Learn to paddle with ease: these are the best stand-up paddle boards you can buy
Navigating the choppy waters of the best paddle boards for beginners is a difficult task for those new to this relatively young water sport.
Why? Because there’s such a huge array of choice out there – choice that is riddled with measurements, dimensions, air pressures and paddle-boarding jargon that can feel intimidating to the uninitiated.
Fear not, because we are here to offer you our shortlist of the best stand-up paddle boards for absolute beginners. A selection of user-friendly boards that have been hand-picked because they smooth out the learning curve and come with an affordable price tag. After all, you don’t want to be spending a small fortune if you don’t take to the sport.
You’ll see that we’ve mainly focussed on inflatable paddle boards, purely because they are much easier to transport, less likely to get damaged if dropped and are generally easier to get on with on the water. However, we’ve dropped in a couple of hard boards for those who want something sturdier.
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How to choose the best beginner stand-up paddle board for you
Inflatable or rigid stand-up paddle boards, what is the difference and what do I need?
Inflatable stand-up paddle boards are a relatively new phenomenon, because previously the technology wasn’t advanced enough to create a board that was stable, solid and reliable enough to be taken seriously by riders. The arrival of advanced drop-stitch materials and breakthroughs in PVC and plastic coatings mean these paddle boards can be inflated to ever-increasing psi (pressure per square inch), making them much more rigid and closer to their hard-bodied brethren in terms of performance on the water.
An inflatable paddle board is normally better for the newcomer, as they are easier to transport, more affordable and – with less focus on performance – easier to get on with.
Hard boards, which are made in a similar fashion to a surfboard (foam core with a resin outer) are the original stand-up paddle boards and are still more advanced in terms of their hydrodynamic shapes, making them better suited to more advanced riders, or those who need a specific board to race or surf big waves on.
Should I look at paddle board packages that include extra kit?
In short, yes. If you’re going to go down the route of an inflatable board, you will need a good pump, a carry bag, the fin (for added stability in the water), a leash to attach the board safely to your leg, and a paddle.
Many companies offer their inflatable stand-up paddle boards as a package with all of the above included. There can be compromises on quality when you buy this way (the accessories tend to be a bit cheap), but it’s a more economical way of purchasing than buying it all separately.
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What should I look for in a beginner stand-up paddle board?
Size is your friend when it comes to many water-based board sports – in general, the larger the board, the easier it will be to climb aboard. Look for a unit that has plenty of volume, with chunkier rails along the side to increase stability.
Seeing as you probably aren’t going to take the thing racing, feel free to give up the more performance-oriented attributes for increased stability. Anything that is designed to maximise each paddle stroke and reward with greater forward momentum is a bonus.
How much should I spend on a beginner paddle board?
There’s a huge price disparity in paddle boards, with some inflatable models starting from £200, while others can easily crest the £1,000 mark. The key difference will be in the quality of the construction and the accessories you get with it, not to mention performance-enhancing design attributes.
The old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” applies, and although advances in stand-up paddle board technology have generally made boards much better and more robust, there’s still the increased risk of punctures and poor performance if you really scrimp.
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The best paddle boards for beginners to buy
1. Portofino Paddle Board 10ft: Best cheap paddle board for beginners
Price: £200 | Buy now from Trail Outdoor Leisure
One of the cheapest inflatable stand-up paddle board packages out there, the Portofino 10ft Paddle Board packs decent quality into the affordable kit bag. The rails might only measure 4.75in thick, which will affect stability slightly – especially for heavier riders – but it will be easier to carry and will cut through the water more efficiently.
We were impressed with this board considering its price, with minimal flex, despite only requiring 15psi to inflate. Some rivals require 20psi or higher, which can be quite labour intensive.
The removable fin, leash and paddle included in the kit bag are understandably cheap and plastic-feeling, but this is one of the most affordable ways to hit the water with confidence.
Key specs – Total weight: 7.8kg; Length: 10ft; Width: 33in; Height: 4.75in; Air pressure: 15psi; Volume: 300L; Max load: 120kg; Accessories: Includes adjustable paddle, pump, leash, fin, and carrying bag. Kayak conversion kit sold separately.
