On the hunt for the one SUP that rules them all? We keep a constant eye on the industry's horizon to identify and research the most compelling stand up paddle boards available. Then we buy the best to test side-by-side. We looked at over 100 rigid and inflatable models to decide which ones to order up for this review. Then we ran them through timed paddle courses and took them out on lake and river adventures to compare their performance side-by-side. In this review, we examine the ten best rigid boards and our top inflatable picks. If you'd like to see more inflatable options, check out our dedicated inflatable review. Our goal is to help you find the perfect board, regardless of your ability level or your budget. Check out our comprehensive review below to see which SUP is the speediest, which board is the best on a tight budget, and which paddleboard is perfect for families.
The Best Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUPs) of 2018
We just added two promising new boards: the Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10 and the Bic Ace-Tec Wing 12'6". Both of these boards blew us away, completely surpassing our expectations. While the Seaquest 10 scored quite low in the pack overall, it is by far the best board you can get for less than $500. The Ace-Tec is our new favorite board for touring, ousting the Boardworks Raven. It matches the glide performance and handling of the Raven but is quite a bit more stable and exponentially more durable. Check out the individual reviews for the Seaquest and the Ace-Tec to find out more about how they performed and see if either of these newly-crowned award winners are right for you!
Best Overall Rigid SUP
Earning the top score of the entire test, the Kraken by Boardworks is a fantastic stand up paddleboard. 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 complete novices. 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.A minor issue we found with the Kraken is it sustained more damage than the other boards in our testing process and makes us worry about its durability. It's a good reminder that if longevity is a top concern, you may want to consider the burlier designs. Get the Kraken if you want the best, as long as you are willing to treat it gently.
While we tested the 11-foot 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 review: Boardworks Kraken
The Best Inflatable SUP
Many inflatables look the same, but the Isle Explorer stood out. It performed well and was still a great deal. A lot of inflatable companies come and go, but Isle has been making boards for years and hits the right balance between quality and value. Less expensive boards work but come with cheaper accessories and unknown customer service.
As with all inflatables, the glide ratio is poor compared to a rigid SUP. You have to get the inflation right. Most people under inflate and the board is much less stable or fast as a result. This board is much easier to travel with than a non-inflatable SUP, but it does take some extra time to inflate. Overall, this is a more durable and easy-to-transport alternative to our favorite rigid stand up paddle boards.
Read review: Isle Explorer
Best Bang for the Buck
ISLE Versa Epoxy
IIt's hard not to be impressed by the Isle Versa. The Isle had the second lowest retail price of all the stand up paddle boards we reviewed and tied the winning Kraken in our performance tests. This board is a fantastic value and our top pick for those shopping on a budget. While the Isle took second place, its glide, stability, and maneuverability combine to offer excellent all-around performance. It's also a more durable than the Kraken, all while costing several hundred dollars less.This board is a little more cumbersome to carry than our Editors' Choice, and it's not that fast or easy to turn. Still, it will get you there, and it does better than inflatables in these metrics. The Isle is a fantastic option for those that don't want to spend over a grand but don't want to sacrifice performance.
Read review: Isle Versa Epoxy
Best on a Tight Budget
Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10
Earning a Best Buy Award, the Sun Dolphin Seaquest should be your first choice if you are looking for a new SUP and are hoping to spend less than $500. This plastic stand up paddle board is exceptionally durable and can handle almost anything you throw at it. It is also extremely stable, easily cruising through choppy waters even when you have plenty of cargo or a dog or child on board. It is a fantastic option for a beginner who doesn't want to invest a ton until they get a feel for the sport or for families who want a board that can handle plenty of abuse.However, the Seaquest is not particularly fast, having some of the worst glide performance of any rigid board we tested. It's as bad, or even worse, than some of the inflatable boards we tested. This board is also exceptionally heavy, which can make it a bit difficult to carry or to load on a car — a task that usually requires a second set of hands due to this board's bulk. Despite these drawbacks, the Sun Dolphin is an outstanding option if you are shopping for a SUP on a tighter budget.
Read review: Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10
Top Pick for Families
BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure
The uncommonly stable and durable BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure 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 for an adult paddler to easily transport a child, dog or plenty of gear.The BIC's material and construction are 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 excellent board that is supremely stable and can take a beating. If you want more durability but a lighter board, consider an inflatable.
