After researching well over 50 boards, we bought seven of the best stand up paddle boards available today to help you find the right one. We have over five years of experience hands-on testing and reviewing paddleboards head-to-head, paddling lakes, rivers, and streams in a wide variety of conditions to rigorously compare performance. We evaluated and compared glide performance, maneuverability, and stability, all in our quest to find out which SUP is truly superior to the rest. Regardless if you are looking for a beginner board on a budget or one perfect for a professional paddler, our expert recommendations can help you find the board you need.Related: Best Inflatable Paddle Boards of 2021
Best Stand Up Paddle Board of 2021
|Price||$1,649 List||$437 List|
|Pros||Excellent glide, several comfortable handles, stable for its shape, dual chamber pump||Inexpensive, durable, stable|
|Cons||Expensive, not maneuverable, unstable for beginners||Mediocre glide performance, extremely slow in choppy water|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight, high-performance design that is one of the fastest inflatable boards available||If you are searching for a soild SUP on a skinny budget, then this board is a good choice|
|Rating Categories||Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL||Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10|
|Glide Performance (35%)|
|Ease Of Transport (15%)|
|Specs||Red Paddle Co...||Sun Dolphin...|
|Measured Weight||25 lbs||46 lbs|
|Board Volume||360 L||Not listed|
|Weight Capacity||330 lbs||250 lbs|
|Length (feet)||13 ft 2.4 in||10 ft|
|Thickness (inches)||6.0 in||6.0 in|
|Bungee Cargo System||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Rigid SUP
Surftech/prAna Catalyst Tuflite VT
The Surftech Catalyst merits the highest score that we have seen so far, and we chose this model as the best overall SUP. It's one of our all-time favorite boards, offering a perfect combination of speed, stability, and glide performance, all in a sleek and stylish package. This board looks great and feels super light both on and off the water, making it easy to turn and easy to carry.
Unfortunately, all of this performance comes at a price, and the Catalyst is one of the more expensive boards that we have tested. This board also tends to show scuffs and scrapes much more prominently than other boards, so you want to treat it delicately. However, the Catalyst is truly one of the best boards that you can get in terms of performance and we highly recommend it, as long as you can afford the top-dollar price tag and are careful enough to keep it from getting too scratched and scuffed.
Read review: Surftech/prAna Catalyst Tuflite VT
Best on a Tight Budget
Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10
The Sun Dolphin Seaquest should be your first choice if you are looking for a new SUP and are hoping to spend a moderate amount. 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 skinnier budget.
Read review: Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10
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 Fishing or Big & Tall Paddlers
Pau Hana Endurance XL
If you are looking for a board that can haul some serious weight around, then look no further than the Pau Hana Endurance XL. This hefty board has a listed maximum payload of over 400 pounds, making it a fantastic option for any big & tall paddlers or anyone who needs a stable way to transport a ton of gear on their SUP. Designed for fishing or endurance paddling trips, this board not only has ample area to store things under its forward cargo net but also has 35 threaded mounting points and multiple through holes to secure things too. Pau Hana makes a full line of accessories that attach to these, including camera mounts or fishing pole holders, or you can always make your own to customize this board to your cargo carrying needs. In addition to being a packhorse, the Endurance XL is also surprisingly speedy with tons of glide once you get it up to speed and is large and stable enough to handle conditions that would instantly capsize other boards.
There is no getting around the fact that it is one of the largest boards we have tested to date. It takes considerably more effort to get up to speed than some of the smaller SUPs and isn't quite as nimble. We will say we were pleasantly surprised that this board wasn't clunkier, but you probably aren't going to be winning any slalom races on the Pau Hana. However, while this board's larger size might be manageable in the water, it's considerably more difficult on land. It can be exceptionally difficult and tiring to carry by yourself and can be almost impossible to load on a tall vehicle if you don't have any assistance. Despite its heft, this board is quite fun on the water and paddles great even when fully loaded for camping, fishing, or a marathon tour and we would recommend this board to anyone using it for those purposes — though it does come at a premium price. However, you just might want to make sure you have a buddy around for the unloading or loading process.
Read review: Pau Hana Endurance XL
Why You Should Trust Us
Our review and testing process for stand up paddle boards is led by Marissa Fox. Marissa is a former competitive snowboarder, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, RYT yoga instructor, and AIDA freediver. She has also traveled the world working for various non-profits and marine conservation projects, such as satellite tagging whale sharks in the Philippines, monitoring Minke Whale behavior in Iceland, and promoting turtle conservation in the Caribbean. When she isn't working as a land-use attorney in Lake Tahoe or traveling, she spends her free time on — or under — the water as much as possible, whether it's stand up paddleboarding, swimming, scuba diving, or snowboarding (frozen water counts, right?).
