(The Gear Loop) - When it comes to exploring lakes, lochs, bays and mild ocean chop, an inflatable paddle board is a no-brainer for paddlers who value portability over performance. Inflatable boards also boast the advantages of lower weight, greater comfort, and increased durability. Crucially for beginners, they’re also less likely to injure you or someone else in the event of a fall.
On top of all of this, the best inflatable boards don’t actually lag that far behind their hard-bodied cousins, in terms of performance and the gap is closing year-on-year.
Only those looking to race or engage in SUP surfing should consider the additional technical attributes offered by a hard board. For most applications, an inflatable board is undoubtedly the preferred option, especially as you can take them with you on your travels.
Where iSUPs are concerned, innovations in Drop Stitch technology and composite PVC construction mean that inflatable boards are as rigid and, therefore, as stable as ever. This is a key consideration for beginners, as stability trumps speed in the list of desirables.
In this guide, we feature a quintet of superb, wide-bodied and versatile boards that are perfect for SUP novices.
These five excellent inflatables are crafted from quality materials and are also feature-rich enough to tempt seasoned paddlers, as well as beginners. They often boast capacities that will accommodate a couple of adults, or at the very least the additional company of a child or a furry friend too.
The best inflatable stand up paddleboards for beginners
Aqua Marina Magma 11'2"
- Striking good looks
- Lightweight and portable
- Not as pricey as the competition
- Repair kit not included
- Agility and speed suffer due to dimensions
- Not as customisable as some
The lengthy Aqua Marina Magma utilises a double wall fabric Drop Stitch core that’s enhanced by two PVC rail layers to create a rigid and durable iSUP. There are four widths available - 31 inches through 34 inches – so you can choose the board that’s right for you, considering whether you value greater speed or stability.
The board performs well on the water in a variety of settings and the kick pad makes it easy to handle too.
Unlike much of the direct competition, the rather minimalist Magma only features one cargo area, while there aren’t as many D-rings either, making it a less customisable option.
With a capacity of 150kg, it’s perfect for tackling the chop solo, though those looking for a tandem paddler should look elsewhere. This is reflected in the fact that there’s just the one carry handle, located in the centre of the board.
There’s also no repair kit included in the package, which is a shame. However, it should be stated that the Magma is sold at a lower price point that the other boards in this guide.
All in all, the Aqua Marina Magma is a fine iSUP, a great choice for beginners who aren’t wanting to break the bank. However, it lacks some of the features that make some of its competitors so versatile.
Blackfin Model X 10'5"
- Highly durable
- Extremely versatile
- Stable for beginners
- Large deck equals slower speeds
- Tracking not as good as some
The versatile Blackfin Model X is a high performing paddle board that suits multiple adventure styles, all while being ideal for SUP novices. Built by Florida-based board brand iRocker, the Model X is part of its Blackfin range, which is crafted from advanced materials and designed to flaunt a wealth of features.
Instagrammers will be delighted to hear there are no less than eight action mounts for their accessories, while 20 D-ring attachments mean they can tether plenty of other items along for the ride, too. It measures 10'5" in length, which is a nice middle ground for boards of this kind.
The Model X is also compatible with a fishing rack for all your rods, coolers and buckets. Dual cargo areas at the front and rear, coupled with an impressive capacity of 204kg mean you don’t have to pack light.
On top of this, everything in the Blackfin range benefits from triple-layer composite PVC construction. It takes no time at all to transform the Model X from its wheeled carry case to paddle board and back again thanks to included Full Throttle Pump. Enhanced durability is provided courtesy of the Model X’s Carbon Rail, which also stiffens and firms up the board.
This all adds up to an iSUP that tracks and glides through the water with the kind of stability to give beginners confidence. At almost 90cm in diameter, it’s also markedly wide for a single paddler, which does mean it’s slower than more streamlined boards. Longer and narrower boards also track better but this shouldn’t be too much of a concern for novices.
Gili Komodo 10'6"
- Great value
- Perfect deck for yoga
- A portion of the profits go to environmental causes
- Modest capacity
- Not as customisable as some of the competition
Designed with versatility in mind, Gili’s Komodo is one of the best value beginner paddle boards out there. The full-length EVA traction pad, coupled with a removable cargo bungee area at the front makes this a great choice for yoga enthusiasts, as there’s plenty of deck room for those planks and downward dogs.
Speaking of dogs, there’s nothing to stop you bringing your four-legged friend along. However, with a capacity of 154kg, you’re unlikely to want to bring an adult companion on board, too.
