It may sound obvious, but the first thing you need to look for in a stand-up paddle board (SUP) is how easy it makes it for you to get vertical because 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 that will affect the speed and the fact that 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 of your SUP adventures, but you will always need a board to track as straight a path as possible in the water, no matter how hard you’re paddling, so that you’re not wasting effort when you’re out there.

Before you buy you need to consider the extras that matter to you, too. Does it include well-placed bungee straps for storage? Is there a mount for your GoPro? How easy is the board to inflate?

Also, SUPs need to work well on the land in terms of portability so you need to look at whether the board comes with a good backpack and a paddle that breaks down to make it easy to transport.

Ultimately, though, a good board will push your confidence further each time you get on it and after hours in the water in an area of protected Devon coastline and nearby estuary these are the inflatable SUPs that we think are superior.

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Quroc Qi Crossover 11’4: £729, Quroc

This UK manufacturer is comparatively new on the SUP scene, but its ready to make waves with this inflatable 32in wide board, which is a real dream to paddle because a big fin ensures for excellent tracking through the water. The board is exceptionally comfortable to ride, stable to stand up on and grippy once you’re up and paddling. What we really liked was the fact that you can pump the board up to two levels so if you just want to get out there and have some fun you can pump it up to the lighter weight, but if you’re a heavier rider or want some more performance then you’ll need more air to get it to max inflation. However, this won’t be a problem as the package comes with a triple-action pump that will have the board fully inflated in seven minutes flat. Reinforced rails mean you don’t have to worry about scratches and bumps from rocks when you’re starting out and the impressive construction translates to a safe, stiff feel in the water, offering lots of glide. This means that the board is the ideal set-up for touring and, as your confidence builds and you get into longer distance trips, you won’t need to upgrade to a different model. A real all-rounder.

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iRocker All-around: £529, iRocker

A slightly heavier board than we’re used to from this manufacturer but that translates to durability, good movement and tracking in the water. The top deck is laid with an EVA foam traction pad that’s easy on hands and feet and the bungees on the nose are great for kids as it makes it much easier for them to scramble up on the board. Speaking of little passengers, iRocker has included handles at the nose for kids to hang on to when they’re sitting down and the GoPro mount is placed so that it will capture both of you in frame as you head out on your adventures. The package includes a comfortable backpack, rubber-coated floating paddle and coiled leash, as well as a triple-action pump for some effortless inflation. Excellent family board.

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Blackfin Model X: £739, iRocker

This is a big board measuring up at 10ft 6in long and 35in wide, however because it’s shaped like a touring board it has a good combination of tracking and speed that turns well for its size. There are some nice features like removable fins so you can roll the board up much tighter for storage and if you’re buying more than one board for the family you can stack one on top of the other on a roof rack. The rails are overlaid with carbon fibre so it can take a bashing off rocks if a wave takes you unawares; and four D-rings on the board mean that you can also attach the brand’s kayak seat when you want a more leisurely paddle back to land.

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Red Paddle Co 9’4” snapper: £819, Red Paddle Co

For those who want to graduate from just being a passenger on their parent’s board, this is a great option for kids who want one of their own. It’s 27in width offers stability while keeping the fun factor and responsiveness for quicker turns and playing in the waves. For all it’s manoeuvrability 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. The package includes a backpack, pump and water-resistant phone case for those inevitable Insta-selfies.

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Red Paddle Co 12’6” voyager: £1,069, Red Paddle Co

As the name (and price tag) suggests this is a board for those who take their paddling seriously. For a big touring board it’s still only 32in wide, which makes it easy to handle in the waves or on the river and it did a great job of flattening out some choppy seas and making us feel secure and confident. Lots of cargo and deck space means that you can fit fishing gear and overnight kit with ease, or if you’re sticking closer to home and taking one of the kids out with you there’s plenty of passenger space upfront. We had it inflated in about seven minutes with the pump that comes as part of the package.

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Fanatic Fly air premium: £702.21, Fanatic

One of the first things we noticed when we jumped on the Fly Air was that it gave us a nice raised paddling position on the water so that we could really get into our strokes and cover ground fast. It tracked really well and the stiffness meant that we were able to get plenty of glide over the water, which made the board really easy to power without getting tired arms. Inflated in eight minutes this is an excellent all-round board that is great for anyone who doesn’t want too much of a workout when they head out for the day.

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Protest air: £749.99, Protest

Fully inflated in 10 minutes there is very little flex in this colourful offering that’s nice and stable on the water and very portable out of it. We found this was one of the most comfortable boards to stand on with a good mix of traction and comfort so your feet don’t go numb when you’re out for hours at a time. It had a profile that was more akin to a surfboard, too – so there’s plenty of fun to be had trying tricks and turns in the breakers.

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iRocker Cruiser: £549, iRocker

An excellent beginner’s board that’s made for calmer waters and lakes thanks to its 33in width and a squared-off tail, which makes it stable with much less movement side to side when paddling. The board is really well made and you won’t have to worry about damage if you get up close and personal with jagged rocks or riverbanks while you’re learning. We inflated it in about seven minutes with the excellent pump that’s included in the package along with an adjustable, fiberglass paddle, backpack, leash and repair kit.

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Thurso Surf waterwalker: £574, Amazon

We really liked the shape of this board and we liked it even more when we got it out on the water because it’s very quick. This is a good option for the more confident riders out there as it’s adaptable to seas, rivers and lakes and its shape, design and weight allows you to try out manoeuvres like the step back turn, where you shift your body to the back of the board and lift the nose up so that you turn more easily out of tight spots. Quick inflation and the addition of Velcro straps for securing your paddle when you’re not using it are also very welcome.

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Decathlon ITIWIT X100: £349.99, Decathlon

A good starter board that’s stable in the water thanks to its 34in width, and a good weight so that inexperienced paddlers will never feel like they’re out of control. The X100 tracked well in the sea and up river and the deck was comfortable enough for an afternoon spent on your feet. Pump and paddle aren’t included and this will set you back another £60 on the Decathlon site. Even with the added expense this is a value option – perfect for the paddler who has been out for a couple of sessions on a rented board and needs to work on technique and build confidence.

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The verdict: Stand-up paddle boards

If you want to expand your horizons then the Quroc Qi Crossover 11’4 is the board that will get you there. It’s also the ultimate confidence builder so it will suit beginners and seasoned SUPers alike. The fact that Quroc is a direct-sale company means that it can keep the price down and you get a quality package that includes a carbon paddle and heavy duty wheelie bag. If you’re taking your first steps on a paddle board the iRocker Cruiser is also worth a look because it offers a high-quality beginners package at a great price.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.