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Paddle Boards 2023 guide for beginners: 25 best stand-up paddle boards & kit tried and tested by experts

The health benefits of paddle boarding are immense! You get a full body workout, and it gives you a sense of wellbeing that’s unbeatable

paddleboarding
Katherine Robinson
Katherine RobinsonSenior Lifestyle Editor
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Have you ever thought about giving SUP – stand up paddle boarding – a try? As well as giving you a whole body workout it gives you a tremendous feeling of wellbeing and personal satisfaction after being out on the water.

We called on the help of paddle boarding expert, Michael Robinson, who's based in Durham, to give us the lowdown. What follows is his guide to paddle boarding for beginners, written by him...

As someone who has been a big fan of the sport since 2008 I can confirm that paddle boarding is one of the best activities you can get into.

You can now put a huge 10-14 foot board in the boot of your car and travel to any water-based destination – and it’s something you can do all year round if you have the right gear.

This is definitely a sport you will want to share with friends and family and it's great for kids – I've recently got my daughters aged 11 and seven into it. The feeling of mindfulness and losing yourself and becoming one with the water as you focus on balance and technique is addictive, whatever your age or ability. 

Paddleboarding is a low-impact sport that provides a full-body workout and is easy on the joints, making it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.

You do however need to be aware of your own limitations and confidence in different types of water and taking lessons with a reputable instructor is highly recommended.

I tried and tested a range of boards, so do keep reading for my top picks… Several are in the sales at the moment, so it's a great time to get involved.

And a final word from me - paddleboarding is a versatile and enjoyable sport that offers many physical and mental health benefits, making it a good choice for those looking to get into a new sport in 2023.

paddleboarding pic

The physical and mental benefits of taking up paddle boarding are immense

What to look for when you're buying a paddle board?

If you're just starting out, you'll want a board that gives good stability in order to learn the basics. You want something with good width between 32 and 34 inches as well as 10 foot 6 to 12 foot 6 in length. It’s all in relation to your own body size and weight and heavier riders will also benefit from a nice thick board offering lots of volume ( between 5 and 6 inches).

Smaller riders will probably want a slightly smaller board and could drop to a thinner thickness ( between 4.75 and 5 inches) You will be surprised at how quickly you can progress if you put time and practice in on the water - as well as improving fitness you will gain better balance and a more confident stroke technique.

As you gain confidence in your ability you may want to progress with doing longer distances and want to go faster. The less width and longer the board, the faster you will go. Start with a good all-round board to gain your confidence in relation to your body size and consider upgrading if you find your passion grow for the sport.

Quality boards tend to hold their price when selling second hand if you look after them and you will have a better idea of what kind of paddler you want to become.

It's always worth trying out as many boards as possible before choosing the right one that feels right for your ability. You can do this by taking some initial lessons or by hiring boards.

This will also give you an idea of what you want to get out paddle boarding- touring and exploring on flat water, surfing in small waves, racing, having fun with the family at the beach or lakes…. If you become addicted to the sport you will find that you may want a range of boards for different situations.

Paddle board expert Gary Willingham from fantastic SUP-focused UK retailer Sup Inflatables has this top tip: "Find a local or online SUP specific retailer. They are gods of SUP and will help you choose something great in your budget."

As for what to avoid when buying a paddle board online, he says:  "Don't buy a brand that has a kayak seat on, talks about Military Grade drop stitch, offers free stuff, or has a warranty that's so long you fall asleep reading it."

Paddle boarding on lake
The popularity of paddle boarding continues to rise - and it's easy to see why if you've ever tried it

How we chose the best iSUPs

  • Testing: Our expert reviewer took the boards out on the river and sea and assessed each one individually looking for stability and quality and gave his honest feedback on each board.
  • Reviews: In the case where were unable to test the boards personally, we focused on reviews by verified shoppers and only included boards that had a large volume of positive reviews, consistently getting the thumbs up for quality, value for money and stability.
  • Trusted brands: We only included brands with a good track record and reputation that stands behind their products.
  • Price: Paddle boards can range in price from a few hundred pounds to thousands. We included boards to suit all budgets, without sacrificing on quality. Though there are some very good value affordable boards on the market, there are also some terrible, poorly-made cheap boards, but you certainly won’t find any of those in this feature.
  • Variety: Some riders might want to paddle on flat water, others might want to catch waves. Some may even want to practice yoga. We tried to cater for all kinds of riders in this roundup.

