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Best SUP for Beginners

Best SUP for Beginners and Families

Stand up paddleboarding (SUPing) has become increasingly popular over the last several years, and with good reason. It’s FUN. I’ve been a passionate kayaker for years but I’ll have to admit I rarely choose my kayak anymore.

I love the view I get from the SUP; you can look out over your landscape and see under the water if you’re paddling on a calm lake or creek. Having the option to sit, kneel, or stand allows you to experience a landscape in a different way.

Woman standing on a SUP with aquatic plants and mountains in the background. Best SUP for Beginners.
Body Glove Oasis SUP

It does require a little balance and the first time you stand on one you may think you don’t have the coordination to not fall off, but give it a little time and it gets much easier very quickly (and helps your balance)! SUP’s are very versatile and can be used standing, sitting, kneeling, or many have options for seats to go into a “kayak mode”.

We tried out five inflatable SUPs. Each one comes with basic things, like a zip backpack (varying comfort between models), paddle, safety leash, repair kit, and manual pump (all about the same, and you will want to replace this if you SUP often!).

Paddleboarding with Kids

You can get your kids their own paddleboards, but I found using a kid’s size paddle and larger boards they do great. Adult size boards are a bit hard to manage for many children on their own, but a strong kid or several children will not have any issues with it.

Two children sitting on a SUP paddling out into teal water towards mountains. Best SUP for Beginners.
A 6 and 8 year old on the Body Glove Performer with kid-sized paddles

Two of my children have gotten great at paddling their board together, and love that they don’t need to switch sides. Sometimes they stand up and sometimes they sit or kneel. It is good practice to tell your board partner when you’re going to stand up or sit down!

SUP for Beginners: A Few Quick Tips

Paddle Direction

Experiment with ways to hold your paddle. Some paddles (like the body glove ones) have a definite direction and can only be put together one way, it’s easy to tell from the hand grip. Other paddles may work better for you if they’re facing the way you’d originally thought was backwards; play around with holding your paddle different ways to see what works for you!

Woman using a SUP paddle backwards, standing on a SUP with a window in the front

REI has a great post with some beginner paddle strokes and how to hold your paddle. Watching some videos can be helpful before you head out too, so you have some ideas with strokes to play around with.

Steering

Your steering is going to be most effective when done far towards the front of your SUP, and to make a sharp turn you’ll want to push in an outward direction. Crouch down to stabilize yourself when doing this. Experiment with turning and backing up in calm waters, it is trickier than in a kayak.

Paddle with your Core

You want your core, not your arms, to do most of your work paddling. Grip your paddle several feet apart, and raise your hands above your head. Rest your paddle on your head. Your elbows should be bent at approximate right angles, change your grip on the paddle until your angle is just slightly less than 90 degrees.

Pumping up your Inflatable SUP

I inflated my SUP manually once, and that was enough for me. Save your energy for the water, and get an electric pump if you can budget a little extra for one. SUPs take from 10-25 minutes to inflate manually, depending how aggressive you are with your pumping and which manual pump you’re using.

One of the SUPs we reviewed comes with an electric pump (the Body Glove Performer) and that’s the pump I use and it’s great. It inflates in 10 minutes, during which time I can get my gear packed up in my dry bag, get my PFD on, and chill out by the water while it does all the work for me. And when it hits the PSI you set it to inflate to (usually 15psi) it stops on its own.

Close-up of an electric pump inflating a SUP to 9.68 PSI

I usually don’t deflate my boards entirely, I just take half the air out and fold them up. If you have extra space in your vehicle this will save you some time between outings as you’ll need to put less air in them.

When I inflate two boards the pump does get hot but it has never failed on me. I do leave my car running while it’s plugged in.

Body Glove Performer 11′

The Body Glove Performer is an awesome board. The price is fantastic for the quality, it maneuvers well, it has tons of storage, and it comes with an electric pump!

