It may sound obvious, but the first thing you need to know about your stand-up paddleboard (or SUP) is how easy it makes it for you to get vertical – that means the board is stable in the water, which is good, no matter how much experience you’ve got.
The wider the board, the more stable it will be, although it will impact the speed, and you’ll probably have to reach over slightly further to get your blade in the water.
The shape of your board will change over time as you grow in confidence and demand different things from your SUP adventures, but you will always need a board to track as true as possible in the water, no matter how hard you’re paddling, so that you’re not wasting effort when you’re out there. The better you track, the less you have to change hands to keep the board on course.
All the boards included in our line-up come with a comfortable backpack, rubber-coated floating paddle and coiled leash, as well as a triple-action pump for effortless inflation.
Ultimately, though, a good board should push your confidence further each time you get on it, and after hours spent testing on the Devon coastline and nearby estuary, these are the inflatable SUPs that we think will do just that.
The best paddleboards for 2021 are:
Best for all abilities – Quroc qi crossover 10ft 6in: £699, Qurocpaddleboards.co.uk
Best for families – iRocker all-around 11ft: £749, Irockersup.co.uk
Best for speed merchants – Red Paddle speed tail 11ft 3in: £1,049, H2o-sports.co.uk
Best for touring – Red Paddle voyager 13ft 2in x 30in: £1,199, Supinflatables.co.uk
Best for beginners – Two Bare Feet sport air 10ft 6in: £450, Twobarefeet.co.uk
Best for tired arms – Shark 12ft 6in touring: £599, Snowandrock.com
Best for stability – Two Bare Feet all-round XL: £505, Twobarefeet.co.uk
Best for kids – Jobe aero yama 8ft 6in: £449.95, Wetsuitoutlet.co.uk
Best value for money – Fanatic fly air premium 9ft 8in: £799, Kingofwatersports.com
Best for sea adventures – Gul cross 10ft 7in: £499.95, Paddleandsurf.co.uk
Quroc qi crossover 10ft 6in
Best: For all abilities
This British manufacturer has added a couple of inches to its 2021 crossover board – which was already a classic in our book – and wow, has it made a difference. The 32in-wide board is an absolute dream to paddle, with the narrowed and redesigned nose making it even better for straight-line speed and glide over the water. Quoroc has also reengineered the rear and squared off the tail so that it’s even more stable. What has stayed the same is the outstanding tracking and a safe, stiff feel in the water adding to the fact that the board is exceptionally comfortable to ride, stable to stand up on and grippy once you’re up and paddling.
As the name suggests, the 21 qi crossover really will suit a wide range of riders, from those just finding their feet to those who want to head for the horizon. Although currently out of stock, this one is available to pre-order should return by the end of July.
Buy now £699.00, Qurocpaddleboards.co.uk
iRocker all-around 11ft
Best: For families
The updated 2021 board from iRocker was wonderfully stable in calm waters, but it also coped well when the wind got up and things were a little choppier. The deck was 32in wide and you can easily shift position around the comfortable deck pad without worrying about falling overboard.
The fact that it’s got a weight limit at the upper end of the scale (435lbs) means that taking on mini passengers won’t cause it to sink lower in the water and lose its impressive handling and glide, so it’s still one of the best family boards out there.
Buy now £749.00, Irockersup.co.uk
Red Paddle speed tail 11ft 3in
Best: For speed merchants
If you’re less of a sedate SUPer and are more of a speed freak when you’re out on the water then this all new board from Red Paddle Co is definitely worth considering. The company has taken the stability and confidence-building construction that you’ll find in their bestselling Ride boards and built a speedier model around that, with a rubberised rear edge that aids water release and increases pace.
A nice, grippy deck pad glues the feet to the board, while at the front a flat, self-closing cargo system is easy to load and very secure, so you’re never in danger of your sarnies getting soggy. It’s a great board for when you’re making the leap from an all-rounder to something a bit more specialist.