Read review: BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure
Top Pick for Touring
BIC Ace-Tec Wing
If you are looking for a superior SUP for touring, look no further than the BIC Ace-Tec Wing. This is our favorite option for longer paddles. It offers the perfect mix of glide performance and stability to keep you on the board and get you where you want to go quickly and efficiently. On top of that, its plastic construction is also amazingly durable. We're talking orders of magnitude more than comparable boards made of fiberglass. It's more stable than other touring boards we tested, which are usually narrow and prone to instability. It does a decent job of remaining upright through smaller wakes and waves but can be a bit wobbly for beginner paddlers or if load with cargo.This board is one of the longest that we have tested, meaning that it isn't the most maneuverable and has quite a wide turning radius. It is also pretty easy to crash into submerged objects if you aren't paying attention, as this board's clunkier handling means that you have limited time to take evasive action. Its heft makes it harder to move around out of the water as well. But it's not too bad if you have someone else to help you move it. Regardless of these minor flaws, the Ace-Tec Wing is our top recommendation for touring.
Read review: BIC ACE-TEC Wing
Top Inflatable Touring SUP
Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL
Most inflatables offer great value, durability, and ease of transport. However, they usually suffer from poor glide performance and quality. The Red Paddle bucks that trend and provides excellent glide performance and quality. While not as efficient as the rigid race-style boards, it's close. Whether you're racing or just want to move more efficiently, this is the best choice.
The only significant downside is the price. You can buy two or three cheaper boards for the same cost as one Red Paddle model. But that's the price of quality, and it's priced about the same as other high-end rigid SUP models.
Read review: Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL
Best for the Big and the Tall
BIC Sport ACE-TEC 12' Cross
Most boards are rated to 250 pounds. If you're any heavier, it's slim pickings. But there's an answer: the big sibling to the BIC Ace-Tecs above, the ACE-TEC Cross 12'. What distinguishes this board is its 36-inch width, which is 5 to 9 inches wider than most boards in the review (and most models on the entire market, for that matter). This translates into incredible stability and is rated up to 350 pounds.Of course, a board this big is heavy, 46 pounds to be exact. That's nearly 50 percent heavier than the average weight in our review. A board this wide and heavy is not that fast. Also, you have to reach noticeably more to the sides when paddling. If you're looking for the maximum stability and you weigh more than 250 pounds, this is the board to get.
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hundreds of hours researching stand up paddleboards and combing through manufacturer's specifications and user reviews. Then we bought the top 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 dive into the details about each board.
Hover over the dots below to see the names of award winners (blue) and non-award winners (gray). As you can see, our Best Buy winning Isle Versa Epoxy is by far the best value as it scores at the top and is priced toward the bottom. Boards that cost less generally offer poor performance. However, we think the Sun Dolphin has enough positive attributes to make it another excellent value pick, especially if you are shopping on a tight budget. You can also see how the Isle Explorer, the Editors' Choice in our inflatable review, compares in value to the non-inflatables.
The most important metric in our test — accounting for 35 percent 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 ran a time trial and a glide-per-stroke test for each board — both on flat water and in rough conditions. You can see how the boards stacked up in the chart below.
The Surftech Saber, the Boardworks Raven, and the BIC Ace-Tec Wing all offer exceptional glide. Only stand up paddle boards specifically designed for racing will outperform these boards. (We didn't test racing SUPs as they are far less stable than most people can tolerate.)
The Boardworks Raven and Surftech Saber were neck and neck in our time trials. Our lead tester paddled each board at 75 percent effort on flat water test course, timing start to finish and then finish to start. Then we averaged the results to account for any variation due to wind direction 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 in the rough water test, with the Saber once again putting up the best average time, 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 led the group with an average of 36.5 strokes, and the Raven was right behind it with 37.5 paddle strokes.
The Raven and Saber suffered in the rough water glide-per-stroke test, however, as their reduced stability made it hard to maintain momentum. The Ace-Tec Cross Adventure beat these boards in rough waters. The Cross Adventure's broad, stable platform allows you to get the most out of each paddle stroke, even in rough water.
