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October 26, 2020 14 min read

What is the best paddle board for a beginner?

Now you have the bug for paddle boarding, you need to get your own gear. It can be overwhelming when you first start looking for your first paddle board. But with the correct guidance you will be well on your way to finding the perfect beginner paddle board.

As paddle boarding is getting more and more popular, there is more and more choice on gear.

So if you are asking yourself: what are the best paddle boards for beginners?; what key features should I look out for?; or are inflatable paddle boards good for beginners?; then read on.

best paddle boards for beginners - girl with board

Quick Answer/Short on Time?

Our top pick best paddle board for beginners is the GILI Air Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. The wide and round nose of this SUP makes it a perfect choice for beginners to practice their skills and find their balance. 

Top 4 beginner paddle boards from GILI Sports

All of the GILI Sports stand up paddle boards are suitable for beginners to start their paddle boarding adventures off on the right stroke.

Each board is 6 inches thick to give you a great platform out of the water, with high quality materials making them a solid SUP option for beginners. They also all include an easy carry handle feature to help you get the board from land to water.

Check out our range of inflatable SUP boards that make paddle boarding accessible for everyone.

GILI Air Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

GILI Air Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

The Air 10’6 iSUP paddle board performs well in all water conditions with its generously wide deck and rounded nose. It is our most highly rated all-around paddle board that offers versatility, durability and fantastic performance. This is one of the best beginner boards available on the market.

Dimensions: 10’6 x 31” x 6” (225L)

Paddlers of any skill level can enjoy this board from calm flatwater paddling to mild ocean chop. Make use of the 6” thickness lifting the board above the water level and the full length EVA deck pad, perfect for stretching out in downward facing dog and other yoga poses.

This SUP feels like a hard board under your feet and on the water when fully inflated. The military strength PVC is durable so you won’t have to worry about scratches, dents, dings, drops or rocks. This board can handle it all. Front and center grab handles for portability and rear D-Ring makes attaching a leash simple.

GILI Meno Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

GILI Meno Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

Looking for something that is wide but does not compromise the performance? Look no further than the GILI Meno Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board. This SUP will take you from a complete beginner, all the way to being a competent paddler enjoying all the activities, including fishing, touring, yoga, and more.

Dimensions: 10’6 x 35” x 6” (245L) OR 11’6 x 35” x 6” (270L)

Both sizes offer a wide stance for maximum stability, but the pointed nose and shape of the board allows you to glide effortlessly over the water. The Meno series knocks performance up a notch with its rigid carbon fiber rails and a versatile US Fin box with a 5 piece fin kit: a 9” Center Fin, a 4.5” Speed fin, a 3” River Fin, and two removable side fins.

These boards can comfortably support up to 450lbs. So once you’ve got the basics down, you will be able to bring your family along for an adventure and share the experience. You can also make full use of the oversized bungees on both the nose and tail to securely carry all your gear on your wild journeys.

GILI Komodo Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

GILI Komodo Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

Versatility, stability, and a great all rounder. The GILI Komodo offers great performance for all water conditions. It is designed to carry multiple riders, pets, yoga enthusiasts, and all-around paddle board lovers.

Dimensions: 10’6 x 33” x 6” (225L)

This board features both a wide stance and a pointed nose so you won’t be losing any speed when paddling this board. All the bungee cords are fully removable that allows you to make full use of the full-length deck pad.

Beginners will have no problem riding this inflatable board, mastering the basics, and then taking it to cover all other areas of paddling. The Komodo is a great example of our hybrid board design to cover all bases. It is also made with our Triple Layer Fusion Technology. This is the strongest SUP material on the market, and it's 20% lighter than other dual-layer constructed SUPs.

GILI Adventure Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

GILI Adventure Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board

 

As a beginner, this inflatable paddle board will take you through the basics and have you exploring hard to reach spots in no time. This is the ultimate expedition iSUP designed with utility, touring, and performance all in mind. The 32” wide deck gives beginners loads of room to find their balance.

Dimensions: 11’ x 32” x 6” (238L) OR 12’ x 32” x 6” (272L)

The Adventure series is the fastest of all the GILI iSUPs going. The streamline design cuts through the water easily and efficiently. And with the pointed nose and increased rocker you also get an enhanced performance in all water conditions. The three-fin setup assists in tracking and gives you even tighter turns with an increase in balance.