Specs:

  • Price: $399.99 (Costco), $999.00 (BodyGlove.com)
  • Size (LxWxH): 11′ x 34″ x 5.4″
  • Weight: 24#
  • Weight Capacity: 320#
  • Fin: Three, fixed
  • Fun Features: Comes with an electric pump, lots of storage
Two children paddling a board towards the camera, mountains in the background

The bungee area on this board is large and can fit lots of gear. There are also tons of D-rings placed all over the board for clipping things to, or for adding on a seat.

The paddleboard has a very narrow nose which makes it easier to steer or turn than boards with more rounded noses. Because of this narrow nose, it does have a fair amount of space up front that isn’t usable for storage or bodies, so we never put more than two people on this one.

Two children on a paddleboard near shore, drybag shown in front of them

I would recommend this to any adult or family as a great first board, and if you don’t have a Costco membership it’s worth buying one just to buy this as the price is $600 cheaper than if you were to buy from Body Glove’s website.

Body Glove Oasis 10′

Yoga boards are becoming increasingly popular, and this is a great one. The whole surface is an uninterrupted yoga mat, with no center handle so you have plenty of space to stretch out.

Specs:

  • Price: $379.99
  • Size (LxWxH): 10′ x 34″ x 5.4″
  • Weight: 22#
  • Weight Capacity: 300#
  • Fin: Three, fixed
  • Fun Features: Yoga Mat, paddle handle and attachment points
View from above of a teal yoga mat paddleboard surface
Yoga mat covers almost the entire board because of no middle handle

I don’t regularly put all three kids on my paddleboard but I’ve done it. And I’ve taken two kids out a number of times and even on a 10′ board we all have plenty of room.

This board is so stable. It’s the same width as the performer, but it doesn’t taper and it’s rounded nose makes for greater surface area, and it just feels so much wider when you’re on it because of the yoga mat space.

Raft mode! If you have two of these boards or know another family that has one, you can attach the front and rear of the boards to each other using the paddles through the front and back handles. (Make sure to bring other paddles to use for paddling if you do this!)

Two paddleboards attached together by paddles, lots of bags and toys and children on the board, wide-angle picture taken from above.
Oasis paddleboards in raft mode, transporting lots of toys to a beach across the water

We have lunch on the water and I usually bring it in one or two big bento boxes so it’s great to be able to attach to each other to float and eat. We also love attaching them together, piling on lots of sand toys, and paddling out to our destination. It’s very secure in raft mode and is fun to have everyone together!

A few things I don’t love about this board are less storage (smaller bungee area), less D-rings for attachments, handle design can be a tad less convenient for quick portages but on the whole is worth it.

It also isn’t going to maneuver quite as well as the Performer, but I’ve found it very responsive and it’s always my board of choice.

Hydro-Force Panorama Inflatable SUP with Window 11’2″

When I first saw this board I quite literally screamed out loud. A window cut out of the bottom so you can view fish and plants?! But with a large cutout in the board, how would that affect the overall stability of the board? Would it feel off balance?

Specs:

  • Price: $379.99
  • Size (LxWxH): 11’2″ x 35″ x 6″
  • Weight: unknown
  • Weight Capacity: 330#
  • Fin: One, removeable
  • Fun Features: Window!

This board was so much fun, and taking it out when the sun is high in the sky you can see so many cool aquatic plants as you drift by. It’s fantastic for lazy floats on streams or lakes. In the evening when the sun is not overhead, you can’t see anything through the dark window so it’s not as exciting as daytime paddling.

The backpack is less sturdy but easier to get the SUP into than the Body Glove bags, if not carrying it any distance this bag is just fine. The fin is a lot narrower and longer, and it caught on aquatic plants more and didn’t track as well. The D-ring underneath the board is useful for towing if you have some kids who are done paddling.

The window rated to hold 66#, so your child could bring some small soft toys to keep in there and play with during your journey. I still don’t want my kids “in” the window, but I’ve tossed my phone and birding monocular in there.

