Interested in #suplife but not sure where to start? An inflatable board that can roll up to fit in your car is a great option. We're continually researching the most promising boards before buying the best to test side by side. Here we review the top 10 inflatable paddleboards available today. We took them for Lake Tahoe glide sessions, explored Donner Lake, and enjoyed lazy river days. We timed how long they take to inflate, played clown-car to see how much weight they can really hold, and had new paddlers and pros test their stability and maneuverability. After rolling, unrolling, pumping, playing, rerolling, and packing so many times — we have a pretty good handle on how easy they are to move around. Check out the review to find out which SUPs are the best for all-around use, which are great for touring, and which offer the best value. If you're looking for the best glide performance, check out our rigid SUP review.
The Best Inflatable SUP (Stand Up Paddle) Boards
Analysis and Award Winners
We're stoked for summer and keep pretending that it's already warm out on Lake Tahoe. So we went ahead and paddled the SereneLife inflatable head-to-head against our reigning champ, the Isle Explorer. While the Isle handily won the competition, the SereneLife impressed us for its high performance to cost ratio. Read more below.
The Best Overall Inflatable SUP
The Isle Explorer is an affordable option that outperforms most other models across the "board." For $845 (reasonable in the SUP world, trust us), you get a sturdy and stable board that is easy to inflate and transport. A dream to paddle, the Explorer successfully combines stability and glide, while a square tail, slightly rockered nose, and great fin design allow it to maneuver easily. Constructed from quality materials, this board instilled confidence on rocky sections of river and along jagged shorelines. The Explorer comes with a pump that has universal attachment ends and a paddle.
The Isle Explorer was one of the lightest models that we tested, which was nice when carrying it around, and it also helped it skim the water well. However, the profile is bulkier than some others, and that contributed to it being a little slower at times. This wasn't too noticeable on mellow days, but when trying to cut a fast line on calm days, this board lagged a bit. If that's not a huge deal breaker for you, and you're looking for something with a lot of storage at a decent price, then the Isle Explorer is the SUP for you!
Read review: Isle Explorer
Best Bang for the Buck
The PEAK Inflatable has a sleek design, solid construction, and flashy deck that turned heads around the local lake, making it a favorite among many testers. It's one of the lightest boards we tested, and it scored well in ease of transport. The included backpack is simple yet versatile. Additionally, this board was the cheapest in the review.
The PEAK Inflatable has a sturdy middle carrying strap, and one on the nose, but it lacks a rear handle. Not a deal breaker, but it does make it slightly harder to move it around. The rounded nose helps it stay more stable even in choppy conditions, but it also cuts down on speed. If you're looking for a faster option, check out the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus. All these are minor quibbles if the main thing keeping you from buying your own SUP is the price. This one can be yours for only $600! If you're looking for a board that will get you out on the water and can cruise nearly as well as the top boards for a price that won't break the bank, check out the PEAK Inflatable.
Read review: PEAK Inflatable
Top Pick for Performance
Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL
Quality materials, high-performance components, and a sleek profile helped the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus to a high score, tieing it with our overall winner, the Isle Explorer. While the Isle Explorer is a great all-around option, the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus is a little more specialized for advanced users looking for a fast glide. It scored the highest for glide performance, making it a perfect option for glassy days when you want to cover some distance. With an FCS Connect fin and an RSS stiffening system, the Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus is noticeably top of the line. The icing on the cake comes in the included universally compatible pump, which was by far the best in our review, and became the favorite for us to use with all of the other boards.
Because of this model's sleeker profile, beginner paddlers will likely feel less stable atop it. This isn't the optimal entry-level board, nor the best option for rocky or tight creeks. It also costs $1,649, so you probably don't want to spend that much without knowing that you're going to put it to good use. Finally, it doesn't come with a paddle, which is a shame considering how much you are spending on it, but is also understandable since the buyer for a high-end inflatable probably wants a higher end SUP paddle also.
Read review: Red Paddle Co Voyager
Top Pick for Yoga
The NRS Mayra gains stability from its width. At 34-inches, it's among the widest we've tested. That makes it a fantastic platform for zen activities, from lounging to lunging. Whether you want to set up shop with a book or run through sun salutations with the option of jumping in for a dip, the Mayra is an excellent platform. This SUP might best be thought of as a floating beach towel.
