Looking to invest in a standup paddleboard? Don’t know where to start? Check out our list of the best SUPs of 2021.
Standup paddleboarding is one of the fastest-growing water sports of the decade. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with standup paddleboarding, but if you aren’t, here’s what you need to know.
Standup paddleboarding, or SUPing, is the act of standing on a hard epoxy or inflatable board tapered at both ends, and using a paddle to move through the water. Similar to a surfboard, paddleboards also have fins on the bottom that help to move and steer.
For this review, we looked at the overall construction, durability, features, and price of each board. We also looked at the variety of boards and paddles each brand has on the market. Then, we ranked each board on quality, durability, price, and the volume of positive reviews across several retail platforms.
We put a huge focus on inflatable standup paddleboards. They are a great option for all experience levels, have a variety of uses (flatwater and whitewater), and don’t require special racks or extra storage.
Inflatables can fit in a closet or a car trunk, and you can take them on airplanes. And they have lots of benefits on the water, too.
Below you’ll find our list of the best standup paddleboards of 2021. We’ve grouped them into categories to help you find the paddleboard that’s right for you. And be sure to check out the buyer’s guide and FAQ at the end of this article if you need more help choosing.
- Best All-Around
- Best Budget
- Runner-Up Best Budget
- Most Versatile
- Best Touring Board
- Best of the Rest
The Best Standup Paddleboards of 2021
Best All-Around Standup Paddleboard: Red Paddle Co. MSL 10’6″ Ride SUP
Plainly put, this board performs great in a variety of conditions. It is beginner-friendly (and expert-friendly), and it will last for years if you treat it well.
Measuring 10’6″, this board has drop-stitch construction, an EVA-textured-grip deckpad, and the brand’s proprietary flexible, molded fins. This means that you don’t have to fiddle with installing or repairs.
We’ve used similar models of Red’s MSL board ($1,299) with the alternate removable iFin technology, which does require installation, small screws, and a quick reading of the instructions.
In terms of size and weight, this board is on par with others on our list. It can hold up to 240 pounds, is wide enough to provide balance and stability, and weighs in at 21 pounds. It’s not the lightest but is very light and is easy to carry, portage, and travel with.
Why Consider This Board?
Overall, we’ve found it to be one of the best boards stability-wise at a light weight. It’s a great all-around board — from the nearby lake to the beach to the overnight paddle adventure.
New for 2021: Updated for 2021, the MSL 10’6″ has a new flat bungee system on the bow, as well as an updated sidewall and material construction. The new bungee system works great. The board looks, and feels, a bit more streamlined than its predecessors.
Runner-Up All-Around Paddleboard: Hala Gear Hala Rado
Colorado-based Hala Gear is known for making high-quality, innovative SUPs. The Hala Rado ($1,300) is one of its bestselling boards of all time, with a slightly longer-than-average length, playful tail shape, and sturdy deck (helpful for both balance and towing gear).
The Hala Rado is a 10’10” board, designed to function well in both whitewater and flatwater. It has a pretty progressive rocker profile and swallowtail shape at the tail for better performance in moving waters.
This board is definitely geared toward more dynamic paddlers. But, it will also work great for beginners who plan to primarily paddle on rivers.
In terms of features, we love that this board has grab handles on the bow and rear. And while the bungee tiedown area is on the smaller side, there are plenty of other rigging points on the board.
At 33 pounds, this board is on the heavier end. That’s mainly due to the burlier construction, with a double-layer PVC drop-stitch and a PVC stringer that runs through the board.
Why Consider This Board?
This board ranks high on our list due to its size, construction, and performance in all types of waters.
Updates for 2021: A patented retractable fin system keeps the fins safe and in check in faster-moving, obstacle-ridden waters. And the full SUP package now features a Grafik carbon paddle.
Looking for a shorter and lighter board? Check out Hala Rado’s mini-me, the 10-foot Hala Radito.
Best Budget SUP: BOTE Breeze Aero Inflatable Paddleboard 10’8″
BOTE’s Breeze Aero Paddleboard ($649) has garnered more than 237 4- and 5-star reviews online. As a former Floridian, I trust the Florida-based brand to make quality boards for flatwater, ocean, and canal paddling.