In total, we logged dozens and dozens of hours on these boards, taking them out in every type of conditions possible — everything from early morning paddles with completely still waters to conditions that were windy and wavy enough that we were repeatedly cautioned not to head out on the water, all to help you find the perfect stand up paddle board. Along the way, we rated and scored the glide performance of each board, looking at both their speed and acceleration, as well as how maneuverable and stable each SUP is. Additionally, we evaluated these boards out of the water, comparing their ease of transport by seeing how much work they are to load up on a car or carry to the water and their durability by how much damage each board sustained throughout the normal course of testing.
Related: How We Tested SUP Boards
Analysis and Test Results
We took all of the results from each of those individual tests and evaluations and divided them into five weighted rating metrics: Glide Performance, Stability, Maneuverability, Ease of Transport, and Durability. Each board received a subscore in each metric, and each metric is weighted proportionally to its overall significance. While we think the weightings are spot-on for an average paddler, you will want to pay particular attention to how each board performs in the metrics that you care most about, such as if you value stability or ease of transport above all else.
Related: Buying Advice for SUP Boards
If you are shopping for a new SUP on a budget, then the Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10 would be our top recommendation. This molded plastic board costs a fraction of what some of the fiberglass or other composite models. However, this board does make some fairly serious concessions in our minds when it comes to actual paddling performance, particularly with glide. If you are willing to spend a bit more, then we think the Isle Versa Epoxy is the next best option for you. It costs quite a bit more than the Seaquest 10 but offers much better all-around performance.
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 ran a time trial and a glide-per-stroke test for each board — both on flat water and in rough conditions.
The Surftech Catalyst and the Boardworks Raven tied for the top score in our glide performance metric, offering fantastic amounts of speed and tons of glider per paddle stroke. 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 and are well outside the budget that most people can tolerate.)
The Raven is a longer touring board and is exceptionally fast — especially on flat water. It can be quite hard to go fast on choppy water with touring boards, as their so-so stability can make it hard to focus on paddling when so much effort is required to stay upright.
These boards also have decent glide per paddle stroke once they are up to speed but are far inferior to the Catalyst when it comes to acceleration.
The Catalyst is a much shorter board than the other three, which means it can't quite compare in terms of outright speed. However, this SUP from Surftech simply feels exceptionally light on the water and has tons of acceleration, letting you get up to maximum speed without a ton of effort. It's a breeze to paddle and we wouldn't hesitate to grab it for longer tours, even though it isn't necessarily marketed as a touring board.
The Pau Hana Endurance XL followed the top performers by just a small margin. It can keep up with those four once it gets up to speed but it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get this board up to cruising speed compared to the other boards, dropping it down a few points. This is completely understandable, given the Pau Hana's heft.
The Isle Versa Epoxy and the Boardworks Kraken all followed. None of these are touring boards but each of these SUPs held their own against the top models, especially given their shorter stature. These boards all have fairly typical hull designs and get up to speed quickly with a decent glide per paddle stroke but a longer touring board will slowly start to overtake them on longer paddles.
By far the best glide performance of an inflatable came from Red Paddle Co. Most inflatables feel like barges but not the Red Paddle. This SUP does an excellent job of mimicking a high-end rigid touring board — almost to the point that you could forget that you are on an inflatable, but not quite, putting you just behind the Kraken or the Isle Versa in terms of glide performance.
The remaining boards all scored below average in this metric, to the point where we wouldn't want to grab any of them for a paddling trip that covered more than a mile or two. In particular, the Sun Dolphin Seaquest distinguished itself by being particularly sluggish.
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.
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.
Following the unshakeable performance of the Seaquest 10, the Pau Hana Endurance XL, the Boardworks Kraken, and the Isle Versa all tied for the next position in our stability series of tests.
It's easy to see why the Pau Hana Endurance XL is a stable SUP. This giant board is almost more akin to a boat than a board. We took this paddle board out in the windiest and waviest conditions we could find and it easily handled just about everything we threw at it. It's a fantastic option for beginner paddlers and can also carry a significant amount of baggage before you notice any toll on handleability.
The Kraken and the Isle Versa both did surprisingly well in our stability tests, considering they are quite a bit smaller than the top boards in this group of tests.
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 too shaky to relax on in rougher conditions, 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 a board like the Endurance XL or the Seaquest 10.
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.
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 — and you are essentially doomed to take a dip if a wave or wake comes by if you aren't moving. Slimmer boards also can be very difficult for novice paddlers and don't offer all that much space for loading them up with cooler or other baggage.