This is a wide board, at 83cm, though its tapered nose means that it’s relatively speedy, as well as being stable. The Komodo is constructed using Fusion Laminated Technology and super strong PVC, resulting in a board that’s stiff, strong but also lightweight and portable.
There’s the usual action cam mount and D-rings, though you don’t get quite as many as with some of the more customisable beginner iSUPs. However, the Komodo is easily one of the best value iSUP packages out there and you get the paddle, backpack, pump, leash, fins and repair kit as part of what is a comprehensive bundle.
In summary, a solid option for beginner paddlers that’s well-suited to yoga. Oh, and a portion of the profits go to environmental charities too.
Bluefin Cruise Carbon 10'8"
- Smooth on the water
- Converts into a kayak
- Speedy as well as stable
- Only one mount
- 10'8" model’s capacity lower than direct competition
UK-based Bluefin’s passion for watery adventure was kindled on the lochs of Scotland’s Southern Uplands. Whether you intend to paddle wild Scottish waters or take things to sea, its award-winning Cruise Carbon range won’t let you down.
The 10'8" model is the most popular size, able to handle 150kg, though tandem paddlers will want to consider the extra capacity of its 12 and 15-foot models.
Its Cruise Carbon 10'8" iSUP is ideal for beginners thanks to its rigid construction. Boasting a FRS (Flex Reduction System) carbon rail, Air Duo inflation and composite Drop Stitch reinforcement, Bluefin claims that it’s the "most rigid and stable inflatable stand up paddle board you’ll ever buy."
It’s not as wide as many other beginner boards which, coupled with its pointy nose and square tail, makes it speedy as well as stable.
The non-slip deckpad gives you loads of reassuring traction, while sharp turns are made possible by the kickpad feature. Another great selling point is its ability to convert into a kayak when the mood takes you, by attaching Bluefin’s padded seat to the board’s D-rings.
Other features include a single camera mount, a coiled ankle leash, grab handles at the front and rear, 14 D-rings for customisation and two bungee webbing areas for cargo.
A carbon fibre paddle keeps things light, while everything packs down into a 111-litre carry sack. All In all, an excellent and versatile beginner board from a British brand with a reputation for quality.
iRocker Cruiser 10'6"
- Designed for stability
- Repair kit, pump and paddle included
- Great value
- Not designed for speed
Another entry from Florida-based brand iRocker, the Cruiser is designed primarily with beginner boarders in mind. Featuring an 84 cm deck and a broad tail, it’s as stable as a home for horses. So confident in its stability, iRocker gladly invites users to practise some on-board yoga. Namaste.
A generous weight capacity of 181kg means you could even try some dog yoga or bring the kids along for the ride. Two bungeed cargo areas allow you to secure your luggage for longer trips.
Triple-layer PVC construction gives the board rigidity and confidence-inspiring robustness. It’s also nicely portable, featuring a carry bag that can either go over the shoulders or can be wheeled along. Also included is a featherlight carbon matte paddle, a repair kit and pump, while GoPros and the like can be attached to one of four action mounts.
The Cruiser has much in common with the Blackfin Model X, though it’s slightly cheaper, thinner and doesn’t come with quite as many attachment points. It’s perfect for beginners and casual users who value stability over speed.
What to look for when buying an inflatable stand up paddle board
Speed and stability
Beginner boards are always going to prioritise stability over speed, with wide decks and broad tails. If you’re looking for a SUP to race on, the above models are more the like the Ford Fiestas than the Ferraris of the paddle board world.
Like the modern Fiesta, they’ve all garnered a strong reputation for quality, are practical and are fun in the right setting. However, they won’t be winning Le Mans anytime soon.
D-rings, bungee webbing, mounts and compatibility
In this day and age, versatility is key for the casual boarder. Whether you envisage yourself practising yoga, bringing an expedition backpack along or looking to relax with a fishing rod in hand, many of the best inflatable paddle boards for beginners are designed with all these needs in mind.
D-rings allow you to tether any number of items to your board, such as an anchor or a cool box, while mounts are useful for items like iPhones, GoPros or speakers.
It’s typical for cargo storage to be provided by bungee webbing, while some boards are even compatible with kayak seats or fishing racks.
Solo paddle boards can often take more than double the weight of the paddler, which is a good thing, as many owners will want to bring a furry friend or a child or two onto the water with them. Depending on how you plan to use your board, make sure you’ve considered that it can take the weight to meet your needs.
It’s arguably the most annoying thing about an iSUP, because despite all of the portability and relatively small pack size, you still need to inflate the thing. This is quite a workout with a manual pump, so look out for those with dual chamber abilities. Better still, look to purchase an electric pump that tethers to a vehicles 12V lighter socket or is battery powered.