Best Paddleboards for Rivers | 2022

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Best Paddleboards for Rivers 2022
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“The river has great wisdom and whispers its secrets to the hearts of men.” Mark Twain is definitely on to something. Paddling a river, whether it’s slow-moving, whitewater, or anything in-between, is a different experience altogether than paddling on flat water. You can point your paddleboard against the current for a workout (and easily wind up right where you started at the end of the day) or you can let the river do all the work as you enjoy the sights and sounds of the riparian area. For the adrenaline junkies, whitewater paddleboarding is an absolute blast, though you will need some more specialized equipment to stay safe.

So what makes a good paddleboard for rivers? It really is going to depend on the river. Large, flat, slow-moving rivers can be paddled on just about any paddleboard you would use on flat water – even super-skinny racing SUPs. So instead we are going to focus a bit more on what makes a good paddleboard for those quicker-flowing rivers that have more features not found on flat water like eddies and wave trains. These rivers can be classified according to the International Scale of River Difficulty. This system breaks rivers down into 6 different classes based on technical difficulty and hazards.

I’ve broken this list into two categories: Paddleboards that are better for rivers up to Class II, and Paddleboards that are better for Class II+.

For rivers up to Class II, you’ll want a board that is relatively wide (>32”), and between 10-11’ long. Ideally the board will also have a moderate amount of nose rocker (how far turned-up the nose of the board is) and a wider nose and tail for better stability.

For rivers Class II+, you’ll want a specialty river SUP that is wider (>34”) and shorter (<10’) with a significant amount of nose rocker, and preferably with some tail rocker as well.

Other considerations when choosing a river SUP are durability and fin selection (especially in shallow rivers).

Lastly, there are some differences in your accessories to consider when paddling on rivers.

Leashes: Leashes save lives, however wearing an ankle or calf leash while on a river can become a deadly hazard. While paddling on rivers, never wear an ankle/calf leash, but instead wear a quick-release leash mounted to your torso. This allows you to easily release the leash if it should become tangled.

PFDs: River paddlers, especially those on rowdier rivers, are often in the water. Wearing an inherently buoyant PFD (rather than an inflatable) is particularly important for river paddlers to help keep them afloat in turbulent conditions, and it has the added benefit of heat retention and a bit of padding.

Helmets: Anyone paddling whitewater should be wearing a whitewater-certified helmet. Unlike bicycle helmets, whitewater helmets are not designed to break on impact, so they provide lasting protection if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

Crew: Paddling with a partner (or a whole crew) is not only a great time on the water, and makes shuttling back to the start of your run easier, but adds a huge degree of safety as well.

Now that we’ve got some technical and safety information out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff – our picks for the Best Paddleboards for Rivers!

Best Paddleboards for Rivers Comparison Chart

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Best Inflatable Touring SUPs

BOARDDIMENSIONSCAPACITYWARRANTYPRICE
Hydrus Joyride XL

Hydrus Joyride XL

Hydrus Joyride XL
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11’6 x 34"x 6"
34 pounds
400 lbsLifetime,
30-day money back

Review Coming SoonCheck Best Price
Gili Meno 10’6”

Gili Meno 10’6”

Gili Meno 10’6
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10'6"x 35"x 6"
23 pounds
450 lbs2-years,
60-day money back


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Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP/Kayak

Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP/Kayak

Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP/Kayak
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11'6 x 35.5"x 6"
19 pounds
425 lbs2 years,
60-day money back


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Thurso Max Multi-Purpose

Thurso Max Multi-Purpose

Thurso Max Multi-Purpose
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11’6x 34"x 6"
29 pounds
370 lbs2-years,
30-day money back
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Red Padle Co. 11’ Wild MSL

Red Padle Co. 11’ Wild MSL

Red Padle Co. 11’ Wild MSL
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11’x 34"x 5.9"
27 pounds
330 lbs5-years,
30-day money back



