Guide to Buying an All-around Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)

Stand up paddle boarding is a healthy and soothing way to enjoy the water. SUP boards are best for surfing, fishing, touring, or simply enjoying the outdoors. The shapes and sizes of boards reflect the variety of things you can do with them.

In this case, SUP boards ideal for a specific purpose may limit you to other paddling activities.

If you are trying to get into stand-up paddle boarding, you will likely explore various paddling activities. You would want to look for an all-around board that you can use for many things and not limit you to a specific paddling type. 

Below are five things you must consider when buying an all-around inflatable paddle board:

1. Consider the length, thickness, width, and outline shape of a stand-up paddle boarding.

When purchasing an SUP board, you must consider factors such as width, thickness, length, and outline shape.  

In terms of length, paddlers in the average weight range must choose all-around boards in the range of 9" 6-11." It would be long enough for you in this range to track well and paddle fast but may cause some difficulty in doing turns. In general, paddlers may use boards from the length of 10'6" - 10'7", depending on weight and height.  

Concerning the width, the best measurement for an all-around board is somewhere at 32" inches. Here, you get to achieve stability and speed.
Board thickness is also an essential factor when choosing an all-around SUP board. Most manufacturers trend to a measurement of 6-inches. The issue with a 6-inch design is that it is more rigid, making it difficult for beginners to paddle. For a more stable paddling, a 5-inch board may do a better job. Also, a 5-inch board is more accessible to paddle and to climb back onto after falling off.

For the outline shape of an all-around board, one must avoid extremes in the outline contours. All-around boards with a wide and rounded tail or a flat tail with a few rounded corners will provide paddlers the best of balance and performance. Also, a board with a narrow tail may feel less stable compared to a board with a more rear volume.

When you want to ride with a pet or a child, avoid boards with excessively long and narrow noses. Boards with these features carry a speed benefit that may be of no use when having someone else on board.

When buying paddle boards, also ensure the materials used. Some manufacturers reshape boards in ways that minimize their costs that result in outlines that aren't best for new paddlers. 

2. Consider the fin system when buying an all-around inflatable stand up paddle boarding

Suppose you are searching for a relaxing activity with your paddle board. You can keep it safe and simple by choosing a board that has a set of permanently attached unbreakable fins.

If you wish to get more technical, you may want to choose a configurable fin system. A board with an FCS compatible side fin boxes or US center fin box will allow you to use various fins for various purposes. With these fin boxes, you will not be limited to the fin system built-in with the board. As much as possible, avoid manufacturer-specific removable center fin that won't allow a replacement to alter the fin depth. 

As you search for a paddle board, you might find somewhere in cheap markets removable center fin with two built-in shorter side fins. The issue with these setups is that there is no way for you to adapt the board to various conditions. Most removable center fin is around 7 inches tall. The height is high enough to drag in shallow water, and separating them would leave the two tiny side fins that do not supply enough bite. In this case, the board will not have sufficient traction when used. 

Basically, it would be best if you chose an all-around board with a center fin box that works on adopted surf industry standards. The US Fin Box is best for this matter. With this option, you may use your inflatable board in shallow waters.

Like everything else, there are pros and cons of having a permanent fin system. This option is best for rental fleet boards where breakage can be an issue. The common misconception of having this kind of board is that it is slower than others. What most people do not know is that shorter fins create lesser drag and allow faster turning. Also, longer center fins enable the board to move straighter, requiring lesser strokes for paddlers.

In terms of speed, the board shape is always the determinant, while fins play a supporting role.  

3. Knowing the right features of an inflatable stand up paddle boarding

More extended pads will allow paddlers to do several activities such as yoga and relaxing on the water. Also, check the tail area of the deck pad when buying paddle boards. To keep that grip when putting foot pressure, you may choose a board with a contoured tail pad and a raised rear edge.

Having an arch bar on your board also makes a huge difference. Here, you get to position your foot without the need to look down. Arch bars are found chiefly on surfboards, and other SUP manufacturers are now beginning to include them on paddle boards.  

4. choosing between inflatable or epoxy all-around boards

Epoxy hard boards may carry more technical advantages for water sports such as surfing or racing. However, when we speak of an all-around board, a rigidly built inflatable may still be the best option.

Why? Inflatable SUP boards have a uniform thickness that makes them more stable and more comfortable compared to hardboards of similar sizes and shapes. Hard boards, on the other hand, tend to be heavier and more sensitive to board breakage. Furthermore, inflatable paddle boards are easier on the body when doing yoga. Inflatable paddle boards are also travel-friendly, as you can roll them up and take them with you on airplanes.

Without a doubt, inflatable paddle boards carry a variety of activities perfect for adventurous people like you. There may be people who'd prefer a hard board over inflatables, but keep in mind that hard boards are no longer a standard to aspire to. Inflatable paddle boards no longer strive for hard board performance, now that inflatable technology and designs have improved.

5. Choosing the right inflatable stand-up paddle boarding

Choosing the right paddle board can be challenging. It is essential to narrow down the factors that make a specific board the best choice. Knowing its features will help you make the right decision. Begin your list with the shape and volume that matches your height and weight. Never forget factors such as configurability of fin systems, deck, and tail pads. Accessories such as travel bags also add to the value.


If you are having difficulty choosing the best inflatable boards, feel free to read our article Choosing the best standup inflatable paddle board – SUP or discuss with us here. Paddle Boarding Guru  is an online store specializing in high-performance inflatable stand up paddle boards and accessories. You may give us a call at 1-907-321-2853.


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