Stand Up Paddle Board 101

A stand up paddle board (or SUP) is basically an oversized surfboard that you stand on. A paddle is used to propel the board through the water. An inflatable stand up paddle board (or iSUP) is much lighter than a traditional board, and packs down into a backpack when deflated.
SUP stands for "stand up paddle boarding", or "stand up paddle board".
An inflatable SUP can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000.
We think they're awesome! Most inflatable paddle boards are built to extremely high standards using the most durable materials, and they are much easier to store and transport than a traditional SUP.
When deciding on a paddle board size, it is important to consider where and how you're going to be using it. Short inflatable paddle boards (less than 9') are easier to maneuver than long boards, and are good for surfing. Also, boards under 9' are ideal for children. Medium-sized inflatable SUP boards (from 9' to 12') are the most popular length, and are a great choice for all-around, all-purpose use. iSUP boards in this range are equally capable of handling calm lakes, rivers, and raging surf. Long inflatable paddle boards (12.6' to 14') are fast paddling and usually used for touring and racing. They also track straighter than shorter boards, but are more difficult to maneuver.
When the weather is nice, a bathing suit or board shorts are optimal. We also recommend a rash guard and wide-brimmed hat for sun protection if you're planning to be out on the water for an extended period of time. When the temperature gets cooler, keep warm with a wetsuit or dry suit.
Traditional hard paddle boards weigh around 30 pounds. Some boards are as light as 15 pounds, while others can be closer to 40 pounds. Inflatable paddle boards are lighter than hard SUP boards, and will be at the lighter end of this range.
That depends on what is most important to you. How big are you? What is your budget? Where are you going to be using your inflatable paddle board? How are you planning to use it? These are all important questions that need to be answered as you decide what inflatable SUP you should buy. We would encourage you to take some time to go through our inflatable paddle board reviews as well as our list of this year's best SUP companies before making a decision.
In most cases, no. Most inflatable paddle boards come with a rubber traction top which provides excellent grip.
Pretty much anywhere! Rivers, lakes, the ocean—an inflatable paddle board will take you anywhere you want to go.
Absolutely not! The majority of SUP paddle boarders don't surf—they paddle around on flat water.
When standing on your iSUP board, the tail shouldn't dig in and the nose shouldn't pop out of the water. Your feet should be centered between the rails (the edges of the board), and you should have a parallel stance with your feet being about hip-width distance apart.
That of course depends on the construction quality of the board. These days, the best iSUP companies are making inflatable paddle boards that are virtually indestructible.


  1. Would you consider buying a used (Nixy G3) iSUP that has been patched (assuming properly)? If they’re supposed to be ”indestructable”, should I keep looking, or is it worth considering if it’s far less than buying new and I’m on a budget ($350, all components of package included)? Or a $450 board that may just have some scrapes, normal wear, possibly a missing d-ring? (I did learn that the reason Nixy doesn’t include the carrying strap is because it was pulling on the d-rings. They supposedly will offer a strap that wraps around the board soon.)

    • Any inflatable SUP can be cut or punctured, given a sharp enough object or enough abuse. I wouldn’t take an individual anecdote that a particular brand or model has been patched as a indication of the quality of the board.

      In your case, if you’re looking at buying a used board that’s been patched, what’s more important is how well the patch job was done (which may be impossible to know without inspection). I’d be much more comfortable buying a board with just normal wear. What you don’t mention is the source you’re buying from. Ideally you’d be buying from a friend who you know treats their gear well.

      Alternately, several top brands like Bluefin, NRS, Sea Eagle, and Thurso, occasionally sell off lightly used demo gear via their websites — this gear is always well inspected before being put up for sale and often still carries a warranty. You can check out our SUP deals page for links to some of these sales.

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