Picture through the window showing aquatic plants below the board
Viewing aquatic plants through the window, can even use the window cover as a sun shade

This board has a two way inflate/deflate valve, but it’s sticky. I usually have to hold it in to deflate (it’s supposed to stay down/up when you press it). This is a minor inconvenience, but means I have to be closer to the PVC-smelling air as I’m deflating it. This is likely an issue with just my board, but the components are just not as well made as the Body Glove boards.

A woman and two children on a SUP, one child stretching in back one looking down into the window up front

It did not feel quite as stable as the Body Glove boards either, and the build quality is not as good. But we have had an absolute blast on this board and I highly recommend it, especially if you have kids that will be hanging out on your board but aren’t quite ready to paddle themselves.

Aqua Marina Vapor 10’4″ Inflatable SUP

The Aqua Marina Vapor is a great, affordable option for beginner to intermediate paddleboarders. Most suitable and stable for smaller boarders, what this SUP lacks in speed it makes up for in maneuverability. It is also incredibly lightweight and packable, making it easy to take along on a vacation or trip to the beach.

Specs:

  • Price: $529
  • Size (LxWxH): 10’4” x 31” x 6”
  • Weight: 18.7#
  • Weight Capacity: 308#
  • Fin: One, removeable
  • Fun Features: Lots of attachment points, optional seat
A paddleboard laying on beach sand with the water behind
Aqua Marina vapor SUP

This board is best for smaller boarders. At 130 lbs, I found it suitably stable, but my husband found it a bit “bouncy”, even on calm waters.

There are 9 total D-rings: 4 on the nose securing the adjustable cargo bungee, 4 more that can be used to attach a seat (not included), and 1 on the tail to attach the ankle leash. The grooved honeycomb footpad allows for excellent grip.

A woman and two children on a SUP

The Vapor is lightweight, affordable, and very easy to store. This board has great maneuverability when it comes to making turns. This is not a “fast” board, so it may not be suitable for more advanced boarders. Stability is lost as you get closer to the max carrying capacity, making this board better for lighter boarders.

A man and two children on an SUP floating

ISLE Switch Inflatable Hybrid SUP & Kayak

What makes the ISLE Switch Hybrid standout is that it doubles as a regular SUP and a double-inflatable kayak. It is great for families because the board is lightweight, stable and can fit two people in seats, and even an extra small child on the tip or tail (not in a seat). It is also extremely stable.

Specs:

  • Price: $995
  • Size (LxWxH): 11.6’ x 35.5” x 6”
  • Weight: 19#
  • Weight Capacity: 425#
  • Fin: One, removeable
  • Fun Features: Lots of attachment points, kayak mode, high weight capacity

The Isle Switch is Stable Mabel! I had kids jumping off both sides, both ends, climbing all over it and it did not even think of tipping. It’s long, wide and thick and as stable as they come. I did not test this in whitewater or fast moving current but I wouldn’t hesitate to do so due to it’s fantastic stability. 

A smiling boy on an Isle paddleboard, mountains in background

The board is easy to carry and also has a nose and tail carry loop for easy two-person carrying. There are two velcro straps on the SUP for attaching the paddle which makes carrying even easier, no need to carry the paddle in one hand just strap it to the board. 

The carrying backpack fits a rolled SUP, paddle (broken down into 3 parts), pump, fin, leash, and even fits one complete seat with footrest. SUP rolls very easily and fits into the generous sized backpack – you don’t have to stuff it in, it fits nicely. 

The sample I tested came with a manual pump, but now the board package online comes with an electric pump. I would have enjoyed the electric pump – the SUP was not difficult to inflate but it did take me about 15 minutes to get it to the recommended 13 PSI. 

The Switch has tons of storage options. 6-point front bungee, 4-point rear bungee. Rugged webbing loops run the entire length of the board on both sides so you can easily strap down dry bags, small coolers, etc.  The 425 lb weight limit means you could really load this thing up. It would be ideal for an overnight rig. 

