On Your Feet: The 7 Best Stand Up Paddle Boards

The fastest growing water sport in the world isn’t surfing or kayaking, it’s a strange mixture known as stand up paddleboarding. Born in Hawaii, where most great things arise, it has caught on as an alternative way to enjoy various lakes, rivers, and the ocean for fun, fitness, and competition. If you’re looking for a new way to explore, adventure, or just have a bit of fun in the wetter wilderness, it’s time to try it out.

Though it is constantly growing, many manufacturers haven’t quite managed to catch the wave and they don’t understand what makes a decent SUP. The things to consider are going to be where and how you are going to use it, what your body type is, and how much you want to spend. Beginners and people looking for a little fun should go with planing boards, which are easier to use, more stable, and work just about anywhere. Thrill riders should aim for those with displacement hulls that are sleeker, providing more speed and challenge. Wherever you live and whatever you desire, one of the 7 best stand up paddleboards will get you rowing away in no time.

Tower Adventurer

Tower Adventurer

Pro: Easy to transport
Con: Inflatable

Pumped Up: When it comes to inflatable SUPs, there is really one name to know: Tower. The company achieved success on the show Shark Tank and was began with an investment from Mark Cuban. Since then they have been making the best blow-ups in the business. Their Adventurer model is ideal for beginners, but works equally well for long-time boarders looking for an airy option. At 9’10” the body is a bit on the short side but is very rigid and able to hold up to 350 lbs. Made from military grade PVC you need not worry about snags popping your ride. With an inflated width of 32″ and a height of 6″ you’ll have plenty of space to stretch out with the convenience of an inflatable carry. [Purchase: $699]

Riviera Select Soft Top

Riviera Select Soft Top

Pro: Well padded for animals and wipeouts
Con: Limited speed

Easy Landing: Bamboo sandwich construction along with kevlar rails make this a force to be reckoned with for every skill level. The extremely well-padded top is ideal for those who like to do their yoga out on the water and is forgiving of any mishap that lands you face down on your board. Take your pick between lazy days on the 10’6″ model with its 32″ width, and hot pursuits on the 11’6″ version with 33″ worth of girth. The tough rails can take plenty of hits with the paddle or banging into the dock as you learn the ropes. Though you wouldn’t know it to look at the price, this is easily one of the toughest soft top SUPs on the market. [Purchase: $950]

BIC Sport ACE-TEC

BIC Sport ACE-TEC

Pro: High endurance
Con: Unforgiving if fallen upon

Hard Case: Looking at the relatively modest price, it’s a little hard to swallow that the ACE-TEC actually uses a thermoformed epoxy as their base; but take it out into the cresting surf and you’ll see that their claims are more than true. The harder core makes them a favorite for those who prefer to navigate their paddleboards around rocky shoals, reefy coasts, and fast-moving rivers. Coming in three sizes from a modest 9’6″ to 11’6″, riders from 240 lbs. on down can find something to suit their purposes. Ready for yoga and other calmer pursuits, the easy maneuvering and harder frame makes the ACE-TEC a long-lasting, go anywhere board. [Purchase: $1,000+]

Naish Odysseus

Naish Odysseus

Pro: Extremely difficult to tip over
Con: Short and wide

Beginner’s Luck: Naish makes beautiful SUPs for every skill level, but we found they had the friendliest option for newbies in the game. The Odysseus has a wide, kind 9’8″ by 34″ body that offers tons of stability for the bumbling beginner that will never seem to capsize no matter how hard you try. Though it is short and wide on the top, underneath it has a multi-concave bottom that channels water from nose to tail for reasonably good wave cutting and speed for an entry-level board. The full composite construction gives it plenty of stiffness for easy turning and balance while the size allows you to take a child or pet along for the ride. Can support up to 275 lbs. [Purchase: $1,199]

Boardworks Raven

Boardworks Raven

Pro: Works for any condition and skill level
Con: Long

Multi-Purpose: 12’6″ in length, this can accommodate heavier paddlers (up to 240 lbs.) who are seeking a way to drop a little weight and have fun doing it. Made with a displacement hull you might not be able to win any serious contests, but a light race (complete with friendly wager) will be an easy win. Touring SUP riders can use the nose tie-downs to bungee a bit of gear for longer trips, and even an overnight ride. The width is just north of 30″ and gives the green paddler enough stability to keep from going in the drink but not so much that veterans will find it cumbersome. Made from an EPS core with a bamboo exterior, this is as eye-catching as it is functional. You’ll feel a responsiveness to this board that makes it a treat for flat water and wave running alike. Take it to the lake, out on the river, into the thundering sound, and laugh the whole time. [Purchase: $1,549]

Hobie Venture

Hobie Venture

Pro: Versatile
Con: Short for a displacement SUP

Goes for Days: Riders who want to use their paddleboard for trips that last for days will find the Venture ideally suited for appeasing their wanderlust. A bamboo core surrounded by layered fiberglass makes this best for long coastline adventures on the ocean or the lake. With their two-way vent system, changes in temperature or altitude won’t phase this, allowing it to handle just about any environment. Multiple tie-down points give you lots of options for lugging along your tent, sleeping pad, and any other odds and ends that you might need for the rough flows ahead. The displacement hull and 30″ width makes for quicker trips with minimal effort and feeds the need for speed. Comes in a moderate 10’4″ size. [Purchase: $1,699]

GSI NSP DC Ocean Race

GSI NSP DC Ocean Race

Pro: Ride is smooth, even at speed
Con: Narrow

Speed Boat: Born to run, the Ocean Race lives up to its name. The body is either 12’6″ long or a gargantuan 14′ of slim, sleek power. You can run across flat water or through heavy chop at a maximum clip without ever worrying about jitters or vibration. The ride is smooth as silk. With only 29″ worth of real estate from side to side, you won’t have the utmost in stability, but it still won’t dump rookies into the rolling waves unless they get reckless. Coco Mat technology gives a little padding on the deck while a PVC sandwich underside allows for high floating without adding much weight. Touring fans will find the length gives them some ability to strap down their waterproof backpack and chase the horizon. [Purchase: $2,500]

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