Because of its girth, the Mayra is not a nimble board. You'll need some patience and a wide radius to turn this ship around and a head of steam to get it moving. It's nearly as tricky to pilot on land due to its lack of handles. Without a center handle to grab, carrying this board solo is an exercise in physical comedy. You'll need the yoga afterward to deal with your frustrations. If you can get over the irritation long enough to get out an enjoy a leisurely day on the water, you'll enjoy this SUP.
Read review: NRS Mayra
Best Buy for Families
Offering solid rec-level performance for a very pleasing price tag, the SereneLife is worth considering. Its smaller size makes it easier and faster to pump up than many options, and also means that its a good fit for smaller paddlers. When you consider that the price point makes it easier to consider buying a couple to cut down on sibling squabbles, this is a compelling option for families. At 6" thick, with a large center fin and a square cut end, the board offers a relatively stable platform, it's just less secure than larger options like the Isle Explorer. The rounded nose and short length don't lend themselves to gliding as far as a touring board, but the SereneLife holds momentum on the water and is fun to paddle.
A price this much lower than the competition tends to indicate compromises. The SereneLife is no exception. Smelly, lower quality plastic, a less substantial storage bungee, and a less-than-impressive paddle is the price you pay for, well, money. Due to its smaller size, it is a little less stable than some options and is better suited to smaller paddlers. The most notable and annoying trade-off is the lack of handles on the bow and stern. They're the easiest way to get the boat in or out of the water and let you share the task of carrying or loading the boat. If you just want to go paddle though, there aren't many less expensive options that perform as well.
Read review: SereneLife
Analysis and Test Results
We tirelessly tested and retested the nine boards in this review for months. Our beginner, intermediate and expert users all kept careful notes along the way. We paddled out in a variety of conditions on both flat and flowing water. After that, we rated each one on a variety of performance categories, including stability and glide performance, ease of transport and inflation, and durability. The resulting performance scores are in the table above. Below, we break down the winners and losers in each testing metric, and also discuss what to look for when purchasing a SUP on a budget.
When purchasing a piece of equipment that ranges into quadruple digits, you want to be sure that you are getting what you pay for. We have a chart below that can help you find the best option for your budget. We've graphed the overall performance scores according to the price. The SUPs that land on the bottom right of the graph are the best value. In this case, it was also our top performer, the Isle Explorer ($845). It doesn't often happen that the more affordable options outperform, the higher priced ones, but we're not surprised when they do either. Some products find the optimal balance between performance and price, and the Explorer is one of them. We also liked the PEAK Inflatable ($600), which is a great value as well. Know that even if you can't afford the most expensive items, you can still get out on the water on a decent product for a good price.
Stability is one of two heavily weighted rating metrics in our review (the other is glide performance). Beginning and intermediate paddlers often use inflatables, so it's important that they are as stable as possible. As a general rule, bigger boards equate to a more stable feel, and the most important dimension in this regard is thickness. Thinner boards tend to feel floppy, even when inflated to their max recommendation.
We don't recommend getting a board that is less than six inches thick unless they are wide enough to compensate, like the NRS Mayra. At 5-inches, the NRS Mayra was the only board more than an inch under our 6-inch cutoff. However, this board was also the widest, at 34 inches, which helped it maintain its stability. The Mayra, along with the Isle Explorer, iRocker All-Around, and PEAK Inflatable were the top scorers for the stability metric.
Stable boards are helpful if you're planning to have multiple passengers, like a furry friend, aboard, or if you're into SUP yoga. The Tower Adventurer 2, Isle Explorer, and iRocker All-Around 11 are all capable of carrying multiple paddlers, with weight limits of 400, 275, and 385, respectively. The wider NRS Mayra, which is billed as a Yoga-specific board, did an excellent job of handling a furry passenger and, of course, yoga. Although the Mayra did well in the stability test, it scored lower in glide. This is usually the case, as a more stable board will naturally be bigger and thus its glide will be affected. Finding a balance between optimal glide and stability is key.
Inflatable SUPs lose the glide/maneuverability battle to rigid SUPs. Rigid SUPs have fiberglass hulls that allow more refined hull designs to garner quick turn response and improved drift. Inflatable SUPs cannot compete. However, many of the boards in this review respond well, even in choppy water or wind. Keep your experience level and needs in mind. Beginner and intermediate users likely do not need the most responsive board on the market. And the amount of speed lost on an inflatable model is relatively negligible for most user's needs.
