August 24, 2022 12 min read

Choosing your Whitewater Stand Up Paddle Board

Man paddle boarding on a river

Whitewater can be an exhilarating way of getting some serious fun out of your paddle board in a challenging environment. However, if you don’t pick a suitable SUP board, it may well get the best out of you instead. Rivers have just about everything, from calm flat water, to a maze of giant boulders with fast flowing water snaking between them, to large standing waves meaning you don’t need that long journey to the beach to get some surfing practice.

There are boards which are specialists for a particular section of a river and others that are great all-rounders.

What is Whitewater and why is it important to know?

Generally speaking, Whitewater is classed as any stretch of water that has a significant amount of rapids. Rapids naturally go hand in hand with big boulders, swirling stoppers, standing waves, strong currents and altogether a great time! For this reason, your generic paddle board might not be a very wise choice as you’ll probably spend most of your time swimming after it. Whitewater is classified from grade I to VI, with the latter being the most severe. Let’s have a look at what makes a good SUP board for Whitewater!

Whitewater SUP Board characteristics

SUP Boards need to have good stability, high buoyancy and agile maneuverability. Unlike longer, thinner boards that are typically ideal for flat river running that allow for increased speed and directional stability, Whitewater SUP boards are wider, shorter and have a slight adaptation to the profile of the board to deal with the undulating surface of the Whitewater.

Whitewater SUP Board shape

Man paddle boarding on a whitewater

It is an important feature for a Whitewater SUP board to stay on top of the water's surface even when being forced to pitch up and down violently. Naturally, wherever the front of the board goes, the rest follows, so if the front of the board dives beneath the surface, guess what?... You’re going swimming!  A feature which helps to achieve this countermeasure is bending up the leading edge of the board, so that it remains out of the water. This physical characteristic is known as ‘Rocker’. Creating a board that is better in certain conditions, often creates shortcomings in others. By increasing the width of the board and bending the front of the board upwards, speed and directional stability are reduced when paddling on flat water. Having a wider board also requires a larger radius paddle sweep to clear the edge of the board, which can feel unnatural and tiresome after more than only a short paddle.

Whitewater Sup boards for beginners

If you are just beginning your Whitewater SUP experience, start out small and slowly work your way up to the higher grades of rapids. An inflatable SUP board would be ideal for a beginner due to its light-weight and ability to absorb bumping into boulders. If you do damage your inflatable SUP board on the rocks or riverbed, check out this article! How to repair and patch your inflatable paddle board

Here are our top 5 inflatable SUP boards:

10'6 / 11'6 MENO INFLATABLE STAND UP PADDLE BOARD PACKAGE

Meno inflatable paddle board, green

Board Specifications

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

10’6” x 35” x 6”

11’6” x 35” x 6”

254 L

270 L

23 lbs

24 lbs

450 lbs

485 lbs

Check Price


Board Construction: Fusion Dual Layer Technology, the strongest and lightest iSUP material available. This board also includes an extra large, brushed EVA traction pad.

Fin Setup: The fin kit includes: a 9” Race Fin, 4.5” Speed Fin and a 3” River fin.

Board Overview

This board comes in two lengths both of which allow for a wide stance. As previously mentioned, a wide stance is important for increased stability which is a key component for a great Whitewater SUP board. This board features a pointed nose and an overall shape which assists with effortless paddling. Therefore, this board is not only ideal for beginner Whitewater paddlers, but also for practicing your techniques on flat water as well!

Board Features

All of the GILI Meno series SUPs feature the following:

  • Carbon tech rail for enhanced rigidity and stability. This is a feature that will benefit your performance and is immediately obvious.
  • Dual layer, fusion laminated PVC material for vastly improved durability.
  • Oversized bungees positioned at the nose and tail, to secure all of your equipment safely and securely.

Board Package

All Meno SUPs feature our premium iSUP accessory bundle. This includes a SUP board bag with great features (see below!), paddle, dual chamber pump, fin kit and a leash. See below for further details:

  • This package comes with our best iSUP bag yet! It has loads of pockets, comfortable carry straps, and more space! We’ve also added our unique fin pocket – so never forget your fin again!
  • The Meno series bags feature rolling wheels, so no need to strain your precious back any longer!
  • The fin kit includes: a 9 “Race Fin, 4.5” Speed Fin and a 3” River
  • Check out this article on how to properly inflate your SUP board!

