What are the Best Paddle Boards for Beginners in 2018?
Over the last 10 years or so, paddle boarding has exploded in popularity. What was once a quirky, sub-genre of surfing has since become a mainstream activity and sport. Paddle boarding’s origins trace back to the age of ancient Hawaiians, and for a while it was forgotten or rather was overshadowed by its more action packed and charismatic cousin, surfing. However, it was due to the work and dedication of one of surfing’s most legendary icons - Laird Hamilton that paddle boarding was modernized and reintroduced to the world.
Beginners looking to get into the sport usually do so after an introductory paddle, whether that be in a class-type setting or with an experienced friend. These individuals should be looking at boards that cater not only to their individual needs, but must also take into consideration their experience level. The five paddle boards listed below are great boards in their own right, but are especially good for beginners:
Those looking to start any new endeavor, whether it be learning a new language, starting a new school subject or taking up a new activity like paddle boarding, must do two things to give them the highest chance of succeeding and continuing with the endeavor. The first would be to overcome inertia, to actually turn idea into action. First time paddle boarders can easily accomplish this by taking an introductory class, taking their first swipes of the paddle with a friend or by jumping in with both feet and purchasing a board.
The second, and perhaps hardest step, is to set themselves up for success, to keep the momentum going so that they can enjoy paddle boarding for years to come. This step can, of course, be accomplished through various means. However, since most paddlers need to purchase a board anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone and get a board that will help accomplish the task.
The name says it all, stand up paddle board. The entire activity (for the most part) requires the participant to stand atop their board, above the waterline. A paddler’s initial connection to their board is the surface upon which they place their feet. Therefore, it would make sense to ensure that this interaction is not only comfortable with the rider but would also afford them stability. Soft tops, hard tops and inflatables all have different effects on the rider as well as any padding that is added onto the board’s surface.
While an occasional dip into the cool water may be a welcome reprieve from the sun, going for a splash every couple of minutes tends to tax the resolve and patience of newcomers to paddle boarding. Everyone knows that it may take some time before beginners get their legs and become coordinated enough to glide effortlessly through the water. A board that will help keep a rider (especially a new rider) upright and paddling will go a long way towards keeping the enjoyment factor high and helping them progress in paddle boarding.
Ease of Use
For the majority of beginners, the most important thing is to just get in as much paddle time in as possible. Like other sports and activities, the amount of progress and comfort that a person has with paddle boarding is proportional to the amount of time they spend doing it. As such, finding a board or setup that requires minimal action to be put to use is essential for the paddler to get out on the water. Fussing with screwing in fins, finding just the right type of paddle and waxing boards may take some of the fun and excitement out of paddle boarding, and may very well lead to confusion and frustration in a new paddler.
Beginner’s looking for their first board should be careful in choosing. Not that there are a lack of options mind you. There are now dozens of paddle board companies, each with a range of products that can accommodate everyone from first timers to experienced cruisers, all the way to competition touring riders. For new paddler’s, the focus should really be on finding the board that can keep them standing and paddling and enjoying for as long a time as possible.
XTERRA Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board iSUP
XTERRA’s entry into the inflatable market is a veritable one stop shop for a beginner paddler. The iSUP package includes almost everything that a newbie will need to get out on the water and start paddling.
The 10-and-a-half-foot long, 30-inch wide board comes with an adjustable paddle, a coiled leash a stabilizing middle fin, high capacity hand pump and a stylish yet functional carrying bag. The only thing missing is a personal flotation device (PFD).
Made of the same high density rubber used to construct whitewater rafts, this inflatable paddle board strikes the delicate balance between the rigidity of a hard top board and the stability of a soft top. The standing area of the board is topped with a foam pad which provides plenty of grip without sacrificing comfort. The whole package is highly portable, but does take some effort to get set up. The board will require several minutes of pumping and the paddle will need to be adjusted to the proper height to be used effectively.
Named after the chic and beautiful eastern tip of Long Island, New York, the Montauk is as functional and user friendly as it is beautiful to look at. The bamboo design on the board is not a print, but actual hand-layered bamboo.
