Updated (01/21/18) Note: We constantly update all of our reviews to keep them up to date. We originally featured the iRocker Sport 11′ on our list but have replaced it with the newer iRocker Cruiser. You might see a lot of older comments referring to the old iRocker 11′ which is not featured anymore.
With the number of inflatable SUPs I have been reviewing of late, the time is just about right for a Top 3. I have been, quite literally, hop skip and jumping from one iSUP to another as the blow-up version seems to be on some kind of a renaissance mission. I can’t complain because the boards have been, for the most part, a joy ride.
Quick Answer: The Best Inflatable/Blow Up Paddle Boards in 2018
1. The iRocker Cruiser
If you are looking to buy the Cruiser, you should be someone who prefers flatwater conditions. It’s designed to do what the name suggests…being a cruiser.
Cruisers include everything you need to get started. Many other companies will include the paddle, bag and leash the same as iRocker. It’s a great way to sell the SUP, but for the most of it, the accessories you receive are low quality. iRocker has been constantly improving their boards and accessories along the way. The included fiberglass paddle and travel bag are exorbitantly better than most others we’ve seen.
Which gives the Cruiser it’s value, the board is made with care and lots of thought. The accessories are the same. So you get a full package that performs well and will last. We can’t think of many other package deals that match iRockers Cruiser for price and quality.
The Cruiser is the most chill board of them all. It’ll hang out with you no matter what your experience or size is. It then will make you also feel great about yourself! What a cruiser!
A 10’6 board may seem small for some bigger riders. But we put this to you, its max capacity is 350 lbs. How can it hold such weight at this size? From careful and precise engineering when manufacturing their boards. It’s a thick board that can be inflated to high pressures so much that it resembles a hardboard.
What else do you want in a Cruiser? Comfort! Because if you are cruising it tends to imply you’ll be out on the water for a little while. This board is incredibly comfortable to paddle. For a few different reasons too. The paddle is easy and light, the deck pad is thick and the main one, it’s stable. Which then also makes this board a perfect option for beginners too.
Got gear to bring too? Plenty of storage space that also includes cords to secure your load.
The Cruiser is so versatile in who can ride it, but also has the option of being turned into a Kayak. It’s a separate purchase, but the kayak bundle includes a seat and extra paddle blade. The seat attaches to the D-rings on the Cruisers deck. While then you just need to insert the paddles handle end into the other blade. Then you have yourself a sit on top kayak!
Comfort is assured now that ¾ of the surface has a deck pad. It also means your poochy friend can come along and have all the grip they need to not fall off. The durability of that materials also means that it won’t damage your board taking your SUP pup.
With 33″ in width it’s also one of the most stable inflatable SUPs you can buy. It’s beginner and kid-friendly and ideal for Yoga as well.
The iRocker Cruiser offers exceptional value for money, and it’s perfect for anyone from beginner, families, Yoga fanatics to advanced paddlers. It’s also extremely high-quality and comes with all the extras you could ask for. That’s why it’s our current No.1
The Red Paddle Co. Ride
Second, I have the 10’6” Ride from Red Paddle Co. This board is one of the best inflatables I have set my foot on, and not without reason. Before testing the Ride, I was very much a hardwood loyalist. Anything else was a compromise in my opinion. Then I tested the Ride. It was both, an eye-opener and a memorable experience. The board felt like nothing filled with air. It was strong, rigid, sturdy, and pretty much anything a hardwood board is.
Much of the reason why the Ride feels so rigid and upright, without the slightest hint of flex, is because of its sturdy construction. Red Paddle Co is using a brand new construction called MSL Fusion. MSL Fusion completely removes the hand gluing of the 2nd layer and the “board within a board” scenario that you know from other double layer constructions. The new construction process uses machines at the raw material stage. These machines inject the 2nd layer of high-density structural PVC to each board, creating a board which has all of the advantageous properties of a double layer board. However, it completely removes the human factor in producing the product and at the same time reduces the weight of the boards by up to 6lbs. The benefit of the superior construction is that the board can be pumped real hard, harder than most other inflatables. The Ride’s 25 PSI limit is more than a few points than what other boards can take: iRocker (15 PSI) or the Pathfinder Inflatable (15 PSI), for instance. The result: it doesn’t feel like an inflatable on water.