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • A portion of your SUP purchase gets donated to charities that help save our oceans, reefs, and endangered sea creatures.
  • This board is an ideal all rounder, not just a suitable Whitewater SUP board.
  • Due to this board being able to support over 450 lbs of weight, it is a great board for bigger guys / girls due to the increased buoyancy, or you can bring extra equipment and your kids!
  • The board is made from the strongest and lightest iSUP material available!
  • Save time! You can inflate your board twice as fast with our new dual chamber, three stage pump.
  • Advanced riders may exceed recommended capacity limits.

Earth River SUP DUAL 10-7 S3 (MODEL 2.1) CLASSIC Inflatable Paddle Board

Earth river SUP

Board Specifications

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

10’7” x 32” x 5”

N/A

25 lbs

205 lbs

Check Price


Board Construction: ERS X9 Dual Core Construction + Enhanced Dynamic Rail

Fin Setup: LAKE RIVER COAST™ Fin System. This system comprises four ‘US center fins’, (9", 8", 4.5", 3") and two sets of side click fins (4.5", 1").

Board Overview

Another great choice for beginner SUP paddlers who are venturing into the Whitewater sector. This is a multi purpose, inflatable board with a removable LRC fin system.

The Earth River SUP DUAL 10-7 S3 is considered to be Fast, stable, agile and portable.

This board is typically recommended for riders who are in the range of 100-205 lbs. If you are a more experienced paddler, then the capacity can be shifted up to 225 lbs,

This board boasts a 32” width, enabling that wider stance for better stability, ideal for the unpredictable nature of a Whitewater environment.

Board Features

  • The deck incorporates a contoured tail pad which provides improved feeling for your rear foot. The advantage of this is greater feedback for various maneuvers such as agile turns in a Whitewater environment, submerged tail pivots and tail drops
  • Another great feature is the triple fin system. This includes an optimized ‘toe in’ angle and fin boxes allowing a configuration that suits you.
  • A twin chamber, high pressure / high volume pump that inflates on both the down stroke and the upstroke, improving efficiency and saving your valuable time for getting wet and having fun!
  • The D-Ring attachment for securing your cargo and leashes are manufactured from high grade steel material. You can stop worrying about watching your stuff get washed away in the rapids. The D-rings are located at the nose, forward deck and tail for a personalized setup and balance in the water.
  • The board is made up of a ERS X9 core construction including additional reinforcement layers in the critical areas, improving durability and weight saving.

Board Package

  • The Earth River SUP DUAL 10-7 S3 (MODEL 2.1) CLASSIC Inflatable Paddle Board comes with a Deluxe rolling backpack + high pressure double action pump.
  • This package also includes a padded ERS Fin and Accessories bag.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Inflatable board: Easy to transport, light weight, and ideal for beginner Whitewater paddlers.
  • New technology benefiting the boards design and performance characteristics.
  • Lightweight and Durable.
  • This board comes with a standard leash. This is not advisable for Whitewater, due to the risk of snagging the line and getting caught. Make sure you purchase a quick release leash, helmet and a highly buoyant life jacket.
  • Not your cheapest option, but still reasonably priced.

10'6 / 11'6 AIR INFLATABLE STAND UP PADDLE BOARD PACKAGE

Air inflatable paddle board package, blue

Board Specifications

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

10’6” x 31” x 6”

11’6” x 32” x 6”

225 L

234 L

19 lbs

21 lbs

280 lbs

295 lbs

Check Price


Fin Setup: 9” snap in removable fin & snap in side fins. These are durable and can be installed in only a matter of seconds

Board Overview

The GILI AIR is designed to perform well in a wide range of water conditions, with great stability and portability. It is a highly buoyant and easy to use inflatable SUP board, fantastic for Whitewater beginners and those on a tighter budget.