This is reinforced with carbon fiber and an EPS core which provides additional rigidity and stability to the board, but surprisingly doesn’t add too much weight.
The result is one of the most well balanced yet lightweight boards available on the market.
The solid core means that the Montauk is technically a hard top and can be a bit straining to stand on, not to mention slippery without the application of wax. To this end, the folks over at Long Island Boards added a foam deck pad which heightens comfort and the diamond grooved pattern ensures that any water that finds its way on top of the board is quickly drained away.
The 10-foot, 6-inch board (there are also longer versions) does come with a leash but not a paddle. Also, while the use of lightweight materials makes it a dream to carry around, it does raise some concerns regarding its durability when faced with rocks, the eventual drop from racks and bumps.
ISLE Classic Soft Top
Coming in at a maximum length of 10-feet, 8-inches and 5-inches in thickness, (and as its name suggests) this is the classic soft top paddle board. This board was built with the beginner and casual paddler in mind, as it emphasizes comfort and stability over attributes such as speed, maneuverability and style. This does not mean however, that it suffers in the quality department. Its soft top is paired with an EPS core (the same kind of material used in most hard-top boards) which includes a triple stringer system to bring the kind of rigidity that paddlers are used to with bigger and heavier hard boards. However, the soft construction also means that the board is highly susceptible to dents and compression marks.
The Classic’s polyethylene soft top is like paddle boarding while standing on firm pillows that still provide plenty of traction. The 31-inch deck is wide enough to provide ample amounts of stability while still giving enough space for a friend. For convenience, ISLE also provided an adjustable paddle that floats, and a 9-inch removable fin.
Also, ISLE has stated that the Classic is rated to carry just over 275-pounds, which means that it can be used by a wider array of people. It should be noted, however, that the Styrofoam body significantly increases drag and maneuverability. This is not a performance or competition board in any stretch of the imagination.
Blue Wave Sports Stingray
The only board on the list with an option to sit, the Stingray gives its rider options. An inflatable paddle board that comes with a high-capacity hand pump, carrying bag, collapsible seat and an adjustable paddle that comes with an extra blade to turn it into a kayak paddle. While the board does give its user the option to sit as if on a kayak, the lack of a foot wells means that this board is primarily a paddle board.
Measuring just under 10-feet in length, the board is still surprisingly stable which many have attributed to the fact that it can made even more stable by increasing the amount of air pumped into it. The huge deck pad means that even though the board has been inflated to the stiffness of a hard board, it is still comfortable on the feet, ankles and knees on longer paddles. It does take a bit of time to setup and get going, but giving beginners the option of standing up or sitting down comfortably is a benefit that few other boards can offer.
Surftech 1106 Balboa
Surftech has been a reliable and respected name in the paddle boarding industry for many years now, and their 1106 Balboa holds true to this. Known as a great all-around board, the 11-foot, 6-inch Balboa is not exactly what you’d caller a “looker”.
But what it lacks in stylish design it more than makes up for in ride and build quality. At 33.5-inches wide this board, combined with its pulled-in squash tail provides a great deal of stability even in the presence of 2-foot waves.
Durability and maintenance cannot be questioned thanks to Surftech’s AST construction. For comfort Surftech has padded the deck with EVA foam that riders will greatly appreciate on longer paddling sessions.
The solid build and maneuverability would also allow the rider to use it to paddle surf. However, the same values also make it bulky and heavy when out of the water.
As paddle boarding becomes even more popular, more and more people will want to try it for the very first time. As their interest in the sport grows so too will their need to own their own board. When this moment comes, they will need to think about the boards stability, how easy is it to get out on the water and use, and finally how comfortable it is (learning the nuances of paddle boarding will be difficult enough without having to worry about foot cramps and joint pain).
With this in mind, there is one board mentioned in this list that has set itself apart from the others. The Montauk is a dream on the water as it is off the water. Its stability-centric design keeps the rider dry and having fun on the water, while its lightweight build means that it is a breeze to deal with on land. It uses sustainable material and it looks as good as it rides. Very few boards on the market can compete with the Montauk in this regard, and would be a great board for beginners.