Inflatable Paddleboards 101: Ultimate Guide for First-Time Buyers

Do you want to buy your first inflatable paddleboard? Are you looking for recommendations, reviews or tips on which SUP to buy?

How to Buy an Inflatable Paddleboard - the Ultimate Guide for First-Time Buyers

I can help you find the right board for you – while saving you time and money. Plus, I can prevent you from making some of the common mistakes that beginners make.

Note: In about 5 minutes, you will have finished reading this article and know exactly what to look for, what to avoid and which inflatable SUPs I recommend for beginners. (Or, scroll to the bottom of this page!)

What Features to Look for in Your First Inflatable SUP

1. A Paddleboard that’s Easy to Stand On:

First of all, when you’re first starting out, you want an SUP that provides a stable standing surface and that you can easily maneuver. In other words, the board should feel rigid with minimal rocking in the water.

Not only does stability make paddleboarding easier to learn, but you also won’t fall as much when paddling through chopping waters or in windy conditions.

Buy a Rigid, Wide Inflatable SUP to Make You Feel More Stable and Prevent Falls

Therefore, look for a paddleboard that measures about 10 feet long, 30 inches wide and 6 inches thick. The width-to-length ratio will provide more stability, while the thickness make the inflatable SUP more firm and less “bouncy”.

Buying a longer paddleboard can give you additional stability, however, longer boards typically are more difficult to turn. As a result, they tend to be challenging for newbies because they require more effort to steer.

Yoga Paddleboards: Do you want to use your SUP to do yoga? A 10-foot by 30″ SUP can work, but you can also opt for a wider board to give your more space for poses. Check out the SHUBU Flow SUP, designed specifically for yoga and has 35″ width.

How to Do Paddleboard Yoga on a Boardworks SHUBU Flow SUP

All that said, if you have already gone paddling a few times and have established your sea legs, maybe you want a board with more speed. In this case, get an SUP with a narrower shape and tapered (pointed) nose, as these features make the SUP more streamlined.

Racing SUPs: I personally like the Boardworks Raven as a fast inflatable SUP. You get a 30″ stable surface, but the elongated 12’6″ length changes the dimension ratio to produce a faster design.

2. SUPs that are Easier to Transport:

Ultra Lightweight Nixy Newport G4 Inflatable SUP Only Weighs 21 lbs

Of course, inflatable paddleboards are designed to be easier to travel with. They typically weigh less than hard boards, and you can deflated them and pack them into a bag.

However, shorter boards can be easier to carry, and some weigh less than others. If this is something that matters to you, look for SUPs that measure 9-10 feet long rather than 12-14 feet long.

For example the NIXY iSUP only weighs 21 lbs, while other models can weigh up to 30 lbs or more. This makes it easier to carry down to the water, lift on top of a roof rack or carry in a backpack.

3. SUP Accessories to Look For:

Many inflatable SUPs come in a package with multiple accessories. While I don’t think that the wrong items are a deal-breaker, there are key components to look for.

1. First of all, I like the dual action (or triple action) pumps versus single action. They inflate your board faster and with much less effort. You can purchase these separately, but it’s always nice when they come included with the SUP.

2. Second, look for packages that include an SUP paddle that breaks down into smaller sections. They are easier to pack into a backpack and travel with.

Bluefin Kayak SUP Combo Comes with Detachable Kayak Seat and Paddles for Bothe Stand Up Paddling and Kayaking

3. Third, if you want to convert your paddleboard into a sit-on-top kayak, get a combo sup-kayak bundle. They typically include the detachable seat along with both SUP and kayak paddles.

Kayak-SUP Combo: For example, the Bluefin Cruise SUP comes with the kayak accessories, a dual-action pump and a travel paddle. Essentially, you get more for your money because you can use your board in 2 ways instead of one.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an Inflatable Paddleboard:

1. Don’t buy an SUP under $500 if you want it to last several years.

Don’t get me wrong. Cheap boards can offer a great short-term solution for vacations, growing kids, extra boards for friends, etc… However, if you want a durable paddleboard that will last many years with minimal maintenance, buy a decent board.

2. Don’t choose an inflatable board that is too narrow or only 4 inches thick.

You just won’t get the stability you want. Plus, inflatable SUPs less than 6 inches thick don’t have good rigidity and can often bounce in choppy water.

Belt Pack PFD for Paddleboarding - Instead of Wearing a Life Vest

3. Don’t forget to purchase a PFD (personal floatation device, or life vest).

Not only do life vests make paddling safer, they are often required in some public lakes or waterways. If you don’t want to wear a vest, you can opt to get a belt pack PFD instead.

Inflatable Paddleboards that I Recommend for Beginners:

Note: Still undecided on which paddleboard you want to get? I suggest renting a board or two to get a feel for what you prefer. For instance, you’ll quickly be able to see how stable a wide board feels, or how cumbersome a long heavy SUP is to carry. Then, your decision becomes so much easier. You can also compare some of the top SUPs here.


Bluefin SUP and Kayak Package

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