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Prone Paddleboarding: A Comprehensive Guide

Embracing the surf, feeling the rhythm of the waves, and challenging your body’s strength and endurance in the open water; welcome to the world of the prone paddleboard. Prone paddleboarding is a sport that’s gaining momentum all over the globe. Conceived from surfing’s early days, it has emerged as an exhilarating standalone experience, encouraging participants to engage with the aquatic world in a truly unique way. This exploration will shed light on everything you need to know about prone paddleboarding – an intense yet fulfilling adventure that’s not merely about balance on a board but also about the continuous quest for personal progress.

Understanding Prone Paddleboarding

Understanding Prone Paddleboarding: The Basics

Prone paddleboarding, also known as traditional paddleboarding, is an outdoor water activity where the participant lies on their stomach on the board to paddle instead of standing upright. This sport requires efficient use of upper body strength as the arms play an instrumental role in paddling the prone paddleboard on the water’s surface. Legs and core strength are also necessary to maintain balance. Usually, the boards are elongated and narrower than stand-up paddleboards, providing agility and speed. Prone paddleboarding works as an excellent workout that promotes cardiovascular health and strengthens the core and upper body.

History and Evolution of the Prone Paddleboard

Prone paddleboarding is, in fact, an original form of water sports, with a history traced back to the Polynesian cultures in Hawaii. It was the primary means for early Hawaiians to travel from island to island, majorly for fishing and transportation purposes. Tom Blake, a surf legend, is typically credited with modernizing the paddleboard in the early 1930s. He was inspired by early Hawaiian designs and developed a hollow wooden board for better buoyancy, durability, and speed. With the rise in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding over the years, prone paddleboards took a back seat but are now again gaining attraction as an effective form of fitness exercise and racing sport.

Key Terms in Prone Paddleboarding

  • Striding: Moving down the board on your knees or stomach while maintaining momentum.
  • Sprint Start: A quick start technique that involves pushing your board into the water, leaping onto it, and immediately beginning to paddle.
  • Rail: The sides of your board.
  • Rocker: Describes the curve of the board from nose to tail, affecting the speed and maneuverability.

Types of Prone Paddleboarding Boards

The type of prone paddleboarding equipment used can affect one’s experience. There are mainly two types – the traditional Stock Paddleboard and the Unlimited Paddleboard. Stock paddleboards, measuring 12 feet long and roughly 20 inches wide, are designed for stability but limit the speed to some extent. They are best for beginners due to their durability and stability. On the other hand, Unlimited Paddleboards can vary in length and width and are designed for speed. With pointy noses and tapered tails, these boards allow for longer, more powerful paddling strokes. However, they require a higher fitness level and better paddling skills to balance.

The Role of Prone Paddleboarding in Fitness

With upper body and core strength, balance, and cardiovascular endurance among its benefits, prone paddleboarding is highly regarded as a full-body workout. It strengthens the back, shoulders, arms, and core, improving muscular strength and endurance. Plus, the requirement of balance and coordination skills can contribute to enhanced agility and flexibility. Moreover, prone paddleboarding inspires outdoor activity, fostering connection with nature, and promoting mental health benefits like reduced stress and improved mood.

Distinguishing Prone Paddleboarding from Stand-up Paddleboarding

Both prone and stand-up paddleboarding are engaging water sports, but the main distinction resides in the body positions assumed while participating. Prone paddleboarding heavily pressures the upper body as one lies down and paddles, while stand-up paddleboarding works more on the core and leg muscles, with participants in a standing position. This variation in physical demands gives each type its uniqueness in terms of fitness benefits and competitiveness.

A person paddling on a prone paddleboard in a serene lake surrounded by nature.

Prone Paddleboard Equipment and Accessories

The Practicalities of the Prone Paddleboard: Essential Gear and Accessories

Distinctive gear is required to fully enjoy and stay safe while prone paddleboarding. The first indispensable tool, naturally, is the prone paddleboard. These boards, which are slenderer and longer than stand-up paddleboards, range from about 10 to 20 feet in length, and are designed for maximum water glide and efficiency.

Renowned makers such as Bark, Surftech, and Kings Paddle Sports, offer diverse board designs and sizes to accommodate varying individual techniques and body structures. Select a board suitable to your weight and proficiency to ensure peak performance.

