Best Paddle Boards for Beginners | 2021 Top SUPs

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2021's top picks for best beginner SUPs

Picking out the best paddle board for beginners in the 2021 crowded SUP marketplace is a challenge, to say the very least. There are a lot of considerations when buying your first SUP board, and the coolest looking board may not necessarily be the best board for you…

In this post, we’re going to share our top picks for best beginner inflatable SUPs. Every one of the boards that we’re recommending takes into consideration durability, stability, and value for money. But since the right balance of those features might be vary from one beginner to the next, this year we’ve created lists for three different categories depending on what’s the highest priority to you.

Each of these paddle boards comes with everything you need to get started — paddle, leash, pump, repair kit, backpack — in addtion to the board itself. The only necessity that you’ll want to be sure to get is a PFD (check out our review of PFD options). Since we own and paddle every one of these boards on a regular basis, you can have full confidence in our recommendations.

This buyers guide will be focused on inflatable SUP models for beginners in the sub-$1000 range. While there are definitely some awesome paddle boards in the $1,000 and up price range, most newcomers to the sport of stand up paddle boarding are more interested in an entry-level board to initially get their feet wet with.

The Best SUP for Beginners – 2021 Comparison Chart

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Best Budget Paddle Boards SUPs for Beginners

BOARDDIMENSIONSWARRANTYPRICE
nautical-11

NAUTICAL 11'6"

2021 Nautical 11'6 inflatable paddle board
11'6" x 32" x 6"
22 pounds
1 year,
60-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
bluefin-cruise

Bluefin Cruise 10'8"

2021 Bluefin Cruise 10'8 inflatable paddle board
10'8" x 32" x 6"
33 pounds
5 years,
60-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
gili-air

GILI 10'6" AIR

Gili Air 10'6 inflatable paddle board
10'6" x 31" x 6"
19 pounds
2 years,
60-day money back
Check Price
section-hd

Best Mid-Priced All-Around Paddle Boards for Beginners

BOARDDIMENSIONSWARRANTYPRICE
nixy-newport

NIXY Newport G4

NIXY Newport G4 inflatable paddle board.
10'6" x 33" x 6"
21 pounds
2 years,
30-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
thurso-waterwalker

THURSO Waterwalker 132

Thurso Waterwalker 132 inflatable paddle board 2021
11' x 32" x 6"
26 pounds
2 years,
30-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
irocker-all-around-11

iROCKER ALL-AROUND 11'

2021 iROCKER All Around 11' inflatable paddle board
11' x 32" x 6"
26 pounds
2 years,
60-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
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Best Cruiser Paddle Boards for Beginners

BOARDDIMENSIONSWARRANTYPRICE
nixy-venice

NIXY Venice G4

NIXY Venice G4 inflatable paddle board.
10'6" x 34" x 6"
23 pounds
2 years,
30-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
irocker-cruiser

iROCKER CRUISER 10'6"

2021 iROCKER Cruiser inflatable paddle board
10'6" x 33" x 6"
25 pounds
2 years,
60-day money back
Read ReviewCheck Price
gili-komodo

GILI Komodo

Gili Komodo inflatable paddle board
10'6" x 33" x 6"
21 pounds
2 years,
60-day money back
Check Price

The Best Budget Paddle Boards for Beginners

If you’re a paddler on a budget or you just don’t want to spend too much until you’re sure this sport is for you, then these are the paddle boards for you. We think these are the best low-cost SUPs available for beginners that:

  • still have good quality construction
  • provide a reasonable warranty
  • are a reputable brand that will be around to provide customer service should you need it after the sale

While you might be able to buy a SUP for half this price on Amazon or at a big box store, chances are neither it nor the company will be around a few years from now (we’ve seen it happen all too often).

Nautical 11’6 (by iROCKER)

10’6″ x 32″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia

Introduced by iROCKER in 2020, you can think of the Nautical line as simpler, no-frills cousin of iROCKER’s super-popular All-Around boards. An immediate hit, the Nautical 11’6 was updated for 2021 with a rear cargo bungee area, an action mount, child safety grab handles, and new colors.

The Nautical comes with one of the nicer backpacks of the budget SUPs, a fiberglass paddle, dual-stage pump, safety leash, and repair kit. It only includes a one-year warranty, which is short compared to the other two paddle boards in this category. iROCKER’s big advantage is being available essentially everywhere for our international readers.

For all of the details, check out our full hands-on iROCKER Nautical 11’6 review. Smaller paddlers may also be interested in our Nautical 10’6 review.

Bluefin Cruise 10’8

10’8″ x 32″ x 6″
Availability: US, UK, Europe, Australia

The Cruise 10’8 is the shortest all-around board from UK-based Bluefin SUP, but is just the right size for a beginner board. Bluefin keeps the features pretty basic with a single action mount and front cargo area, but for an incredibly low price and they also include an unheard-of 5-year warranty!

For accessories, Bluefin includes a pretty basic backpack, fiberglass paddle, 2-stage pump, safety leash and repair kit. What sets it apart from the others is the include kayak seat and kayak blade, normally a costly add-on.

