The Best Inflatable Standup Paddleboards Combine Capability and Portability
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Whether you’re chasing thrills on the open ocean or out wildlife-watching on a calm lake, there are few better ways to explore just about any body of water than with a paddle in hand. While standup paddleboarding (SUP) used to belong solely to paddlers with ample storage space at home, roof racks on their vehicle, and enough muscle power to carry a heavy board into the water, that has all changed now with the advent of inflatable standup paddleboards, making it a sport that anyone can enjoy.
Inflatable standup paddleboards pack into the size of a small suitcase and are easily inflated at the water’s edge. Traveling? Your inflatable standup paddleboard can be checked in luggage, giving you the freedom to say goodbye to oversized board fees. And while inflatable standup paddleboards were once a slower, clumsier version of their traditional counterparts, developments in board shape and materials have led to an uptick in inflatable standup paddleboard performance. Beginner-only inflatable standup paddleboards are officially a thing of the past.
If you’re ready to dip into the world of standup paddling, it’s time to discover the best inflatable standup paddleboard that's right for you. Read on for the key features to look for when choosing a paddleboard as well as answers to commonly asked SUP questions before you buy.
Best Inflatable Standup Paddleboards
The Expert: With two decades of standup paddling experience, I’ve paddled throughout the South Pacific along coastlines in Fiji, French Polynesia, and Hawaii, as well as Australia and California. My grandparents used to paddle competitively, and my grandfather carves custom paddles professionally. Whenever I pick up a paddle in their presence, I am coached extensively.
My love of the ocean inspired me to create The Salt Sirens, a website dedicated to ocean sports, and I am a guidebook author for Moon Travel Guides. My writing has appeared in outlets like The Standup Journal, Travel + Leisure, AFAR, Vice, Lonely Planet and more.
What to Look For in an Inflatable SUP
While there are some great all-around boards, inflatable SUPs have become increasingly specialized for activities like fishing, surfing, and touring. First think about how you’ll use your board—casual flat-water cruising, fishing, camping, or catching waves.
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Perhaps most important for inflatable standup paddleboards is length since it has the greatest bearing on overall performance. Generally, the longer a board is, the better it glides and the greater its capacity to carry heavy loads. Touring boards and those for fishing are longer. In fact, long-distance racers will often ride boards 14 feet or bigger; SUPs for surfers (and for kids) are shorter, as shorter boards tend to be more agile. Many surfers use boards that measure just 7.5 feet. For most recreational paddlers, lengths should fall between 10 and 12 feet.
Don’t forget to double check the weight capacity. Is it just for you or will there also be camping or fishing gear, or maybe even a dog or cooler along for the ride?
Boards are often designed for different activities—tackling whitewater, fishing, practicing yoga, or leisurely touring. This is most evident in the shape of the board. Standup paddleboards meant for touring tend to be long and narrow, allowing them to paddle fast and straight. Paddleboards meant for yoga, beginner paddlers, or general use tend to be wide with a round nose, prioritizing stability.
If a standup paddleboard is too heavy for you to carry and launch, it’s likely to collect dust in a corner. Choose a paddleboard that’s manageable to carry, but note that lighter boards can often be made from less durable materials. Lighter boards will often have a single-layer PVC outer shell with a linear drop stitch inside to give the board its firmness. Heavier and more durable boards might have layered PVC, welded seams, and a more complex system to make them stiffer.
One of the best things about inflatable SUPs is their portability. If it’s just a short hike from your car to the water, weight may not be a big factor. But if you have a long haul to get to the water or if you will be traveling with your board, that may change the equation. Most inflatable SUPs come with a backpack for easy transport, and some carriers even have wheels.
The standup paddleboard itself is only part of the sport. Many inflatable standup paddleboards come with accessories like a paddle, fin(s), pump, and leash. The paddle is essential, and you’ll want one that’s adjustable by length if multiple people will be using the board. Note that paddle length is determined by the paddler’s height. You'll want to be sure your fin or fin system is compatible to your board, and that you have a leash to tether you to the board.
Invest in a high-quality personal flotation device, like a life jacket or inflatable belt-pouch, for safety. The Unites States Coast Guard requires paddlers to wear one when venturing outside of surfing, swimming, and bathing areas.
Most inflatable standup paddleboards come with a hand pump to inflate the board. If you’re short on time and would rather spend your energy paddling instead of pumping, there are electric pumps (figure about $1oo-$150) that cut down the effort it takes to inflate your board.