And the Breeze Aero is no exception. It’s a middle-of-the-pack-sized board with great versatility and a great price tag.
New for 2021: Also a contender for our runner-up spot is BOTE’s new HD Aero Paddleboard ($999). A modification to BOTE’s 2020 Breeze Aero, the HD Aero has a redesigned deck and grab handle, updated side rails, and its HD construction. This refers to the board’s updated overall construction to increase stability while keeping the board’s weight low.
Runner-Up Best Budget SUP: BOTE HD Inflatable Paddleboard
No sooner had we tested out the Breeze did BOTE come out with a new model: the Aero HD ($999), which turned out to be review-worthy as well.
We took the classic teak Aero board out for several spring paddle excursions in central and western Colorado. On my first day out on this board, I noticed two things: the rigid, reinforced stitching and construction, and the slightly heavier weight than my go-to board at home (10’6″, a whole foot shorter). Both of these qualities are huge pluses in my book.
For an 11’6″ board as stable as this one, 30 pounds is a fine weight. The three-fin system and fin placement are spot-on, and the board feels balanced and even.
One important note: I tested all of the boards on this list, with and without gear dry bags strapped down, to get a feel for how the boards handle at different weights. This board propelled smoothly through flat water, even with gear strapped to the bow. It’s a fun board to paddle, too, especially on overnight trips when you want to cover some ground (er, water).
Why Consider This Board?
If you are looking for a longer board that puts stability and portability at a premium, and that costs under $1,000, this is a great option.
Most Versatile: NRS STAR Phase Inflatable SUP Boards
I’ve ridden on dozens of brands and styles of paddleboards over the years. But, one of the boards I keep going back to is from NRS. The STAR Phase models ($769 and up) are really durable, inflatable (they pack down to save space), and overall track great in flat and moving water.
The STAR Phase boards also come in three lengths: 10’2″, 10’6″, and 10’8″. The board is built with a simple yet durable PVC-coated drop-stitch. It also has a sturdy webbed carry handle and four D-rings on the nose for securing gear.
While it’s marketed in the all-around category, I’d definitely label this board as best for intermediate paddlers. So, it will grow with you over the years.
It comes with a 9-inch fin, and thanks to the brand’s universal fin plate, you can easily swap out the fin for other styles depending on where you’re paddling. I’ve got a river fin and grass fin, and I love the flexibility of being able to adapt my board to different waters.
With the NRS STAR Phase, you’re getting a well-built, high-quality, and affordable board from a reputable brand. However, I do wish it had more D-rings and storage capacity on the board, maybe in the tail.
Why Consider This Board?
All three models weigh under 20 pounds. If you are looking for lightweight and stable, this board is it.
Best Touring Board: Pau Hana Surf Supply 12’ Endurance Touring Board
Best for touring in flatwater or milder rivers, this inflatable touring board ($1,249) has a unique shape with a squared-off tail, 10 anchor points, and a single 9-inch fin. In terms of towing gear, having 10 anchor points is a game-changer. There’s room to strap a cooler, a dry bag, even a kayak seat.
The board length of 12 feet is also on the longer end for boards, meaning you’ll cover more distance with each stroke (racing SUPs typically measure 12-15 feet).
That being said, this board isn’t made for speed. It’s made for hauling gear, having a good time, and staying sturdy — even in the face of blowing gusts or wiggling canines on board. If stability, portability, and surfer style are all aspects you look for in a board, we highly recommend checking this one out.
Plus, Pau Hana makes all its boards in California.
Why Consider This Board?
This board is a great option if you’re looking for a sturdy, not necessarily fast board that works well for touring and multiday trips.
Best of the Rest
There’s no way to possibly rank all of the paddleboards on the market one after another — especially when board models change so frequently over the years. While these paddleboards didn’t win our best overall title, they are still great boards that rank high in terms of features, durability, and price.
Pro tip: Lots of paddle brands offer interchangeable fins, as well as seat, strap, mount, and gear accessories for their boards. If you are looking to invest more in the sport down the road, consider browsing everything the brand has to offer. Some brands are more niche and only manufacture certain types of boards, or they don’t offer a full range of accessories.
