Best Inflatable SUP’s For Beginners

Inflatable SUP’s in general tend to be ideal for beginners. Although they can vary greatly in size they still tend to be quite stable and provide a little softer landing for falls.

There are however certain boards that are better for beginners than others.

If you are brand new to the growing sport of stand-up paddling and are looking for a board to take you from the beginner stages right up to intermediate then follow the guidelines below.

Thickness

Basically the wider the board and the thicker the board, the more stable it will be. Stability when you are first starting out is key.

Just like kayaking, when you hit the water for the first few times, you do not want to be in the longest, sleekest kayak. You can almost guarantee a few spills and will likely have trouble getting your technique down.

The long skinny boards will be quite tippy and it will be a lot harder to stay above the water.

Inflatable SUP’s are typically either 4 inches thick or 6 inches thick. The 6” thick boards are extremely stable and provide excellent rigidity.

They are great for beginners as well as people over 160 lbs. because they support the weight with no flex whatsoever.

However which size you choose will depend not only on your skill level but also on your height and weight.

A beginner who weighs less than 160 lbs. is going to be fine on a 4-inch thick board. You may want to go for a 6 inch thick board nonetheless just for the extra stability and rigidity but it is not absolutely necessary.

A beginner who is over 160 lbs. will be very comfortable on a 6-inch thick board as opposed to a thinner board.

The 4-inch thick boards tend to be quicker to manoeuver but unless you are racing or doing all kinds of tricks, this is nothing to be concerned about.

Length

A bigger board is going to be more stable but it will also take more strength to paddle.

If you will mostly be paddling flat water then a board anywhere from 9 to 13 feet will be best.

The longer the board, usually the better it will track and the more speed you will be able to do.

If you are brand new to stand-up paddling I wouldn’t let the length intimidate you at all.

Shorter boards are fun and very easy to maneuver but longer boards are better for touring.

Choose one that suits the type of paddling you will be doing most. You will get used to whatever length it is very quickly.

Accessories

In your excitement to get out on the water you may not be thinking too much about board accessories.

There are a few accessories however that are really nice to have.

For example… Bungee tie down cords are a must for me. Some boards have them either up front or on the back, some have them in both places and others don’t have them at all.

With bungee tie down cords you can secure a dry bag, your flip-flips, your water bottle or any type of gear you want to have access to while you are out paddling.

Without them you just have to place your drybag/backpack on the board and hope it doesn’t fall off.

I have noticed that some of the cheaper boards do not offer this accessory. However you can always get creative and add them yourself if you want to. It simply requires some extra D-rings, some waterproof glue and some bungee cords.

The next accessory to take not of when doing your research is the carry bag. Some boards come with them and some don’t.

Again usually price is a factor here. The quality boards will cost a bit more but they also come with everything you need. The drybag/backpack that comes with many of the inflatable SUP’s is very handy.

It allows you to easily carry the board to and from the water on your back. It is also extremely convenient for storage as well as for traveling.

I find that the backpack/carry bags are usually all very good quality, rugged and comfortable to use. It is really nice to have one when transporting an inflatable SUP.

Beginner ISUP Suggestions

Based on the above info, here are some suggestions for inflatable SUP’s for beginners.

Airis ISUP’s

Airis has three ISUP’s that are ideal for beginners right up to intermediates. Each of the three boards are 6 inches thick which makes them really stable and able to hold a lot of weight.

There are three different sizes to choose from, a 9’ board, an 11’ board as well as a long 12’6” board.

What I like best about these boards is that they have fiberglass plates to stand on which make them extremely rigid and easy for any person to use.

Sea Eagle Longboard

The Sea Eagle Longboard is one of the first ISUP’s I ever used and is a great overall board.

The size and length make it ideal for most people and quite versatile. This is a high quality board that offers a lot for your money.

Once again this is a board that will work perfectly for beginners but also keep you satisfied as your skill and comfort level improve.

Tower Adventurer

The Tower Adventurer is shorter at 9’ 10” and fairly wide at 32”. It is also 6” thick and very stable. The short and squat nature of this board makes it very easy for a beginner to paddle.

It is extremely rigid and is able to hold quite a bit of weight. Although this board is not going to be the fastest SUP in the water, it does give new paddlers a great affordable option to consider.

The quality is good and at only 24 lbs. it is easy to take anywhere.

NRS

There are so many other inflatable SUP’s and truly any of them could be considered for a beginner.

I find that your comfort and skill level improves very quickly. With even just a few times out on the water, you won’t likely be a beginner for long.

NRS has quite a few inflatable SUP’s to choose from as well and many of them are ideal for beginners.

I don’t have as much experience with the NRS boards but I do know them to be excellent quality and very popular.

As a beginner your options are open. Go for a board you will feel comfortable not only paddling but also carrying and transporting.

