The Best Stand Up Paddle Boards for 2017
Searching for a superior stand up paddle board? After spending 50 hours researching over 30 boards, we bought the top 8 models on the market today and put them through an exhaustive series of side-by-side tests to find the winner. With all of the different boards and an enormous range of prices, finding the perfect SUP can be a difficult task. We compared the glide performance of each board through a time trial, evaluated their durability and ease of carrying, even assessing how well each board did with a canine passenger, so you don't have to. Keep reading to see which SUPs sunk the competition and find the perfect board for you, whether you are looking for an awesome all-around board, a top of the line touring model, or a basic budget option that won't break the bank.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated July 2017
Summer is chock full of juicy watermelon, splishing and splashing, and great memories on paddle boards. This spring, we created our first stand up paddle board review, complete with 8 of the top contenders found on the market today. Boardworks, Isle, and BIC each took home an award and have been compared to the other models below.
Best Overall in our Fleet
Earning the top score of the entire test, the Kraken by Boardworks is a fantastic stand up paddle board. This all-around board excelled in every single one of our tests and was by far the favorite of our testers, whether they were experienced paddlers or a complete novice. The Kraken is stable enough to handle choppy water but fast enough to get you where you need to go. The Kraken is agile and maneuverable and isn't too bad to carry or transport, relatively speaking. Our only slight issue we found with the Kraken is it seemed to sustain more damage than the other boards in our testing process and makes us worry about its durability. However, this might also have been because we ended up using it the most, as it was our favorite. The Kraken is our top recommendation for those that want the best, as long as you are willing to treat if gently.
Not too bad to carry
Willing to Work Harder to Save Some Cash?
While we tested the 11' version of the Kraken, it is also available in 10'3", 9'9", and 9'3" versions. While these shorter boards will have reduced glide performance, slightly less stability, and a lower maximum weight capacity, they do retail for about $50, $100, and $250 less, respectively. These shorter versions of the Kraken might be a great option for a more experienced or smaller paddler who is shopping on a tighter budget.
Read Full Review: Boardworks Kraken
Best Bang for the Buck
ISLE Versa Epoxy
It's hard not to be impressed with the Isle Versa. Out of all of the stand up paddle boards of the entire group, the Isle had the second lowest retail price and scored the second highest. This board is a fantastic value and our top pick for those shopping on a budget. The Isle matched the Kraken's performance in our in-water tests, all while costing several hundred dollars less. This board is a little more cumbersome to carry, but we found it to be slightly more resilient. The Isle is a fantastic option for those that don't want to spend over a grand and don't want to sacrifice performance.
Read Full Review: Isle Versa Epoxy
Top Pick for Families
BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure
The exceptionally stable and durable BIC Ace-Tec is a great pick for families. This board is a fantastic choice for beginners, with even first-time paddlers feeling very comfortable aboard the BIC after the briefest of learning periods. The BIC is large enough to easily transport a child, dog, or plenty of gear, in addition to an adult paddler. The choice of material and construction for the BIC is substantially more forgiving and resilient than the fiberglass of other boards. However, the BIC is exceptionally large and heavy, making it quite cumbersome and difficult to transport — usually requiring two people to load and carry. Regardless, the BIC still an awesome board that is supremely stable and can take a beating.
Not very maneuverable
Read Full Review: BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure
Best for Touring or Racing
The Raven distinguished itself as being the best board of the group for a race or long paddle. This SUP has excellent glide performance, is very fast, and decently maneuverable. However, the Raven is by no means a beginner board and is not the most stable — even dumping some of our most experienced testers into the water unexpectedly. In addition, the Raven is somewhat hard to transport and one of the most expensive boards of the group. The Raven isn't for everyone, but it's an awesome choice for those that want to go far and fast.
Excellent glide performance
Not super stable
Hard to transport
Read Full Review: Boardworks Raven
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hundreds of hours researching stand-up paddleboards, combing through manufacturer's specifications and user reviews, then buying the top 8 boards available on the market today to put them to the test and see which board came out on top. The scores range from 0-100, and you can see how they stacked up in the table above. We conducted over 15 different tests, grouping them into five weighted metrics: Glide Performance, Stability, Maneuverability, Ease of Transport, and Durability. The following sections give more detail about how each board did in each test, which ones floated to the top, and which ones got swept away.
The most important metric in our test — accounting for 35% of the total score — is glide performance. Boards that glide well allow you to travel further and move faster while expending less effort. A Board that doesn't glide well will feel slow and sluggish, leaving you struggling to keep up with friends. To evaluate the performance of each board, we did a time trial and a glide per stroke test for each board — on flat water and in rough conditions. These tests essentially assessed how fast you could get around on the board and how efficient your paddling is. You can see how the boards stacked up in the chart below.