How We Evaluated Inflatable SUPS
To find the best inflatable SUPS, I researched the market, spoke with passionate paddlers and adventure guides, and relied on my own experiences using the inflatable SUPs featured in this roundup. I tested paddleboards in a variety of water conditions, and got feedback from friends and family members who had different paddling abilities from mine.
I prioritized the board’s performance, value for the money, durability, and added features. I also read expert reviews from sources like Paddling Magazine and Session Magazine. This, in addition to reviews from popular consumer websites and forums, helped me evaluate the best inflatable SUPS available today.
An excellent combination of portability, sturdiness, and versatility, the Breeze Aero is a great match for paddlers looking for an entry-level board for day trips in calm conditions. The deck is durable enough to handle bringing dogs onboard, while bungee cords across the deck make it simple to stow gear like picnic supplies or snorkeling equipment.
At 22 pounds itself, this inflatable is easy to port to and from the water. The package includes an adjustable three-piece paddle, a center fin, repair kit, leash, and convenient carrying bag.
The Retrospec Weekender 2 is an ideal choice for a first standup paddleboard for those who want to get into the sport without overspending. Beginner friendly, easy to inflate and carry, and lightweight, the Weekender is perfect for calm water conditions where you won’t be scraping against rock or reef.
While the construction isn’t as durable as that of its pricier counterparts, this board still has plenty going for it. The textured deck delivers ample grip for comfort and confidence, making it easy to balance in choppy waters. The small bungee stowage area at the nose is perfect for storing gear for day trips.
The package comes with three fins, a leash, adjustable three-piece paddle, pump, and carrying bag.
Huntington G4 Ultra Compact Paddleboard
A popular pick among hikers who are looking to paddle on those challenging-to-reach lakes and rivers, the NIXY Huntington G4 Ultra Compact Paddleboard weighs just a touch under 19 pounds. It packs into a small backpack with dedicated compartments for included accessories like a pump, adjustable paddle, leash, repair kit, and fins.
All in, the backpack weighs around 30 pounds. The design is well-thought out for paddlers on overnight trips: there are two adjustable bungee storage areas, multiple carrying handles, and D-rings for attaching accessories like a seat. There are four action mounts for a GoPro, phone holder, fishing rod, or cup holder.
Due to its small size, this board is best suited for intermediate to experienced paddlers.
Komodo Inflatable SUP
The GILI Komodo Inflatable SUP is stable without being unnecessarily large or bulky. At 33 inches wide, it allows paddlers to venture out onto the water with a four-legged friend or passenger in tow.
Want to do a few downdogs? The non-slip deck from nose to tail doubles as an onboard yoga mat for those paddlers who want to practice a bit of SUP yoga out on the blue.
Large storage areas on the nose and tail provide plenty of accessory storage, and each board comes with a fiberglass paddle, pump, leash, fins and carrying backpack.
A tapered nose makes this board easier to maneuver than many other inflatable SUPS marketed for stability.
If you want a beginner-friendly inflatable SUP that you won’t quickly outgrow, the ISLE Pioneer is a worthwhile investment. Thick PVC protects against bumping against rock or reef. Stable and easy to paddle, this board is a great pick for paddlers who are learning to fine tune their stroke and balance even in choppier conditions.
Three carrying handles make this easy to transport, while bungee storage areas on the nose and tail are ideal for packing excess gear. The board comes with a pump, three-piece adjustable paddle, leash, fin, and carrying bag.
The brushed traction pad is durable enough for pets to come onboard, but the deck gets a bit slippery once the traction pad ends near the nose and tail.
For an inflatable SUP that can keep up with your travels (it is designed specifically for distance paddling), I like the BOTE Traveller Aero. Its length coupled with narrow shape allows for more speed than the BOTE Breeze Aero, recommended as our Best Overall.
Large bungee storage spaces on the nose and tail are roomy enough to store supplies for a multi-day trip, and D rings along the deck allow for kayak seat installation. The board comes with a three-piece adjustable paddle with paddle protector, pump, repair kit, center fin, and carrying backpack.
The Red Paddle Co Sport’s price tag rivals that of it its hard board counterparts, but makes up for it in durability and performance. Best for intermediate to experienced paddlers, this model is fast to paddle and is ideal for long-distance trips out in choppy or calm water.
The board has two fiberglass stiffening battens that run along the rails of the board to increase its rigidity for higher performance. The board has three carrying handles, storage space near the nose, and a non-slip traction pad.
The package comes with a wheeled carrying bag, pump, fin, and battens. The paddle must be purchased separately.
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