Click here to view our inflatable SUP reviews for more information and specific board details.

Comments

  1. My NRS is pretty good, once I learned that I had to pump it to 6, which is tedious. I’m ready to get one of those pumps that plugs into a 12 volt of a rented car, because a rented car is where I’ll be carrying it. The NRS is not good in rough water or waves; I don’t think most inflatables are. I use hard boards at home and have an ISUP because I have to be on the road (by airplane) about half the time.

  2. My inflatable has a ring on the front. It’s my two hard boards that only have a place in back to attach the backpack or whatever, which then drags in the water.

  3. I had to reply when I read the comment from Hcat above regarding inflatable sups on rough water, i.e. river rapids, wave trains. This past summer I was one of a limited number of stand up paddlers on a new isup experience tour on the Lower Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho. The boards were all inflatables and it’s a darned good thing! Fiberglass boards on waters like that would not work. There is too much weight just for starters and I would not want to be at the receiving end if falling off in close contact with my board during our sup of the rough rapids. We had NRS boards by the way, and they handled perfectly!

  4. Lorraine, I haven’t done rivers, only lakes and canals and some coastal oceans. My inflatable is less good in the ocean. The guy who sold it to me was in fact a River runner.

  5. Hello,

    I’m looking for a good beginner board for my kids (12-16 yrs old) plus I’d like to give it a go also (180 lbs).

    Wondering if you have any thoughts or opinions on the Jimmy Sykes inflatables, specifically the i3 sold here at Costco http://www.costco.com/Jimmy-Styks-i3-Inflatable-Stand-Up-Paddle-Board-Bundle-.product.100088522.html

    Appreciate any comments you might have. Cheers.

    • Allison says:

      I’ve never tried the Jimmy Sykes inflatable SUP offered at Costco but I think it looks decent and would probably make a good beginner board. The price is definitely good. Not sure how it performs but it does look like it will be stable. The Tower board is also a great beginner board… super stable and well made.

      • I bought 2 of those Costco Jimmy Styks and I hate them. Very unstable, hard to star and after a few uses the foam already started to seperate from the board. Their customer service didn’t react to my complain. Don’t waste your money on these

        • I haven’t tried the Jimmy Styks one’s yet, so that is definitely interesting to hear. Was it the Jimmy Styks inflatable SUP you tried or the foam one? Costco is usually good, what a shame.

          • Lorraine says:

            While I was shopping for a second inflatable sup to have on hand for family members I also bought the Jimmy Styks inflatable from Costco… I returned it two days later. When inflated and on the water it is like standing on an innertube -very bouncy and unstable feeling. Also I had a problem with the fin box and had to get on the phone with the company but they weren’t very receptive or helpful thus my decision to return it, since it was not a good solid ride anyway. Costco is definitely not the problem there are many people that do like Jimmy Styks brand that’s why Costco carries it but they don’t give you a hard time about returning at all.

          • That’s interesting to hear. You are the second person in the last week to mention a bad experience with the Jimmy Styks inflatable SUP. I’ve tried their hard board but not their inflatable. I appreciate the info. Glad you were able to return it, Costco is great for that. Hope you have better luck with another one!

      • I have two i3 Jimmy stix boards from costco. I have had no problems with them and have enjoyed using them on the Snake River in idaho. We keep ours inflated in a protected boat garage year round. They show no signs of breaking down.

        • Awesome thanks for the comment Linda. My neighbor has the Jimmy Styks ISUP from Costco as well and has had no issues with it after a couple years of use so far.

  6. Love this site. My wife and I are in the market for our first SUPs and seeing as how we’re in north Texas, and not necessarily a stone’s throw away from a body of water, we’re looking at ISUPs for the convenience and portability, especially since we’re excited about the prospect of taking them with us on vacation. I’m a big guy (6’6″, 270) so I feel like I have to be careful with my choice. We were looking at two Tower Adventurer iSUPS, do you still think that’s a good choice for someone my size?

    • Allison says:

      Hi Jerry, It’s great to hear you are finding the site helpful! I do think the Tower board would work well for you. I’ve had people of all sizes on that board and it seems to handle everyone. It’s very rigid and stable. The one issue with the Tower board is that it does not come with a carry bag but otherwise it is a good solid board for a good price.

  7. Hi! I want to purchase my first iSUP only because I have no storage space for a hard board. Can you comment on the Saturn iSUP? thanks!
    Rye

    • I like the Saturn ISUP. It’s not the best board out there but for the price I think it’s great and it has all the basics covered. It’s stable, easy to paddle and easy to transport. I think it’s fairly versatile… good for lakes, ocean bays and calm rivers. Quality is decent and when inflated it’s quite rigid. It’d be great for a beginner. Hope that helps.

