The Best Paddle Boards of 2018
Stand up paddle boarding is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a great form of exercise and relatively easy to learn no matter your age or athletic ability.
There are many ways to experience paddleboarding. Enjoy a relaxing day paddling at the lake or if you’re really looking for a challenge, drop your board in a river or catch some waves in the ocean. Stand up paddle board yoga is all the rage these days and there are more and more people taking up paddleboarding as an alternative to touring with kayaks or canoes. Fishing on s SUP is also gaining popularity.
There’s “SUPthing” in it for everyone!
Choosing the Best Stand Up Paddle Board
To get the most out of your paddle board experience, it’s essential that you choose a board that is the right fit for you. If you hop on a board that’s the wrong size or style, you’re going to have a frustrating time and it would be ashame if you don’t persue this awesome sport.
Inflatable SUP vs Solid Core Boards
The first thing to consider when choosing a paddleboard is whether you need an inflatable board (iSUP) or a traditional solid core board.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards are by far the most popular choice for recreational use. They are compact when not in use. They are an excellent option for all skill levels, all water conditions, and all styles. They generally perform just as well as traditional non-inflatables.
Solid Core / Non-Inflatable
Solid core, or non-inflatable, boards are usually made from a foam core wrapped in fiberglass and epoxy. These boards can work for a beginner, but really allows intermediate and advanced paddlers to hone their skills.
There are different types of boards designed for different uses, or styles of paddling.
If you plan to paddle around for casual fun and recreation, then chances are you’ll need an “all-around” board. These are the most common SUP style of board.
However, if you’re going to spend the majority of your board time doing a specific activity such as yoga or racing or surfing, then you need to make sure you choose a board that is designed specifically for your style in order to get the best performance.
- All-Around – If you are looking for a general board to use in multiple situations, this is the style you need. These boards are the most common stand up paddle board. They are especially great for beginners and work well in all conditions. If you’ve rented a SUP before, chances are it was an all-arounder.
- Touring – Instead of kayaking, try a SUP for your adventures. Designed for long distance traveling, these boards also offer an intense workout. They are narrower with a pointed nose to allow for adventuring anywhere. Many come with places to attach gear.
- Yoga – Talk about finding your balance, these boards usually have softer deck padding and are constructed to be more stable. Find out more about SUP Yoga here.
- Fishing – Standup paddleboards are catching on amongst the sport fishing community. They allow you to get to places that a boat can’t go (places where the fish are hiding!). They often come equipped with pre-installed mounts and add-on such as rod holders. They are also wider and stable for easier balance.
- Race – If you are looking for speed or more professional boards, try a racing style. These boards are designed for racing on flat water or open ocean. Extra length provides more speed and smooth gliding. They also have a pointed tip to cut through the water. They work well for those more experienced.
- Surf –These boards are for intermediate and advanced paddlers and those looking for more action. They are shorter and less stable than other styles but move well in waves
- Women – Aside from more feminine graphics, women specific boards are designed to be more lightweight, shorter, and a little bit narrower in the middle. This makes it easier to maneuvers as well as easier to carry.
- Kids – Youth boards are typically shorter, between 6 – 9 feet. They’re lighter and wider and perfect for beginners or smaller paddlers.
Within each style of board, there are a multitude of dimension to choose from – length, width, and thickness are the most important. Your height, weight, and skill level need to be considered to determine the best SUP for you.
The length of your board determines speed and maneuverability. Typically, the shorter the board, the easier to turn and handle. While opposite is true for longer boards, you will be able to go faster.
Stand up paddle boards can be categorized into three different size groups.
Paddle boards width varies between 25-36 inches. The width of your board plays a role in stability. Wider boards tend to be more stable and slower, while narrow boards can pick up more speed. Other factors contribute to your decision as well.
Less than 10 Feet
A SUP that is less than 10 feet handles well and can change direction with less effort. Surf, kids, women’s boards fall into this group.
More experienced riders can look for all-around boards in size group too.
10 – 12 Feet
Boards between 10-12 feet offer the right balance between speed and maneuverability. Unless you’re surfing, racing, or smaller than average, you’ll likely want a board in this range of length.
12 Feet and Longer
A SUP board that is 12 feet or longer is going to be able to move fast but compromises your ability to turn. These boards tend to have a more pointed nose to help with speed. Racing, long-distance touring boards fall into the “long” group.
Beginners often do better with a wider board because they have better stability and balance. As your skill level improves, moving to a narrow board will let you feel the wind as you adventure around.
Style of Paddling
Wider boards are also better for fishing or yoga because they are more controlled and less likely to have you topple off.
If considering touring, you will want to decide if you want a wider board that will allow you to store gear on your board, or if you want a narrow board that will give you the speed to cover long distances.
Your physique also plays a part on what width you should purchase. A general rule of thumb is to get a narrower board if you are short and small or a wide board if you are tall or heavier. Balance is crucial in a SUP, so using a board that fits your body style will allow for an easier time.
There are charts available online that recommend typical board size based on your height and weight.
The thickness of the board also plays a role in performance.
Thicker boards have more buoyancy. They handle more weight to support a heavier load. So, if you are touring with gear, or if you plan to paddle with kids or dogs sitting on the board, a thicker board is better.
Final Advice About Buying Your Paddleboard
The world of stand up paddle boarding is large and full of adventure. Knowing what you want to use your board for, and how you will store and transport your board are essential to consider when purchasing a new board.
Consider if a solid core stand up paddle board or an inflatable SUP is the type of board for you, then consider width, length, and thickness. Understanding the different sizes and shapes will help you pick the best board for your skill level and adventuring needs.
Our Top Stand Up Paddle Board Picks
Best Beginner & All Around Paddle Boards
Best SUPs for Yoga
Best Touring and Race Boards
Best Stand Up Paddle Surf Boards
The Top Stand Up Paddle Board Reviews
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