8 best stand-up paddle boards
Want to join the SUP crew? Try one of these rides for size
Usually the things you do standing up aren’t much fun, from queuing in shops to commuting on packed trains. However, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a different story.
It’s one of fastest growing sports in the UK and isn’t confined to the beach. These boards were tested on the rivers, lakes and coasts of Devon because there are no limits to what can be explored on an SUP.
Your first purchasing decision will be to decide whether you’d rather an inflatable (iSUP) or a rigid board and this depends on budget, storage space and ease of access to your watercourse, but, whichever you choose, the most important issue is to find the dimensions that strike the best balance between stability on the water and optimal glide over it.
The wider the board (31in plus) the better the stability, while thickness and volume add to how confident you feel when you clamber aboard – too thick and your feet will be higher off the water, raising your centre of gravity and making you feel less stable. Too thin and it will be like you’re paddling driftwood, so go for a board that’s around 5in thick or more, with a volume of 150-190 litres depending on your bodyweight. More volume will equate to even more glide.
Length is another important consideration before you set foot on the water and anything between 9ft and 10ft 8in will mean you won’t have to worry about momentum and your board will track better in the water and go where you want it to. The boards here are suited to all shapes and sizes but don’t forget to look at what else is included in the price, from pumps and leashes to paddles, as the last thing you want to be is up the creek without one or stranded on the shore feeling deflated.
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1. Red Paddle Co. 10’8 Ride: From £899, Red Paddle Co
Even though it’s only 4.7in thick, this board is 34in wide and has 296 litres of volume so offers optimum balance between stability and tracking. This also means you get a stiff ride without having to spend too much time pumping it up – the twin valve Titan pump helps get the board ready to ride in double quick time. Holding its line in the water effortlessly means less corrective strokes so you either get a better learning experience or a day of touring that isn’t so taxing. Although it’s a great starting board, it can adapt and will take on more challenging water or longer rides as your confidence grows. The cargo system at the front, which holds all the kit you’ll take out on the water, makes touring even more practical and we found that it didn’t affect performance, even when fully loaded. The backpack is comfortable and has a set of wheels so you can pull the board along on the flat.
2. Jobe Neva 12’6: £859.99, Swim Inn
The extra length that you get with this 12ft 6in ride makes it the perfect point-and-shoot board. Just find your heading and it’ll track superbly, no matter how hard you’re paddling. This is built to be adventurous and the 320-litre volume means it can cope brilliantly with choppy sections of sea and stays stable in 18mph winds – it even performed working against a turning tide. All it takes is a little extra effort on the paddle (which is included in the package along with a leash, backpack and pump) and you can get to any target quickly. This is a good touring board for the more advanced paddler that inflates quickly and without any fuss.
3. Bic 9’2 River Air: £799.99, RobinHood Watersports
SUPs can take you anywhere and the proof is this 6ft thick all-rounder that is suited to wilder rivers as well as calmer seas. We tested it out on a swollen river with some shallow rapids and it came out unscathed (as did we) and the fact that it’s inflatable and a cinch to carry means you can get down to the most inaccessible launch points. This also makes portage easy if you reach a jam in a river where going around is the only option. A replaceable centre fin allows you to swap in a longer one so for a shorter board it tracked well and kept its line in deeper seawater. Considering it boasts 280 litres of volume, inflation was efficient and it comes with backpack, pump and repair kit.
4. iRocker 11: £671, irocker
A big board (coming in at 11ft x 32in x 6in) with 245 litres of volume, which means it’s suited to have someone riding shotgun – we tried a water-loving canine and an 8-yr-old (not together). With either passenger, water stability and glide wasn’t compromised and the arrowhead nose shape of the top means that it has impressive manoeuvrability for such a long board. All iRockers come with the option of attaching a seat – so you can take a break and turn it into a kayak. It also comes with a paddle, pump, backpack and repair kit, making it excellent value for money.
5. Jobe Lena 10’6: £786.19, Amazon
Yoga mats are yesterday’s news and yoga paddleboards (YSUPs) offer up the chance to take your practice to the next level. Obviously, stability becomes even more important for aqua asanas and this board offers up 322 litres of volume and a deck that’s 33in wide and 10ft 6in long, so your downward dog won’t turn into a drowned rat. The blunt nose shape keeps the board steady and when fully inflated it offers a good hard surface to practice on. Conveniently, there is also somewhere to store your paddle while you’re in warrior pose.
6. Grom Stoke 7’2: £399, Grom
This shorter, hard board is ideal for kids who want to graduate from passenger to pilot. It’s lightweight, so our 8-yr-old tester had no problem carrying it to the water’s edge and the egg shape and 5in thickness (ideal for a child’s weight) ensures good stability once up and paddling. Shorter boards are a lot more responsive so once you’ve mastered how the board handles with the paddle (not included) it provides limitless fun, whether messing around in the shallows or cruising an incoming tide. There are plenty of bright colour options too.
7. Fatstick Pink Panther 10’6: £619, Fatstick
This eye-catching offering is perfect for anyone who has fallen in love with the sport and is interested in a go-to board that will be a faithful companion for years to come. It looks the business, performs well and is well constructed. It’s a hard board and so ease of transportation is a must and the Pink Panther has an embedded carry handle in the middle of the deck pad that’s ergonomic and makes the lightweight 10kg board a doddle to cart around. With 180 litres of volume it’s also a good option for taking someone for a ride with you and offers real bang for your buck, although you’ll have to factor in paddle cost.
8. Red Paddle 14’ Ride: £2449, Red Paddle Co
Okay, this is a serious investment but if you want to get all the family paddling this works out much cheaper than getting everyone their own set-up. The deck is 47in wide, so there’s plenty of room for two adults and two children and it’s designed with a blunt nose and tail and a mammoth 816 litres of volume for optimum stability once fully loaded. Considering the volume, inflation isn’t a problem as the board comes with three pumps and three valves (as well as a backpack, repair kit and water-resistant phone case) so you can get everyone involved to lessen lag time between unloading and launch. Operating it is an exercise in cooperation, but once every one is standing and paddling in the same direction, it’s a serious fun machine.
The Verdict: Stand-up paddle boards
The RedPaddle 10’8 Ride is a near faultless board and the best way to sample everything that SUP-ing has to offer. It’s well-equipped to take you wherever you want to go, whether that’s exploring the coast from the water, going point to point or just messing about with some mates. The hand-crafted Fatstick Pink Panther is one of the best hard SUPs for the money and glides just as well as some of the more expensive options. No matter how stable your board or how competent you are on it, being out for an extended period can really test your core, which makes the iRocker 11 worth a look if you’re after a hybrid option.
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