Since the Ace-Tec Wing was a later addition to the review, we don't have exact time trial and glide-per-stroke numbers that compare to all the other boards. Instead, we tested it against the Raven. The Wing matches the Raven in terms of distance-per-stroke, but the Raven has just a slight edge in cruising speed for flat water. However, the Ace-Tec Wing's superior stability gives it the advantage in rougher water, allowing you to paddle harder and faster without risk of capsizing.
Following the top group of boards are the Isla Versa and the Boardworks Kraken. The Kraken did better in the flat water time trial, finishing a little over six seconds faster than the Isle. This Isle finished the rough water trial almost on par with the top two boards, beating the Kraken by about three 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 the same.By far the best glide performance of an inflatable came from Red Paddle Co. Most inflatables feel like barges. The Red Paddle does an excellent job of mimicking a high-end rigid touring board.
The Sun Dolphin claimed the last place position for this set of tests, being both exceptionally slow and having one of the shortest glides per paddle stroke. This SUP is extraordinarily boat-like and feels like it displaces much more water in the front of the board as you paddle. It's fine, it just feels significantly more like most inflatable boards, rather than a rigid stand up paddle board.
Stability is responsible for 25 percent of the overall score 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 rough water and carried a handful of canines and cargo. We also polled a panel of beginner paddles to rank each board's stability. The chart below shows how each board did.
Easily claiming the top spot of the entire group, the Sun Dolphin offers extreme stability. This is by far the most stable board we have tested to date, doing an excellent job in rougher or choppy water. However, we did notice that his board can get a little squirrely in river currents and eddies, with one of our testers almost inexplicably getting knocked off this board in the river. It's shaped a bit like a whitewater kayak and offers edges that are easy for currents to grab. On flat water, it's a fantastic option for beginners or entirely new paddlers and is excellent for hauling dogs, kids, or cargo.
Closely following the Seaquest 10, the BIC Ace-Tec Cross Adventure earned a 9 out of 10 for its remarkable stability. This board is somewhat of a barge, 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 or small children aboard without any difficulty. This rock-solid board is also perfect for those that want to try their hand at on-the-water yoga.
Following the unshakeable performance of the Cross Adventure, both the Boardworks Kraken and the Isle Versa earned an 8 out of 10 for their reliable 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 Cross Adventure, forcing you to take a more athletic stance and adjust your body position compared to the lackadaisical approach you could take toward waves while on the Ace-Tec Cross Adventure.
The Kraken did feel slightly more stable than the Isle when loaded up with cargo, most likely due to its massive 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.
The Ace-Tec Wing is more stable than some of the other touring boards, but it definitely can get sketchy in rougher waters, with a few of our intermediate testers taking some unexpected swims. It can be daunting for beginner paddlers, but they should get used to it after a while. It's not the best for transporting gear, but you should be able to get away with a smaller bag or soft cooler. The same goes for transporting additional passengers, with only a smaller, very well-behaved dog or child being the absolute max.Rounding out the lower portion of the pack, the Raven is a narrow, touring board designed to travel fast and glide well. 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.
Comprising 15 percent 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. 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 had 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 agilest and which ones were akin to cruise ships in the chart below.
Redeeming itself for its poor performance in stability, the Surftech Saber is the most maneuverable in the test. 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.
Following the Saber, the vast majority of the boards all performed similarly. The Isle beat the Kraken by about two seconds in the slalom course, but the Kraken executed a sharper U-turn.
The Ace-Tec Cross Adventure suffered in this metric due to its mediocre agility. All of that stability comes at a price, and the Cross Adventure was 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.
Both of the new additions to the review, the Sun Dolphin Seaquest and the BIC Ace-Tec Wing also offer only middling maneuverability. The Wing is one of the longest boards we have tested at 12'6", making it quite difficult to be very agile. It responds quite promptly to leaning and paddling on one side, but its length forces it to have one of the largest turning radiuses of the group.
The Seaquest is roughly 2.5 feet shorter than the BIC Ace-Tec Wing, but its hefty design, abysmal glide performance, and significant displacement make it almost impossible to maneuver this board gracefully in tight quarters. You can get away with sweeping turns in open water, but expect plenty of back-paddling if you are trying to steer this board in an area like a river or a marina.