Earning the top score in this test, both the Boardworks Raven and the Surftech Saber earned an 8 out of 10 for their outstanding glide performance.
The Boardworks Raven and Surftech Saber were neck and neck in both of our time trial tests. Our lead tester paddled each board at 75% effort on flat water test course, timing start to finish and then finish to start. The results were then averaged, with the change in direction, to account for any variation due to wind directions or current. The Surftech had the fastest average time in the flat water course at 66.37 seconds, closely followed by the Boardworks Raven at 66.88 seconds. The pattern persisted to the rough water test, with the Saber once again putting up the best average time of 107.12 seconds, closely followed by the Raven's average time of 108.21 seconds.
For the glide per paddle stroke test, we counted the number of strokes it took to travel between two points while maintaining a constant speed. Once again, we traversed the course in both directions and averaged the results, to mitigate any effects of wind or current. Unsurprisingly, the Saber and Raven once again dominated the test in flat water — the Saber leading the group with an average of 36.5 strokes and the Raven right behind it with 37.5. However, the rankings of these boards dropped in the rough water glide per stroke test, as the reduced stability of these boards made it hard to maintain as much glide per stroke in the rough water conditions. These boards were actually beaten by the BIC. The BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure's wide, stable board allows you to get the most out of each paddle stroke, even in rough water.
Following this top performing pair of boards, the Isla Versa and the Boardworks Kraken earned a 6 out of 10 for the Glide Performance metric. The Kraken just barely beat the Isle Versa in the flat water time trial, putting up an average time of 72.44 seconds to the Isle's 72.99 seconds — a little over six seconds slower than the Saber. This flipped in the rough water time trial, with the Isle and finishing almost on par with the top two boards with its average time of 109.47 seconds, beating the Kraken by about 3 seconds. The Isle and Kraken were both about average in the glide per paddle stroke tests, both in rough and flat water. These all-around boards have similar hull designs and we would expect them to perform relatively similar.
Next, the BIC Ace-Tec earned a 5 out of 10 for its average showing in this metric. This board isn't the fastest out there but generally gets a full glide from each paddle stroke, whatever the conditions are. This is mainly due to its huge size and its stable design, making it relatively immune to the effects of choppy water. This board finished in the back half of the pack in our time trial test, finishing 8-12 seconds behind the top boards in both smooth and flat water. However, this board earned the top score in our rough water glide per stroke test, taking only 22.5 strokes to complete the course, topping the 24.5 and the 25 of the Surftech Saber and the Raven.
Scoring towards the lower half of the group, the Naish Mana and the Pau Hana both earned a 4 out of 10 for their glide performance. These two boards have a much more surf-oriented design, so they were at a distinct disadvantage to a touring/racing like the Saber or the Raven. The Naish has a slight edge over the Pau Hana in our time trial tests, finishing with an average time about a second faster in smooth water and two seconds faster in choppy water. These surfy boards also don't glide very much per stroke, finishing in the middle or lower half of the pack in both the rough and calm water glide per paddle stroke tests.
Finishing out the back of the pack, the California Board Company model earned a 3 out of 10 for its subpar glide performance. The CBC took much longer than the other products, finishing about 15 and 8 seconds slower than the Saber in the smooth and rough water time trial. The CBC also performed poorly in the glider per stroke test, finishing at least 10 paddle strokes behind the top models — the Saber and the BIC — in our tests.
Stability is responsible for 25% of the overall score — and for a good reason! A stable board can make all the difference between an awesome day or an abysmal one — it doesn't matter how well a board glides or how speedy it is if you can't stay on it. We evaluated how each board handled in rough water, carried a handful of canines and cargo, and polled the opinions of a panel of beginner paddles to rank each board's stability. The chart below shows how each board did.
Receiving the top score, the BIC Ace-Tec earned a 9 out of 10 for its exceptionally awesome stability. This board is somewhat of a boat, handling choppy water and excessive cargo without any wobbling and instilling a sense of confidence in even the most novice paddler.
This board handled having multiple people and small children aboard without any difficulty. In addition, this rock-solid board is perfect for those that want to try their hand at on the water yoga.
Following the unshakeable performance of the BIC, both the Boardworks Kraken and the Isle Versa earned an 8 out of 10 for their solid performance in our stability metric. Both of these stand up paddle boards did excellent in choppy water, handling small wakes and waves with ease. However, this pair of boards were just a little shakier than the BIC, forcing you to take a more athletic stance and adjust your body position in choppy water, compared to the lackadaisical approach you could take toward waves while on the BIC.