Safety gear should never be overlooked in paddleboarding. An essential item is a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket, more so when surfing in deep waters. A leash is also important, keeping the board within reach in case the paddler takes a spill. Additional safety measures like sun hats and sunscreen, as well as hydration packs for extended sessions, should also be considered.

Monitoring your gear should also be paramount. Items like a board bag for safe transport and storage, a paddle cover, and repair kits containing epoxy resins for fiberglass boards will aid in maintenance. Regular inspection, cleaning, and prompt repairs will significantly prolong the life of your board.

Guide to Purchasing Prone Paddleboards and Accessories

Choosing a prone paddleboard largely depends on the style of paddling you plan on engaging in. Speed and efficiency are the hallmarks of racing boards, but they may compromise stability. On the other hand, touring boards are designed for comfort during prolonged paddling sessions, though they might not be as fast.

Ranging in both quality and pricing, numerous brands offer sports equipment designed specifically for prone paddleboarding. Among these, Bark and Surftech are known for their specialized designs. For paddling needs, trusted brands like Aqua-Bound, Sawyer Paddles, and Black Project are recommended due to their reliable range of options.

For safety gear, acclaimed brands such as Mustang Survival, Stohlquist and NRS offer a great selection. Their range of PFDs come equipped with various features, such as phone pockets, hydration reservoirs, and reflective trims for visibility.

Throughout your research, don’t overlook the importance of maintenance gear. Often these items can be generalized or brand-specific. Explore the warranties and their coverage offered by different brands. Choosing renowned brands usually comes with an assurance of high-quality products and consistent customer service.

To conclude, an investment of time in research before venturing into the purchase of prone paddleboarding equipment will ensure you get gear that enables you to enjoy watersports safely and efficiently.

paddler on a prone paddleboard

Techniques and Training

Mastering Techniques in Prone Paddleboarding

Prone paddleboarding is a unique watersport in that it requires an individual to navigate water on a paddleboard by lying or kneeling down and propelling themselves using their hands. Before diving into tougher conditions, it’s important to get comfortable on the board in calm, still water. A commonly utilized paddling technique is the ‘arm pull’, where the paddler pushes back water using their hands, thereby promoting forward motion.

The ‘double-arm’ method is yet another approach towards paddling. In this technique, both arms simultaneously reach and pull at the water, akin to traditional swimming strokes. While it expedites movement, it also requires more energy. It’s crucial that paddlers familiarize themselves with alternating between single and double arm strokes, as the circumstances will dictate the use of these techniques.

Training and Fitness for Prone Paddleboarding

Just like any other sport, prone paddleboarding requires a good amount of strength and endurance. Newbies should start training gradually to build up their paddling fitness. Swimming is an excellent cross-training activity as it builds up your arm, shoulder, and core strength while improving your cardio fitness at the same time.

Other good exercises for prone paddleboarding include planks (for core stability), push-ups (for upper body strength), and squats and lunges (for leg strength). Combining these with regular paddling sessions on the water is crucial for gaining the right balance and coordination.

Improving Balance and Coordination

One of the most fundamental skills to master in prone paddleboarding is balance. Paddlers need to center their body weight on the board to keep it stable. Beginners can start by kneeling on the board before transitioning to lay down. Regularly practicing this transitioning can help the individual get accustomed to the board’s balance.

Additionally, practicing on dry ground can also help. Mimicking the paddling motion while lying on a fitness ball can improve your balance and coordination without the risk of falling into the water.

Mastering Advanced Prone Paddleboard Techniques

Gradually, as you become comfortable with the basic maneuvers of prone paddleboarding—using your board and paddle—you can start challenging yourself with advanced techniques. Successfully mastering these can involve fine-tuning actions like navigating through waves and performing smooth-sailing turns. One impactful way to execute the latter is to lean into the direction of the turn, pull towards the same side with your paddle and kick your legs towards the opposite side to execute a complete turn.

