There is nothing like knifing through calm clear waters on a balanced and sleek paddle board; the master of your own craft now that you’ve started to get the hang of it.
But, paddling out on a rental board is a total crapshoot, from wobbly behemoths to soaked through soft tops with holes in them.
It’s time to find and invest in the best paddle board for you and one that you own so that it will give you the best combination of stability, durability, portability, and performance.
For a beginner, ease of use is key, including buoyancy and portability.
Inflatable boards provide this in spades and are great all-around boards.
We know you want the best, so we’ve researched the best paddle boards for beginners so you can enjoy your time on the water without worrying that you are missing out on anything!
Our Favorite Picks
Our #1 Pick - Roc
#2 SereneLife Thunder wave
The Top 7
Our #1 Pick - Roc
In our opinion, this is the best stand up paddle board for beginners, hands down. We love the ability to help beginners get going with a wide, stable base as well as the versatility to transition to more intermediate paddlers.
At 10.5 ft. long and 32 inches wide it is neither too long nor too short and wide enough to be very stable.
The six inches thickness gives a 275 lbs weight limit, which means this board can easily hold a parent and child or two smaller adults. The deck pad also gives just the right amount of grip; not too slippery but also not so rough that it sand papers your feet.
Not only is this board a manageable size in the water, it is also easy to get around on land.
The rear fin attaches easily enough, and the pump is functional, though it will take some muscle to get all the way up to the recommended 15 psi, as with any hand pump.
Getting the board in the water is also easy with the Roc. Almost all beginner SUP boards have a handle, but with the inflatable boards you get a flexible handle instead of just a notch in the board that makes it easy to grab and haul down to the water.
This board also comes with a plethora of extras in a well thought out kit. The kit includes an aluminum alloy paddle that floats (which is key, dropping your paddle happens sometimes) as well as leash, pump, removable rear fin, an excellent carrying backpack.
Finally, it also includes a very handy waterproof bag for your keys and cell phone. All of this adds up to exceptional bang for your buck because not only is it a great board, it is an inexpensive paddle board for beginners.
If you are worried about moving your new beginner paddle board around, then this is the board for you.
It is one of the best inflatable paddle boards for beginners, but this board is 10 ft. long and 30 inches wide, making slightly smaller than the other two boards in our top 3, though it still can float a big dude thanks to the same six-inch thickness.
On land, the smaller width will help shorter armed folk reach the carry handle, while in the water the shorter length means a tighter turning radius. The smaller size also means it will inflate and deflate that much quicker while still fitting easily inside almost any car.
We also like that the paddle is easily adjusted to whatever length you need, which is great when you want to transition from standing to kneeling or sitting.
However, the company does not specifically call out that the paddle floats, so keep a tight grip on it! Another thing we like is the softness of the non-slip board deck. It feels great underfoot for a comfort all day long!
This board can handle any location from bay to river to lake and do it in style. Just for the heck of it, they’ve included a fourth color option instead of the standard 3 versions of grey so pick the one you love and hit the water!
The Atoll is definitely a step up in price, but if you are willing to take that plunge it is worth it. One of the big things that sets this board apart isn’t the actual board, but the fantastic carbon fiber paddle.
It is both light weight and highly efficient in the water, plus it floats like a champ. The paddle is also adjustable for boarders of any height or position.
Not only is the board very durable thanks to a double layer of PVC on both the top and bottom, but it is also covered by a 2-year warranty, a full year more than anything else in our top 3. This board is a little bit bigger at 11 ft., so it stays more stable even in slightly more adverse conditions (think a little choppy.)
However, even with the bigger size, this board weighs 40% less than most comparable boards so getting it around is a snap. The width and thickness are all similar to our other models (32 inches and 6 inches respectively) so it will definitely float more than one person on down the river.
We know this isn’t the cheapest paddle board for beginners, but it will certainly reward those who make the investment.
This is another great board, but again on the more expensive side for an inflatable paddle board.
We definitely love the durability of this paddle board, and how rigid it feels when it is fully inflated.
It is on the shorter side at 10 ft. 4 in., but at 32 inches wide it is a little bit bigger than the smallest boards we tested but still extremely stable.
It also comes with a fiberglass paddle for that lighter feeling in your hand when paddling, but it does not come with a leash like our top three boards. It also doesn’t come with a backpack, just a roll up carrying strap.
It does, however, come with a 2-year warranty.
Again, this is not the most inexpensive paddleboard for beginners, but if you are looking for durability and a smaller but not the smallest board, then this is the board for you.
The Journey is another smaller board built for smaller people.
It measures out at 10 ft. long by 31.5 inches wide by 6 inches thick. It has a slightly lower weight capacity at 260 lbs.
One thing we like about this board is the added D rings attached along the outer top of the board. It adds some nice storage flexibility if you are going out for the day.
You can even add a kayak seat to this board very easily. This board includes all the extras, and clocks in as one of the least expensive boards on our list.
One thing to note, though is that this board only has a single center fin, with no side finlets like our other picks above. This will make the board a little less stable in rougher conditions, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
The Pathfinder is the smallest and least expensive board on our list.