Best all-rounder: Portofino Paddle Board Package

red trail portofino paddle board
  • Length: 10
  • Width: 33"
  • Thickness: 4.75"
  • Weight: 7.8kg

We tested out the brand-new 'red Trail Portofino Inflatable SUP' and loved it, it's a true all-rounder. The expert engineering of the design is so supportive and rigid that you completely forget that you are on an inflatable SUP, even if you are manoeuvring over choppy waves on the sea. 

We were also impressed that for the 10ft length of the board, it weighs in at just 7.8kg which makes it incredibly easy to carry down to the water if you're heading out on a solo paddle.

Rest assured that this attractive board also comes with very easy-to-follow assembly instructions and absolutely everything that you need to set up the board, including repair patches. 

Best entry-level budget stand-up paddle boards for beginners

Goosehill Inflatable Premium SUP Package

paddleboard deal
  • Length: 10
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 13.9kg

A good choice for beginners to SUP that will take you through to the intermediate stage, this board can comfortably hold an adult and two small children. It's good quality for the price and is quick to inflate - you can put it up in approx three to five minutes as the pump inflates in both directions. It's also lightweight and easy to transport and carry and available in blue and aquamarine colourways.

Aqua Marina Fusion, Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (iSUP) Package

aqua marina board
  • Length: 10-10
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 8.6kg

This popular budget board has proved reliable as a starter board for entry-level fun. It's lightweight and the grab handle is in just the right place for carrying it into the water. The three-piece paddle fits in the bag easily and once connected together feels solid. The board comes with everything you need to get started, including a robust hand pump with decent grips and a release plus that makes the pump two or one-way action – you can use it to suck the air out, making it very easy to pack away.

MY Pointbreak 10’6 Stand Up Paddleboard

  • Length: 10-6
  • Width: 30"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 8.4kg

We had a lot of fun trying out this board on lakes, rivers and the sea. The board comes in a decent bag that is easy to carry. Inside it has everything needed to get onto the water- pump, leash and three-piece paddle. As a low-cost board it offers good value for getting onto the water. It's great for children to get a taste of paddle boarding and was light enough for our nine-year-old and 13-year-old to carry the board to the water and offered enough stability for them to paddle as well as having lots of fun jumping on and off the board and gaining lots of confidence. With a good-sized centre fin that is easy to fit onto the board, it worked well when playing in the sea as well as the flat water. 

The paddle is adjustable which was great for using across the whole family and proved to be more reliable than other low-cost packages. The foot decking was also comfortable and offered enough grip when paddling which made the whole experience highly enjoyable. The 6 inch thickness offers enough float for adults and at 10’6 in length, we managed to even have lots of fun paddling into some very small waves with lots of laughs falling off. If you’re looking for a low-cost board that will get you onto the water and something that packs away into your car easily then this is a great little starter board.

Bluefin cruise SUP package

blufin sup
  • Length: 10-8
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 8.6kg

An entry-level paddle board for lighter riders, which again comes with everything you possibly need to get started, including paddle, pump and backpack. It's currently in the Amazon sale, so hurry to grab a bargain.

Best deluxe paddle board for beginners: Red Paddle Co Compact 9' 6’" package

red paddle board
  • Length: 9-6
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 4.7" / 120mm
  • Board Weight: 7.4kg

This is a great all-round, amazing quality board from Red - an exclusively ISUP (Inflatable stand-up paddle board) brand that were the first to revolutionise the market compatible model. When the board is rolled up and stored in its bag it is half the size of all other ISUPS. It's great on flat water and on the sea with small waves.