But remember, proficiency in such techniques comes only with time and continued practice. Patience is key in this learning journey. Keep practicing, be attuned to your body’s reactions, and make sure you are making the time on the water enjoyable. Prone paddleboarding is not just a matter of speed and skill—it’s also about fully experiencing and enjoying the aquatic environment.

prone paddleboarders racing

Health Benefits and Safety Measures

The Healthful Rewards of Prone Paddleboarding

Embarking on the journey of prone paddleboarding doesn’t only take you on aquatic adventures, it also serves as a comprehensive form of exercise. It stands out as a full-body endurance workout that synergistically engages every muscle from your toes to your head. It offers cardiovascular benefits similar to running or aerobics, however, it is much easier on your joints, minimizing the risk of serious damages or stress fractures. Toning the arms, shoulders, and back muscles forms a crucial part of the paddling process while your core and legs put in continual work to keep you balanced on the prone paddleboard.

According to diverse scientific research, prone paddleboarding is associated with increased calorie burning, strengthened endurance, and enhanced cardiorespiratory health. It has also gained recognition for its ability to amplify balance, coordination, and holistic body strength. The constant neuromuscular training that comes from trying to stay balanced further reinforces functional core strength and lower body stability.

Besides physical returns, prone paddleboarding also promotes mental health. Immersing yourself in the outdoors and being on the water is a naturally stress-relieving experience. The rhythmic and meditative layers that paddling adds can significantly help lighten moods, ease anxiety, and reduce stress levels.

Safety Measures in Prone Paddleboarding

Despite the numerous benefits, prone paddleboarding can come with inherent risks, mostly when conducted without proper safety measures. The first step towards safety is ensuring the use of appropriate gear, including a suitable board, a personal flotation device (PFD), a safety whistle, and, in certain conditions, a wetsuit or drysuit for heat retention.

Water conditions, including temperature, currents, and weather, should be thoroughly assessed before entering the water. Sudden changes can present hazards to paddleboarders, especially those new to the sport or unfamiliar with the specific body of water.

Understanding basic first aid procedures, being able to swim, and knowledge of local marine life and hazards are all essential tools for a safe prone paddleboarding experience. Also, beginners should consider paddleboarding in groups or supervised by experienced paddlers before attempting to paddle alone.

Board handling and control are crucial factors in paddleboarding safety. This includes knowing how to quickly exit the prone paddleboard board in the event of a fall and being aware of how to maneuver the board to avoid obstructions and collisions.

In the end, while paddling a prone paddleboard is a highly beneficial and therapeutic sport, it mandates responsible and safe practices to prevent accidents and injuries. Regularly reviewing safety measures, staying updated about weather and water conditions, and wearing the right gear are good practices that will ensure a paddler’s safety and enjoyment of the sport.

wooden prone paddleboard on a lake

As our journey through the waters of the prone paddleboard comes to an end, we find that this immersive sport is more than just staying upright on a board. It pushes us, challenges us, and rewards us with beautiful experiences and substantial health benefits. It is a practice that needs respect for safety measures and an appreciation of the skills and equipment involved. In the ebb and flow of its waves, prone paddleboarding carries us closer towards a blend of fitness, mindfulness, endurance, and an inevitable bond with the water. Whether you’re just dipping your toes in or fully submerged in its global community, may the essence of prone paddleboarding keep your spirit riding high. So, grab your paddles and hit the water, because the ocean awaits, ready to etch a tale on the surface of your adventurous spirit.

Choosing Your First Paddle Board: Top Picks for Beginners

Paddleboarding is a popular water sport that offers a unique blend of relaxation and physical activity. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful glide on calm waters or an adventurous ride on rolling waves, paddle boarding has something to offer for everyone. If you’re new to this awesome sport, one of the most critical decisions you’ll make is choosing your first paddle board.

The right paddle board can make all the difference in your initial experiences on the water. It can enhance your stability, boost your confidence, and help you progress quickly in mastering the sport. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of selecting the best paddle boards for beginners, ensuring that your first steps in the world of paddleboarding are smooth and enjoyable.

We’ll explore various factors to consider when choosing a paddle board, such as stability, size, weight, construction materials, and budget. Additionally, we’ll present a curated selection of top picks for beginner-friendly paddle boards, highlighting their key features and benefits for novice riders. Finally, we’ll share some additional tips to help you get started on the right foot.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and insights needed to confidently make an informed decision about your first paddle board. So, let’s dive in and discover the best paddle boards for beginners that will pave the way for your exciting paddle-boarding journey!

