important piece of gear.
Electric Air Pump: Although not a necessity, a nice upgrade is an electric air pump that will both save you energy and ensure you can get the proper PSI for your ISUP.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I choose the right stand up paddle board?
There really is no easy answer for this question. The factors you need to consider include:
- Your experience/skill level;
- How you intend to use your SUP;
- Your body type/size;
- The conditions and bodies of water you intend to paddle board on;
- Will others be using the SUP;
- Do you have a means to transport and/or store a solid SUP;
- And how much you intend to spend on purchasing a SUP and additional accessories.
How much does a stand up paddle board weigh?
Due to the fact that paddle boards come both as a solid board and as an inflatable, as well as varying lengths, widths and thicknesses the weight will vary. Inflatable boards are generally lighter than a solid board. A typical SUP will weight between 15 pounds on the lighter side and as much as 50 pounds on the heavier side.
How do I know if stand up paddle boarding is something I can do?
You will really not know unless you try it. A simple option is to go to a rental shop and give it a try. The great thing about paddle boarding is that just about everyone can pick up the basics on their first time out. If you can find a relatively safe body of water, wear your PFD and have someone along to help out, what's the worst that might happen? You take a fall and make a big splash? Give it a try.
Is it important to try out a paddle board before buying one?
You will be making a significant investment when you purchase a SUP. You’ve taken a good first step by reading this article. But your work is not done. Nothing beats a first hand experience. Would you consider purchasing a car without trying it out? Not quite the same type of investment but still a good practice to do the same as you would with purchasing a vehicle.
Do your due diligence and research. Dealers sometimes offer demonstration models you can try out or you may have friends who have and will let you try their boards. Go to a rental shop and ask to try out a variety of boards and talk to the experts.
The effort is worth it to ensure you get the board you desire and make a wise investment.
This guide has provided you with our top 10 stand up paddle boards for your review and consideration. Although we feel all 10 are quality SUPs, 3 of the boards stand out in our opinion: the Thurso Surf, Atoll and iRocker are ideal for beginners and provide quality boards.
Stand up paddle boarding is an amazing water sport that just about anyone can do and enjoy. Getting the right board for you is worth your time and effort and hopefully our guide and information provided, will assist you along the way.
Let us know in the comments section which board you choose and how it has performed for you. We’d love to hear from you, so get out there and get paddling!
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.