Inflate And Deflate In An Instant
The good iSUPs get the major details just about right. The great ones nail the finer details too. The Red Paddle Co. Ride has been blessed with one of the best air pumps that come along with the board – the Titan. Just like its name, the pump is big on performance. There are two chambers melded into one: a high volume / low-pressure chamber, and a low volume / high-pressure chamber. I could blow up the board in under 5 minutes. It comes with an accurate pressure gauge to easily monitor the PSI. Deflating the SUP is easy too. All you have to do is push in a little pin and twist it slightly, about 1/4th. Then roll it up, stack it in the backpack, and you are good to go. It sounds almost too easy, and it actually is.
The Three Fins
This is where my opinion gets a bit divided. On the one hand, the triplefin system offers more control and maneuverability on choppy waters. You will find the iSUP easy to paddle across strong currents and even take on a wave or two like a pro. When it comes to white water and ocean paddling, the Ride is top notch. The problem is that the triplefin system lets the performance slip in flat waters. Beginners might find the board a bit difficult to keep in a straight line when paddling in flat water. The short fins are really not designed for tracking. This is a common issue you have with a thruster fin setup. While shorter fins allow for maneuverability, a more extended center fin helps track straighter. This leaves you with quite a bit of work to do. Inexperienced paddlers will have to paddle on both sides of the board to maintain a sense of direction.
The Ride Is Definitely A Good Ride
With the iSUP from Red Paddle Co., I finally understood the tremendous potential that inflatables possess. They don’t require a dedicated storage space, can be transported in a backpack, and offer a cost-effective option, especially for those wanting to test the waters of the sport. The Red is definitely worth the investment and definitely deserves to be named as one of the best inflatable SUPs in my eyes.
Starboard Atlas Zen
Starboard has been releasing a stellar line up of hardwood and inflatable boards each year, continuously working and improving on earlier models. At first glance, the Zen seems to be everything that has been said about it. The board feels like a true all-rounder that you can use for a variety of purposes. You can take it out for a short cruise on the lake, or get the adrenaline pumping by racing it on the flat water.
At its core, sits a 4.75-inch drop stitch construction that gives the board a thick, stable base. When inflated, this core becomes as tough as nails and will not flinch or flex one bit. Then you have a double layer PVC laminate that forms a durable skin over the inner core. Where the Zen is slightly ahead of the competition is in its 2+1 Rail Band feature. An airtight inner railband keeps everything nice and tight in the interior section. The outer railband adds to the toughness of the inflatable stand up paddle board’s body. The third railband sits on top of the board, acting as a strong compressor. The cherry on top of the cake is the heat resistant glue that acts a protective cocoon. You can stay out longer in the sun without worrying about the Zen heating up.
The Starboard Atlas Zen feels light and easy on the water, allowing you to glide further with a single paddle stroke. This is because of the board’s shape. The SUP tapers nicely to the front and the rear as well. The smooth oval shape enables the board to streamline through the water surface with a minimum of fuss. Definitely one of the better cruisers available in the market today.
Fin Set Up
This is my favorite part of my third favorite iSUP. The reason the board turns out a good performance in varied conditions is because of its fin set up: A traditional 2+1 arrangement, with a large, detachable central fin and two smaller fixed fins. Attach the large fin and the Atlas Zen tracks in a smooth, straight line in flatwater conditions, which makes the board such a good touring option. You will find that a minimum of effort is required in keeping the board in a straight line, going forward. Remove the central fin when the time comes to take on whitewater challenge. The two smaller fins can cruise through the challenging waters of the open ocean and even take on small waves.
The Small Details Matter
I have already said that the small details separate the good boards from the great ones. The Zen is testament to this fact. The board’s nose has a slight lift that maximizes its aerodynamic shape for touring and speed. The bungee cord attached to the front of the board allows you to carry a nice lunch or additional equipment with you while cruising the river. Another detail that impressed me is the neoprene paddle holder at the tail of the board. You can simply dock your paddle as you carry the board around or get your daily dose of yoga on the lake.
Multi-Tasking All Rounder
Starboard’s Astro Atlas Zen is one of the top options for a lightweight, portable, all-around blow-up paddle board. It can be used in a variety of conditions and offers solid stability, enhanced glide, and good speed.