Comprising 15 percent of the overall score for each board, our Maneuverability metric consisted of two tests: completing a full U-turn and paddling around obstacles, slalom-style. We set up buoys and steered around natural obstacles to determine scores, noting how close you could get at various speeds and still have time to avoid a collision. For the U-turn test, we paddled as fast as possible on one side and shifted our weight to tilt the board, comparing the amount of area it took to do a complete about-face without back-paddling when determining rankings.
Claiming the top spot in our maneuverability metric, the Surftech Catalyst's exceptional agility distinguished itself from the rest of the group. The Catalyst is supremely light on the water and receptive to both paddling and shifting your body weight to turn extremely quickly. This lets you easily avoid most obstacles even if you only see them at the last moment, where other boards would crash into them. This also means that the Catalyst doesn't require a huge amount of space to turn, letting you execute a U-turn in relatively narrow channels and waterways.
A group of boards all tied for the next spot, with the Kraken, Isle Versa Epoxy, and the Raven all being just a bit above average when it comes to maneuverability. You can avoid obstacles easily enough on these boards if you see them early enough and they don't take a ton of room to complete a U-turn — except for the Raven. This board does have a rather large turning radius, and you usually need to back-paddle and complete a three-point turn when trying to turn around this SUP in narrower areas.
The remainder of the boards all earned so-so marks for their average maneuverability. They aren't impossible to turn, but you are probably going to hit a submerged obstacle if you don't spot it early enough. The Pau Hana Endurance XL and the Sun Dolphin Seaquest are particularly slow to turn, especially if you are up to speed on the Pau Hana
Ease of Transport
Our next set of tests rated and ranked how much work it is to get these boards to the water — a prerequisite to most paddling trips. We based our scores on our measured weight of each paddle board, then looked at how comfortable the handle(s) are on each board. After that, we carried each board over land for a short distance and looked at the difficulty of loading each SUP on — or in — different styles of vehicles.
Overall, inflatable boards are easier to move than rigid stand up paddle boards. Period. It's simply no comparison, as inflatable boards can be deflated and fit back into a large backpack, then tossed in the trunk or back of a car. You don't have to worry about strapping down a hard board in a way that your tie-downs won't whistle and is tight enough to keep your SUP firmly attached to your car but isn't so tight that it damages the board or your car. On top of that, inflatable SUPs tend to be much lighter, again making them easier to load.
The Kraken is the next easiest to transport. This board weighs about the same and consequently, was relatively easy to load on a car.
Next, the Surftech Catalyst, the Boardworks Raven, and the Isle Versa Epoxy are all about average for a rigid SUP when it comes to moving them to and fro. The Raven is the longest of these three boards, measuring a little over a foot more than the Catalyst or the Versa. All three weigh between 20 and 30 lbs. and are about the same amount of effort to carry around. However, the extra length of the Raven can make it a little more difficult to load on top of a vehicle.
The Endurance XL is just a bit harder to get to and from the water than the average SUP in our minds. It's one of the longest and heaviest boards of the group — hence the XL in the name — making it almost impossible to load on top of a car by yourself. At least, not without adding a few scrapes or dents to the board. You can carry this board around by yourself, but it definitely isn't the most fun. However, the comfortable fore and aft handles make it much easier to carry around with a buddy.
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. We gave each board a careful examination after all the other testing, noting any scratches, scrapes, scuffs, or other damage it had incurred during our rigorous testing process. We also combed through user reviews and forums, noting any commonalities that we found.
In our minds, the Sun Dolphin Seaquest 10 is easily the best board when it comes to durability. While it sustained some minor wear and tear during our rigorous — and sometimes abusive — testing process, these were all essentially cosmetic injuries. We dragged the Sun Dolphin across dirt and sand, even taking them down rivers where they almost continually scraped on branches and other snags. It survived this rough and tumble treatment with ease, while we are sure we would have practically destroyed some of the other SUPs if subjected to the same abuse.
However, we did find that water sometimes made it inside the Seaquest 10 — something backed up by other user reviews. Fortunately, there is a drain plug that can be used to evacuate water from the inside of the board if this becomes problematic.
The Isle Versa Epoxy 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, the Catalyst, and the Endurance XL are all about average for a fiberglass composite rigid paddleboard in terms of being resistant to damage, which is to say that they are all fairly fragile. We wouldn't even think about loading up any of these on a car without padding and each of these boards have one or two spots with significant damage that came from a relatively minor event. The Kraken's has a chunk out of the nose from a relatively light tap while carrying it, the Pau Hana has a similar one on the side, and the Catalyst got a solid scratch on the bottom when sliding it around to load it on a car.
We bought all the best stand up paddle boards and tested them head-to-head to help you find the perfect new paddle board. We hope this has been a helpful and comprehensive comparison of the top products, whether you are searching for a budget model for a beginner or a top-tier product for a high-performance paddler.
— Marissa Fox