The Red Paddle Co Explorer Plus had a more aggressive nose shape, which allowed it to score high in this category, earning a near perfect 9 out of 10, followed by the Isle Explorer and iRocker All-Around 11.
On the other end of the spectrum was the NRS Mayra, which has a blunt nose and wide waist that slows it down. However, if you're focused on relatively stationary paddleboard activities (like yoga), the Mayra is an excellent choice. This is another example of a time when getting a board that is a top scorer in every metric might not be in your best interest. Decide if these categories are important to you, and go from there!
Ease of Transport
When thinking about buying an inflatable SUP, ease of transport is an incredibly important consideration. The main advantage of an inflatable board comes from its packability, which makes it portable for a variety of missions. If you're committed, some of these boards can even be packed into remote alpine lakes depending. This varies based on how heavy they are, how well they roll, and how sturdy their carry system is. We scored this metric based easy each board was to roll and carry, as well as included extras that make packing easier, like a strap. Included bags factored into this area. Bags that did not get the job done for one reason or another scored very low, whereas bags that were comfortable and easy to use scored higher.
The lightest board is the PEAK Inflatable, with the iRocker All-Around 11 following closely behind. This contributed to higher scores in this metric, as the boards were easier to haul from place to place. The Xterra Touring was by far the heaviest board reviewed, weighing 30 pounds. The iRocker model scored well in this category, with packs that were well padded and roomy enough for a sloppily rolled bag and all of the accouterments needed for a day on the water. The Red Paddle competitor also scored well, and it included the only bag that had wheels. For most missions, we found this to be helpful, but if you're planning on carrying the pack for a long distance on trails, this is an unnecessary extra.
One huge advantage of inflatables over rigid SUPS is you can fly with them. All boards tested all light and small enough to avoid most airlines oversized bag requirements, at least for domestic flights
The Airis HardTop SUV was by far the lowest scorer in this metric. This low score is attributed to several things. One, the Airis is the second heaviest of all the boards tested. Two, the Airis has stiff material on the deck that does not roll, requiring you instead to fold the boat in exactly the right places. And three, this model's included backpack did not fit it well. In fact, after the initial use, we were never able to get the board back in its bag fully, and getting it even halfway in was a two-person job. The NRS model also scored relatively low in this category, despite having an excellent and roomy backpack. This model's low score was due to its lack of a center handle, which made it extremely to carry around fully inflated. However, this lack of a center handle does make SUP yoga easier. Again, this is a situation where choosing a board depends on your needs.
Ease of Inflation
Large differences from one model to the next within this metric were somewhat difficult to identify, largely because most of the models in this review came with pumps that were very similar. With that said, three pumps stood out (in both good and bad ways). The Red Paddle pump was by far the best pump in this review. The dual cylinder design allowed this pump to blow a board up quicker and in a more efficient manner than any other. Also, the product comes with a variety of different nozzles, so you can use it with other boards (which our testers were apt to do since it's so nice to use). The iRocker 11 and Isle Explorer followed behind the Explorer Plus by Red Paddle, both earning 8 out of 10s.
The Airis pump was one of the slowest to inflate, and there was a fair amount of leaking air around the pump. Also, several testers complained that the pump felt cheap. The NRS Mayra's pump also stood out in this review. This board had the only inflation nozzle that was not the standard design, which meant that if you are using one pump to inflate multiple models, this board must be kept in mind. Each inflatable SUP tested takes around five to seven minutes to inflate, with the bigger volume boards like the Tower Adventure and Airis HardTop taking a little longer. Boards with inflation nozzles in the back can be rolled up without removing the fins.
Sadly, most SUP pumps gauges either break quickly or are very inaccurate. This is a significant problem for beginners who can't tell inflation pressure by feel. If you are new to inflatable SUPS, and your gauge breaks, you will probably only fill it to 5-10 PSI which is far below the 15 PSI that most boards recommend. There are two solutions:
1) get a High Pressure Inflator Valve. This allows you to use any standard tire pressure gauge.
2) get an electric SUP pump which, in addition to doing the pumping work for you, has a more accurate built-in gauge.The high-pressure valve lets you quickly check the multiple boards (your friends will thank you), but it is an extra step.