Created with our advanced, dual-layer Fusion Technology, the PVC is the strongest and lightest iSUP material available. Both the 11’ and the 12’ Adventure retain their strength, durability, and rigidity while also being extremely lightweight. You won’t need to worry about rocks, trees, or other hard surfaces with the Adventure’s military grade PVC outer skin.

7 key features to look out for in the perfect beginners SUP

Searching for the best paddle boards for beginners is made simple when you know what you are looking for.

If you have ever tried paddle boarding before, then you may have noticed your SUP board was very wide and stable as you clambered onto the deck. Generally speaking, entry level boards are wider and slower but this helps you out when you are still learning. As you develop your skills and become a more advanced paddler, you can then experiment with different sizes and shapes of board.

For your first paddle board, you should be looking at a general style of an all-around paddle board. Keep in mind to check these key board features for your entry level SUP:

  • Stability
  • Size
  • Shape
  • Construction
  • Affordability
  • Versatility
  • Fins

Let’s take a look into each of these and mention how these features can affect your search in finding the best beginner SUP.

Stability

Stability is key. Feeling stable and balanced is the main priority to getting up and standing on a paddle board. This comes from your core strength as well as the size and shape of your board.

By ensuring your board is nice and stable we promise that you will get on board and have an easy and pleasurable ride.

Size: width, length, and volume

Size does matter. Beginner paddlers generally need a bigger and wider board to help with the stability. However, remember as the board gets wider it does get more difficult to maneuver.

Every SUP has a weight capacity that is determined by the board’s size, meaning there is leeway to consider depending on the rider's height and weight. For more information, check out our SUP Size & Weight Chart.

The main factors used to measure a paddle board are:

  • Length: how tall/long is the board?
  • Width: how wide is the board’s deck?
  • Volume: how many liters is the board? (i.e. the float)

There are a whole array of paddle board sizes out there, but these are the most ideal dimensions for the best beginner paddle board:

  • Length: 10 to 12 feet
  • Width: 30 to 35 inches
  • Volume: epoxy/soft - 175 liters | inflatable - 225 to 275 liters

It is important to remember that these dimensions are a general guide. Remember, you can’t be too light for a SUP! It’s much better to be too light for a board than too heavy.

The volume is a good guidance on buoyancy. The higher the volume in liters means a higher weight capacity. Generally, the more volume a board has the more stable it will be on the water. When choosing the right stand up paddle board for you, volume should be the first measurement you consider.

Volume is calculated by the paddle board’s length, width, and thickness. All of our boards at GILI have the volume listed for you.

Pro Advice: To calculate the ideal weight capacity for you, include your weight plus any additional weight you’ll be carrying. We suggest adding 10 or 15 lbs to that number - just in case, this will cover any gear you choose to take with you. Choose a board for the weight you are now - even if you plan on losing weight in the future.

best paddle boards for beginners - feet

Shape

We always recommend an all-around style shape for beginner paddle boards. This offers a nice wide deck, a well-rounded nose, and plenty of length to get a feel for paddle boarding.

These beginner friendly SUP’s will have you gliding over the water gracefully and easily in no time, no matter what the conditions are.

As you begin to advance your skills you will then be able to experiment more with the different shapes available depending on what activity/style of paddle boarding you choose to do. Hull shaping will begin to come in question, either planing or displacement hull. Beginners should be aiming for a planing hull shape.

Read more: How to Choose the Perfect SUP for you

Construction

There are three types of constructions to paddle boards, all suitable for beginners in their own way. Deciding which to go for weighs on your lifestyle and what you want to get out of your new stand up paddle board.

  1. Soft Top
  2. Inflatable
  3. Epoxy

Soft tops suit those who…

  • Have a tighter budget, as the material tends to be much cheaper than other constructions
  • Are nervous about hurting themselves, the soft upper layer provides a more cushioned surface in the case of falls

However, soft tops are very limiting and slow to handle on the water which will put a hold on your improvement.