One of our staff members tested this board and loves it. Minnesota-based Paddle North makes especially gorgeous, wood-grain-style inflatable boards. To match their local waters, a lot of Paddle North’s boards are geared toward river touring. So, they have a stiffer, rigid feel, and they excel in lake and river cruising.
The Portager ($699) is very similar to the Loon (a hardboard, see below). It has the same length (11’6″) and fin setup, making it perfect for river touring, but with slight differences in shape and weight.
The Portager has a sharp, tailored nose for slicing through windier or moving waters. And, it’s slightly wider across to make room for gear on deck.
It’s made with 1.2mm drop-stitch PVC. It has a three-layer seam-joining system to provide as much durability (for an inflatable) as possible. And, at 21 pounds, it’s amazingly light. Another perk we appreciate — the universal valve.
Our tester raved, “Since our family first launched our Paddle North paddleboard 2 years ago, we have come to love our time at the lake cabin even more.” (Our tester rides an 11’6″ length model.)
The Loon (Paddle North’s flagship epoxy model) has a bamboo construction that keeps the board lightweight yet incredibly stable. The size and tri-fin tracking mean this board is speedy in calm water but can handle a slight chop with ease. We’ve even been able to cruise the lakeshore with our 70-pound Labrador riding shotgun.
Why Consider This Board?
This is a good choice if you’re looking for something with the portability of an inflatable with the style of an epoxy surfboard.
You should treat any inflatable board with care. But, if you are looking for something extra burly and durable that can handle being packed away in the trunk on a family road trip, this board is a great option.
The Hudson ($729) doesn’t have the best tracking or fin quality compared to the others on this list, but it’s still worth a mention. Why? It’s durable. Like, your kid can jump up and down on it in excitement and the board will be A-OK.
The removable fin system is fairly standard, as is the shape, length, and width. it’s a standard to narrower board width, giving it great glide in calm waters.
It won’t work for taller, heavier paddlers, and it doesn’t have great room for storage. But for occasional day paddlers on beaches and lakes, it’s solid.
Why Consider This Board?
If you are looking for a basic, budget-friendly, and kid-friendly board, give the Hudson a look.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Standup Paddleboard
Most paddleboards on the market (and all on this list) come with the following components: a leash, some form of deck pad, D-rings or bungees for storing cargo, at least one fin, a center grab handle, and, of course, a pump.
Brands and Models
I feel like this is much more common with SUPs than other pieces of gear, but almost every brand will phase out or rename models after just a year. (Take the ever-popular NRS Earl Series as an example.)
You may already have your heart set on a specific board, but take the time to do the research. There may be another board (or board model) out there you haven’t considered that best fits the bill.
Pro tip: If you find a board model a couple of years old that’s available for purchase, look into the specs and see how it compares with more updated models. Chances are, the board will be slightly heavier or have a few different features, but it may still be worth investing in (especially if you are looking for a starter board and plan on upgrading later).
Paddleboard Length and Size
With inflatable boards, their length, size, and thickness directly correlate to weight capacity. So, if you only weigh 140 pounds (and want to be extra speedy), you have the option of choosing a shorter length — and therefore less volume — board. If you weigh at or over 180-200 pounds — or if you want to paddle with a dog, child, or partner — consider a longer length and larger board.
Do you want to go lightweight? Or do you want plenty of storage for cargo (think dry bags, a cooler)? Other than that, size is purely preference.
Generally, I recommend a larger board to everyone. There’s just more wiggle room and overall better stability. The most common size boards are 10’6″ or 11′. But there are plenty of lengths, shapes, and sizes outside that range. too.
Pro tip: If you are shopping for a family, you can save buckets by purchasing one longer board instead of two (or four). Two 140-pound adults can comfortably fit on an 11′ board (the fit and weight limit will vary by brand). Like kayaks, there are even tandem-specific models out there (ranging from 12 to 15 feet in length).
Another top consideration to look at when purchasing a board is what comes with it. This wasn’t always the case, but many boards are now sold with a paddle, fin, and travel bag included in the package.