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NRS Thrive 10.8

NRS Thrive 10.8

NRS Thrive 10.8
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10'8 x 34"x 6"
29 pounds
250 lbs3-years,
30-day money back



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Hala Rado

Hala Rado

Hala Rado” Ride
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10’10"x 35"x 6"
23 pounds
350 lbs5 years,
30-day money back



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Top-Rated Paddleboards for Rivers Class II+

BOARDDIMENSIONSCAPACITYWARRANTYPRICE
Hydrus Axis 98

Hydrus Axis 98

Hydrus Axis 98
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9’8”x35.5"x6"
29 pounds
300 lbsLifetime,
30-day money back


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Hala Atcha 9’6”

Hala Atcha 9’6”

Hala Atcha 9’6
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9'6"x 36"x6"
26 pounds
275 lbs5-years,
30-day money back



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Badfish Rivershred

Badfish Rivershred

Badfish Rivershred
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9'6"x 36"x6"
32 pounds
300 lbs3 years,
30-day money back


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NRS Quiver 9.8

NRS Quiver 9.8

NRS Quiver 9.8
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9'8"x 36"x6"
26 pounds
250 lbs3-years,
30-day money back

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Best Paddleboards for Rivers Up To Class II

Hydrus Joyride XL

11’6” x 34” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada
Full Review Coming Soon

The Hydrus Joyride XL is a super-stable board built with the river in mind.

Hydrus Joyride XL
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One of Hydrus Board Tech’s main focuses is river paddling. The Joyride XL makes an excellent all-around iSUP for both flatwater and rivers. The board is made with a triple-layer composite construction that includes a layer of aramid fiber (aka Kevlar) for industry-leading abrasion resistance. This no-stretch material, welded seams, and a 25 PSI max pressure rating make it an incredibly durable and stiff inflatable board. A little extra rocker in the nose of the board rounds out it’s river-ready design.

The Joyride XL also includes three different fin options: A long touring-style fin for deep or flat water, a 6.5” keel-style fin, and a 4.5” gummy fin that’s perfect for shallow rivers. And because of it’s US Fin Box, if those fins don’t work for you, there are thousands of other options available.

While the Joyride XL does not include a paddle automatically, Hydrus offers a high-quality carbon fiber paddle with their proprietary Armalight coating for extra durability – even on shallow river runs.

Bottom Line:The Hydrus Joyride XL is a fantastic option as a do-it-all river and flatwater iSUP.


Gili Sports 10’6” Meno

10’6” x 35” x 6”
Availability: US, International Shipping Available
Read Full Review Here

The Gili Sports 10’6” Meno’s super-versatile feature set make it a great option for river paddlers.

Gili Sports 10’6” Meno
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The 35” width and wide nose and tail keep the 10’6” Meno very stable while paddling on less-than-stable waters. The myriad of on-board features let you deck the 10’6” Meno out for whatever type of adventure you have in mind, and the diamond-groove tail pad gives extra grip and confidence when stepping back to lift the nose over those wave trains and smaller drops.

The 10’6” Meno also comes stock with multiple fin options for the three fliplock fin boxes, so you can easily customize the tracking and maneuverability performance.

Bottom Line:The Gili 10’6” Meno is a shorter, stable iSUP that’s ready to bridge the gap between flatwater and river paddling.


Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP

11’6” x 35.5” x 6”
Availability: US
Read Full Review Here

The Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP is about the closest thing to a Swiss Army knife that an iSUP can be.

Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP
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In addition to its excellent flatwater performance, the Isle Switch is a great contender for river paddling as well. The incredibly stable shape, high nose rocker, and US Fin Box keep the Switch nimble on the water despite it’s longer length.

The high weight capacity (425lb) and Isle Link tabs along the sides of the board let you customize how you carry any of your cargo (and what kind of cargo) making it a great option for multi-day river trips.

Bottom Line: The Isle Switch 2-in-1 iSUP is a great choice for calm river tripping.


