Love paddle boarding?
No room to store a board?
Hate wrestling your board on to the roof of your car?
The perfect solution to these problems is an inflatable paddle board. Not sure where to start? No problem. We’ve put our team to the test and asked them to break down our recommendations for you as we pick the best inflatable paddle board currently available. In this article, we go into detail on five of the top 10 inflatable paddle boards.
As always, feel free to hop on over to our stand up paddle boarding (SUP) introduction to get up to speed (or brush up) on all of the SUP terms and lingo and get familiar with the types of paddle boards and components. If you’re still unsure, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help.
What Makes the Best Inflatable Paddle Board?
The primary reason that people want an inflatable stand up paddle board (iSUP) is because they don’t have the space. Not in their vehicle, not at their home, not anywhere. If it wasn’t for space constraints, most people who have an iSUP would opt for a more traditional hard board.
So… the best inflatable paddle board must look and feel like a traditional SUP, but then collapse into a backpack so it can get jammed into a trunk or closet. If you haven’t been on an inflatable paddle board recently, you’re probably imagining that it is a bit like riding a cheap blow-up pool toy.
And if that’s what you’re thinking, you need to try out one of our recommended inflatables.
These boards will have you thinking that you’re on a traditional SUP.
There are really only two things that let you know that you aren’t on a traditional SUP.
- Since the inflatables do not have a rigid skin, an inflatable paddle board can take some pretty good abuse. As long as it’s not sharp or pointy abuse, these iSUPs will bounce right back and are more durable and robust than a traditional hard board.
- The other difference is that these boards will give you a workout before you get in the water. Once you are ready to use them you need to take 5-10 minutes to inflate them. Pumping them up to pressure will get your blood flowing and give you a good warm-up. Especially the last 10% (unless you have an electric pump of course). Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.
To be the best inflatable paddle board, an iSUP needs to:
- be suitable for both beginner and experienced paddlers,
- have the right combination of glide (to paddle efficiently in a straight line) and agility (to be able to turn),
- have a durable skin with a solid warranty,
- be easy to carry, use, and inflate, and
- provide good value for the price.
So we ranked all of the boards based on the following criteria:
- Stability (how steady is the board vs how likely is it to buck you off?)
- Glide Performance (how well does the board travel in a straight line when you paddle, and how far does the board travel forward with each paddle stroke?)
- Ease of Use (how easy is it lug the board to the water’s edge and get it inflated, does it come with a backpack or carrying strap, can you attach your day bag on the board as you head out on the water?)
- Agility (does the board turn on a dime, or do you need half the lake to turn the battleship around?)
- Durability (how solid does the board feel, how does it handle bumping into the wharf, and what kind of support or warranty is offered with the board?)
- Price (money talks, especially when it stays in your jeans)
So getting to business, here are the top five boards in our ranking for the best inflatable paddle board.
- Ease of Use:
Red Paddle Co Ride
- 10’6″ x 32″
Tower Adventurer 2
- 10’4″ x 32″
Imagine Surf Icon LTE
- 10’2″ x 32″
Isle All Around
- 10’0″ x 31″
BIC Sport SUP AIR
- 10’6″ x 33″
Head and shoulders above the other inflatables and landing our title of best inflatable paddle board is the Red Paddle Co Ride. Red Paddle Co has been one of the pioneers in the inflatable SUP movement and ONLY deals with inflatables. Their boards have consistently been leading the way among iSUPs and the Ride is no different.
The Red Paddle Co Ride is the complete package. Great graphics, wicked fun to ride, super durable, and it feels like a hard board when inflated.
This board is extremely stable, especially in choppy water. Or during those first few tentative experiences when you’re new to paddle boarding. You know the feeling. When you’re just trying to figure things out and get your sea legs under you. When your toes have a death grip on the board and your body is as stiff as a plank. We’ve all been there.
Beyond its exceptional stability, this board smoothly glides through the water yet is agile enough to take on the surf. Just keep it out of the really big waves. The rails are quite rounded on this board (just like all inflatable paddle boards). This makes it a little more difficult to carve in the surf. The Ride comes with 3 attached fins (many of the other iSUPs require the center fin to be removed during transport) and because all 3 fins on the Ride are attached, it eliminates the possibility of user error and losing parts or pieces during transport or storage.