Inflatable SUPs are versatile in part because of their durability. These boards can run whitewater and are burly enough to smash into rocks and drag through forests while portaging around log jams. Most of the boards in this review scored well in this metric, with several falling behind, and one sticking out for its lack of durability.
The Isle, Red Paddle, and PEAK models all stuck out for their high-quality construction and materials and thus, earned high scores. We took these boards down rivers and creeks, bashing into rocks and ducking to avoid sweepers, and our testers were confident that the boards could hold up to the abuse. Plus, they each held their own during multiple portages, when encounters with logs, rocks, and dirt were inevitable.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Airis HardTop was notably the least durable board in our review. This was noticed in the board's overall construction, with seams that stuck up significantly from the board, inviting rubbing while loading and maneuvering shallow water. Interestingly, this board sprung a slight leak along a top seam on only the second day of testing.
Most of the inflatable paddle boards tested were in the same price range. However, keep in mind when price shopping that some boards come with paddles and other accessories, like a leash, and some do not. Take a look at our individual reviews to see which boards come with what accessories. The Editors' Choice Isle Explorer and Best Buy iRocker are both steals at $845 and $965, and the PEAK has an impressively low price of $595.
- Paddle - Most of the boards come with adjustable aluminum paddles. These are heavy but durable and adjustable. They also collapse down to the width of the board, which makes the complete package easy to transport and store. If you want a more high-performance paddle, get a carbon fiber one which ranges in price from $180-450. The best deal we have seen is the Bullet Proof Surf Alloy.
- Life Jacket - There are a lot of great life jackets for water skiing and wakeboarding in the $20-60 range. However, if you are looking for something that's Coast Guard approved (which is mandatory in some places like Lake Tahoe), then you can find one for less than $25-30 like the Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest.
See below for US Coast Guard stand up paddle board regulations.
- Leash - In most situations, you want a leash. If on a lake, and the wind picks up, your board will be gone in seconds if you fall off (a SUP is like a kite compared to a human in water). A coiled leash is generally best because it won't drag. If you're on a river with any type of current, get a leash with a quick release in case the leash get stuck on something, like the NRS Quick Release SUP Leash. There have been many deaths from people getting their leashes snagged in rivers and pulled under. Educate yourself before attempting any river paddle boarding.
- Roof Rack - If you are going to the lake for the weekend and plan on using your board a lot you might not want to pump it up every single time you go out. You can purchase a soft roof rack like the FCS Premium SUP Single Soft Racks to make your life a little easier. This rack holds two boards easily.
- Electric Pump - If you are not psyched on pumping up your board by hand, you can purchase a battery powered air pump for inflating your board. We used Sevlor Pump for this review. It's a little slow and finicky but got the job done and has an accurate gauge.
What Are the General Stand Up Paddle Boarding Rules on the Water?
- The US Coast Guard passed a regulation in 2008 that classified paddleboards as vessels. Outside a swim or surf zone, a stand-up paddleboard is considered a vessel and must adhere to the same rules and regulations. This may include a Coast Guard approved life jacket in serviceable condition for each person on board and a signaling device like a whistle. Children under the age of 13 are required to wear a type 1, 2, or 3 PFD at all times. PFDs are required to be size appropriate for the wearer.
- Since SUPs are one of, if not the smallest, vessel on the water they essentially have no right of way and must give way to larger vessels.
- SUPs must always cross behind or astern of oncoming motorized boat traffic.
- To SUP after sunset or at dawn or dusk, you are required to have a white light such as a flashlight that is visible up to a mile and capable of warning other boaters by shining towards oncoming traffic.
If you're not keen on wearing a type 3 PFD, there are pouch type manually inflated life jackets or C02 triggered inflatable belt style PFDs available. These types of PFDs do offer more range of movement but keep in mind that if you are paddling somewhere where you might hit your head, you may not be conscious and able to inflate your PFD.
Check out the Onyx M-24 SUP Belt; it's manually inflated with a replaceable C02 cartridge.
Inflatable SUPs are versatile and offer a fun and engaging way to get out on the water. They can paddle lakes, oceans, rivers, and even surf. When you're done, they roll up into any car trunk and usually cost less than $1,000 (few non-inflatable boards can claim this). All the boards in this review are ideal for learning to SUP and for touring, and only serious SUP racers should overlook this category for a slimmer non-inflatable option. For helpful tips on selecting the right product, check out our Buying Advice article.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.