For more thoughts, read our full hands-on Bluefin Cruise 10’8″ review.

GILI Air 10’6

10’6″ x 31″ x 6″
Availability: US

A new entrant to our list this year is the GILI Air 10’6. Newly updated for 2021 with three action mounts, side-mounted paddle holder, a rear cargo area, and a terrific backpack, the GILI Air sports features often found on only on mid-priced SUPs.

We really like the many improvements made to the GILI Air, large and small, since the last time we tested it and think that for the price it has the potential to make a great budget paddle board option. We do need to point out, though, that the Air is only 31 inches wide so it will be a little less stable than the other 32 inch wide boards. It is best for beginners who are confident in their balance — otherwise we suggest you opt for one of the other boards.

The GILI Air comes with an option of an aluminum or fiberglass paddle, a 2-stage pump, safety leash, repair kit, and the previously mentioned backpack. It’s also covered by a 2-year warranty.

The Best Mid-Priced All-Around SUPs for Beginners

If you’re able to spend a few hundred dollars more than our best budget SUP options, then you’ll find a much larger field of options and generally more bang for your buck. We’ve selected three of our top pick all-around boards that are popular for their rich selection of features, high-quality included accessories, and versatility on the water. All-around paddle boards are the classic “do anything” board, commonly 32 – 33 inches wide for moderate stability and speed.

Nixy Newport G4

10’6″ x 33″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada

The first board in this group is the NIXY Newport G4. Totally refreshed for 2021, the fourth generation Newport is the lightest paddle board on our list due to the use of NIXY’s ultralight fusion technology and the introduction of woven drop-stitch construction this season. This makes for a board that is incredibly light, durable, and rigid when inflated. At 33 inches wide, it’s also more stable than the other two boards in this category, but since it’s so light it’s just as fast and a blast to paddle.

The Newport comes well outfitted with multiple action mounts, a unique adjustable/removable cargo bungee system, and paddle holder as well as the more standard EVA foam deck pad, copious D-rings, and 3 carry handles.

All NIXY paddle boards include a top-shelf wheeled roller backpack, 3-piece adjustable carbon fiber hybrid paddle, SUP ankle leash, inflatable SUP repair kit, and three-stage pump with a built-in pressure gauge. The NIXY Newport also comes with a rock solid 2-year warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee.

It’s hard to cover all the details that make the Newport great here, so be sure to read our in-depth NIXY Newport review.

Thurso Waterwalker 132

11″ x 32″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada, UK, Europe

The THURSO Waterwalker 132 may well win the award for “best dressed” SUP with its iconic wood grain look design. Measuring 32 inches wide and 11 feet long, it has classic all-around SUP proportions and lives up to the versatile role. Like the NIXY, THURSO also made the switch to woven drop stitch this year, trimming several pounds off of its weight.

The Waterwalker also sports an action mount on its nose, a paddle holder on its side along with front and rear cargo bungee areas, and a comfortable EVA deck pad.

NIXY paddle boards also come with top-of-the-line accessories including a rolling backpack, carbon hybrid paddle, safety leash, 3-stage pump, and repair kit.

To learn more about this popular model, check out our THURSO Waterwalker 11′ review.

If you’re a smaller paddler, you may also want to check this board’s shorter siblings: THURSO Waterwalker 120 review and Thurso Waterwalker 126 review, although take note that they are narrower as well.

iROCKER All Around 11

11′ x 32″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia

Next up is the iROCKER ALL-AROUND 11. As the name implies, this is also an 11 foot long all-around SUP that is 32 inches wide. It handles very similar to the THURSO Waterwalker. Stable enough for beginners to feel confident, yet nimble enough for experienced paddlers to still have fun, these are boards the whole family can share.

Since the popular line of iROCKER inflatable SUPs uses an older construction method it is a heavier board compared to THURSO, but does come with more features including multiple action mounts, and child safety grab handles although it lacks a paddle holder.

The ALL-AROUND 11 received a new rolling backpack for 2021 and in addition it comes with a carbon fiber hybrid paddle, 3-stage pump, safety-leash, and repair kit. iROCKER also includes a 2-year warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our 2021 iROCKER ALL-AROUND 11′ review for more details. An iROCKER ALL-AROUND 10′ is also available for smaller paddlers.

The Best Cruiser Paddle Boards for Beginners

Our cruiser SUP selection is for beginners who would prefer a little extra stability in their first board. These paddle boards are 33″-34″ or an inch to two wider than the SUPs on the all-around list above. While it might not sound like much, its surprising how much easier this makes it to balance and the confidence it adds. In the past, you often took a performance hit where cruiser boards were slower and less maneuverable than their sleeker peers. But with the advancement of lighter construction technologies and better designs, we think the best of this class, like the NIXY Venice, have to give up very little for their extra stability.

NIXY Venice G4

10’6″ x 34″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada

The NIXY Venice G4, like its sibling the Newport, was totally redesigned in 2021 as part of NIXY’s 4th generation lineup. It shares the same ultralight, ultra-stiff construction technology and the same rich set of features on the board as the Newport.