The Kraken did feel slightly more stable than the Isle when loaded up with cargo, mostly likely due to its much larger displacement and weight capacity. The Isle was still more than up to the task of carrying some extra passengers, provided they were on the small side. However, our beginner paddlers slightly favored the Isle - though not by much.
Next, the two surfing oriented boards once again performed similarly, with both the Pau Hana and the Naish Mana earning a 6 out of 10 for their stability performance. The Pau Hana handles the waves a little better than the Naish but we wouldn't want to be out paddling in open water if the waves got too rough. However, we would be more than happy to take either of these boards out surfing. These boards did an alright job at transporting cargo, and our novice paddlers preferred them to touring or racing boards like the Raven or Saber. However, the Naish and Pau Hana weren't terribly confidence-inspiring regarding stability and we tended not to hold unprotected electronics while paddling on them.
Rounding out the lower portion of the pack, the Boardworks Raven and the California Board Company both earned a 4 out of 10. The Raven is a narrow, touring board designed to travel fast and glide well — not transport coolers or kids. This board does alright in choppy conditions while paddling but feels quite tippy when stationary — even causing one of our experienced paddlers to take an unexpected dip. This slim board also instilled a definite sense of unease in our novice paddlers, with them much preferring more stable platforms like the BIC or Isle. The CBC board purportedly has a weight limit of 300lbs — a claim that caused us to be quite skeptical. This board always felt a little off, whether you were in choppy or smooth water.
Finishing out the bottom spot in this metric, the Surftech Saber earned a 3 out of 10 for its rather lackluster stability. This board handled rough water similar to the Raven but when given a choice, our beginning paddlers would pick the Raven over the Surftech.
Comprising 15% of the overall score for each board, our Maneuverability metric consisted of two tests: slalom and U-turn. We set up a slalom course with buoys, then conducted a time trial test. Our testers were instructed to complete the test as fast as possible, whether it involved back-paddling and pivoting the board to complete the tightest turns or not. They were given plenty of time to warm up and practice the course with different boards, as well as sufficient time to rest between trials. The U-turn test was to compare the turning radius of each board, without back-paddling. Our tester paddled exclusively on one side of the board and leaned, attempting to do the tightest 180° turn possible. You can see which boards were the most agile and which ones were akin to cruise ships in the chart below.
Redeeming itself for its poor performance in stability, this metric is where the Surftech Saber distinguished itself from the rest of the pack, earning a 7 out of 10 for its maneuverability. This board did quite well in the slalom course, receiving the second-best time overall of 82.26 seconds — just narrowly getting edged out by the Raven's 81.13. However, it was in the U-turn test where the Saber pulled ahead. This board easily completed the U-turn in the small area we were testing in, while the Raven barely made half of it before running aground, dropping its score to a 6 out of 10.
Following the Saber, the vast majority of the boards all performed similarly regarding stability. As mentioned above, the Raven earned a 6 out of 10, as well as the CBC, Isle, Kraken, Naish Mana, and Pau Hana. The Isle beat the Kraken by about two seconds in the slalom course, but the Kraken executed a sharper U-turn. Surprisingly, the CBC beat both of the surf style boards in the slalom by about six seconds, but the Naish Mana and Pau Hana executed substantially sharper U-turns. In fact, the Pau Hana executed the sharpest U-turn of the entire group.
Finishing last in this metric, the BIC earned a 5 out of 10 for its mediocre agility. Evidently, all of that stability comes at a price, with the BIC being the slowest to complete the obstacle course with a time of 104.7 seconds — over 20 seconds slower than the top board. However, this model did redeem itself slightly in the U-turn test, performing a relatively tight turn — sharper than the Kraken or CBC.
Ease of Transport
Our next two metrics analyzed and assessed the performance of these boards out of water. Our Ease of Transport metric consisted of four tests and also made up 15% of the final score. To judge the boards in this metric, we weighed each model to verify the manufacturer's claims, evaluated the ergonomics of the handle, loaded them on a car, and carried each one over a set distance. The chart below shows how the boards stacked up.
Finally leading the pack, the California Board Company 10'6" earned a 7 out of 10 for this metric and was by far the easiest to transport of the entire group. This lightweight foam board weighs almost 10 lbs less than the heaviest board in the group, the BIC. You can see the full spread of our measured weights for the boards in the chart below.
The CBC's reduced weight and somewhat forgiving foam design made it very easy to carry and load on a car. The handle is the standard recessed type that is common on paddleboards, though it is positioned off the centerline of the board. This can be very convenient for those with a shorter reach, but can also be quite frustrating if you grab the board from the wrong side. Following the CBC, the Kraken, Naish Mana, and the Pau Hana all earned a 6 out of 10 for their ease of transport. These boards all weighed about the same and consequently were all relatively easy to load on a car.
