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Finding A Good Beginner Stand Up Paddle Board

man on paddle board

Looking for a water sport that is easier than surfing? Then paddle boarding is it.

Stand up paddle boarding is easy for beginners to master and enjoy almost anywhere.

One of the hottest water sports these days, it’s estimated that more than 3 million people in Latin America and North America have taken up this sport.

With most boards, you can go out in any type of water – from oceans to lakes – and have a good time.

Even kids can SUP on their own! We know that finding a good entry-level stand up paddle board can be challenge since there are lots of different sizes, shapes, brands and styles.

That’s why our guide tells you everything you need to know about purchasing your first paddle board.

Quick answer: What are the best stand up paddle boards for beginners?

What To Look For In An Entry-Level SUP

There are few different types of stand up paddle boards on the market.

Some are designed for specific water conditions, such as waves, or specific activities, such as racing.

However, there is a type of SUP that is designed to perform well in all types of water conditions, which makes it a good choice for beginners.

This type is called an all rounder board, or allround SUP.

Here at Improve Summer, we suggest an all-rounder SUP in the 10-foot size range with a 6-inch thickness for stability.

In this guide, we’ve selected our top picks and reviewed our favorite boards for you.

Below you can see the different styles or designs of paddle boards that you can buy.

sup board styles
SUP Board Styles (credit: King of Water Sports)

As you compare the SUPs on the market, you will notice that they range in size from about 9-feet in length to over 12-feet in length.

Usually, the weight limit increases as the length of your board increases, so some heavier people will need to stick with longer boards.

Generally speaking, 10-foot SUPs are the best choice for beginners cause they are not too long and not too short, which makes them nice and stable.

Another factor in stability is the thickness of the board.

If at all possible, go with a board that has a 6-inch thickness level.

Often, you see boards that are just 4-inches thick, but you get better stability with a thicker board.

And when someone is just starting out, having a stable stand up paddle board is very important cause it helps prevent accidental falls into the water.

Stand up paddle boards can be either inflatable or hard (rigid).

The hard boards can be made of a variety of different solid materials and the inflatable SUPs are made with durable materials that ensure it will last you for many years.

Each type is pretty similar in terms of stability.

The biggest difference between the two is that hard boards weigh more and it is easier to store inflatable boards since you just deflate it and roll it up for storage in a bag or pack.

The three main materials that define the type of paddle boards are:

  • Epoxy
  • Inflatable
  • Soft Top
types of SUPs
Types of SUPs (credit: Isle Surf & SUP)

The most important thing to know about these three types of SUPs is that they each perform differently in the water.

Let us break down the differences for you.

About Epoxy Stand Up Paddle Boards

These are hard boards that offer optimal performance of the three types.

The combination of EPS foam, layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin work together to give you durability.

  • Ideal for: surfing, long distance paddling, and racing
  • Cost: typically the most expensive type
  • Best features:  best glide, tracking and control
  • Durability: least durable of the three types
  • Weight: lighter than soft tops
  • Transport/Storage: most difficult to transport and store of three types

About Soft Top Paddle Boards

These are also hard boards, but they offer a softer surface than epoxy models.

This is good in case you fall or if your feet easily fatigue on hard surfaces.

The surface actually has a spongy feel to it, but the core is made out of stronger, more durable materials.

And some brands, like ISLE, are laminated with fiberglass and epoxy resin.

  • Ideal for: recreational paddling, families/kids
  • Cost: typically the most affordable type
  • Best features: soft surface protects you on falls
  • Durability: more durable than epoxy models
  • Weight: weighs the most of the three types
  • Transport/Storage: similar to epoxy models

About Inflatable Paddle Boards

These boards offer the ultimate is portability and storage, which is why they’ve been steadily growing in popularity in recent years.

And, they are surprisingly durable since they are constructed with drop stitch technology and high-density PVC layers that creates a solid SUP.

