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Stand up paddle boards at their best

Are you tired of hearing about summer vacations that involve’supping? WIRED has selected the top stand-up paddle boards for you to let loose some steam in the stream.

Are you heading to the beach? Your SUP is essential. Stand up paddle boarding is the ideal sport for social distance. Thankfully, it’s not literal. The calm waters make it easy to have a great time.

Inflatable SUP boards have been one of the most popular water sports in the last decade. Sales of these boards increased by more than 400% in 2020 compared to the previous year. This popular sport, which combines surfing and canoeing with ease, is very well-loved. “The lockdown-induced need to break free, combined with the beautiful sunshine late spring led to a cocktail water sports bubbling up, and it shows no signs of slowing down,” states Dave Price, author The Paddleboard Bible, The Complete Guide for Stand-Up Paddleboarding. Inflatable stand-up paddle boards are popular with solo riders, families with children and dogs, and smaller social groups. You are not restricted to tracks, unlike walking and cycling. You can create your own paths along coastlines, rivers and lakes, and enjoy wider views, such as from a high position with vibrant blue-back kingfishers on the river.

Stand up paddleboarding is an easy watersport to master and a great way to give your core a workout. There are many ways to get your mind and body engaged with stand-up paddle boarding.

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What we tested

While SUPing is a popular term on the beach, it can be expensive. This makes it difficult to decide how much to spend on a SUP board. WIRED went to The SUP Shop in Dorset to test out the latest stand-up paddle boards. Inflatable SUP boards, also known as iSUPs or inflatable stand up paddle boards, were our focus in this test. They can be inflated and deflated easily and are therefore easy to transport.

WIRED assembled a team of SUP experts to help with the testing. Bethany, a 7-year-old girl who is very interested in SUP, was also available to help us test the boards by riding on the front. Each inflatable SUP board was rated on its design, size, and flexibility. This is crucial for balance. We wanted to know if each board is best suited for a leisurely sailing adventure or a more intense racing adventure. We evaluated how comfortable each board was to use and how safe it could transport luggage and passengers, such as children and dogs.

Which is the best stand-up paddleboard for 2021?

The best board for you will depend on your height, weight, and whether you plan to bring luggage, children, or dogs. The Red Paddle Co 10.8” Ride (PS899) is rated by WIRED as the best all-round paddling board for beginners, due to its exceptional spec. However, it’s priced higher than the average.

The Red Paddle Co 10.8′ Ride for PS899 at Surfdome

Bluewave’s 10.6″ Waver (PS399), a good value paddleboard for beginners, is our choice. The board’s width makes it easier to paddle and the large backpack is perfect.

The Bluewave 10.6″ Wave Rider for PS399 at OnBuy

We love the O’Shea’s durable design and its length. This paddle board is ideal for sharing with passengers. For pivot turns, you can use the Sandbanks Style Sports Touring Classic HTML649.

The Oshea GTE 13ft Touring Board is available for PS929 at Surf Sup

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Red Paddle Co 10.8′ Ride

WIRED recommends Red Paddle Co 10.8” Ride as a great all-around board

Rider weight: 110kg

The Red Paddle Co’s 10.8 inch Ride MSL Inflatable Paddle Board (PS899) was designed for heavier riders with a maximum weight limit of 110kg. The price includes a variety of accessories, including a pump, leash and paddles, as well as a backpack. The board is 120mm thick and made of MSL material. It’s 40% stiffer than a 100mm standard board. The board’s high specification was appreciated by our testers. They liked the board’s stability and ease of riding. The board is a good choice for yoga and supfit users.

Price says that the front is quite curvy so it can be used for static navigation as well as being stable in water. The fins are not very long, so they won’t catch in shallow water. They can bend a bit, but they can be straightened easily with warm water or hair dryer.” Porretta also noted that the tubular handles make it easier to transport the board in and out the water. She says that while a 10.6 inch board is recommended for beginners, it’s a good size to have if you plan on adding kids and dogs or a picnic. It felt stable while Bethany was sitting up front, and the bungees straps were secure so that I didn’t have worry about my dry bag getting lost in the water.

Pros: Great for horses and pets; the rounded tail is easy to maneuver; great for beginners.