Board Features

  • Hybrid shape for improved all round performance & maneuverability, a key factor for Whitewater.
  • Incorporates a rigid design, with 6” thickness.
  • Snap –in the center fin, making packing and unpacking effortless.
  • The deck is fitted with a large traction pad, for extra grip. This makes it an ideal board to try out some relaxing yoga after a thrilling Whitewater session!
  • The front of the board is mounted with a 6-point bungee system. This allows you to keep a close eye on your kit in the undulating Whitewater, as well as easy access without having to lose your stability on the board.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Due to the hard PVC material that this SUP board is made from, it is ideal for Whitewater and all of the scrapes, dings and knocks that come with the unpredictable Whitewater and the hidden obstacles.
  • This board is not only a great all rounder for new paddle boarders, but is also a cheap option! At only $495.00, from GILI SPORTS.
  • There are 5 world class color designs that you can choose from!
  • Every Paddle Board purchase from GILI SPORTS helps to save our precious oceans, reefs, and endangered sea life. You don’t need to do anything as a portion of every SUP purchase automatically goes to one of several charities we are partnered with.
  • This board has a width of only 31”, which is slightly narrower than the GILI MENO inflatable SUP board with a width of 35”. This means it is not as suited to larger riders and a super wide stance would have to be reduced.

Whitewater Sup boards for Intermediate / Advanced SUP paddlers

If you have honed in your Whitewater SUP boarding skills, then make sure you upgrade to a new board with special features to take your experience to the next level. Here is our favorite top 5 Whitewater speciality boards:

JOBE VENTA PACKAGE

Jobe Aero Venta 9.6 Package One Size

Board Specifications

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

9’6” x 33” x 6”

225 L

23.8 lbs

308 lbs

Check Price


Board Construction: The Jobe Aero Sup board range is constructed from a series of high density of nylon threads which is bonded to the inside of a PVC-coated base cloth. These two layers are permanently attached by heat bonding technology, which removes any flaws and errors in the process. Furthermore, using a heat bonding method instead of glue, reduces the negative effects on the environment. All of this means that up to 2kg of weight can be saved as more traditional layer attachment methods can be bypassed. This construction also improves the shape of the board, as well as its durability.

Fin Setup: 8” US fin and molded side fins.

Board Overview

The Jobe Venta Whitewater board is a new 9’6 with an impressive 300L volume making it a stable and very buoyant board. The board also had several handles for you to grab with the water got wild! A new element to this stand up paddle board is its windsurf mount allowing you to glide through glassy water with ease.

Board Features

  • 9” nose rocker & 0” tail rocker.
  • The deck is fitted with a 5mm thick diamond pattern EVA traction pad for extra grip and control.
  • The deck is fitted with a windsurf mounting point.
  • The nose and tail are both fitted with D-rings.
  • Bungee storage net for taking your kit on longer journeys secure
  • A 10 foot coiled leash allows you to easily move around on the board and stay close to it if you go swimming!

Board Package

The Jobe Venta stand up paddle board comes with all the accessories necessary to get going, with just one purchase. The package includes a double action inflation pump which massively reduces the time and effort required to get it to your desired pressure. Another great piece of kit included is a fiberglass three-piece paddle. All of this can be slotted into a waterproof backpack, meaning you and your car don’t get soaked when you put your wet kit away after an exhilarating day out.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • A board specifically suited to Whitewater.
  • Comes with the full package to get started, included a dry bag and a paddle.
  • Ideal for larger riders or those who are carrying lots of gear.
  • Shipping charge for orders outside the UK.

10' MAKO INFLATABLE STAND UP PADDLE BOARD PACKAGE

Mako inflatable stand up paddle board

Board Specifications

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

10’ x 32” x 6”

218 L

20 lbs

260 lbs

Check Price


Board Construction: Constructed from Fusion Dual Layer Technology. This is the awesome for strength, durability and saving weight! 

Fin Setup: 9” Snap-In Fin & Snap-In Side Fins: installs in seconds

Board Overview

The 10' Mako is a fantastic all round paddle board. At a slightly shorter length of 10’, compared to some of the other boards we have already discussed, it will have a marked improvement with regards to maneuverability. Furthermore, with a width 32”, it is still a great option for stability, a much needed trait in Whitewater! 