It comes with a high-quality carry bag and a Titan pump - the best pump on the market, Pumps are an overlooked item and having a good quality one makes such a difference.

Due to its size the board is great for kids as well as adults. It's one of the lightest ISUP boards on the market (due to fantastic build quality) making it easy for children as well as smaller adults to pick up and carry to the water. The five-piece paddle which comes with the board - which also fits very cleverly in the bag for storage - is also very good quality and can be adjusted for children to use as well as the whole family. It's so easy to transport and is great to just keep in the car and get in the water after work. I've even travelled with it on my back when cycling.

This is one of the more pricey ISUPS but the quality of these boards is second to none, plus the customer service and after sales care are fantastic.

Best deluxe paddle board for heavier beginners who struggle with balance: Red Paddle Co 11 Feet Red Compact Package

red paddle compact
  • Length: 11
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 4.75"
  • Weight: 8.4kg

Heavier or larger riders would be best choosing the 11foot version rather than the smaller 9-6. This is their second addition to the Compact family, the 11'0 Compact is a full-sized touring SUP that also packs down to half the size of a conventional inflatable paddle board and comes with the same premium qualities with the best pump on the market and the paddle and leash all fitting perfectly within a bag that is half the size as other boards of equal size.

Best paddle board for fishing: Bluefin Sup Voyage 10'10 Package

blufin sup
  • Length: 10-10
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 17kg

A heavier and stable beginner board that can carry a lot of weight. A strong well-built board that comes with a 5-year warranty, which is a nice touch considering other well-known brands normally offer 3 years. This board is a great one for anyone who wants to go fishing with their board. It has a sturdy cooler box which attaches to the board, which features a backrest for increased comfort for long hours on the water. There's also two built-in mounts allowing you to connect the included fishing rod holders to the board

Best paddle board for yoga enthusiasts: Bluefin Aura fit 10'8 Package

Bluefin Aura fit SUP
  • Length: 10-8
  • Width: 36"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 13.4kg

The extra wide 91cm / 36 inches all-round shape of the Bluefin Aqua is designed especially with yoga, pilates and aqua-based fitness in mind. It's also a good all-rounder board, which is both stable and rigid. The kit also comes with a durable travel sup backpack and lightweight fibreglass paddle. 

Best affordable paddle board for intermediate riders/ beginners with good balance: Hurley Advantage 10

hurley boards

Length: 10 feet

Width: 30"

Thickness: 6"

Weight: 9.5kg

Surf-based brand Hurley's cool boards feature stylish graphics which are sure to get noticed when you take them out on the water. Slightly smaller in width for those with better balance which will suit those beginners who are wanting to progress further. The board is also quite light which will be good for lighter riders to carry to the water.

Best paddle board for all sizes and riding with kids on front: Decathalon touring paddle board

decathlon yellow
  • Length: 11 Feet
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 6"
  • Weight: 10.5kg

This brightly coloured board – which also comes in blue if yellow's not your thing - is suitable for all size riders and can cope with kids and small adults on the front due to its thickness and stability. It's good for cruising and having fun with the family and is easy to get back into its bag at the end of the ride. It's one of the cheaper boards on the market but note, it doesn’t come with a paddle and pump like most of the other packages.

Best paddle board that can be shared by the whole family: Red 10-6 Ride SUP Inflatable package

redpaddle
  • Length: 10-6
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 4.75"
  • Weight 9.95kg

If you're looking for a board that could be used by the whole family that can be trusted for high quality and safety then the 10-6 Ride is a great choice. It’s perfect for every rider, big or small, to enjoy the water. As is the case with all Red boards, the quality is top notch and their design features have been developed and updated each year to deliver a quality overall package, from the board itself to the bag it is stored in.

Best beginners paddle board for ocean riders: Shark All-Round 10-6 x 32 SUP

shark board
  • Length: 10'6"
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 5"
  • Weight: 8.6kg

This is a great board for beginners which is great on oceans and rivers. There is a bit more of a rocker in the front of the board which helps to move through choppy waters. It also copes well with having a small child or dog on the front of the board on flat water. The width makes it very stable for beginners who are totally new to being on the water.