At 9ft 9in long, 30 inches wide, and 5 in thick it is a great call for our most petit paddleboarders.
Even with a small size, the board still packs a punch for your money, and is very durable.
The paddle and leash are both more than just serviceable and will definitely work out well.
Again, this board lacks any side fins or finlets and instead relies on the single large fin for stability and tracking in the water.
However, this is still a stable and easily paddled board that will get you out and about on the water with ease.
Our last recommendation is a very versatile board with a medium-high price.
At either 10ft. 6 inches or 11 ft. it ties for our longest recommendation if you choose the longer option, but it offers great stability for yoga or fishing while still offering the ability to ease through whatever turn you need.
The hybrid nose shape and construction also help this board handle a wider variety of conditions.
Whatever your activity, the expedition is a great alternative to keep in your quiver.
Top 5 Stand Up Paddle Board Tips for Beginners
#1 Location, location, location
Just like real estate, where you choose to drop your board in the water and step on it can have a big impact on your experience. Here are some of the best places in the world, but you don’t have to travel to find a great spot. As you are learning, look for places with smooth water, very little current or tide, and not too many folks crowding your space. You’ll want that space to learn how to manage your board, and you don’t want to fight waves from either boats or the ocean. Find a buddy (just like surfing the buddy system is always safer) and find a low-key launch where you don’t have to park too far away.
#2 Just like a boy or girl scout, be prepared
Nothing is worse than dropping your board on the water and realizing you are too cold, or too hot. Like all outdoor activities, layers make it easy to adjust to the weather. Add or subtract layers as the day goes on, and you can use the bungee cords on the front of the board to store whatever you aren’t using. Synthetic fibers are best because they dry quickly if you end up in the drink either on purpose or on accident. Also, on sunnier days, make sure you have clothing that offers UV protection because the sun is much more intense on the water. And don’t forget, you can still get sunburned through the clouds, which we know from painful experience. In colder climates wetsuits or dry suits may be necessary. Whatever you wear, make sure you are comfortable and can move easily and freely to get the most out of your paddling experience.
#3 Balance is key
We’ve talked a lot about stable boards, but you can do your part as well. Before you ever get on the water, get comfortable standing on your board on dry land. Whether it is a grassy area next to your launch, or on the carpet in your living room, stand on your board and wiggle around a little bit until you find a sweet spot where the board wiggles the least and you are the most comfortable. Of course, a stable core is as important for the board as it is for you, so consider getting a balance board of some kind for a little exercise if you want to get more serious.
#4 Safety First
There is no shame in wearing a lifejacket while you are out on your SUP. If you don’t know for sure that you can get back to safety immediately if something goes wrong, bring your like jacket along. And, this should go without saying, if you have your kids riding with you they should always wear a USCG Approved life jacket.
#5 Have Fun (but persevere!)
You will grow leaps and bounds in your first few outings on a board. You’ll find your balance, and the best ways to get your board to go where you want it to go. You’ll find your favorite spots and the easiest way to get the board in your car. No matter where you start, you will come a long way and it will be awesome! Enjoy the freedom, enjoy the tranquility on the water, enjoy whatever your reason! However, when you are sore the next day, take that as a good sign. You are getting stronger and it will only continue to improve. Not many of us are used to paddling, we aren’t Vikings after all, so the paddle muscles will take a little coaxing to show up for most of us. Keep at it, and they will show up faster than you think!
What to Consider When Buying a Beginner Paddle Board
Board Type & Shape (Touring Vs. Yoga Vs. iSup Vs. rigid etc.)
Paddle boarding is growing so quickly because there is so much you can do on a paddleboard. From yoga to fishing, and from waves to lakes there is such a variety of activities that of course there are different boards to suit all your needs. When you are looking for your first paddle board you have to consider what you want to do with it. The three basic shapes of boards are all around, touring, and performance, with several subsets in between. Any of these boards could be inflatable or rigid epoxy boards, though the latter two are dominated by rigid boards while the former splits more evenly between inflatable and rigid epoxy.
Performance, or surf paddle boards are made for surfing waves in the ocean, and not for primarily flat water. They tend to be a little shorter and wider for more of an egg shape and are ultra-maneuverable. For a beginner that wants to hit the waves, a little longer is better on these boards. You can’t duck dive when heading out past the break, so make sure you have a little more experience before tackling any but the most modest waves.
Touring boards are built for more speed! They are the type of boards usually used in races or over longer distances. They are longer and thinner so they can cut through the water, mostly in straight lines, which sacrifices turning and stability. Think of them as an arrow, good for going long and straight!
For most beginners, an all-around board is the way to go. These are built to handle more varied conditions from a little chop on a lake to small waves close to the beach. Some folks break out a few more specific types, but to us they are subsets of the all-around. A yoga board is longer and very wide for the most stability. A fishing paddle board is also very stable and has a few more tie downs or bungy cords to store tackle and gear. A flatwater board is a little smaller and narrower for better speed, but not as narrow as the touring boards. While all-around boards are not as fast as touring boards and less maneuverable than performance boards, they let you do a little bit of everything and decide how you love to paddle the most!