Board Features

  • A whopping 18 D-rings are fitted. So you can attach your seat and any extra gear on your way to the Whitewater section. 
  • The fin setup couldn’t be easier on this model! 9” Snap-In Fin & Snap-In Side Fins which can be installed in seconds.
  • Front, rear, & center carry handles means you can move the board around easily or use them if you need to grab your board with ease in the choppy water.
  • The Mako from GILI SPORTS has a grooved center traction pad and a rear diamond pad for increased traction and comfort, making it an ideal board for agile turns, and high grip wet soaking wet.

Board Package

GILI SPORTS Mako board comes with the full package to get started straight away. It includes:

  • An awesome SUP board!
  • A quick fit fin system.
  • Their brand new iSUP Bag which includes a fin pocket on the front. If you. Have forgotten to pack your precious fins, you will see the sign: FIN POCKET, giving you the heads up to go back and grab them.
  • Double acting, dual chamber inflation pump, allowing you to get your board ready twice as fast!
  • A vibrant coloured leash.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Most kids 12+ can handle the Mako, and it’s a great platform for them to grow into.
  • Available in vibrant blue or green colors
  • Comes with GILI SPORTS new iSUP Accessory Bundle which includes Pump, Leash, Backpack & Paddle
  • GILI SPORTS offers2 Year Manufacturer Warranty (upgradable to 5 years)
  • Just like with the other GILI SPORTS SUP boards, for every purchase, they donate a portion to ocean reef and turtle charities!
  • May not be an ideal board for paddlers who are over 5’10 due to its shorter length.

10'6 KOMODO INFLATABLE STAND UP PADDLE BOARD PACKAGE

Komodo inflatable paddle board package, Coral

Board Specification

Dimensions Volume Weight Check Price

10’6 x 33” x 6”

225 L

21 lbs

340 lbs

Check Price


Board Construction: This awesome board features a triple Layer Fusion Construction which makes it 20% lighter than other boards!

Fin Setup: Just like other GILI SPORTS inflatable SUP boards, this also features the easy to use 9” Snap-In Main Fin & Removable Side Fins.

Board Overview

GILI SPORTS considers the 10'6 KOMODO inflatable stand up paddle board to be the most versatile of all boards in their range. It is an extremely stable board and therefore not only ideal for Whitewater, but also for multiple riders on flat water, pets, fishing and yoga!

This board allows the rider to maintain an extra wide stance due to its’ 33” width.

You might think that this board is only really good for slow speed activities requiring stability and agility, but no! This board also features a pointed nose, meaning it can cut through the water with ease, allowing not only to stay upright in the bubbling Whitewater, but also to save your energy on the calm straits. 

Whitewater can be a pretty challenging ride, and you might need to move around to keep your balance and center of gravity just right. For this reason, the 10'6 KOMODO inflatable SUP board is perfect as it is not only wide enough, but it also has a removable bungee which allows you to make great use of the full-length, foam EVA Deck Pad from nose to tail!

Board Features

The 10'6 KOMODO SUP board comes with a built-in action mount with a D-Ring so that you can easily mount your action camera to catch the action!

Board Package

GILI SPORTS offer their brand new with loads of pockets, comfortable carry straps, and more space! We’ve also added our unique fin pocket - never forget your fin again!

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The 10'6 KOMODO has an impressive capacity of 340 lbs, which makes it not only versatile in terms of performance, but also for a wide range of riders. 
  • As with all GILI SPORTS stand up paddle boards, a portion of your purchase gets donated to charities that help save our oceans, reefs, and endangered sea creatures.
  • With a volume of 225 liters, this board has extra buoyancy, making it an ideal choice for Whitewater adventures!
  • GILI SPORTS offer a 2-year manufacturer warranty.
  • Coral and teal color schemes which look fantastic!
  • It is not the cheapest option from GILI SPORTS, but the price is absolutely justified!

If you are looking at purchasing your first inflatable SUP board, make sure you read this article about all the other great stuff you can get up to with it!

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Chief Paddler - Jay has been surfing and paddling for over 5 years. When he's not dreaming up new stuff at GILI, he's writing articles about paddling, out paddling, or often traveling.


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