It comes with an adjustable 4-piece travel paddle. Kayak mode – blades on either side, SUP mode – a handle goes in the place of one of the blades. Sweet velcro paddle holders on the side. 

A woman and child paddle an Isle SUP in kayak mode
Using the Switch in Kayak Mode

The package includes one kayak seat and footrest, which you easily inflate and attach to the webbing loops on the sides of the board. The seat is comfortable – it’s similar to a Crazy Creek camp chair with an inflatable bottom seat. The footrest can be adjusted closer or further away from your seat to give you the most leverage on your paddling.

SUP in a driveway with kayak mode seats attached and paddles strapped ot the side
SUP in kayak mode with seats inflated and paddle strapped to the side.

We were provided with a second seating setup for the SUP which was great for me and the kids. Two seats surprisingly fits on the board really well. Even though my passenger was a small child, I can tell the double-kayak mode would easily fit 2 adults. 

ISLE Grom Kids Inflatable SUP

I never ever thought of buying a kid-specific SUP – I figured the kids could just paddle mine – and while that may be true, they have really excelled and loved every minute paddling the Grom. An 8’ length is just WAY more manageable for kids than say a 11’ board. It’s very easy to turn, it’s not a rocky but it’s fast enough, and most importantly it’s highly stable. My kids are HOOKED on SUP’ing thanks in large part to the Grom. 

Specs:

  • Price: $595 (currently on sale for $395)
  • Size (LxWxH): 8.6’ x 28” x 6”
  • Weight: 18.6#
  • Weight Capacity: 145#
  • Fin: One, removeable
  • Fun Features: Lots of attachment points, kayak mode, high weight capacity

The Grom board is extremely stable. This board comes with two smaller stationary fins, and one large removable fin. The advantage to having 3 fins is it increases stability. Potential disadvantage is it creates more drag, but not a huge issue for us. 

Included in Grom SUP kit, accessories laid out on lawn

My 5 year old who has never been on a paddle board before was paddling independently, jumping off, climbing back on. “I thought it was going to be so tippy – but it’s not at all!” – Harper, age 5

My 8 year old’s arms are not long enough to be able to reach the center handle and carry it by himself. It’s not an issue of weight – he can carry something that weighs 18 lbs, but he cannot reach the handle. However, the Grom has a nose and tail carry loop so my kids each grabbed a handle and carried it to the water that way, with no issues. 

Two children carrying a pink and green striped paddleboard

A kid-sized carrying backpack included, and it actually fits a child. The backpack is very adjustable and I would say it fits kids age 8+. Backpack fits the rolled up board, disassembled paddle, pump and leash. 

A child wearing the Grom paddleboard backpack on a lawn

The board has decent storage, a 3-point bungee in front, 2-point bungee storage in back. Velcro paddle holder straps on the side. No other webbing or loops to attach additional gear. 

It comes with a ultra lightweight carbon fiber 3-piece adjustable paddle. Adjustable from 67-83” length which goes small enough for 5 year old to use.

A girl stands up on a pink and green SUP on a sunny day on the water

The grom is a paired down version of the ISLE Pioneer SUP. The board is as stable as they come thanks to the 3-fins. The shorter length makes it much more manageable for kids to paddle. My 5 and 8 year old were inexperienced SUP’ers and they were turning and paddling around with ease after about 10 minutes.

It features a soft traction pad which is nice because kids don’t always like to stand – especially when they’re first learning. My kids spend a lot of time on their knees, as well as jumping on and off, and the soft top means no one got any “rug burns” from rough surfaces. The board is lightweight enough for 2 very small kids to carry tip and tail, and an older child will be able to carry the board independently using the center handle. My 8 year old couldn’t quite reach.

A girl smiles on a SUP while holding the bungee of another SUP, wind blowing her hair

Paddleboarding for Families

Paddleboarding is a really fun sport that you can do with the whole family. It takes a bit of an initial investment but it could soon be your favorite way to spend warm summer days!

Related Articles:

Paddleboard Roundup

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