2. Aqua Marina Fusion 10ft 10in: Best paddle board for stability
Price: £299 | Buy now from Amazon
The Fusion has been designed with additional volume in mind, meaning it’s not only easier to get on board with as a beginner, but can also handle much larger loads. That’s ideal for bigger folk or those wanting to carry cargo.
It also has fat, six-inch rails, which means it sacrifices some on-water performance for increased stability. There’s a distinct lack of off-putting “roll” when tackling slightly choppy waters, for example.
Despite the tempting price tag, this inflatable package includes an adjustable alloy paddle and a dual-action pump, which makes it quicker to reach the correct psi. The carry bags have been recently revised, so they are more comfortable to wear as a backpack and can withstand the rigours of salty sea air.
This board is a little heavier than some rivals on this list, but we found the construction to be more resilient to bumps and scrapes than others.
Key specs – Total weight: 8.6kg; Length: 10ft 10in; Width: 32in; Height: 6in; Air pressure: 15psi; Volume: 320L; Max load: 150kg; Accessories: Includes adjustable paddle, pump, leash, fin, and carrying bag.
3. Jobe Titan Kura 10ft 6in: Best rigid paddle board for beginners
Price: £829 | Buy from CostCo
Those looking to stray away from the inflatable paddle boards will sacrifice ease of transportation (you’ll need a roof rack or a sizable van to shoehorn this board into), but they benefit from near-bulletproof build quality and fantastic ride quality.
The Titan Kura from water sports experts Jobe has some of the highest levels of buoyancy in the range, making this one of the easiest boards to ride on the list. It’s about as stable as paddle boards get, with nothing in the way of flex standing in the way of you and your paddle board goals.
A durable EPS core wrapped in a monocoque fibreglass layup is covered in an ultra-tough polycarbonate shell, easily making this one of the most robust boards we’ve had the joy of riding. The size and dimensions also make it perfectly approachable for a whole host of riders, from excitable kids to riders weighing up to 140kg.
Key specs – Total weight: 13.4kg; Length: 10ft 6in; Width: 32in; Height: 5in; Volume: 210L; Max load: 140kg; Accessories: Most packages include an adjustable paddle; fin sold separately.
4. Tahe Outdoors Rigid Stand-Up Paddle Board: Best paddle board for durability
Price: £700 | Buy now from Decathlon
Another solid option for those just starting out, this rigid is made from a tough polyethylene that wraps around a watertight foam core for excellent buoyancy and stability on the water.
It comes with a standard US fin box, making it easy to play around with fin set-ups, while users can add optional side bite fins for even greater speed generation and reliable tracking. An affordable first board, Tahe has focussed on durability here, so it should withstand the inevitable bumps, drops and scrapes that most newcomers experience.
The price stated is for board only, so you will have to spend a little extra on a paddle and leash to complete the package. Thankfully, Decathlon has suggestions for both of those things at a variety of price points.
Key specs – Total weight: 14.5kg; Length: 10ft 6in; Width: 31.5in; Height: 4.5in; Volume: 185L; Max load: 80kg+; Accessories: Buyer will have to provide a paddle and a leash
5. Bluefin Cruise 12ft SUP Package: Best paddle board all-in-one package
Price: £599 | Buy now from Bluefin SUP Boards
Bluefin uses ultra-tough 1000 Denier Exo Surface Laminate PVC and Pro Weave Drop Stitch technology in its inflatable paddle boards, making them extremely durable and capable of inflating to 28psi. That equates to not only a very tough inflatable board, but a rigid one, which will help beginners perfect their balance and stability.
This large 12ft model has buoyancy on its side, generally making it easier to live with, while the max carry capacity of 175kg means it can take two people, or one person and a day’s worth of picnic and kit.
What’s more, the package comes with everything you need to get going, plus a removable soft seat, so it can be easily converted into a kayak should you tire of standing up. Packages are available with an electric pump, making the tedious business of inflation that much simpler.
Key specs – Total weight: 14.2kg; Length: 12ft; Width: 32in; Height: 6in; Max load: 175kg; Accessories: Bag, leash, paddle, centre fin, pump and kayak seat