There are a huge variety of stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) available on the market, in a confusing medley of shapes and sizes. With ever-improving stiffening technology, inflatable paddle boards have become the market leaders (arguably) due to their portability and ease of storage, especially compared to full-size fibreglass or composite boards, but also increasingly due to the fact that they still offer strong performance. Many of our best paddle boards for beginners are inflatable options.
Some inflatable SUPs are marketed as a complete package, allowing you to waste no time getting out and enjoying the waterways and coastal pleasures of SUP. In this article, we've rounded up the best inflatable paddle boards around right now, for a range of budgets and use cases.
Cruising around is the headline use of a SUP, providing you with better vistas than when hunkered down in a kayak, for example, and also a better view of any approaching river hazards you might be about to face. Because of their super-low draft a SUP can go pretty much anywhere, from veritable streams all the way to rivers, canals, and out around the coastline. The UK has a particularly strong selection of all these things, making SUP a rapidly growing sport across the country. In addition, maintaining your balance on a board is an excellent core workout, making a few hours of paddle boarding a pleasurable but effective form of outdoor exercise.
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While choosing the best inflatable paddle board is of course the main event, it's important to not forget the accessories too, as they can make or break an otherwise perfect day out. That might be a leash if not already included in a package deal, a decent wetsuit for surfing in the cooler months, sun protection for the height of summer, a good drybag for carrying spare kit, and most importantly in almost all situations a really good waterproof pouch for valuables like your phone and car keys (neither of which like salt water).
Red Paddle Co's dry pouch delivers particularly well on the latter, being waterproof, big enough for a phone/keys/cards/etc, and – vitally – buoyant. Expert SUP-ers planning extended coastal trips might want to take a look at the latest ‘ultimate marine smartwatch', the Garmin Quatix 6X Pro Solar too.
How to choose the best inflatable paddle board
The big questions to consider when buying an SUP is where and what you plan to use it for. Longer boards and better load-carrying abilities are vital for touring long distances, sharper lines and more pronounced rockers important for carving through the surf. Beginner boards tend to be super-stable, which does compromise speed and wave-handling, but are much more tractable for casual use. If you're planning extended trips around the coast then choosing a dual-chamber touring style board adds an essential layer of safety too, something that isn't as useful in the surf and close inshore.
However, there are plenty of all-rounder boards that'll see you comfortably taking on the challenges and enjoying the pleasures of SUP life, without compromising on much at all. Here's some of the best stand up paddle boards available to buy in 2020:
The best inflatable paddle boards to buy now
The Ride 10'6 is a bit of an SUP classic, and for good reason – the makers describe it as a ‘Swiss Army knife of paddle boards', and there's plenty of truth in that. Equally at home in surfing or SUP mode, it'll suit most casual board users to a tee. A versatile shape adds stability in all situations, while the near indestructible ‘iFins' on the underside don't require tools to keep in shape. A six-point bungee is perfectly capable of keeping your drybag where you want it, and a simple diamond-cut rear deck and EVA deck pad prevent slips and increase control.
In a complete package format with a specially designed backpack for transport, dual-barrel pump to inflate on site and a range of paddles to suit your taste, this is a strong all-rounder in a potent package, and at a competitive price point. The only things left for you to decide are where to go, what to wear, and where to put the car keys...
The Jobe Infinity Seine SUP board is the perfect all-rounder size at 10' 6", and in a complete kit including pump, leash and drybag at a wallet-friendly price is a bit of a winner. There’s plenty of tech packed in here too, a heat bonded and lightweight X-drop stitched construction with a stringer for increased stiffness, a tool-less 9” fin for stability and the obligatory Halkey Roberts one-way valve to simplify inflation. A 9” nose rocker will cut through small waves with ease, allowing flexibility of use for light surfing as well as traditional-SUP-ing. A three-piece fibreglass paddle and neat roll-top rucksack top off a solid package.
Rated to a robust 140kgs, this board will serve pretty much anyone well in most situations, really only falling down on the luggage front with a minimalist four-point bungee upfront. Part of the reason for that is that the board is designed to fit into Jobe’s ‘Infinity’ inflatable pool and watersports pontoon package for boats, as well as serving as a solo package, thus the muted green and black color scheme.
Overall there’s a lot of bang for buck here; a complete kit with robust credentials and strong build quality for not vast amounts of cash. Water-based fun for all occasions.
The blade-like profile of the Itiwit double chamber SUP flags up the intended use here – long distance travel. That sharp profile designed to carve through the water with minimum resistance, enabling you to travel further with each stroke. There's another clue in the name too, the double chamber acting as an insurance policy when venturing further away from the safety of the shore, as well as additional stiffening. The idea is that the outer main chamber can be accidentally punctured, but the central chamber will provide enough buoyancy to get back to safety.
That's not all though, this board is equipped with fore and aft bungee attachments for gear storage, and it'll carry an impressive 80kgs of baggage – plenty enough for a pretty serious expedition. There are nice touches here too, such as the fast-access front bungee, which is also equipped with a pocket for snacks or litter cleaned from the waterway along your route. Although there's no paddle or pump included here, this board is an ideal choice for the long-distance adventurer.
The Gul Cross 9'8 Inflatable SUP Board Package is a fantastic starter pack that has plenty to offer the more experienced too. Stable and easy to handle in the water, the Gul is perfectly capable of a little surfing as well as SUP, with a three-fin (two side & one longboard) array to increase handling predictability. The package includes a three piece alloy paddle, leash, simple pump and a backpack to lug it all around in – with the board weighing in at a mere 8kg, that's not too much of an ask either. Overall there might be compromises on outright performance here, but as a beginner setup for casual use there's nothing wrong with this popular package.
The iROCKER All-Around 11 is an updated version of the original iROCKER 11. New for 2020, this inflatable paddle board is 20% lighter, with a larger deck pad and a larger rear cargo storage area, and a lighter, stronger paddle. The higher weight limit of 197kg makes this board suitable for taller, heavier SUP-ers, as well as being a great option if you're hoping to take your kids along for the ride with you. iRocker claims that it has "military-grade durability", so it should be pretty much indestructible – although there's a repair kit included for any mishaps that do occur. Also included in the price is a handy backpack and pump, as well as paddle and ankle leash.