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Paddle Board for Beginners

Woman carrying an inflatable paddleboard on the beachBefore diving into the wide array of paddle board options available, it’s essential to understand the key factors to consider when selecting the perfect board for beginners. By keeping these factors in mind, you can ensure that your chosen paddleboard aligns with your skill level, preferences, and goals. Let’s explore these crucial considerations:

Stability: As a beginner, stability should be your top priority when choosing a paddleboard. Look for boards with a wide and long design, as they offer better stability on the water. A stable board will provide you with a solid platform to build your confidence and balance skills.

Size and Weight: The dimensions and weight of the paddle board play a crucial role in its overall performance and maneuverability. Generally, longer and wider boards offer more stability but can be slightly slower in the water. Consider your body weight and the intended use of the board to find the right balance between stability and maneuverability. For a stable beginner board, we recommend boards that are 32″ or wider and 6″ thick.

Construction Materials: Paddle boards are commonly constructed using different materials, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Fiberglass boards are lightweight and offer excellent performance, while inflatable boards provide easy storage and portability. Other materials, such as plastic or foam, may offer durability and affordability. Consider the trade-offs of each material and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.

Price Range: Paddle boards can vary significantly in price, and as a beginner, you don’t need to break the bank for your first board. Determine your budget range and look for options within that range. Remember that while higher-priced boards may offer advanced features, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available that can still provide a great experience for beginners.

By considering these factors, you’ll be able to narrow down your options and find a paddle board that meets your specific needs as a beginner. In the next section, we’ll delve into our top picks for the best paddle boards for beginners, taking into account the factors we’ve discussed here.

Top Picks for Beginner-Friendly Paddle Boards

Now that we’ve covered the essential factors to consider when choosing the best paddle boards for beginners, let’s explore our top picks for boards that are specifically designed to cater to novice riders. These boards have been carefully selected based on their stability, maneuverability, durability, and overall suitability for beginners. Let’s dive in:

Inflatable Paddleboards:

Due to their packability and portability, we prefer inflatable paddleboards over rigid paddleboards.  Inflatable paddleboards offer a paddleboard experience that’s very similar to a rigid SUP, but in a package that’s much more flexible and convenient and typically can be found at a much lower price. Due to the lower cost of entry and the ease of transport, beginning paddleboard will find themselves using an inflatable more often than a rigid board at a lower financial risk.

ROC Inflatable Paddleboard

At 33″ wide, the ROC Inflatable paddleboard hits the sweet spot for a beginner board. Rated at a weight limit of 350lbs, this board is forgiving for beginners of all sizes. Complete with a full range of accessories (including paddle, pump, leash, and carrying bag), the ROC paddleboard has everything you need to get out on the water. ROC is a US-based company with top-rated customer service. The ROC inflatable paddleboard is available in 11 colors each between $200 – $250.  With a 2-year warranty at this price point, this inflatable board is a great value for those looking at getting into paddleboarding.

Skatinger Super Wide SUP

The Skatinger Super Wide is an inflatable paddleboard that all beginners should consider.  At 11’6″ long and a crazy 35″ wide, the Skatinger might be the perfect setup for those getting started paddleboarding. Capable of carrying 430 lbs, the extra 3″ of width makes for a more stable board for beginners or can haul additional cargo or pets for experienced SUPers. We love the design of the Skatinger that reminds us of a cross between a high-tech and yet uber-clean look and feel. Like other boards on our list, the Skatinger comes with a plethora of included accessories to offer a complete beginner’s package. The only downfall of the Skatinger is the 6-month warranty – only half of the industry standard and much less than the ROC and BOTE 2-year plans.

Drift Inflatable SUP

Drift is a sister brand of one of our favorite paddleboard manufacturers, BOTE, and offers similar, yet less expensive paddleboards under the Drift name. Drift boards look great and their 11’6″ x 33″ offering is a great size for beginners. The Drift’s center and nose grab handles make it easy to transport and the 6″ thickness gives beginners the stability they need.  The Drift SUP comes with all the essential paddle board accessories: coiled leash, removable fin, repair kit, 3-piece aluminum paddle, paddle board pump, and backpack carrying bag.  The Due to its association with BOTE that yields quality boards at lower prices, the Drift SUP is one of our favorite choices for a beginner SUP.