Buy now £1049.00, H2o-sports.co.uk
Red Paddle voyager 13ft 2in x 30in
Best: For touring
More innovations combine in this 2021 board to provide a smooth and effortless touring experience. This is thanks to a new hull design that is V-shaped, and that really enhances the glide so that you can go for longer without feeling tired. Underneath, twin fins improve tracking so you are never wasting any energy trying to keep the board on course.
The voyager is ready to carry all the gear you need for a multiple-day tour and, again, Red Paddle’s new cargo system is well tensioned so everything stays safely stowed. Finally, we still think that the Titan pumps that ship with Red Paddle Co SUPs are amongst the best on the market.
Buy now £1199.00, Supinflatables.co.uk
Two Bare Feet sport air 10ft 6in
Best: For beginners
This board has been very popular this year thanks to its suitability for those just getting into SUPing, but according to the manufacturer there are more on their way in late July. Thank goodness because it’s a great board with a 33in wide deck, which makes it super stable with much less movement side to side when paddling. The board is solidly constructed too, so you won’t have to worry about damage if you get up close and personal with jagged rocks or riverbanks while you’re learning, and it’s very competitively priced for a starter board. This one is currently available for pre-order, and is expected to be dispatched 30 July.
Buy now £450.00, Twobarefeet.co.uk
Shark 12ft 6in touring
Best: For tired arms
Another lengthy board that’s geared towards longer days on the water and overnight river adventuring. It was a good point and shoot board that tracked really well on the water, making it an excellent energy saver over a big day’s paddling. We also liked the eye-catching white/orange colour scheme, which will get some looks when you’re walking down to the water’s edge.
Buy now £599.00, Snowandrock.com
Two Bare Feet all-round XL
Best: For stability
This is a big board measuring up at 10ft 10in long and 35in wide, but because it’s shaped more like a touring board it tracks and turns well for its size. The manufacturer has worked hard to keep the weight down at 9.9kg, and it has a good, rigid construction, meaning that the board can really translate the power of your paddle strokes to fast, forward movement over the water. Responsive and agile, it also stood up well when we had to deal with the wake of boats and jet skis.
This one is currently available for pre-order and is expected to be dispatched by 30 July.
Buy now £505.00, Twobarefeet.co.uk
Jobe aero yama 8ft 6in
Best: For kids
For those who want to graduate from just being a passenger on their parent’s board, this is a great option for kids. It’s 28in width offers stability while keeping the fun factor and responsiveness for quicker turns and playing in the waves. For all its maneuverability it’s still a thick board, which means that it’s rigid enough to act as a floating platform if they decide they’ve had enough of paddling and just want to use it as a jump-off point.
Buy now £449.95, Wetsuitoutlet.co.uk
Fanatic fly air premium 9ft 8in
Best: Value for money
The fly air has made our last two round-ups and there’s a good reason its made it into our class of 2021 too: it’s such a versatile craft that it’s just as suited to moves and turns as it is to eating up the miles, turning paddle stroke energy into distance with excellent tracking that rarely strays off course. Nice and stiff after inflation, which adds to the glide effect, this is all backed up with a well thought out deck that grips the feet well and allows you to change position without feeling like the board is about to throw you off. Basically, you’re getting a lot of board for your buck with the fly air.
Buy now £799.00, Kingofwatersports.com
Gul cross 10ft 7in
Best: For sea adventures
The first impressions of the cross after inflation were of a really nicely shaped board that looked like it would be stable in the water, and we weren’t disappointed as it did a fantastic job of instilling confidence after the first few paddle strokes. The well-designed deck pad was comfortable and lent itself to good movement from the middle to the back for faster turns and more manoeuvrability.
Tracking was excellent and there was a reassuring stiffness, meaning that we weren’t turning to head in at the first sign of a few ripples or some wake. Combined with the price, the cross makes for another good beginner’s board that seems particularly suited to the sea.
Buy now £499.95, Paddleandsurf.co.uk
The verdict: Stand-up paddleboards
Really enjoying your time on an SUP is all about feeling confident that you’re totally in control, and we just can’t fault the Quroc qi crossover 10ft 6in in its ability to do just this, thanks to a near-perfect blend of stability, speed and manoeuvrability.
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