The quality of the board makes it feel very rigid and strong - allowing you to just get out and have fun on the water. The bag that the board comes with is well thought out with lots of space for the board pump and paddle to fit into. It was lots of fun in the sea testing on very small waves and also was great getting onto rivers for short tours- I managed it well with small child on the front of the board too.

Best beginners paddle board for rivers and lakes: 10-6 x 32 Gladiator Pro

gladiator board
  • Length: 10-6"
  • Width: 32"
  • Thickness: 4.75"
  • Weight: 8.9kg

A great board for beginners that is slightly thinner than other models we tested but when pumped up to high pressure feels very stable and rigid. It manages well with a small child on the front of the board on flat water. This is an amazing quality board for its price range – and although the bag and pump are not on par with the top end of the market versions they're still very reliable and the board itself was made to a high standard and felt safe and rigid in the water.

This board proved great for touring on rivers and lakes – it feels lower in the water which makes it feel more stable. Heavier beginner riders may struggle a bit more, however, and would probably benefit from a longer or thicker board.

Essential paddleboard kit

Dryrobe

amazon jacket

Being on the water, whether sea, lake or river, will inevitably involve you spending a lot of time being out in the elements- getting the most enjoyment, mindfulness and fun out of these situations is a lot easier if you have the right clothing.

We tested one of the long sleeve dryrobes during our paddle sessions which proved to be such a great addition to the whole experience of keeping cosy and warm before and after. On the sea it offered the ability to get changed into and out of wetsuits before and after the sessions and on river and lake it proved to be an item you just wanted to put on and keep cosy and comfortable in while waiting to get on the water or after each session when cooling down and chatting as the sun went down. 

The change in temperatures when out by water does change quite dramatically if you are out all day and I can't stress how useful this robe is for someone who spends a lot of time outdoors- it's something I will use not just for SUP experiences but is so useful for all manner of outdoor activities. It's a really well-designed item with such attention to detail and quality. The inner lining, oversized pockets, quality zips and waterproof outer lining just make you want to spend time outdoors and in no rush to return home no matter what the weather. Even on hot days when you are doing an early start or for when the sun goes down it's the perfect addition.

Dog buoyancy aid

dog life jacket

It is such an amazing experience to share your SUP adventures with your kids and dogs once you gain your confidence in your own ability on the water. There are lots of PFD Life Jackets on the market for children and it is great to see that there are now companies producing buoyancy aids for dogs. We tried out one of Red’s buoyancy aids for dogs over the past month on rivers and in the sea. This has been a great safety aid for our small Bichon Frise who loves to be out with us on the water but not a great swimmer. It has given us peace of mind when he is on the front of the board. When he jumps in, the grab handle on the top makes it easy to pull him back onto the board.

Really impressed with the quality and the overall design which has been well thought out. Ergonomically designed to support the dog in the water and give them a positive swimming position. Packed full of features and made using durable, tear-resistant Cordura® fabric, the Red Original Dog Buoyancy Aid is available in 5 different sizes to cover all breeds.

Nixie Women's Shorty Wetsuit

Nixie Wetsuit

We tested the Nixie Women's Shorty Wetsuit - which is a great piece of kit of warm water sessions. It fits true to size (It's available in sizes 8-10) was easy to get on and off and feels like a second skin - very comfortable and allows ease of movement. It has back zip entry with a vertical 10 zip and a long pull tab for improved access. It's made from extremely durable fabric and has UPF 50+, with sun protection factor treatment of 50+. The wetsuit has a thickness of up to 3.5mm which is designed for 15-20°C it's panelled with a 3.5mm thick torso to improve core temperature and 3mm on arms and legs to enhance freedom of movement. 