Thurso Surf Max Multi-Purpose iSUP

11’6” x 34” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada, UK, EU
Read Full Review Here

The Thurso Surf Max is a great choice for the River SUP Angler.

Thurso Surf Max Multi-Purpose iSUP
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The Max’s woven drop stitch and carbon fiber reinforced rails make it very stiff and durable. This keeps it responsive on the water without a need to baby it in those shallower or rockier conditions.

The triple fin setup uses a US Fin Box center fin and two FCS two-tab fins for the sides. This gives you access to a huge number of fin configurations and options to really dial in the maneuverability and draft-depth of the Max.

Lastly, Thurso’s carbon fiber/nylon hybrid paddle is light and stiff, but also features a rubberized T-grip. This gives you more control over paddle angle in the water and a more secure feeling in the hand.

Bottom Line: The Thurso Surf Max Multi-Purpose is ready for your fishing trips on rivers, lakes, and all the streams between.


Red Paddle Co. 11’ Wild MSL

11’0” x 34” x 5.9”
Availability: Worldwide
Full Review Coming Soon

The 11’ Wild MSL brings Red Paddle Co.’s excellent build quality and design into the realm of adventurous river paddling.

Red Paddle Co. 11’ Wild MSL
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Red Paddle Co. is known for their innovative technology and high-quality paddleboard designs. The 11’ Wild MSL gets the benefit of both of these in a board that’s ready for river trips.

The MSL technology keeps the Wild lightweight while the rectangular mid-section and wide nose add great stability. The triple-fin setup uses US Fin Boxes and FCS two-tab boxes for great flexibility. Additionally the grippy embossed and diamond-groove deck pad covers the complete width of the board (even around the top of the rails) for wide, stable, and secure stances.

Bottom Line: The Red Paddle Co. 11’ Wild MSL is a great choice for a high-quality construction river exploration inflatable paddleboard.


NRS Thrive 10.8

10’8” x 34” x 6”
Availability: US, International Shipping Available
Full Review Coming Soon

NRS is short for Northwest River Supply – so it should come at no surprise that their lineup of inflatable SUPs, including the Thrive 10.8 is ready to rumble on some fast moving water.

NRS Thrive 10.8
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The 10’8” NRS Thrive features a very durable and extremely stiff construction thanks to its proprietary Axis stiffening layer. This keeps the Thrive very stiff, even at its minimum inflation pressure, to help it perform better on the water carving turns and handling choppy and wavy conditions.

The wide nose and tail keep it very stable as you move fore and aft to trim the SUP for various river features and taking different stances, and a raised kick pad gives you more control when standing at the tail.

The triple slide-in fin boxes let you adjust your setup to meet your conditions, and the Thrive 10.8 includes three “all-water” fins (about 4.5” deep) that are made of a flexible plastic material. NRS also has even shorter fins available for those low-water days as well.

Lastly, NRS is one of the few manufacturers to include a pressure relief valve on their iSUPs. This valve automatically opens at 20 PSI to help prevent the paddleboard from over-pressurizing with temperature changes.

Bottom Line: The NRS Thrive 10.8 is a great all-around iSUP that’s ready for the river.


Hala Rado

10’10” x 35” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada, Europe
Full Review Coming Soon

The Hala Rado is Colorado-based Hala Gear’s answer for the paddler who wants an iSUP that is just as comfortable on shallow technical runs as it is on long expeditions.

Hala Rado
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The Hala Rado has the capacity for a week long river trip and the rocker profile that screams to be taken through the river features, rather than around them.

However one of the most unique features on the Rado is it’s built-in retractable fin box dubbed the Stompbox. The Stompbox (now on it’s second design generation) allows you to use longer fins for more tracking and stability without worrying about running it into rocks or shallow stretches of river. When the fin impacts an object, it simply slides up into the Stompbox and reduces its effective depth from 8” to about 2”, then springs back into place.

Bottom Line:The Hala Rado is a fantastic iSUP for the expedition paddler who encounters all different conditions on their adventures.