  8. Thank you for this excellent site. It has been a great reference and encouraging! My husband and I are tryng to decide which board would work best for our Southern California area, primarily harbors and bays with the goal of the ocean. However, neither of us have a great desire to surf. We have found that Tower, Isle, Wakooda and Needlenose all have boards to accommodate our weight’s (220 and 160) with loads of included options. Our hope is to go out 3 times a week year round for a couple hours. Which board would you recommend?

    • The Needlenose would be my personal choice and would work well for harbors and bays. It handles chop and smaller waves fine but it’s not for surf. The Tower is super stable and rigid. It’s basic and doesn’t perform nearly as well as the Needlenose but for the price it’s a good deal and overall can handle a lot of different conditions. The Wakooda is kind of middle of the road. I liked paddling it, it doesn’t perform as well as the Needlenose either but is probably a little more versatile. Needlenose would be my first choice, then Wakooda then Tower. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks for the great info! One other question, what board between the Wakooda, Astro Whopper and Isle All Around, do you think would be the better overall board-to include light waves?

  9. Steve Waite says:

    Hi, just started paddling. Hooked already. Looking to buy my first board, torn between the Seaeagle longboard and the Red Ride. It would be mostly for UK rivers and calm ocean waters, but would quite like to try a bit of surfing eventually too. I travel a lot with work, so ease of travel is a consideration too. Any thoughts? Thanks for the great site, really helpful.

    • Hi Steve, Both would work well for you. I like the rolling backpack the Red Ride comes in, which I think is really ideal for traveling. On the other hand the longboard weighs about 6 lbs. less which is nice. The Ride is slightly more stable and can hold more air pressure, depending on your weight this might be preferable. I don’t think you can go wrong either way though, they are both great boards.

      • Steve Waite says:

        Thanks Allison, I’ll try and get a demo of both soon, having read your review of the Astro Whopper though, think I might have to give that a go too! Thanks again for the excellent, informative site.

        Steve

  10. Steve Murray says:

    Thank you for a great site! Would you include the Red 10’6″ in this group of Beginner SUP’s? I’m right at 200lbs.

    • For sure! I think the Red 10’6″ would definitely suit beginners but also is good enough to grow on and great for novice or intermediates as well. An all around good board.

  11. This is a great site, thanks Allison! I am looking to purchase an ISUP that would hold me (5’8″/160) and my 4 y/o daughter. Any suggestions on one that won’t kill my wallet? I’ve been looking at the Ten Toes Weekender, Isle All Around or the Tower. Would be using in coastal waters that can get a little choppy in the wind, but not planning on taking it into the surf. Thanks, and cheers!

    • Hi Steve, I’d say the Ten Toes Weekender or the Isle All Around over the Tower board… they tend to perform a little better. However if you are mostly going to be in choppy coastal waters I’d say take a look at the Isle Explorer. It is a little bigger and quite a bit more stable – I think it would work really well with your daughter sitting on top. It’s $100 more than the All Around but might be worth it for you. If not either of the other two will work. The Isle All Around is just slightly more stable than the Weekender but the Weekender is slightly easier to maneuver and turn quickly. Hope that helps!

  12. Victoria Hollingsworth says:

    Hi,

    I am looking to buy my fiancé a paddle board for our wedding. We live on a fairly large lake and often take vacations to the beach, however, I know our main use would be on the lake. I am thinking of getting an iSUP instead of the hard board because of storage and easy maneuvering and not having to attach it to the back of the car, etc. I want to buy 2 boards, one for me one for him, if possible. I am at a loss for what type of board to get or what size or what brand. I know we are both on the smaller side. He is 5’7′ and about 160lbs. Do you have any recommendation of brands that would accommodate needs vs price? Thanks.

    • Hey Victoria, I really like the Sea Eagle Longboard. It paddles well on flat water but is also super versatile. The 11′ Longboard would suit both of you well. It’s a nice package because it includes everything you need such as board, paddle, bag, and pump.. plus it comes with a 3-year warranty, which is nice. If you wanted to drop the price down a bit, the Ten Toes Weekender is an awesome board considering the low price. It is only 10′ long so it’s not quite as fast as the Longboard but it paddles well, turns quickly and is just a really convenient and portable package. It would work well for both of you. I paddle the Sea Eagle Needlenose most often on flat water. In my experience it gives the best performance, especially on lakes. However the hard pointy nose does make for a slightly larger and more awkward package when rolled up in the bag, plus it is not as versatile as the others… just something to be aware of.

      Super excited for you! I love that you are buying paddle boards as a wedding gift! Best of luck, let me know if I can help you further.

  13. Hi,
    First of all thank you for all the great reviews!
    I’m new to stank up paddling, but wanna buy a board and would like your advice. Basically I’m looking at the Sea Eagle Longboard and the Ten Toe Weekender. I live in Hawaii and plan to use it here along the coast. Which one would you recommend?