Swimbest swim jacket

swim jacket

If you're going on the water with little ones, it's essential to invest in a buoyancy aid or swim jacket for them, especially when they're just learning how to swim. This is Amazon's best-seller, which is suitable for 16 months to seven years and comes in a rainbow of different colours. It's fitted with floats which you can remove to adjust the buoyancy, and the jacket design means they have a full range of motion in the water

Decathalon inflatable buoyancy aid belt

Buoyoncy aid

Or for adults, use this inflatable buoyancy aid belt. Lightweight and compact, it's for paddleboarders of all levels who are looking for more freedom and safety on the water.

Women's long sleeve pro change robe

red long jacket

We tested the Pro Change long sleeve jacket from Red which came in an alpine teal colour. (There's also a short sleeved version available for £119.95 and you can see the men's versions here.) The soft and light feel to these jackets is amazing and I have used this not just for changing in and out of my wetsuit but it is so comfortable I find myself wearing it for chilling out on the beach in all kinds of weather.

The quality and design features, as is always the case with Red, make these jackets such amazing quality and are well worth the price. The triple-layer construction with super soft fur lining keeps you warm when catching up with friends after a session, even if the rain is lashing down. Handy chest pockets are great to keep your valuables close to hand whilst staying dry and premium 2-way YKK zips with finger pulls make doing the changing robe up simple no matter how cold your hands are. These jackets are great for water sports but I also find that they can be used in so many other activities.

Paddle Board carry strap

SUP carry strap

If you're in the market for a carry strap, this one is a good option because its adjustable length is longer than others - meaning that whatever size your board is, there's no problem. The velcro straps mean you can slot in your paddle too.

Red Paddle co: Kids quick dry change robe

red kid robe

Our two children love to wear these on the beach and have been great bits of kit for changing in and out of wetsuits and bathers. The suede microfibre feels amazing and our kids wanted to wear these all the time. Quick-drying and packs up super small in its own bag - this has become an essential beach accessory which we will always pack for beach adventures from now on.

water shoes

If you need to walk over rocks or pebbles to get your SUP out on the water - or just don't want to go barefoot - these water shoes are a great solution. They're lightweight, flexible, and quick drying. They're available in a rainbow of colours to suit all tastes.

Titan II SUP Pump

titan pump

Once you start to take regular trips to the beach, lake or river you begin to pay closer attention to how much time and energy it takes to unpack your board and to inflate it. This can be quite exhausting and many struggle to inflate their boards to the correct pressure. Different brands offer different pumps within their packages and this really does make a difference in being able to get your board pumped up with the highest pressure.

The best pump on the market at the moment is undoubtedly the Titan 2 SUP Pump from Red. We have tested this pump out and it is incredible compared to other pumps on the market. When out with a group of friends it regularly gets shared and passed around. The design of the pump is so well thought out with fold-away foot grips and a detachable handle and hose so the double chamber can easily fit into bags or the back of the car.

The dual cylinder offers an easier and more effective pumping action and a lot of friends of smaller size found it easier to pump up their boards to a much higher pressure than their regular pumps. The Titan2 SUP Pump is definitely a great investment to add to your enhanced experience of getting onto the water with your board. It also comes with a range of additional nozzles which we have used for blowing up camping beds and rubber dinghies.

Stand up Paddle Boarding in Great Britain book

paddle boarding book

Okay, so it's not strictly a piece of kit, but this is an excellent book for anyone who's on the lookout for the best spots in the UK for SUP. Not only that, the author, Jo Moseley has a great story to tell. She started paddle boarding aged 51 and in 2019, she became the first woman to paddleboard coast to coast, raising funds for 2MinuteBeachClean and The Wave Project along the way.

Meet the expert

Micheal Robinson paddle boarding expert

Michael Robinson comes from a surfing background and took up paddle boarding in 2008. He has paddled seas rivers and lakes across the UK, Europe and the Americas. The has trialled a range of both inflatable and hard boards as they have evolved over the past 16 years and has two daughters who have also embraced the SUP lifestyle and appreciation of being in the water.

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