What really sets the Ride apart is that it can be inflated to a maximum pressure of 25psi. This is in comparison to 15-20psi for most of the others. This allows the Ride to look and feel like a hard board and have the stiffness of a hard board while feeling softer on the feet. Most of the other inflatable boards are between 6 and 8″ thick so they make you feel like you are perched up high above the water. The Ride is just under 5″ thick and so it feels more like a traditional SUP.
The Ride is constructed with high quality PVC (2 layers across the entire board, 4 layers at the rails) so it can take some abuse. Red Paddle Co stands behind their product and has a great reputation for strength, durability, and excellent quality. End result is a durable board from a reputable company.
The Ride comes with a quality backpack (with wheels), Red Paddle Co’s exclusive Titan manual pump, and a repair kit in case you ever puncture your board (same concept as patching a tire on your cruiser bike).
The price tag puts the Red Paddle Co Ride in the upper range of what most inflatable SUPs go for, but it does deliver in all areas and in our opinion it clearly is the best inflatable paddle board on the market.
Tower has revolutionized the paddle board industry. It’s one of the first manufacturers that openly offers their products direct to consumers. Most other companies focus on manufacturing and have a distribution network that they rely on to sell their product. In this traditional scenario, there is a bit of a mark-up added to the price of the board for each additional company that touches the product. Tower cuts these steps out of their process. As a result they are able to offer their boards direct to you at a savings.
This is another inflatable SUP that is extremely stable and so is very versatile. From beginners to experienced paddlers, flat water paddling to playing around in the chop, this inflatable does it all. When fully inflated (max rated pressure is 25psi), this iSUP is 6″ thick and can hold up to 400lbs. Hop on with a friend and you still don’t have to worry about a sagging or sinking board.
Like other inflatable paddle boards, the Tower Adventurer 2 offers middle of the road glide performance. But it does turn well and is reasonably maneuverable.
The Tower Adventurer 2 comes with 3 fins, including a center detachable fin. This is a double edged sword. You can take the center fin off when paddling in a very shallow area so you avoid dragging the fin on the rocks. This lets you explore some areas not typically accessible by paddle board. On the other hand, to roll up the inflatable you’ll need to remove the center fin. You’ll need to hope and pray that your organized and disciplined enough so that you don’t lose or misplace the fin along the way. You can always get a replacement fin – it’s just you probably won’t realize you need a replacement until you’ve pumped up your board and you’re ready to roll.
This board rolls up quite easily once deflated and the center fin removed. It actually is more like folding up than rolling. It’s slightly heavier than the other iSUPs so make sure to eat your Wheaties before lugging it around. The bonus is that the added weight comes from additional material so you end up with a more robust, durable board.
Where you’ll really fall in love with this board is when you go to pay for it. It is one of the lower cost boards on the market. Remember, no middle man. It’s typically sold in a package with a paddle, pump, and repair kit. As a result, you can pick up all that you need to get up and going in the paddle board world.
All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Tower Adventurer 2, in our opinion the second best inflatable paddle board currently available on the market.
Imagine Surf is a rider based brand that has the legendary Dave Kalama as their head designer. When a Hawaiian waterman with the surfing and paddling pedigree of Kalama is behind the brand, you know that you’re dealing with a brand that is all about the product.
The Imagine Surf Icon LTE is a really high quality board. It is very stable and performs better in the waves than any of the other iSUPs that we tried. The Icon comes with a single, detachable fin and has a unique quick clip system so you can easily and quickly attach or detach the fin without the use of tools or parts. So no more fumbling around trying to find the screw or screwdriver to attach your fin, just clip and go. Fewer parts = easier to use. Just don’t break the quick clip system or you’ll need to replace the entire fin box…
The Icon LTE has single layer skin construction. This means that you will want to be careful with what kind of abuse you inflict on this board. It is more durable than most hard boards, but less durable than a double layer iSUP. Because the board only has a single skin of material, it is extremely light. I mean EXTREMELY light. Pick it up, flip it over, throw it over your shoulder – no problem. At 17lbs, this is easily the lightest iSUP in our mix of recommended boards.