Cons: Super stability; sober blue pattern

Check price on Surfdome

Bluewave Wave Rider 10’6” iSUP Paddle Board

Ideal for beginners

Rider weight: 120kg

The Bluewave Rider (PS399) is the shortest SUP board in our round-up. It features a bold red, blue, and white design that makes it easy to spot on water. The board comes with a large, black, rucksack-style carrier bag that can hold all accessories, including the three-piece aluminum paddle, the two-way speed pump, gauge, and removable fin. If you have any punctures, the board comes with an ankle leash as well as a repair kit.

However, the board is strong and well-constructed with a triple layer of PVC, reinforced drop stitching, and heavy duty inflation valves. Blundell was impressed with the model’s specs and its reasonable price. He considered it a good starting point to an intermediate option. He says that the rucksack can be converted into a backpack for short hikes to rivers, lakes or sea. I would recommend upgrading the paddles, since aluminium can be heavy.

Although the description of the board says it is for experienced riders, Blundell didn’t feel it would be one he would take on long trips. He says that if he were touring, he would expect to have both front and rear cargo tie-downs to hold his gear. Our expert loved the most about the board’s width. “At 31 inches, it’s wider then most boards and requires less effort to paddle than a 34- or 36 inch board,” he said.

Pros: This bag is large enough to hold everything; it’s suitable for rivers, lakes, and the sea.

Cons: The aluminium paddle can be a bit heavy; there are no rear cargo tie-downs; no guarantee

Check price on OnBuy

O’Shea GTE 13ft Touring Board

Best for passengers

Rider weight: Xkg

The O’Shea GTE 13ft Touring Board comes with a large backpack, three piece alloy paddle, pump and a repair kit. It’s made from a Korean “Mirasol” drop stitch and has a 1000D PVC exterior, full double-layer rail lap. This model is well-constructed and durable. The board is finished in yellow to make it visible in the water and has an anti-UV finish. It also looks great.

The lightweight construction impressed our testers. It makes it easy to transport onboard and on land. Porretta says that this model is more appealing than other 13ft models. It also feels lighter and protects your back while carrying it to the water. It has cargo straps on the front and back, which are useful for storing luggage or taking small children on long paddling trips.

Pros: Large size is ideal for passengers; front and rear cargo straps; practical design

Cons: The 13ft height is less appealing for resale.

Check price on Surfs Sup

Starboard 11’2″ iGO Zen 2021

Speed is the best

Rider weight: 100kg

The Starboard 11’2” iGO Zen 2021 is suitable for riders up to 100kg. A Tufskin 3 Piece Paddle, an ISU backpack to store it, and a leash are included with the board. The board is made with a single-layer linear drop stitch. It’s lightweight and stiff, and can glide effortlessly in the water. It can withstand all the inflating and deflating attempts that a standard SUP board will experience over its lifetime. The board is not glued but mechanically bonded at the seams. This reduces the chance of glue cracking.

The board’s size and shape impressed our testers, who were able to carry Bethany (7 years old) comfortably. Starboard is well-known for its race credentials. Our testers loved the sporty design and pointed nose, which was a refreshing change from other boards like the Red Paddle Co. Porretta says that the board felt narrower at 78.7cm than the Red 10.8 board. This is not necessarily a problem, but it does mean there’s less space for children.

Pros: Fast design; comes with a decent paddle; a respected brand with good resale values

Cons: Narrow form

Check price on The Sup Store

Gladiator Pro 12.6″

Stability is the best option

Rider weight: 120Kg

The Gladiator Pro (12.6″) is available in two width options: a 32″ or 30″ model. This model will be a hit with both family adventurers and touring enthusiasts. We found that the thinner touring version gives you a better glide and is faster than the wider model. Two cargo loops are provided for balance and practicality, and there is a flexible touring fin to help you navigate in low tide and rough waters. You also receive a leash and touring fin, carbon and nylon paddles, pump, wheeled bag, and repair kit.

This deck is made of a double laminated Fusion with 1000 Den Substrate for speed. Price says that Gladiator is well-known for making good value boards. I loved this board because it felt solid and was responsive when turning up or down the harbour. It is a great touring board because it has excellent tracking. This means that it will stay straight when you want it too.