Best Paddleboards for Rivers Class II+

Hydrus Axis 98

9’8” x 35.5” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada
Full Review Coming Soon

The Hydrus Axis is brand new for 2022 and is the culmination of shapers’ Jason and Nick Zawadski’s decades of paddling and designing whitewater SUPs and river surf boards – both composite and inflatable.

Hydrus Axis 98
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The Hydrus Axis 98 is built for not just running whitewater, but having fun on it as well. The continuous rocker profile is slightly less pronounced than some other whitewater SUPs, but this keeps the Axis faster in the water and tracking better across currents, eddy lines, and through lateral waves, without sacrificing its ability to navigate haystacks and holes.

The triple-layer composite PVC construction, featuring a layer of aramid fiber, produces an incredibly stiff inflatable board at all pressures. This translates to better stability and tighter control.

The quad fin setup features two US and two FCS two-tab fin boxes, and the Axis ships with a whopping 8 different fins for you to choose from, including a custom designed low-profile fin for the FCS two-tab boxes. Just behind the fins is a hard foam rail designed to help release water from the back of the board to increase speed – especially when surfing.

The Axis does come in two different sizes for different size paddlers – the 98 (9’8” x 35.5”) and the 88 (8’8” x 34.5”), and is backed by their lifetime warranty.

Bottom Line:The Hydrus Axis 98 is an incredibly well-made and well-designed whitewater SUP that blends performance, durability, and versatility.


Hala Atcha 96

9’6” x 36” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada, Europe
Full Review Coming Soon

The Hala Atcha 9’6” has long been a staple in the whitewater SUP community.

Hala Atcha 96
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The Hala Atcha 9’6” does things a little differently from other whitewater iSUPs. First, Hala has placed the widest point of the Atcha just behind the center of the board rather than at the center or slightly in front of center. This is done to provide better stability with more staggered stances and when shifting weight back on the board to further lift the nose.

Next, the Atcha has a swallowtail rather than a square tail. Hala claims this is done to increase stability on the sides of the board and to allow for a clean and symmetrical release from the tail.

Last, but not certainly not least, the Atcha has Hala’s Stompbox 2 finbox (in addition to four FCS two-tab fin boxes). The Stompbox places a longer fin on a retractable mechanism to provide better tracking in deep water, but still allows the Atcha to slide over shallow water and rocks.

Bottom Line:The Hala Atcha 9’6” is a great choice for whitewater SUP paddlers wanting maximum tracking performance without losing the ability to paddle in shallow, technical water.


Badfish Rivershred

10”6” x 35” x 6”
Availability: US, Canada
Full Review Coming Soon

The Badfish Rivershred is designed to tackle the biggest features, carve the tightest turns, and turn any river into a playground.

Badfish Rivershred
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The first thing you’ll notice about the Badfish Rivershred is just how much rocker this board has. The high, continuous rocker profile allows you to dial in exactly how high the nose is riding and how engaged your fins are just by shifting your weight forward or backward a few inches on the board (rather than stepping all the way back like you do on SUPs with kick rocker profiles). With these small changes you can minutely control the speed of your turns, the angle of your drops, and nose position for surfing.

The tri fin setup uses a single US fin box and two FCS two-tab fin boxes for customization. On big water expeditions, you can use larger fins to better maintain your lines and on technical creeks you can use low-profile fins for better maneuverability and clearance.

Bottom Line:The Badfish Rivershred is made to give you the most control possible to, well, shred!


NRS Quiver 9.8

9’8” x 36” x 6”
Availability: US, International Shipping Available
Full Review Coming Soon

The NRS Quiver 9.8 demonstrates how minimalism doesn’t mean sacrificing performance.

NRS Quiver 9.8
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The NRS Quiver 9.8 is incredibly stable thanks to it’s wide, boxy shape, Axis stiffening layer, and its flat midsection. Rather than a continuous rocker profile from nose to tail, the Quiver has very distinct kick-rocker in both the nose and tail. This keeps more surface area of the board in contact with the water for better stability and tracking.

