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Paddleboarding Is the Most Underrated Summer Water Activity

We surfed—er, paddle boarded—the web and returned with the best paddle boards for n00bs, pros, fishermen, and more.
The 9 Best Paddle Boards for Hitting the Water
Photo: Getty Images

Summer is made for getting out on the water, but sometimes, that’s harder to achieve than we’d prefer. While we all wish that we had a boat (or at least a friend who does), sometimes the water-cruising deck is stacked unmercifully against us. 

Enter: SUP. Short for “stand-up paddle boards,” these babies make enjoying a day on the water more accessible and affordable than ever (with a little balance)—and with less maintenance. With a stand-up paddle board, you can go for a leisurely paddle along the water’s surface, practice yoga, go fishing—even join the surfers and catch a wave if you’re at the beach. There’s truly no piece of water sports gear that’s nearly as versatile as a paddle board. Unfortunately, the thought of sifting through all of the different makes and models can be enough to make you want to settle into your beach chair, grab a cold one or nine, and sink into a sedentary life forevermore. 

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Lucky for you, we’ve taken care of the hard part. We surfed—er, paddle boarded—the web and returned with the best paddle boards for everyone from beginners and pros to yogis, fishermen, and more. 

What kind of paddle board should you get?

The only thing left to decide is whether you’d like a classic or inflatable paddle board. In the era of B.I.P.—before inflatable paddle boards—you needed an SUV rigged out with a roof rack if you wanted to hit the beach with your new board. Fast forward to today, and you can fit your inflatable paddle board in a backpack. Worried about durability? Fear not. Inflatable stand-up paddle boards are super resilient, so much so that board makers actually recommend that you use inflatable boards if you plan to paddle through rocky rivers that would otherwise scratch and damage rigid boards. However, the classic stand-up paddle boards are your most convenient option if you have easy access to the waterfront, since there’s no setup whatsoever. The only downside is that classic boards are made from hard materials, so they tend to have heftier price tags to match, but you’re paying for quality. 

Is paddle boarding hard?

Surprisingly, no—even for self-identified klutzes. In fact, most people can learn to stand up and do some basic maneuvers in just five minutes. Is it effortless? That’s another story; it’s actually a good form of exercise because it requires quite a bit of balancing. You’ll just need to learn how to keep your balance, hold your paddle, do some strokes, and, of course, get back on if you fall off (which you almost definitely will). Start with solid gear, and you’ll be paddling around the crystal waters in no time. 

Whether it’s a travel-friendly inflatable stand-up paddle board or a classic, rigid model, this list leaves no part of the SUP paddle board market unexplored. Now nothing stands in between you and your beach babe destiny. 

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The Best Inflatable Paddle Boards

The new Performer 11 iSUP from Body Glove is one of the best-selling inflatable boards on the market, and it’s not hard to see why. Its wide shape (34 inches) creates comfortable stability for beginners, while extra touches including its action camera attachment and nose-tow point are great for more advanced paddleboarders. It’s one of the pricer inflatable paddleboards on this list, but it’s made with superior, durable materials that make it worth the extra dough. (It also inflates faster than you can—probably—finish your beer.)

$637.99 at Amazon
$999 at Body Glove
$637.99 at Amazon
$999 at Body Glove

If you’re not known for your follow-through when it comes to new hobbies and projects, then you may want to hold off on dropping close to a grand on a new SUP board. Fitwave’s 10-foot paddleboard is under $200 and comes with everything you need to get the full paddleboarding experience. 


$249.99$199.99 at Amazon

$249.99$199.99 at Amazon

SUP yoga is all fun and games until you fall off your board and disrupt the zen of the whole class. (Trust me, I know). To avoid such a fate, you need an extra-wide board—say, 36 inches, like this Bluefin Aura Fit. A lot of stand-up paddleboards have a carry handle placed at the board’s center, but not this one. It’s actually designed not to interrupt your transition from warrior two to downward dog. Namaste

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$649$549 at Bluefins Up

$649$549 at Bluefins Up

The Best Paddle Board for Beginners

The one downside to shelling out for a beginner board can be that, later on, you may want to upgrade to something more advanced. If you’re an outsider who wants full membership into the cult of SUP, you can start—and grow with—Isle’s Explorer, the brand’s highest-performing inflatable paddleboard. With a width of 32 inches, the board is stable enough for beginners but also narrow enough for touring expeditions that require the kind of swift maneuvers best left to the pros. Plus, right now, the Explorer also comes with a free electric pump valued at $250. 


$895$595 at Isle

$895$595 at Isle

The Best Classic Stand Up Paddle Boards

No pumps required: The classic stand-up paddleboards are rigid, surf-like boards made from hard materials, and if you have easy access to the waterfront, this is going to be your most convenient option. There’s no setup whatsoever—just pick up your board and walk out into the waves. It is worth noting, though, that rigid boards do tend to have heftier price tags to match. The Outpost from Isle is the brand’s most durable board, designed to hold up against constant wear and tear. It’s also the kind of board you’d probably be given if you went to a rental company. (Meaning, it’s in it for the long haul.) 


$1245$995 at Isle

$1245$995 at Isle

Made for intermediate-level paddleboarders, Bote’s classic teak paddleboard has a surf-style shape that holds up better in the open water than other designs. It weighs only 31 pounds, which is pretty lightweight for a rigid board, and I’m a big fan, because it’s compatible with Travelink carrying slings that let you carry the board handsfree.

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$1299$974.25 at Bote Board

$1299$974.25 at Bote Board

There’s open-water friendly, and then there’s surf-friendly. Level up with the Boardworks Kraken All-Water board that lets you paddle and surf. It has a wide stance (36 inches) for stability while you ride waves and a long, sharp nose that cuts through rough water. 


$2011.03$1911.50 at Amazon

$2011.03$1911.50 at Amazon

The Best Customizable Stand Up Paddleboards 

Freein’s SUP board comes with a seat and all of the adapters needed to transform your board into a working kayak. It’s also inflatable, so it’s the best board to bring along on a camping trip—you get twice the water sports fun in one portable bundle. 


$349.99 at Amazon

$349.99 at Amazon

Turns out, you don’t need a boat to go fishing. Elkton’s inflatable paddleboard is customized with fishermen in mind. The board is extra-long and extra-wide (12 feet by three feet) so that there’s room for you and your cooler full of beer fishing gear. Plus, it's got three pre-installed rod holders and mounts. Bring your GPS, downrigger, anchor, and all of your best rods—it’s time to fish. 


$399.99 at Amazon

$399.99 at Amazon

See you on the water. 


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