The Imagine Icon is a pure board and performs better in the waves than the other inflatable boards that we tried, even though it is 6″ thick when fully inflated.
One thing to keep in mind with the Icon is that part of the deck pad is white in color. This white pad can get dirty fairly easily and will be difficult to clean.
The Icon LTE comes with a paddle, pump, and backpack, so that you have everything that you need to hit the water right away. The overall price of this package is at the lower end of the scale meaning that you can walk away with a really high quality product at a reasonable price.
Out of all the inflatable boards, we found the Isle All Around to be the best value inflatable paddle board. Listed at $695, the All Around is priced in line with the least expensive inflatable boards available. However, it outperforms these peers by a country mile.
In the inflatable All Around, Isle Surf and SUP has put together a fairly stable board and has above average glide which makes it a dream to paddle, even in windy or choppy conditions. The board comes with three fins including a center detachable fin.
The boards that do come with the detachable center fin DO have a longer center fin (since it is removed before rolling up). As a result, these boards tend to have better straight line glide performance. Since these fins are removable, it allows for exploring shallow water areas. The warning that we keep harping on is that you must be EXTRA CAREFUL not to lose the fin… or screw… or screwdriver… It is critically important with these inflatables because the fins are removed when packing up these boards. It’s not really an optional step that you can skip.
The Isle All Around weighs in at less than 20lbs. It is pretty easy to transport and carry to the water’s edge. It is rated for paddlers up to 240lbs and it is recommended to be inflated up to 15psi. It proves to be fairly stiff at that pressure – definitely not like standing on a bowl of jello.
The board comes with a paddle, pump, and backpack carrying bag, so it’s another one of those package deals that provides simple one stop shopping. The FULL PACKAGE and all available for one of the lowest prices around – you tell me HOW you can go wrong with this purchase (hint: you can’t).
Since BIC supplies many of your favorite pens, why wouldn’t they put out a decent inflatable paddle board? Who knows how that marriage came to be? No joke – it is the SAME company. However, one thing is certain and it is that they have it figured out.
This board is another iSUP with excellent stability characteristics. If you have any worries about falling into the water then you’ll want to find a board similar to this one. The BIC Sport SUP AIR is super stable and is equipped with an oversized anti-slip deck pad. Again, be mindful of the white deck pad since it will show dirt and can be difficult to get clean.
The fin setup is a thruster (3 fins, 2 permanently-attached soft rubber side fins with 1 detachable center fin). By now you know the pros/cons of the detachable center fin so no use repeating it. If you happened to just skip on down to this section, the Cole’s Notes version is:
The Good: longer center fin = better tracking and glide, removable center fin = ability to explore shallow water.
The Bad: you can lose the fin/parts/tools = disappointment/frustration when you are ready to get out on the water but can’t find any one of the fin, screw, screwdriver.
The SUP AIR range of boards has a maximum rider weight around 200lbs, so you’ll want to be aware of the limitations of the board. Other than that, this board is one of the lighter inflatables out there, tipping the scales at just 20lbs and it does this by being constructed of a single layer skin on the board (vs the double layer that many other boards provide). Similar to the Imagine Surf Icon LTE, the single layer is not a big deal. Just know that you can’t throw this board around in the gravel parking lot without consequence.
The BIC Sport SUP AIR comes with a backpack and pump, but you’ll need to have a paddle or pick one up somewhere along the way. It is getting into the mid range of iSUP prices and the upper range compared to other iSUPs with single layer construction. Still, it is a great performing board and one that you would be happy with if you decided to make a purchase.
Please note the following:
- Some of these inflatable paddle boards come in different models (just like vehicles). We have reviewed the base models. Usually the main difference between the different versions is the type of board construction – so the base model may have single layer PVC construction, while the top end model has double layer construction (and a higher price tag as a result).
- Many boards come in various lengths for different sizes of people. We reviewed boards that were in the same range and would be suitable for us. It is important that you pick the right length of board for you. We have rules of thumb for making sure the board has the correct volume for you in our SUP Buyers Guide.
- The absolute number one way to find the best inflatable paddle board for you is to try out a few. We give you as much information as we can to educate you, but there is no substitution for a demo.
We hope to see you on the water!