  • Ideal for: travelers, people with limited storage
  • Cost: typically the mid-level type in affordability
  • Best features: performs better in the water than epoxy models, and can easily take anywhere
  • Durability: most durable type of paddleboard
  • Weight: weighs the least of the three types
  • Transport/Storage: just deflate, roll up and put in backpack or bag and you can take or store it anywhere

Other Things You Need To Go Stand Up Paddleboarding

You will definitely need at least a paddle with your board, but some SUPs are sold as a package that comes with a paddle.

As a beginner, the paddle that comes with the board will be fine to start with, but you will definitely want to upgrade it if you stick with paddle boarding.

You’ll at least want to get a paddle that floats if you drop it in the water.

If you get an inflatable model, then you will need a pump.

An iSUP pump does come as part of a package with some models.

One thing to keep in mind is that the pumps that are in a package deal are always hand pumps and not electric ones.

Most paddlers who use electric models do end up using a manual pump to top off those final PSIs.

So, if you opt for an electric pump, then be sure to keep that hand pump for those last few PSIs.

For storage and transport, not all packages come with a storage bag for inflatable SUPs.

However, you can find several backpack and dry bag options that will fit a rolled up iSUP, so you can use one of those.

For hard boards, you may end up need to get a SUP cart so that you can easily transport your board to the water.

Additionally, you may also want to invest in a paddleboard bag for storing it when not in use.

And finally, you should get yourself a a safety whistle, distress signal, and PFD for when you go paddle boarding, just in case you fall in the water and get into trouble.

Since paddle boards are classified as vessels by the United States Coast Guard (USCG), when you’re not surfing you are required to have a USCG-approved life jacket also known as Personal Floatation Device (PFD, Type III) for each person, a sound signaling device (whistle), visual distress signal and navigation light (flashlight).

You can read the rest of the USCG rules here.

Should You Buy A Cheap Paddle Board? Or A Used SUP?

There is no denying that paddle boarding is an expensive sport to get into, which is why some people choose to go with a cheap SUP thinking that it won’t matter much.

Please, don’t do this!

We want to you have an awesome time the first time you go paddle boarding, and having a good SUP is essential to that enjoyment.

The sad reality is that a lot of cheaply made (and prices) SUPs have been flooding the market in recent years and they are not designed to last or even to function as intended.

If you cannot afford to spend at least $600, then we suggest that you shop for used quality paddle boards on your local Craigslist or other local classifieds sites.

Also, Costco sometimes has a decent Body Glove SUP model that is relatively affordable and a decent option if you can’t afford something better.

Best All Rounder SUP for Beginners (Solid/Hard Board)

When it comes to the best beginner SUP for the money, our pick is the ISLE Cruiser Stand Up Paddle Board & SUP Bundle.

It offers great stability, is designed for flatwater but performs well in small waves, and it features a generous width and low rocker.

ISLE Cruiser Stand Up Paddle Board & SUP Bundle — Rigid Board with Lightweight Foam Core and Soft, Comfort-Top Deck Pad — 235 Pound Capacity, 10’5” Long x 32

As expected, the ISLE Cruiser Stand Up Paddle Board can be used in any type of water and it performs well in most water conditions.

It is designed for recreational flatwater cruising, but it does do well in the ocean if you want to paddle in the waves.

Because of this, it does only have one well-balanced single fin that provides a high single-side stroke rate on flatwater—ideal for progressing paddlers because you won’t need to switch sides as often.

However, you can add some FCS 2 fins if you want to enhance turning and control when riding waves.

Compared to other hard boards for beginners, we think that this SUP offers the perfect choice due to affordability, durability and performance.

Check out these features:

  • 4.5-inches thick for good stability
  • weight limit of 235 pounds
  • tracks well when cruising
  • affordable price with high quality
  • includes ISLE Carbon Hybrid Adjustable SUP Paddle – Adjusts from 65″ to 86″
  • includes ISLE 8′ Coil Leash – Blue
  • includes ISLE Nylon Touring Center Fin

With an epoxy core and a soft outer skin, the Cruiser offers the best of both worlds.

It is a family-friendly, dog-friendly and beginner-friendly hard paddle board that’s perfect for any ride.