Ease of Transport
Our next two metrics analyzed and assessed the performance of these boards out of the water. Our Ease of Transport metric consisted of four tests and made up 15 percent of the final score. 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.
The inflatable boards are by far the easiest to transport. All the inflatables score as high or higher than any of the rigid boards. They collapse into large backpacks and fit in any trunk. You don't have to worry about extra straps or awkwardly lifting the board to the top of your car or truck. There is an art to making sure your tie down straps don't make noise at high speeds. You get to avoid all of that and not worry that you're damaging either your car or your board. In addition, inflatables are just lighter, which makes them easier to move around. This becomes especially noticeable if you have to travel more than a few hundred feet from your car to the water.Leading the pack of rigid boards, the California Board Company was by far the easiest to transport. This lightweight foam board weighs almost 10 pounds 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 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, and the Naish Mana 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 was significantly easier to carry than the Kraken being about a foot shorter. 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 model over the other, but the pop-out handle gave you slightly more versatility in carrying and loading the stand-up paddleboard on a car.
Both the Raven and the Isle are 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 equally annoying to carry.
The Surftech Saber earned a 4 out of 10, as it's relatively difficult to move around. This is one of the heavier boards of the group, making it difficult and unwieldy. It was also challenging 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.The stand up paddle boards from BIC, the Cross Adventure and the Wing, came next. Both of these boards are on the heavier side and are exceptionally cumbersome and unwieldy to move. They usually require an additional person to load on a car. The Wing isn't too bad to carry for short distance, but the Cross Adventure is one of the widest boards of the entire group, making it much more difficult for those a with smaller arm span to grab the recessed handle.
Finishing at the back of the group, the Seaquest can be a huge hassle to move around. It is cumbersome at close to 50 lbs. — over double the weight of other boards in the group. Even though it is only 10' in length, its weight makes having additional help carrying or loading it appreciated. Luckily its extreme durability means you can throw it around a bit. Despite its bulk, the handle is relatively ergonomic, and it isn't too bad to carry for very short distances — emphasis on the very short.
Durability accounts for the remaining 10 percent of the score. Because 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 them. 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.
Claiming the top position, the Sun Dolphin easily is the heftiest board of the entire group and can handle almost anything you throw at it, earning it a 10 out of 10. While it did dent in the course of our testing, there were no lasting impacts aside from cosmetics. We are quite sure a comparable blow would have almost irreparably damaged some of the flimsier boards. This is backed up in user reviews, with the major complaint being that some boards filled up with water — seemingly indicative of a manufacturing error that should be covered under warranty. There is a drain plug to evacuate water that gets inside the plastic halves, but we never had to use it.
The BIC Ace-Tec Wing came next, earning a 9 out of 10 for its robust construction and stellar durability. We put this board through the wringer, and it only sustained cosmetic scrapes and scuffs. However, we did lose a fin during testing, actually snapping it off with a portion of the base remaining in the fin box. It appears this is more on us for taking it down a fast moving river with submerged rocks, as no one else seems to have encountered this issue. We were big fans of the plastic construction of both the Seaquest 10 and the Wing, as it meant that we could be less cautious when it came to transporting these boards, usually skipping pads.
The Cross Adventure, CBC, and Saber are next, each receiving an 8 out of 10 for their durability. The Ace-Tec Cross Adventure is made from exceptionally durable plastic and only displayed a few minor scratches over the course of testing. Also, 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. We're somewhat amazed that we didn't lose it in the course of testing. This would inevitability happen if you owned the board and some 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 all at once, so escaping without a scratch is quite an accomplishment.
Rating the durability of the CBC is a mixed bag. We found 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 Isle sustained some scratches to the paint on their top decks — with our canine tester taking partial responsibility in both cases. 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. Extra care must be taken when transporting this board to prevent any damage. 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.
The Kraken was inadvertently tapped in a door when carrying and received some damage to its nose. While the hit was quite light, the damage sustained seemed disproportionately severe, requiring repair to keep it from propagating. The Kraken are received relatively few durability complaints online.
Hopefully, this review 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