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The 5 best stand-up paddleboards for surfing, fishing, and exercising

Summary List PlacementStand-up paddleboarding — better known as SUPing — is one of the most fun outdoor sports to go mainstream in the last decade. Whether you're a surfer who wants a laid-back way to cruise island inlets, a river rat looking to up the ante on rapids, or just...

Summary List Placement

Stand-up paddleboarding — better known as SUPing — is one of the most fun outdoor sports to go mainstream in the last decade. Whether you’re a surfer who wants a laid-back way to cruise island inlets, a river rat looking to up the ante on rapids, or just someone trying to get in a great workout, gorgeous sightseeing, and a tan all at once, SUPs are so fun and available to anyone near a body of water. 

In today’s market, there is a dizzying array of boards for fishing, racing, river running, flat water, and yes, surfing. Constructions run the gamut from exotic epoxies, carbon, and fiberglass to incredibly durable foam and inflatable models. And considering this is rarely a cheap purchase, the choices can be overwhelming — especially for those new to paddleboarding. 

We’re here to help: At the end of this guide, we go into detail on what to look for when shopping for a stand-up paddleboard. Then, we tested our top picks with hours spent on lakes, tidal creeks, and of course, the open ocean. For the best stand-up paddleboards, we’ve broken them down into four categories: Inflatable, soft, hard (surfing), and fishing — taking the beginner and first-time buyer into account.  

Here are the best stand-up paddleboards:

The best SUP overall

Adventure Paddleboarding’s All Rounder is a solid, high-performance board for everyone from beginners to seasoned pros.

Pros: Lightweight, super-strong, a real surfboard for real waves, REI customer service

Cons: Expensive, doesn’t come with leash or paddle

The All Rounder has an extruded polystyrene (EPS) foam core, making it nice and light at 24 pounds. But it’s also constructed extremely durably, with a carbon fiber, epoxy, and fiberglass overlay bonded in place beneath under tough epoxy resin.

It’s extremely stable with a 5-inch thick and 32-inch wide deck and a surf-friendly construction and shape that allows the board to pivot quickly into turns. The hull is a double concave shape, which translates into lift and speed when going down the line and traveling parallel to a wave’s face.

At the tail, the board is gently rockered, which helps initiate turns. Though the board only ships with a large and rigid single fin, it features side plugs to add a pair of inexpensive FCS fins for extra bite in waves and straighter tracking in windy flat water conditions.

We also liked the board’s deck traction, which was very grippy but soft enough to keep your feet from going numb during a long paddle. The back of the traction pad is slightly upturned to keep your foot from slipping off and providing a point of reference in turns.

The board also has well-placed handles for fatigue-free carrying and was built with a series of plugs along the rails and deck for attaching a cargo net, or a nose-mounted GoPro — a great touring feature. For surfers over 195 pounds, there’s also an 11’6″ version of this board.

The only downside is it doesn’t come with a paddle or leash included in the price.

The best soft SUP

Liquid Shredder’s 10’6″ standard soft board is incredibly durable and a lot of fun to paddle in when you’re on open water or in small to medium surf.

Pros: Lightweight, kid-friendly, durable, surfs well for a soft board, one-year warranty

Cons: Light weight not great in windy conditions, could use tie-downs to secure gear to the deck

Liquid Shredder started as a tiny “slick skin” surfboard maker 15 years ago. Among their paddleboard lineup, the 10’6″ standard soft board is just 26 pounds but very stable, at 32 inches wide and 4 inches thick.

Liquid Shredder uses a patented construction process with an EPS foam core reinforced with lightweight aluminum I-beam stringers. This helps keep it from flexing or breaking amidst the waves. The outer vinyl skin is seemingly bulletproof and the rails (sides) of the board are then further wrapped in a protective layer of PVC.

The board’s ride is stabilized with three soft, flexible fins with smaller sidebite fins, all of which help it track straight and stop it from sliding sideways in steeper waves.

We really liked thoughtful touches like an offset center hand grip for shorter arms to carry, a patch kit in the unlikely event you scrape a hole in the board’s coating, and a small Gore-Tex vent that purges hot air from inside the board to prevent expansion. It also features a small drain plug near the tail and a soft and grippy foot patch over most of the deck.

I’ve owned my first Liquid Shredder for more than 10 years and it’s still going strong. The one-year warranty though adds a nice peace of mind.

The best inflatable SUP

The Tower Adventurer inflatable is a durable, sturdy, and easy-to-use inflatable stand-up paddleboard.

Pros: Lightweight, very stiff, tracks nicely on waves and mild chop

Cons: Flimsy pump, doesn’t do very well in wind, no D-rings up front, doesn’t come with bag or leash

Tower was started by standup paddleboarder Stephen Aarstol, but became a $25 million business after a Shark Tank investment by billionaire Mark Cuban. Tower focuses on quality gear at an affordable price coupled with solid customer service. That’s why its inflatable SUP is our favorite.

Inflatable SUPs are easy to transport, safe for kids and beginners, and with modern composite materials — like military-grade outer skins — incredibly durable. They’re especially great on rock-strewn rivers.

The Tower Adventurer is incredibly rigid when blown up, thanks to tens of thousands of gossamer threads that act as a network of tiny support columns between the upper and lower deck. At 6 inches, this board is thicker and rigid than many inexpensive inflatable boards. Its seams are also glued with strong epoxy, so it can take a beating. I’ve used it amidst the waves and sharp coral of Fiji and it came away with a few scrapes but no punctures.