With a super durable soft-top construction and an unbeatable value, it’s easy to see why the Cruiser is a customer favorite.

The Cruiser has a full-grip deck pad that stands up to dings, damage, dog claws, and is soft enough to be safe for your kids.

This soft top stand up paddle board is great for any skill level and can be used for a versatile range of paddle boarding activities.

The Cruiser’s construction is almost identical to the ISLE epoxy paddle boards. The only difference with the Cruiser is it is finished with a layer of textured croc-skin padding.

This construction makes the Cruiser rigid like an epoxy SUP and super durable like an inflatable.

The Cruiser paddle board comes equipped with a four-point front bungee system to hold any gear you want to bring with you.

It is made with Composite Soft Technology to add both durability and impact strength. Since it’s not an iSUP and requires no pumping or inflation, you don’t have to worry about punctures, tears, or burst seams.

Best Stand Up Paddle Boards Under $500 – $1200

If you’re still not sure which SUPs are the best option for your paddling needs, then check out our reviews below.

We’ve taken the time to share what we like about some of the top beginner SUP boards on the market right now.

Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer Inflatable 9’10” SUP

Another good option is the Tower Paddle Boards Adventurer Inflatable 9’10” SUP.

It excels in durability, stability, and performance. Since it is inflatable, it can easily be transported or stored anywhere. (also see my full Tower Adventurer review)

tower adventurer isup review

As expected, the Tower Adventurer iSUP can be used in any type of water and it performs well in all types of water conditions.

Want to use it for flat water paddling at the lake? You can do that.

Want to take it out on the river? You can do that?

Want to hit the beach and surf some small waves on it? You can do that.

Want to do some yoga on your SUP? You can do that too.

It truly is the best inflatable stand up paddle board on the market right now – for beginners and experienced paddlers!

There is a LOT to like about this board, but let me give you a quick rundown on the top features that makes this such a good all rounder iSUP for beginners.

Check out these features:

  • 6-inches thick
  • weight limit of 350 pounds!
  • feel as rigid and stable as a hard board
  • made from military-grade PVC material – very durable!
  • comes with nice adjustable paddle and hand pump
  • rolls up to about the size of a sleeping bag when deflated

As you can see, this iSUP has a lot to offer for the money.

That’s why it is always one of the top rated and best selling inflatable stand up paddle boards on the market.

Though you can find cheaper iSUPs, for the money you can’t beat the quality and specs of this board. Click here to check the current Amazon price.

ISLE Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board & iSUP Bundle Accessory Pack

If you like the Isle rigid SUP above, but prefer an inflatable to a hard board, then you should check out the ISLE Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board & iSUP Bundle Accessory Pack.

It is very similar to the solid board model and performs well in the water.

ISLE Pioneer Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board & iSUP Bundle Accessory Pack — Durable, Lightweight with Stable Wide Stance — 285 lbs Capacity, 10'6

This board is part of a package deal and it has a great low price. In fact, the price is about the same as the Tower Adventurer iSUP package.

But, I don’t think this one is quite as good as the Tower Adventurer. But, it is still a great inflatable stand up paddle board.

To give you an idea of what you get for the money, let’s take a moment to check out the features of the top rated iSUP.

Here’s a quick glance at the specs so that you can compare it to the other boards.

  • 6-inches thick for maximum stability
  • weight limit of 285 pounds
  • similar stability to a solid board
  • made from military-grade PVC material – very durable!
  • comes with adjustable paddle, hand pump and repair kit
  • rolls up to about the size of a sleeping bag when deflated

Again, you get pretty the same basic features between all these boards.

And the biggest difference is the weight limit. With the Isle 10ft inflatable SUP it is 285 pounds!

That makes this a good iSUP for teens and kids, but maybe not for heavier people.

If you can meet the weight limit, this is a decent paddle board for the money. Click here to see the Amazon price.

Final Word

As you can see, there are some great choices when it comes to stand up paddle boards for beginners.

Use our recommendations above to find an affordable SUP that you can learn out on in the water.

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