This has definitely made entry into the sport easier for beginners. Buying the board and paddle together saves time, research, and often money. And, at the very least, these combo packages ensure that you’ll get an adjustable paddle that works with your board.
Some packages also include things like patch kits, extra cargo or carrying straps, and spare fins. For example, if you know you want to take your board out on both flatwater and whitewater (or the ocean), invest in a brand that has a surf fin in its lineup.
This goes without saying, but budget is a huge consideration when buying a paddleboard. There are very few pieces of gear I’ll buy without a recommendation or at least research.
As you’d expect, taking a shot in the dark and buying a board online from a general retailer is not the way to go. Research, plan, and pick a reputable brand.
If the board you love is out of your price range, wait for a sale. Or better yet, join a paddle group, rent one for a day, or demo the board you like through your local retailer.
Pro tip: Some outfitters will even sell off their demo fleet boards after a couple of seasons. These are all great options for setting yourself up for success. Wait, plan, invest.
In terms of quality, especially with an inflatable SUP, it will be well worth it in the long run.
What Is the Best SUP Brand?
There is no “best” brand. That’s like saying Specialized makes the best mountain bikes. They make darn good ones, but there are plenty of other players at the same level with amazing bikes (Pivot, Santa Cruz, Cannondale, and Yeti Cycles, for example).
However, some SUP brands have been around long enough that we’d consider them at the top of the market. The list is short: NRS, Blackfin, Starboard, BOTE, and Hala Gear. More top brands are emerging, including ISLE (founded in 2008) and Glide and Atoll (both founded in 2014).
Inflatable vs. Solid: Which Standup Paddleboard Is Best?
As noted in the intro, the inflatable SUP market has skyrocketed over the past 4 to 6 years. Why? Inflatable boards are fantastic. You don’t need a special roof rack, garage, or special straps to carry a 12-foot, 40-pound piece of gear around.
All you need is an oversized backpack and some space in your trunk. Inflatable boards, by nature, deflate and pack down small. They’re easy to travel with, are fairly easy to care for and maintain, and come in at a great price.
Even better, almost all inflatables (all the ones we’ve listed) come in a package: SUP, paddle, backpack, fin, pump. There’s no need to buy any SUP gear separately.
That being said, the quality of inflatables does vary widely based on materials, construction, and design. The stability and feel of the board are a little different.
If you know you want to invest in the sport or, say, are going to be paddling in lots of extreme (cold or whitewater) conditions, you’ll want to spend extra time researching a board’s construction (Welded seams? Thicker PVC?) and performance in your intended environment.
What Is the Most Stable Standup Paddleboard?
Of the paddleboards we’ve tested and reviewed, we’d mark the 11’6″ BOTE HD Aero as the most stable on our list. This is due to its width, sidewalls, weight capacity, and overall construction. This is a middle-of-the-pack, not-too-heavy, and well-balanced board that measures a full 34 inches across.
It’s got lots of D-rings for strapping down gear, or a kayak seat if you are looking to feel extra grounded and stable on your board. And the HD Aeros also clocks in at a great price point for its size.
It’s worth noting that if you are looking for other stable board choices, fishing expeditions, yoga SUPs, and touring boards are commonly a bit wider across. Any board that is 34-36 inches across is a good choice.
Of course, other factors contribute to stability. But, width and sidewall depth, as well as overall shape, are the big ones.
What Is the Best SUP for Beginners?
The best SUP for beginners is the one that fits you best. For most people, that’s a board that has a higher weight capacity to provide more stability and to accommodate riders of different weights (say, if you’re sharing a board with your partner). I almost always recommend an inflatable for your first board.
Contrary to newbie beliefs, inflatable boards are very durable, can pack down small, are convenient and easy to use and store, and are usually more budget-friendly. Even better, if you learn on an inflatable SUP, you’ll have great balance for when you decide to tackle ocean or whitewater paddling or upgrade to an epoxy board.
My recommendation would be to look for an inflatable board at least 10’8″-11′ in length, with a weight capacity of at least 230 pounds.