Inflatables suit those who…

  • Want to travel easily with their board, simply deflate, roll up, and tuck away in a SUP backpack along with the adjustable paddle
  • Have minimal storage at home, same idea as the travelling and your board only takes up a backpack size space in your home
  • Want a durable and versatile board that can go anywhere while limiting damage

Epoxy (hardboards) suit those who…

  • Have the space at home to store a large board without sacrificing their bed or sofa
  • Looking for optimal performance and speed, for the more advanced paddle boarder
  • Don’t have the patience to inflate an iSUP and just want to grab and go with their gear

best paddle boards for beginners - on knees

Affordability

Getting yourself set up to hit the water and start to paddle does cost money. You need to determine your budget and decide how much you can afford.

All of our inflatable boards are in a mid-range price bracket which is both affordable and gives great quality.

A general rule of thumb for people buying their first ever paddle board is to not spend too much money on them. Chances are you are going to knock into things in the water, or more likely while you are preparing your gear beforehand. An entry level board at the mid-range price bracket will give you exactly what you need in performance and won’t break the bank.

Versatility

Most paddlers often look for a paddle board that is versatile. This is so you can go from cruising across a lake to riding the waves in the ocean. Versatility will be your best friend as your skills progress and you become a more competent rider.

Most all-around paddle boards will have a degree of versatility to get you started. Once you have experienced different activities with your new paddle board, then you will be able to look at specialising your board even more.

A good versatile board will take you over lakes with a fishing rod or space to stretch into some yoga, while also allowing you to catch some waves and share some stoke with your best friend and paddle board with your dog.

Fins

Fins are a crucial element to your SUP. They give you the tracking and help with steering of your vessel, while also affecting the speed of your paddling. Stand up paddle boards generally have one center fin and two smaller side fins to aid in stability.

Normally for simple cruising, you can get by quite comfortably with just a single fin in place. For longer tours or more choppy waters on the ocean, a thruster or even quad set-up is advised to give you something extra to cut through the waters.

Nearly all SUP fins are removable. The key thing here is knowing which type of fin box to go for: Snap-in boxes or US fin boxes.

As the name suggests, Snap-in boxes are quick and easy to use with no tools required. This is super convenient and appealing to beginner paddlers. Whereas the US fin boxes are more versatile and allow you to use a wider range of fins, but they do require a tool to use.

What kind of paddle board do I need?

Now you have a rough idea of what you need to look out for, you can begin to think about what type of paddle board you need.

You can find some boards that tick a lot of boxes, while others are more specifically designed for a single purpose. Don’t worry and get overwhelmed! We’ll tell you all you need to know about the different types of stand up paddle boards and which are great for beginners.

The Best Type of SUP for a Beginner

When you begin browsing for stand up paddle boards you may notice the amount of variety that is available. There are all-around boards, hybrids’, touring and racers, surf SUPs, and more.

All-Around Paddle Boards are hands down the best type of SUP for a beginner. They are shaped with a wide nose, stable deck, and forgiving rails that are not overly sensitive to mistakes. These boards are designed with beginners in mind and allow the paddler to experience most avenues of paddle boarding.

Hybrid Paddle Boards are also suitable for beginner paddlers. If you have been able to get to grips with the basics beforehand, then this is possibly a good option for you. A Hybrid board will see you through most activities and allow you to progress your technique. You will be able to try out riding the waves but also enjoy cruising on flat water lakes.

Touring and Racing Paddle Boards are not suitable for beginners. These boards are narrow and are shaped to cut through the water efficiently with an expert level of technique. Beginners will struggle on these more specialized boards and risk falling into the water instead of progressing with the basics.

What size paddle board do I need?

Ok, now you know what type of board you should be looking for. How do you figure out what size paddle board you need?

The best beginner paddle board provides stability and is proportional to the rider. You must consider your weight along with the board’s length, width, and volume.

Volume is the float capacity based on the board’s dimensions. A higher volume means more float, which results in higher weight capacity.

It’s important to remember that you can never be too light for a SUP, but you can be too heavy.

The recommended paddle board size for beginners is:

  • Length: 10’ to 12’
  • Width: 30” to 32”
  • Thickness: 6”
  • Volume: 225 to 275 liters

Read more: What Size Paddle Board Do I Need?

Are inflatable paddle boards good for beginners?