With so many types of boards, there is naturally a huge variation in price. From as little as a couple hundred bucks to several thousand dollars, you can spend whatever you can afford on a board. However, for beginners that are just learning, a big investment doesn’t make sense. That’s why we recommend inflatable boards for beginners. You can get a quality all-around board for roughly $300 to $500, with a little variation on either side in our top 7 recommended boards. Remember, invest enough that you are comfortable with your board, but don’t go so high that you can’t upgrade as your progress in your skills.
For a beginner, stick with 10 ft. to 11 ft. These boards will be stable, yet easy to move around on land and in the water. Slightly longer is okay if you are looking to use the board for yoga or something else requiring more stability.
For an inflatable board, anything less than 4 inches is too thin. Most of the boards in our top 7 are six inches thick for better buoyancy and weight capacity as well as rigidity. Epoxy rigid boards are not as thick because the epoxy provides rigidity around the foam core. These boards are usually 3.5 in to 5 inches thick. For inflatables, go with right around 6 inches thickness, any less and you lose rigidity and buoyance, any thicker and you get too high off the water and lose stability.
Again, this varies by type of board, but for beginners we recommend between 30 inches and 34 inches with 32 inches as ideal. This will let you steer your board easily enough while not sacrificing anything in the way of buoyancy and stability. If you are a bigger person, go for the wider board. If you are smaller, think less wide.
Rocker is the curve of the board from front to back. Less rocker means more water contacted by the board, which makes it faster and more stable. More curve/rocker makes a board more maneuverable and easier to turn. Most inflatable boards have less rocker, and for beginners this is the best choice to make sure you stay on the board. When you become more advanced, you’ll be able to tell the difference, but at the start it isn’t as obvious. For an excellent in depth visual look at board shape versus performance, check out here
Everyone has heard of Body Glove, and they make great boards! But, just like regular surf boards, don’t buy a paddle board just because of the brand name. That being said, some no name doesn’t really inspire confidence either. Roc, Serene, Atoll and all our other top rated boards come from highly respected and reputable manufacturers. Make sure any board you look at has lots of reviews on Amazon and don’t be afraid to call them yourself!
What are the best paddle boards for beginners?
The best board for beginners is really any board that makes you happy! If you can get it in the water and paddle around that is all that counts. After that, the logistics become important for beginners. Inflatable paddle boards are the easiest to fit in any car, and the lightest weight to carry from the car to the water. That’s why we recommend iSup boards for beginners so the experience is as easy as possible, and you can get the most out of your board.
What are the widest paddle boards for beginners?
Most inflatable paddle boards are 30 inches to 34 inches wide though a few rigid boards measure out over 36 inches wide. Balancing out the best trade off of deck width for carrying vs. stability in the water is also why we recommend inflatable paddle boards for beginners, as 32 inches to 34 in is ideal.
Should I get an Inflatable SUP as a beginner?
We recommend inflatable SUP boards for beginners because of the combination of easy transport (no car rack required, just a backpack,) buoyancy, stability, and affordability. Inflatable boards are the best cheap stand up paddle board you can find, while also providing the performance and reliability for an enjoyable time on the water every time. The only drawback is having to pump the board up, which with some pumps can be difficult. If you want to avoid that, get an electric pump that can attach to your car battery or plug in, but make sure the valve matches your board! Rigid boards can certainly provide a great time too, but for the investment and more difficult logistics an inflatable is the best stand up paddle board for beginners.
How long does it take to learn?
No time at all! After a little practice balancing on land you can get out on the water as soon as you feel comfortable. The best way is to learn by doing, so if you are comfortable in, on, or around water and you have a safe waterway to practice on then get out there! We’ve had kids (while wearing life jackets!) get in the water and start paddling up a storm in as little as ten minutes. Just about anyone who can tolerate mild physical activity can be paddling in minutes with no prior experience.
Where is the best place to paddle board for beginners?
The great thing about paddle boarding is that just about any body of water can be your playground. As a beginner, look for a lightly trafficked stretch of water that has a generally smooth surface. Bays, lakes, and gentle rivers make for great places to learn. Any dock, marina, or beach will do for putting in (as long as it is public, no trespassing) if there is enough space to get your board down to the water. Stay away from busy marinas with boat ramps if you can, or rivers with strong currents. If you can see whitewater you are in the wrong place! Think tranquil and calm and you can’t go wrong!
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
Of course, you should go with the board that makes you happy. Life is too short otherwise.
We think the Roc paddle board will make you happy. It delivers performance no matter how you want to use it, and it is a great value as a relatively cheap paddle board for beginners.
It will float just about anyone due to the superior buoyancy, but it will still maneuver easily as a good midsize board.
All of the included extras just add some icing on to the cake. The combination of versatility, affordability, and durability make the Roc the best inflatable stand up paddle board for beginners.
We recommend getting one and running it out for a paddle as often as you can!
Our #1 Pick - Roc