    • Hi Jonas, both are great boards and you really can’t go wrong either way. I’d personally recommend the Sea Eagle Longboard for coastal paddling in Hawaii. I have used the Longboard there myself and loved it. It is quite versatile so works well for touring as well as some surfing. I like the 11′ length of the Longboard. Especially for paddling along the coast the extra length is nice to have. It glides well and is really a lot of fun to use. I find the Longboard picks up better speed than the Ten Toes Weekender as well.

  14. Liz edwards says:

    Hi, we are looking for a isup and were interested in the Costco deal but not so sure now. Mostly we ride on lakes but I carry a pug and boxer with me so stability important. We go to Lake Huron each year and that is a bigger lake and can have large waves. I like it wide but not too clumsy. I am small so not too heavy to carry would be a plus.
    Thanks for the site, very helpful.

    • Hi Liz, The Isle Explorer is ideal for paddling with dogs. It is a little wider and a little slower on the water but I wouldn’t say it is clumsy feeling at all and it is nice and stable on waves. We take our German Shepard on the Explorer quite often. It is a little on the heavier side at 29 lbs. but I don’t find it too hard to carry. The other option would be the Sea Eagle Longboard. It costs a little more but it is a really nice versatile board. It performs a little better and the 11′ Longboard only weighs 22 lbs. It won’t be as stable but it can definitely hold your two dogs. Hope that helps! With the dogs I would say definitely go for an 11′ board or longer and 6″ thick for added stability.

  15. I am looking at the Jimmy Styks 2015 Seeker. It’s a floor model. 399.99. It is my first board. I have used a friends inflatable board a few times and do really well on it. Is the Joimmy Styks 2105 Seeker a good board or am I throwing my money out the window? I’m buying it from West Marine.
    I will be using it on the lake mostly.

    • Hi Julie, I have heard good and bad with the Jimmy Stykes boards. My neighbour has one that she bought at Costco last year and it has been great. I find it basic in design as well as in performance but she is quite happy with it. I have heard from others that their Jimmy Stykes boards had to be returned because of different issues. So it’s a tough call however West Marine is usually good and that’s a hard price to beat. They are definitely not the best boards out there but for recreational lake paddling I would think it should be fine. I think West Marine has a 30 day return policy so I would suggest getting it out in those first 30 days to make sure it is all good. Good luck and happy paddling!

  16. hi I’m interested in trying paddle boarding. I’m new at the sport and I don’t know what to get. I want an inflatable SUP that’s not too pricy though. I want to take it out in the ocean once I get good at it, and I definitely want to take my dog on it. so stability is important.

    • I’m on the short side and weigh less than 150 lbs. if its important

      • Hi Joanne, I would say go for a board that is 6″ thick, which will provide more stability for paddling with a dog and also for ocean waves. A few to consider would be the Sea Eagle Longboard, the iRocker 11′ or the NIXY 10’6″.
        The Sea Eagle Longboard is super versatile and great with dogs. It paddles well on flat water but also handles nicely in ocean waves. The nice thing about Sea Eagle is they give you a 3-year warranty and they have a great 180-day return policy. Their boards are great quality.
        The iRocker is good value for the money. For the price they give you everything you need to get on the water right away and their 11′ ISUP paddles really well. It is a little less stable than the Longboard but you’d get used to it after a few times out. If you have a big dog, this one will be more wobbly. I would say it is more ideal for paddling with a smaller dog.
        The 10’6″ NIXY is a little shorter but a great board for a good price. It is a bit wider, more stable, a little slower than the other two but all things considered a nice ride and a really good price point.
        Hope that helps, let me know if you have any further questions.

  17. Hi- thanks for all the good info. Can you please tell me a really good beginner board for 270 lbs. ? I looked at the Isle Explorer but the max weight is just at my weight plus a couple of reviews said it was unstable (although vast majority of reviews gave it 5 stars). Sometimes I will probably want to sit down too- like on a small cooler- and use a kayak paddle. Would rather have the paddle board than kayak though for ease of handling, transport, and storage.

    Thanks, James

  18. I have had a chance now to read this site more carefully. My apologies for earlier post. There is plenty good info here for me to make a wise choice for my size and weight.

    Thanks, James

    • Hi James, sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier! Did you find what you needed? I was going to say that the Isle Explorer would actually be a great choice. It is definitely not unstable. In fact I would say that it has more stability than most and it won’t have any issues holding 270 lbs. I have had the Explorer loaded up with over 300 lbs. and it stayed rigid and paddled well. Plus it has center D-rings that are ideal for attaching a seat if you wanted to. Another option would be the Tower Adventurer. I don’t like it as much as the Explorer but it is capable of holding a lot of weight and is a very rigid board. Performance and style is kind of basic and you would have to add your own D-rings for a seat but for the price it’s a decent deal. Hope that helps!