The Adventurer is surprisingly light at 24 pounds and comes with a hand pump and gauge and inflates to its full 11 PSI pressure in a few minutes. However, you will exert yourself blowing it up and you might be happier with one of the brand’s 12-volt electric pumps.

Out on the water, the Adventurer tracks straight and surfs surprisingly well even on medium waves, thanks to its shape and three fins. Its soft construction is a confidence booster for any beginner. The three-piece paddle is not as light as high-performance models but is durable and perfectly serviceable.

We also really like Tower’s inclusion of a carrying strap, its two-year warranty, and the company’s stellar customer service.

The only downside to the board is, like any other lightweight rounded nose board, it’s susceptible to being blown sideways in a stiff breeze. And it won’t hold up sideways against a wave.

The best SUP for surfing

Naish has been making surfboards since the late 1970s, and the 9’5″ Mana GTW may be far from the best paddler, but it’s a great surfboard.

Pros: Shaped ideally for small to moderate surf, solid construction, exceptionally buoyant

Cons: Too short to double as a touring paddleboard, somewhat unstable, requires deft footing 

If you want a board that can perform in the surf, you’ll want to be sure it has a rocker design and is wide for stability. The 9’5″ Mana GTW is short enough for sportier spirits to surf a little more aggressively. The V-rocker and the rockered tail really let you walk back and pivot into a turn with relative ease.

Whether you’re a beginner or not, this is a great board, especially if you’re planning to ride smaller waves. And at 4.75-inches thick, this board will float most people under 210 pounds, including gear and/or a dog.

However, maneuverability almost always comes at the cost of stability and being only 10 feet long, this board does not track well. It won’t be good fir touring, so if you want a more hybrid-style paddleboard, consider our main pick, Adventure paddle boarding’s All Rounder instead.

The best SUP for fishing

The Bōte Rackham AeroBōte makes fishing from a SUP, which is otherwise designated for the most nimble and deft-footed, easy enough for just about anyone.

Pros: Stable, maneuverable, and the most customizable, comfortable fishing SUP I’ve ever tried; comes in camo for hunting

Cons: Expensive; paddle, push pole, lean post, and other accessories not included

Fishing from a stand-up paddleboard lets you be stealthier, enter shallower waters, and stay dry, compared to kayaks, skiffs, or wading.

But it’s also something of a challenge: Wind and swell are constantly testing your balance, anchoring or sitting still requires a lot of paddling or an actual anchor, and the board needs to carry (and secure) all your gear.

Bōte’s Rackham AeroBōte is different (read: better) than other fishing SUPS. At a lengthy 12 feet and 4 inches, this SUP really borders on a boat — and it’s nearly as stable as one. The only way I fell off was by trying to navigate around the lean post, which was a stupid thing to do, frankly.

Securing your gear on the Rackham is exciting instead of the usual frustration, thanks to D-rings, bungees, and Velcro galore. Conveniently placed handles make portages and dragging it up the beach a breeze, while an airplane-ready storage bag cinches the whole thing down so you can take it just about anywhere.

The non-slip deck is a no-brainer, but I must add that it feels notably pleasant under bare feet. The optional lean post makes for a surprisingly comfortable full day on the water and it stores fishing rods. The Rackham is also cooler- or bucket-ready, so you can take a seat, too. I originally opted to leave mine on the beach thinking I wanted more open deck space, but there was actually plenty and it would’ve been nice to have a seat and a few cold snacks. 

The Rackham comes with an adjustable three-piece paddle, which is lightweight and quickly stores in a paddle sheath near the bow for getting your hands free quickly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spotted a fish and bent down, only to drop my paddle and spook the fish. 

This board also offers a push pole (not included), which you can use in shallow water to push instead of a paddle. I found this accessory to help me cover twice as much water with far more stealth than with a paddle in the sand and grass flats.

All these features do add up to a cringe-worthy price tag. But keep in mind that fishing boats are still far more expensive, and you’re gaining functionality, portability, and comfort. If you live anywhere near a good, calm fishing hole, fresh or salt, there’s nothing better for your adventuring.

Read my full review of Bōte’s Rackham AeroBōte here. — Owen Burke

 

How to shop for a stand-up paddleboard

Among the most important considerations for stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are weight and durability — two factors that are not always mutually exclusive — as well as what the right shape and materials are for your needs.

If you want a board that can perform in the surf, you’ll want to be sure it incorporates a rocker, which is the front-to-back concave of a board’s hull that allows it to sit more comfortably on a wave’s face. Meanwhile, a straighter, flatter board is great for touring and steady tracking, but can be more difficult to maneuver.

Also, the wider the board, the more stable it will be.

For the boards on this list, we’ve tried to ensure that you’ll not only be able to hoist the board onto the roof of your car, but that it also won’t ding at the slightest bump or snap in half on a waist-high wave.

We also took market factors into consideration. Currently, the stand-up paddleboard marketplace is as fluid as the ocean. Manufacturers, vendors, and models come and go seemingly overnight. We’ve tried to recommend well-warrantied products from companies we know you’ll be able to deal with at least a year or two from now.

A final important factor to note is that if you have children who will be playing around with a stand-up board in the ocean or on flat water, we strongly recommend either an inflatable or our completely soft foam model recommendation. The last thing you need is a 25- or 30-pound, ten-foot-long airplane wing banging off your child’s head or a rigid fin digging into their skin.

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