How To Choose an Inflatable SUP

Starboard Touring Inflatable SUP
Starboard Touring Inflatable SUP

Unless you’ve been living in the desert, or hiding under a rock in a cave on Mars, you’ve probably heard of stand up paddle boarding, or SUP for short. This sport takes its roots from the surfing and canoeing culture of Polynesia, and has exploded on to the world stage over the last 5 years. With the growing popularity of the sport, board designers have branched out and started designing inflatable boards for specific purposes and areas. If you are new to stand up paddle boarding choosing the right board to fit your needs can seem daunting at first, no worries we are here to help you out.

 All-Around Stand Up Paddle Boards

Starboard Explorer Inflatable SUP
Starboard Explorer Inflatable SUP

All-Around stand up paddle boards are designed to perform adequately in all conditions. Featuring a planing hull, these boards typically have surf inspired shapes but are longer and wider. The extra length and width gives them better stability and glide for flat water paddling when compared to surf specific stand up boards. These versatile, multi-purpose boards, are great first time boards because they allow you to explore all facets of the sport with only one board. All-around boards are wide enough to be very stable, have reasonable glide and tracking for flat water paddling, but also have enough rocker and side cut to be surfed on some waves.

Due to their stability all-around boards are ideally suited to people looking to do stand up paddle board yoga (yes that’s a thing!). These SUPs also make great family/cottage boards, they work really well for people looking to have a small child as a passenger

Some All-rounders lean more towards catching and riding waves (more rocker & shorter length), others have more glide and less maneuverability so are better for touring (less rocker & longer length).

 Touring/Cruising Stand Up Paddle Boards

SIC X126 Touring Inflatable SUP
SIC X126 Touring Inflatable SUP

If you’re paddling on calm water and are looking to paddle for more than an hour at a time, or want to cover a bit more ground, touring SUPs are made for you.

Touring/cruising stand up paddle boards are distinguished by their pointed nose, less rocker and slimmer entry and exit lines on the bow and stern of the board. They try to replicate the displacement slight “v” shaped bottom found on composite touring SUP boards but this is more difficult to do on a inflatable board.  The shape still allows for better tracking, efficiency, and speed. This type of board will appeal to anyone looking for a board with better tracking, glide and speed, than what is available from all-around boards. People looking to bring a lunch or even do an overnight will also want to choose this type of board.

Racing Stand Up Paddle Boards

Red Paddle Co Inflatable Race SUP
Red Paddle Co Inflatable Race SUP

Flat water racing stand up paddle boards are similar in design to touring boards in that they both feature pointed noses, less rocker and slimmer entry and exit lines, but racing SUPs are narrower and sometimes feature a lighter, stiffer construction compared to other inflatables. These boards can be extremely quick, but their design means stability is sacrificed for speed, and are usually 12’6 in length to 14 foot plus.

Racing boards can also be well suited to paddlers looking at stand up paddle boarding for fitness, as the extra speed can be a great motivator to go the extra mile.

Surfing Specific Stand Up Paddle Boards

Red Paddle Inflatable Surf SUP
Red Paddle Inflatable Surf SUP

Surf-Specific SUP boards always have a planing hull. These hulls are flat on the bottom allowing the board to glide over top of the water as opposed to displacing water around the board like a kayak or canoe. Surf stand up paddle boards are generally shorter, have a narrower nose and tail, have more rocker (curve) and are not as thick as other inflatable boards. These boards are purposely designed for surfing. If you are looking for a board to surf with but also paddle flat water look at the all-around category.

Whitewater Stand Up Paddle Boards

Starboard Astro Whitewater Inflatable SUP
Starboard Astro Whitewater Inflatable SUP

The newest SUP discipline, whitewater stand up paddle boarding is a blast! Regular board designs and constructions are not suitable when dealing with rocks and rapids, therefore specialized boards had to be made.

On the construction side of things, whitewater inflatable boards are usually made of thicker or extra layers of vinyl material to take the abuse of bouncing off rocks.

From a design point of view these boards feature planing hulls that are very wide, have lots of rocker and plenty of volume. These design features allow the boards to be very stable and maneuverable, as a result these boards are not ideal for flat water cruising. Whitewater SUPing is a ton of fun and a great way to explore your class 1-3 rivers. The experienced whitewater kayaker, canoeist or rafter will find that taking on the river on a stand up paddle board, makes the class 1 and 2 rapids that have become boring in your watercraft really exciting and challenging again.