Pros: Excellent tracking and stability; perfect for touring; large size

Cons: This is best for adventurous paddlers

Check price on Gladiator

Sandbanks Style Sports Touring Classic 12ft

Ideal for pivot turns

Rider weight: 130Kg

This 30″ wide Sandbanks Style Sports Touring Classic board is made with a double-skin laminated fusion and an easy fix central fin. It provides a stable and sturdy platform for riding. The overall quality of the deckpad and diamond grove on the deckpad provided support and stability while standing. It is also light at 9.5kg so it was easy to transport in the water. Similar to the Gladiator model’s cargo strings, it also features front and back cargo strings. This makes it easier to transport luggage while touring. The board was well-received by our testers. They were impressed with its speed and maneuverability.

Price says that the board’s long, sleek shape glides effortlessly through water. Price says that the kick-step, aka raised platform, at the back of the board makes it easier to grasp a step-back pivot turn. He explains that a lot of boards are sold with a heavy metal paddle. This can cause shoulder problems and make it difficult to maneuver. Sandbanks aim to be carbon-neutral in manufacturing, paper packaging, and contributions to tree planting, among other environmental issues.

Pros: Attractive, bright design; great value; raised platform design to allow for step-back pivot turning

Cons: Some may find the 30-inch width too narrow. There is a raised platform that may not be suitable for all.

Check price on Sandbanks Style

Consider these things when purchasing an inflatable stand-up paddle board

Type of board

It’s important that you consider the bigger picture when choosing an inflatable board. You should also consider where your SUP-ing adventures might take you. Price says that there are many inflatable boards to choose from, including leisure boards that can carry extra people and are perfect for fitness sessions. You can also purchase specific boards to be used for racing, long distances, surfing, and other activities. To find the right board for you, make sure it can carry your weight. This will help you choose the height and width that best suits you. Next, think about how you will use the board in water. Do you use the board for fitness, leisure, or both?


Many people start with a 10.6 inch board, but can easily upgrade to a 14-foot race board. There are also 15ft boards that can be shared by up to two people. Our testers stressed how much easier it was to get started on a larger board. Blundell says that if you enjoy SUPing, you will progress quickly. If you plan to include your family and pets in the sport, a longer board is a good place to start.

To find the perfect board size, consider your height, weight, age, and balance. Gary Willingham, Gladiator Paddleboards says that a 10.6 inch board is ideal for most people. The length of a board has a lot to do with glide. A longer board allows for more control and maneuverability. It is important to consider your height when choosing a board. A 30″ board will be more appropriate for a person who is 5’5 or less. This allows for a more vertical stroke and allows you to paddle more easily. If you are around 6ft and heavier, a 10’8 board at 34 inches would be more suitable.

How to inflate or deflate

A stand-up paddle board inflatable is very easy to inflate and deflate. It can be thrown into your car’s boot with your spade and bucket. A lot of boards include a manual pump. However, these pumps can be more expensive than standard pumps. Porretta says that hand pumping is a tedious task at first, but that it can also be a great exercise. Regular paddlers will often purchase an electric pump. This can be one that is powered by a car’s 12v port, or one that is powered by a battery. Many first-timers think that their pump is damaged, but it’s not. The pump doesn’t start to measure at the lowest PSI. You should make sure your pump is at least 20 PSI. This pump is not the same as an airbed pump. Paddle boards are pumped at a very high pressure.

Durable design

A good drop stitch is important when your board is inflated. The more drop stitches, the more rigid and comfortable the board will be to ride. Double skin boards can be more robust but they are also heavier and take longer to ride. If you plan to ride with a dry bag and a child/dog on one side, the front and rear cargo straps are also useful. You should also look for sturdy handles that can hold the board, and make sure it is light enough to be carried in the water.

Practical deck pads

You can put your child or dog on the board by checking the length of the deck pads and whether they reach the end of the board. These pads will protect your board from scratches by your dog and make it easier for your child to use. Many companies offer boards as part of a package. These include a paddle board and an ankle leash as well as a repair kit, a pump, and a bag to store it all. A paddle upgrade is an option that some companies offer as part of their package. This is something to consider.


Premium paddle boards will last longer and hold their value. If you do decide to upgrade, you can sell it. A budget board won’t last long. Many companies are looking for ways to make their products more sustainable. They use recycled materials and laminate their boards rather than glue. It is alarming to think that there are still so many abandoned paddle boards lying in landfill. Saviour Watersports can provide advice on how to care for your paddleboard so that it lasts longer. For anyone who wants to learn more about protecting the coast, Surfers Against Sewage can be a great place to start.





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