SUP folks? Now that's out of the way, we can get started. Stand up paddle boarding (or SUP) is having a real moment right now. If you're trying to figure out the best paddle board to kick off your SUPing journey, read on. We've got all the info on what to look for, plus our pick of the best stand-up paddle boards for beginners on the market right now.
Stand-up paddle boarding is a fantastic sport, as well as a brilliant way to travel – and right now it also has the benefit of being naturally socially distant. Because you are standing full height you can see further ahead than you would in a kayak, giving you a better view, as well as early warning of any upcoming hazards. You'll also be able to see down into the underwater world more easily, so it's great for wildlife spotting too.
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If you've never tried paddle boarding before and want to give it a go before you buy, there are plenty of dedicated watersports centres throughout the UK that can rent you a SUP for a taster session. They're more prevalent than you'd think, with spots in most coastal resorts, but also inland lakes, waterways and even on the Thames in central London.
However, if you want to take to the waters whenever you feel like it you'll want a SUP of your very own, which is where this article comes in. Read on for your guide to the best paddle boards for beginners.
The best paddle board for beginners: what to look for
There are boards out there to suit all tastes and pockets (as you'll see in our ranking), but the single most important thing when buying a beginner paddle board is to get one you can stand up easily on. While staying up can be a challenge in itself, there are a bunch of factors that will influence how stable the board will be. As well as ensuring the board can support your weight (there's normally a weight limit indicator for this), you'll also want to pay attention to the width and length of the board, and its shape.
Wider boards are more stable, but slower in the water; longer boards are less maneuverable but more buoyant. The overall shape ranges from the bulbous to slim and shark-like. The slimmer and sharkier the board, the more suitable it is for racing and surf-style activities, but these are fairly advanced operations, so choose based on stability rather than flashiness to begin with. To start out, you'll be looking for either an all-rounder or a touring-style SUP if you plan to travel longer distances, but either should be relatively stable and tractable to learn the basics on.
Construction is a key consideration, but usually an easily resolved one. The days of stand-up paddle boards being mainly solid fibreglass or expanded foam has long gone. If you have a campervan or live next to the water then a solid construction will make sense, as these are almost indestructible and perform much better in the water. But if that's not the case (which it won't be for most), then you'll want one of the new breed of inflatable SUPs.
We have a separate, dedicated guide to the best inflatable paddle boards, but they also appear in this list of beginner's paddle boards. These can pack down into compact bags and thus be transported anywhere with ease, as well as stored easily when not in use. For urban SUP-addicts they are the obvious choice, as well as for holidays where the SUP might get occasional use.
Finally of course there is price. As with anything you get what you pay for, and in our ranking we've chosen beginner's paddle boards that range from the downright bargainous through to the spendy-but-tempting. Bear in mind that good quality, desirable beginner boards are always popular in the second hand market, so buying well will pay dividends later in cash as well as enjoyment.
The best paddle boards for beginners
The 11'0 Compact from Red Paddle Co is an excellent all-rounder, as well as having an impressive trick up its sleeve – it'll pack down to half the size of anything else on the market, fitting into a custom backpack weighing under 14kg in total. This makes it ideal for anyone short on storage space, as well as great for family holidays, short hikes to water, and pretty much everything else. The 11-foot length adds stability and reduces bulk, making this an effortless tourer, while an EVA deck pad adds comfort and grip to the deck section for those longer days. A six-point bungee will keep all shapes and sizes of baggage secure too.
The package includes a small but mighty double-chamber pump, click-in fins and a rather lovely five-piece carbon paddle with robust nylon blade. Those five sections means it breaks down super-short for transport, as well as looking awesome. Overall, this is super-packable, lightweight and stylish, as well as being a well-behaved beginner board. You'll certainly not need to upgrade for a while!
The Itiwit X100 is a proper entry-level SUP, at an entry level price, which is great for beginners in terms of cost and stability, but does mean that it loses out quite quickly to more expensive boards. That said, if you're looking for a casual introduction to the world of stand-up paddleboarding, you could do a lot worse. Inflatable via an easy-operation valve (pump not included), the end result is a very wide (32") and thick (5") but relatively short SUP, so stability is excellent, but speed not so much. However, it packs down into an included rucksack, which weighs in at a mere nine kilos, although that doesn't include paddle or pump. There's a four-point bungee to lash down your gear, and a comfortable EVA deck to stand on.
Overall, other boards here outclass this easily in many respects, but they also cost up to x4 times the price, so for the wallet-conscious, this is an excellent starter board.
The Jobe Ventura 10.6 is a beautiful all-rounder, that bamboo construction really draws the eye as well as being highly robust in use. The build is a complex sandwich with a foam core for buoyancy and fibreglass for strength – that buoyancy visible in the sizable 110kg weight limit.
Two channels in the underside promote stability and speed, while the sharp nose rocker will slice through the waves with ease. A single tool less fin is great for long-distance stability, while the bungee and camera plug make this a practical choice too. However, that strength and performance comes with the problem of a 10.6 foot board to transport and store, something worth thinking through before buying.
The Slingshot Crossbreed is a great all-round inflatable SUP. A design that's large and versatile enough for all kinds of kiddos (both human and hairy... hence the name) is a huge selling point. At 11 feet by 34 inches, it's sturdy and stable on the water, wide enough to accommodate more than one paddler at once, and its maximum inflation point of 18 PSI makes it rigid and unflexing to mimic the feel of an epoxy or fibreglass board. Add to that incredibly durable DropStitch construction to see off wear and tear, plus feedback that shows this sub-£1,000 paddle board exceeded buyers’ expectations, and you have our pick of the best paddle board for families.
Enticed by the prospect of taking your yoga practice out onto the water, but not sure you can justify buying a dedicated yoga paddleboard? This Easy Rider SUP could just be your new go-to, with its sturdy oversized (11’6) design leading Blu Wave to claim it’s ideal for saluting the sun or a cheeky savasana (also known as "sunbathing" – that's right, we're onto you). If you’re not into yoga, it’s still a great all-round beginner's paddle board, and the GoPro attachment is a neat addition for when you get better and want to show off your skills.
Don't let that funky print fool you, because the Thurso Surf Prodigy Junior is an inflatable paddle board extraordinaire. This mini inflatable SUP is the best paddle board for children right now. It's light to carry down to the water, extra thick to aid balance, soft (just in case if they faceplant) and, reviewers say, easy to inflate. It also comes with a whole host of useful accessories including paddle, removable fins, leash and a travel-friendly bag. It's a smaller size – just 7'6" – so it's strictly for kids.