The two main things that differentiate the Venice from the Newport are its 34 inch width –making it incredibly stable — and its deck pad that extends the full length of the top of the board. Since the Venice doubles as NIXY’s Yoga SUP, this isn’t surprising! The Venice is a rare 34 inch board that handles as well as many other brands’ 32 inch all-around boards.

The NIXY Venice comes with the same accessory package as the Newport: a great roller backpack, carbon fiber hybrid paddle, 3-stage pump, safety leash, and repair kit.

For all of our thoughts and details read our full hands-on NIXY Venice review.

iROCKER Cruiser

10’6″ x 33″ x 6″
Availability: US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia

The wider sibling of iROCKER’s ALL-AROUND boards, the iROCKER CRUISER is made for beginners and recreational paddlers who would like just that extra bit of stability afforded by the added inch of width versus iROCKER’s 32 inch SUPs.

Other than the added stability, the CRUISER comes with exactly the same features as the ALL-AROUND boards and the same set of accessories. It is a touch slower on the water, but for most beginners or casual paddlers we don’t think this will be a significant issue — certainly not if you’re at all worried about your balance.

For more details and our complete thoughts, read our iROCKER CRUISER review.

GILI Komodo

10’6″ x 33″ x 6″
Availability: US

Another new addition to our list for 2021, the GILI Kimodo is very similar in dimensions and stability to the iROCKER CRUISER although, thanks to its construction technology, it’s several pounds lighter. Similar to the NIXY Venice it also has a full-length deck pad and removable cargo bungees so that it can double as a Yoga SUP.

GILI Sports has been busy updating their lineup this season. One interesting feature is that they let you choose between several paddle options with many of their boards. In addition to the paddle, the Komodo comes with the same great backpack that comes with the GILI Air, a 2-stage pump, a safety leash, and a repair kit.

Beginner Paddle Boards – What to Look For

When it comes to beginner paddle boards, there are several important criteria that we look for when determining whether or not a model will be appropriate for SUP newcomers. The key things that we take into consideration are affordability, stability, durability, versatility, and included accessories.

Affordability

Due to the fact that new paddlers haven’t spent a great deal of time on the water yet, we strongly recommend that beginners think twice before splurging on a high-priced board. As with anything else, it’s a good idea to ease into things and to make sure that paddling is something you actually enjoy before shelling out $1,000+ on a super high end SUP.

These days, you honestly don’t have to spend a fortune to get a well-built, super fun inflatable SUP. All of the boards recommended on our list are solid beginner stand up paddle boards in the $500-$1,000 range, and each one comes with everything you need to start paddling (aside from a life jacket or PFD, of course).

Stability

When you first begin learning how to SUP, board stability is something that is extremely important. Having a stable board to learn on not only inspires confidence, it’ll also be a lot more fun to paddle.

Because board width has a big impact on the overall stability of a paddle board, we recommend that beginners go with something in the 32-33 inch range or up to 34 inches for a little extra stability. Boards that are 33-34 inches wide provide excellent overall stability without interfering with your paddle stroke.

Durability

A beginner board should also be durable. Due to the fact that new paddlers aren’t used to carrying, handling, and paddling a board, we recommend going with a bombproof model that’s built to withstand serious abuse.

All of the boards on our list are constructed from materials that are designed to survive the bumps, knocks, and drops that beginner SUP boards are often subjected to.

Versatility

When you’re first starting out, it’s typically best to buy an all-around paddle board that can be used for a wide variety of paddling activities and conditions. Since new paddlers haven’t yet had time to discover what they enjoy (flatwater, surf, racing, whitewater, SUP fitness, etc.), it’s a great idea to choose a versatile board that can pretty much do it all.

Included Accessories

Last but not least, it’s important to consider what accessories are included with a board. When a person is just starting out, they don’t already own accessories like paddles, leashes, etc. — because of this, we recommend paddle boards for beginners that are bundled with all of the essential SUP accessories.

Final Thoughts On Picking the Best Paddle Boards for Beginners

A young woman doing on-water yoga on the Venice.

So, which board on our list is the best SUP for you? At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. You should take time to decide your priorities.

  • Cost
    • If you can’t afford more than the budget SUPs then this may be a simple choice. However, we strongly recommend avoiding buying a “no-name” brand off of Amazon – we’ve heard too many regrets from people who did.
    • If you plan on only using your paddle board a few times a year, then perhaps a budget board is all the board that you’ll need.
    • If you plan on using your board regularly, then extra features and higher quality accessories will a make the mid-price SUPs a better value in the long run.
  • Board type (all-around vs. cruiser)
    • Almost every beginner we talk to thinks they want to buy the fastest paddle board possible BUT almost every beginner we take on a paddle board tends to enjoy the more stable — aka cruiser — SUPs more and don’t tend to max out their speed anyway.
    • If in doubt, you’ll rarely regret getting an extra inch wider.

Before making a decision, we would compare the current prices of each model and then choose the board that best fits your budget and includes the features that are most important to you.

Hopefully this SUP beginner board buyers guide has helped you narrow down the field of entry level boards, and regardless of what you choose, we hope that you enjoy your new paddle board for many years to come.

2021's best beginner sups compared

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