Here at GILI Sports we believe that decent inflatable paddle boards are ideal for beginners. When fully inflated, these boards are just as rigid and solid as any hardboard under foot. They also sit much higher out of the water making it significantly easier to paddle in any conditions.

best paddle boards for beginners - backpack

Benefits of an iSUP over a hard board

Still need a bit more convincing? Here are some benefits of an iSUP over a hard board that should sway your mind:

  • Storage made easy: simply deflate, roll up, and tuck away in a SUP backpack anywhere in your house or even under your bed
  • Travel is simple: the same principle as above, take your iSUP anywhere with you, even up mountains for far reached wonders to discover
  • Better value for money: generally speaking, you can get a better bang-for-your-buck in the inflatable department than the epoxy boards
  • Safer when learning: you are less likely to hurt yourself when you are learning the basics with an iSUP
  • Greater durability: iSUPS last a whole lot longer as you won’t be dealing with dings or scratches in fiberglass layers, so you can explore more and further

What are the best paddle boards to buy?

When you are shopping for your first paddle board it is ideal if you can find a bundle package to include all the gear you need to hit the water.

All GILI boards come with the essentials included:

Basic paddle boarding tips to get you going

Once you’ve got your paddle board there will be no stopping you from hitting the water and beginning your new passion hobby. Before you grab your SUP and start paddling, take in a few of these basic paddle boarding tips to help get you going in the right direction.

  1. Safety is always the first priority. Check your surroundings, be aware of any hazards, always use a leash and wear a PFD (personal flotation device).
  2. Fit, size, and adjust your paddle to be the correct height for you as the rider.
  3. Make sure you are paddling correctly by keeping the paddle blade angled away from you. Read more on the basics of How To Paddle Board.
  4. Get comfortable with paddling on your knees first before trying to stand up on the paddle board.
  5. When you stand, take one foot at a time in the center of the board keeping them at shoulders width apart.
  6. Momentum is key. Once you start standing get paddling straight away to get your momentum working in your favor.
  7. Be sure to clean all your equipment thoroughly after your paddle and make sure it’s dry before storing. This extends the lifespan of your gear.

best paddle boards for beginners - dogs

Other paddle boarding gear to get you started

All of the GILI inflatable paddle boards come as a bundle with everything you need to hit the water straight away. Along with the stand up paddle board, you need a few other pieces of kit to be able to get paddling off into the sunset:

  • Coiled ankle leash
  • Center fin
  • Paddle / adjustable paddle
  • Hand pump (if you have an inflatable SUP)
  • SUP backpack (if you have an inflatable SUP)

Once you’ve got the gear ready to go, with the best paddle board for a beginner, then you can’t be stopped from gliding over the water's surface leaving all stress behind you.

Coiled Ankle Leash

Having a coiled ankle leash is crucial for your safety and the safety of those around you in the water. The GILI 10’ Paddle Board Coiled Ankle Leash is a perfect example of what you need for the best beginner setup.

The coil is important to keep the leash from tangling under your feet but still giving you space if you do wipeout in the waves, allowing your board to safely stay close without hitting you.

Center Fin

Fins’ are needed to give you steering and tracking while in the water. The GILI Snap In Center Fin is a great entry level fin to fit paddle boards for beginners.

When you begin to progress your paddling you can begin to experiment with the center fin, possibly trying out a 9” Touring Race Fin or other varieties.

Paddle

The best paddle for beginners is an adjustable length paddle. This means you can try different lengths to find what works best for you, and even share your paddle with friends or family.

Our GILI Paddle Collection offers a range of materials and shapes to suit every paddler no matter their experience. However, we do recommend the GILI Aluminum 3 Piece Adjustable Paddle for beginners to start off with. An aluminum paddle is lightweight and easy to handle as a beginner without being too expensive in case of any damage.

Hand pump

If you do choose to go with an inflatable SUP then you will definitely need a paddle board pump to inflate and deflate your board. Choose between a dual action, a triple action, or even an electric pump to save your arm power for paddling

SUP backpack

Again, if you do go for an inflatable paddle board then you will be wanting to kit yourself out with a SUP backpack. Both options available from GILI Sports have enough room to store your paddle board, paddle, pump, fin, leash, and wet gear in various storage compartments throughout the bag.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Now you have all the information on what are the best paddle boards for beginners. What are you waiting for? Grab yourself some of the best gear available and get out there. We can’t wait for you to discover the world of paddle boarding and share our passion for paddling.

Warren Tsoi
Warren Tsoi

Editor - Warren is an avid waterman and conservationist who will take any chance to be outdoors. He believes the best way to protect our environment is to get people outside to appreciate nature.


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