However, the Naish Mana and the Pau Hana were significantly easier to carry than the Kraken being about a foot shorter. Both the Pau Hana and the Naish had a recessed pocket for a handle, while the Kraken had a pop-out design. We didn't have a strong preference for one design over the other, but the pop-out handle gave you slightly more versatility in carrying and loading the stand up paddle board on a car.
Both the Raven and the Isle earned a 5 out of 10 in this metric, being about the same difficulty as the average rigid SUP to transport. The Raven is very long compared to the Isle but is also a few inches narrower. These features balance out nicely, making these boards essentially the same difficulty to carry.
However, the long size of the Raven makes it quite difficult to load on a car by yourself, even though it is on the lighter side. The Isle weighs about a pound more than the Raven but is easier to load on a car, on par with the Kraken or Naish Mana. The Isle has the same style recessed pocket for a handle as the Naish or Pau Hana, while the Raven has the identical pop-out handle as the Kraken. Once again finishing towards the bottom of the pack, the Surftech Saber earned a 4 out of 10, as it's relatively difficult to move around. This is the second-heaviest board of the bunch, making it difficult and unwieldy to carry. It was also very difficult to load on the car solo and caused plenty of concern when strapping it down. The deck is recessed on the board, meaning standard crossbars only contact the board on the outer rails, creating a stress concentration that can dent or damage the board if strapped down too tightly with insufficient padding. Finally, the BIC Ace-Tec earned a 3 out of 10. This massive board is exceptionally cumbersome and unwieldy to move. It also is the widest of the bunch, making it much more difficult for those a with smaller arm span to grab the recessed handle.
This board is the heaviest of the bunch and usually required a second set of hands to load on a car without inadvertently hitting the board or the car.
Durability accounts for the residual 10% of the score. As we can't completely speak to the durability of these products after only evaluating a single unit for a few months, we use two different methods to judge these products. First, we gave each board a careful examination at the conclusion of all the other testing, noting and scratches, scrapes, scuffs, or other damage it had incurred during our rigorous testing process. Second, we combed through user reviews and forums, noting any commonalities that we found. The chart below shows how we scored each board.
As shown, there was a three-way tie for the top spot, with the BIC, CBC, and Saber all earning a 7 out of 10. The BIC is made from exceptionally durable plastic and only displayed a few minor scratches over the course of testing. In addition, it is very well received by other users, with many reviewers noting how bulletproof this board is. Unfortunately, we had to deduct some points for the fin design.
We found the fin attachment system to be unreliable at best — somewhat amazed we didn't lose it in the course of testing. We feel that this would be an inevitability of owning this board and some sort of modification is necessary to keep the fin firmly attached to the board. The Saber seems to be exceptionally durable as well, coming through the tests unscathed and having nothing particularly negative pointed out online. We regularly transported lots of boards at once, so escaping without a scratch is quite an accomplishment.
Rating the durability of the CBC is a bit of a mixed bag. We found absolutely zero damage to this soft foam board at the finale of our testing. However, many user reviews complain about the quality of this board, with the deck fading and the foam easily damaged. The jury's still out on this model but we are keeping it around and will update this review if it starts falling apart on us.
Next, the Isle, Raven, and the Pau Hana all earned a 6 out of 10. Both the Isle and the Pau Hana sustained some scratches to the paint on their top decks-- with our canine tester taking partial responsibility in both cases. However, the Pau Hana also had some scuffs on the side, more than the Isle. The Raven had a few scrapes, as well as some noticeable pressure dings from being strapped down, even with padding on the car's crossbars and between the straps and the board. Evidently, extra care must be taken when transporting this board to prevent any damages. Also, none of these three boards had any overwhelmingly negative commonalities in user reviews or forums, instilling some confidence in our assessment of the boards.
Finishing up the group, the Kraken and the Naish Mana both earned a 5 out of 10 for the durability metric. The Kraken was inadvertently tapped into a door when carrying and received some non-trivial damage to its nose. While the hit was quite light, the damage sustained seemed disproportionately serious, requiring repair to keep the damage from propagating.
The Naish only had aesthetic damage, but it seemed much more prevalent on this board than the Isle or Pau Hana. However, both the Naish and the Kraken are received with relatively little complaint online.
Hopefully, this review has helped you pick the perfect stand up paddle board for your paddling needs, whether you are searching for the fastest, the steadiest, or shopping on a budget. For more information on our testing process and how we determined scores, take a glance through our How We Test article for a complete rundown of what we did and why we did it.
— Marissa Fox
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