The kick rocker does offer plenty of room for riding up and over waves or dropping over holes, and the extra stability in the middle of the board makes it easy to get back onto the tail to engage the rocker using the raised kick pad.

The Quiver also has a pressure relief valve to help keep the board from over pressurizing due to temperature changes, which makes it a great option for overnight trips.

Bottom Line:The NRS Quiver 9.8 adds stability and flatwater-feel to a capable whitewater iSUP.


Paddleboards for Rivers FAQs

What Makes a Paddleboard Good for Rivers?

Beyond the wide, slow-moving rivers that can be paddled with just about any flatwater SUP, river-specific paddleboards have extra width (typically >34”), more rocker, especially in the nose, and constructions that prioritize durability over weight-savings. River-specific SUPs focus more on maneuverability rather than tracking in order for paddlers to more easily navigate more technical sections of fast-moving water.

Do I Need Any Specialty Equipment to Paddle Rivers?

Yes! Especially if you are paddling whitewater at any difficulty level.

Firstly you need an appropriate leash. The constantly flowing current of a river presents a hazard in itself, even in “calm-looking” rivers. Ankle or Calf leashes (that come with most paddleboards) are not safe to use on the river. If they become tangled on an object you may not be able to reach it to free yourself. Instead, use a quick-release leash that is attached to your torso (either with a belt or on your PFD). This way you can easily reach and disengage your leash if needed.

PFDs and Helmets are also absolutely necessary for any whitewater paddler. An inherently buoyant PFD provides flotation on every swim – and in turbulent water you may not float as well as you think! – and a whitewater-specific helmet is designed to keep you protected even if you are in the water for a prolonged time.

What Length Paddleboard is Best for Rivers?

For slower rivers and rivers up to Class II whitewater, size your board based on your needs. If you are only doing day-trips and don’t carry much equipment, you can use a smaller paddleboard. If you are loading up for a five-day trip, then you’ll want a larger board with a higher capacity. As you paddle into more technical rivers (Class II+), a shorter paddleboard offers far greater maneuverability than a longer one – particularly when it’s built with plenty of nose and tail rocker. This lets you easily change your course and move both with and across currents.

Recommended Gear for River Paddlers

While most SUP kits will have everything you need for flat water, there are a few accessories that will give you a better and safer experience on the river.

  • Quick-Release Leash – A Quick-Release Leash (or a Quick Release Belt for a standard leash) is a must-have item for river paddleboarders. These leashes are worn around your torso or attached to your PFD and have a quick-release mechanism to allow you to easily detach yourself from the leash/SUP in case of entanglement. The Red Paddle Co. Quick Release Belt allows you to easily convert any standard ankle/calf leash to a quick-release leash.
  • Inherently Buoyant PFD – A PFD should be on your must-have list, and river paddlers should cross inflatable PFDs off their list of options. Inherently Buoyant PFDs like the Astral YTV will keep you floating on every swim (and river paddlers do tend to fall more than flatwater paddlers), and they provide padding for your body as well if you are in shallow water.
  • Dry Bag – Not everything we bring with us on our SUPs should get wet. Soggy sandwiches and waterlogged phones can ruin a good day out on the water. Dry bags come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes to fit your needs. See our Best SUP Dry Bag reviews here.
  • Electric Pumps – Using the hand pump that comes with your board is a great way to warm up for your day paddling. But every now and then it’s nice to relax while getting ready, too. Electric SUP pumps are easy to use and let you focus on other things while inflating your board. See our Best Electric SUP Pump reviews here.

Final Thoughts – Best Paddleboards for Rivers

Whether you are on the river for a casual cruise, fitness session, or whitewater expedition, having the right stand up paddleboard can make a huge difference in your comfort on the water. Always paddle safe – and paddle within your skill level – and enjoy the adventures the river brings for you.

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