Quick disclosure – I own and use all the gear I recommend. Versatility and a great “quality-to-price” ratio tend to be the things I love the most. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
I’ve owned half a dozen paddle boards and led tons of trips. Here’s what I’ve learned about gear & upgrades from years of paddling. Plus, at the bottom I have 12 different paddle board recommendations based on your prince range and size.
1. Electric pump: This should be every inflatable-SUP owner’s FIRST accessory:
There are about 5 or 6 different kinds electric pumps made in China. About 20 different American companies private label them their own brand name, but they are all exactly the same pump made in the same factory.
- I use this fast and simple one for around $70-80. They are quite until it gets to 1 PSI then kicks in the high-pressure pump. I always lend one of these to people who rent my Cypress paddle boards.
- OutdoorMaster has this new pump for $90 that is great
- These are more expensive versions that have a cooling fan to prevent it from overheating if you’re filling 2 or more SUPs. Both are in in the $150-180 range.
- But if price is an issue, a “good enough” one is under $60. It works fine, but takes 4-5 minutes longer to inflate and is loud the entire time. I have this smaller “good enough” one, as well as the dual-stage, faster one above. Remember, BOTH get the job done fine, one just just faster than the other.
- If you want something cordless, this rechargeable pump has a build-in battery for $145. That’s nice if you’re not near the car, or trying to use two pumps at the time time in one car’s A/C adapter – I’ve blown the fuse in my truck with two SUP pumps going at once. This pump goes a little faster when plugged in, though, and costs more.
- And if you don’t want an electric pump, but want to upgrade, I recommend these giant hand pumps.
2. Waterproof Dry bags. For the phone or ‘phone + gear,’ these make life way easier.
Here’s some I love:
- This is an awesome “Phone + a little more” waterproof dry bag for just $25. I love mine. It keeps the phone accessible (you can use it through the covering) and can hold keys, wallet, water bottle, etc.
- This is a great floating phone-only pouch for $20. The cheaper ones tend to have, well, cheaper feeling seals at the top. A waterproof case isn’t helpful if you phone gets bumped and ends up at the bottom of a lake.
- And a “Good enough” option is this phone-only dry pouch for $7 or (2 for $12). I used to have one of these, but they never were that great. This is a bare-bone, get you started kind of thing. Lots of SUP come with these for free, but tend to break pretty easy.
3. Life Jackets or Personal Flotation Device (PFD’s) because #safetythird
Lots of lakes and rivers like Boerne City Lake or Lady Bird Lake require you have have a PFD, and it’s just a good idea.
- Want the best? I love these by NRS – they have pockets, great maneuverability, and more. At $130, they are a fancy gift to any paddler. This is the style I wear whitewater kayaking. For Stand-up Paddle boarding, this kind lets me move comfortably.
- These Onyx ones for $55 are great “low-profile” life jackets for kayaking, SUP and paddle sports in general are. Good comfort, still made for paddlers, and solid overall jackets. It’s super convenient having pockets! This is what I typically would recommend because of the blend of functionality and price value.
- “Good enough” ones are this buckle kind ($35) or this zip-up kind ($55). They are universal “get the job done” jackets without anything fancy. I give these to people to rent my Cypress SUP’s. I own at least 4 of these.
- The best option for getting as much sun without a tan line while “checking the safety box” are these waist-strap inflatable PFD’s by ONYX for under $90. I wouldn’t recommend these for fast moving water, but casual paddling on lakes and rivers.
4. Water bottles and hydration
I’m digging this StickyFlask I picked up recently. It’s a 2-peice water bottle that stays rock-solid attached to my paddle board but easily detaches if I untwist the water bottle. Its way easier than how I would shove the water bottle in the bungies and hope it stayed in.
Check it out at https://stickyflask.com or on Facebook here
Recommendations of Inflatable Stand-up Paddleboards
There are waaaaaay too many brands of inflatable paddle boards out there – over 100.
I’ve grouped them by Price & Size, and narrowed each group down to a few recommendations based on my experience as a paddler, and knowledge from designing and importing the Cypress Stand-up Paddle board.
I know price is most important to you, but after that, you’ll need to consider the size and features that are best for you. You’ll also have to get on board with the concept that almost all inflatable stand-up paddle boards sold in the USA are actually made in China, and always have been. Lots of the non-inflatable, solid ones are made in the USA, but even most high-end inflatable SUP’s are made overseas. Because of the Trump-era 7 to 8% import tariffs and the higher cost of international shipping, all SUP prices will be higher for the foreseeable future.
So let’s get to it! Here’s how I’ve grouped the top 14 SUP’s by size and price. All the boards are 6″ thick – anything less is too poor quality to float an adult.
The Basics of Shopping for an Inflatable Stand-up Paddleboard
The “Good Enough” $250-350 paddleboards (Compare these to a Wal-Mart bike, or a Daewoo car)
What makes these so cheap? Two things: (1) They use a THINNER PVC material. (2) They use LESS PVC or LESS EVA foam material. (3) They have few features such as lift handles at the front and back, D-rings for attaching accessories, and other things.
How that works: Think of a paddleboard’s outer PVC material like ply wood: some plywood is thicker & stronger than others, and you can overlap two pieces of plywood to make it extra strong. Likewise, Paddleboards are made of PVC material that comes in different thickness or weights (called “denier”) and can use 1, 2 or ever more layers of PVC material. Cheap boards use a thinner, lighter-weight PVC, which you can tell if the PVC is less than 1,000 “Denier” (Denier is a measure of thickness & weight similar to “thread count” in fabric). Inexpensive boards use one layer of PVC material to keep costs low. Most times, Cheap boards may advertise “multi-ply” instead of “multi-layers” of PVC material. That’s not special, as all PVC material used is “multi-ply” but not all paddle boards have multi-layers of PVC. Cheap SUP’s generally don’t advertise their “Denier” rating because they are under 1,000. At best, they come with some freebie extras like cheap $3 waterproof phone bags.
“These are still great boards if…” If you or your young kids don’t care much about design or features, and just need something simple for a small number of summer seasons then these are still great boards to the job done. A Wal-Mart bike still works fine, and is great to learn on.
Here are my recommended “Good enough” boards by size.
10′ long x 30″ wide x 6″ thick:
10.5′ long x 32″ wide x 6″ thick
11′ x 32″ boards
Aqua Plus – ($300)
Between $400-700: “All Around” paddleboards
Great quality but reasonably priced – These boards use decent material that mean your SUP will last plenty long. They generally come with plenty of D-rings for accessories, extra lift handles besides just in the center, kayak paddle extensions, and other extras. They advertise their 1000+ Denier rating. Most of the time, they look a little better as well. They come with a few month or year warranty because they are built stronger.
10′ long x 30″ wide x 6″ thick or 10′ x 32″
Bluefin – $550
10’6″ x 32″
Cypress – between $450-550
ROC – $400
11′ x 32″ or 33″
Gili – $690
Isle – $650