In our eyes, BOTE is the brand to beat in the SUP world.  This uber-cool inflatable manufacturer includes magnetic cup holders in most of its products and sells pool rings for $250.  But if you refuse to be seduced by their overpriced and overhyped products, you’ll find some solid and industry-leading products offered by BOTE. The Wulf Aero paddleboard is a great example. In our opinion, the Wulf’s 10’6″ length and 33″ is the sweet spot for an inflatable paddleboard – balancing stability and speed in a single design. It’s a great-looking board and the BOTE name will make your friends think you paid a lot more than the mid-$400 price this model is offered at. Overall, it’s a great option for those who prefer to pick up a brand name board with a great warranty should something goes wrong.  The BOTE Wulf Aero comes with an industry-leading 2-year warranty that proves that BOTE builds a superior product that they stand behind.

Rigid Paddleboards:

Though inflatable technology has vastly improved in recent years, rigid paddleboards, made of fiberglass or other durable materials, will outperform their inflatable counterparts.  For those looking to start paddleboarding, but wanting to have the best-performing platform, a rigid SUP may be the best choice. While more expensive and more difficult to store and transport, rigid SUPs appeal to the purists of the sport.

Lifetime Amped Paddleboard

The Lifetime SUP is an HDPE-constructed rigid paddleboard that has “beginner board” written all over it. Its 11′ long x 32″ wide size is great for those just getting started in the sport.  You can pass the rigid Lifetime SUP down to your kids and grandkids with their unheard-of 5-year limited warranty.  This SUP is a tank that will most likely outlast you.  While it’s not the sexiest board on our list, the Lifetime SUP makes up for it with a practical, durable design at a decent price for a rigid SUP.  If you choose this board, think of it as the beginner’s platform that all of your friends and family will pass around on their way to getting a board of their own.  In a way, it’s the most beautiful role a board can play and for this reason, don’t look past the Lifetime rigid SUP.

Isle Versa Rigid SUP

We’ve been a fan of ISLE paddleboards for a while now.  ISLE is a quality brand with products that are elegantly designed and high quality.  ISLE paddleboards aren’t cheap, but they offer a great product that should last a long time. These ISLE rigid boards are epoxy boards – meaning they are lighter and 35% durable than fiberglass boards – perfect for beginners who may experience a ding or two.  The design of ISLE boards are sexy – they look great and exude quality. The best part? ISLE offers a 60-day trial period on their boards. “Ride it and love it OR return it” as they say.  And if you do keep your ISLE board and run into any issues, a standard 1-year warranty has you covered.

By presenting these top picks, we aim to provide you with a starting point in your search for the perfect beginner-friendly paddle board. Remember to consider your personal preferences, budget, and intended use of the board when making your final decision. In the next section, we’ll share some additional tips to help you make the most of your beginner paddle-boarding experience.

Looking for a list of “must-have” SUP accessories? Check out this article from our friends at Outward Spaces.

Additional Tips for Beginner Paddle Boarders

Congratulations on selecting one of the best paddle boards for beginners! As you embark on your paddle-boarding journey, here are some additional tips to enhance your experience and ensure a smooth transition into this exciting water sport:

Proper Paddle Length and Technique: Adjusting your paddle to the correct length and using proper paddling technique is crucial for efficient and comfortable paddling. Ensure that the paddle is adjusted to a height that allows for a slight bend in your elbows when standing upright on the board. Learn the proper paddling technique, which involves using your core muscles and engaging your whole body for efficient strokes.

Importance of Wearing Safety Gear: Safety should always be a priority when engaging in water sports. Wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket, especially if you’re a beginner. PFDs provide buoyancy and can be life-saving in case of an emergency. Additionally, consider wearing a leash that attaches you to the board to prevent it from drifting away if you fall off.

Choosing the Right Location for Your First Paddle Boarding Experience: Selecting the appropriate location for your maiden paddle boarding adventure can greatly impact your overall enjoyment. Opt for calm and flat waters, such as lakes, ponds, or calm bays, as they provide a more stable and less challenging environment for beginners. Avoid strong currents, crowded areas, and areas with hazardous obstacles.

Practice Balancing and Basic Techniques: Before venturing into deeper waters, take some time to practice balancing on your paddle board in shallow areas. Get comfortable with the feeling of the board beneath your feet and practice basic techniques, such as paddling in a straight line, turning, and stopping. This will help build your confidence and improve your overall paddling skills.

Learn from Experienced Paddle Boarders: Seek guidance from experienced paddle boarders or consider taking lessons from a certified instructor. They can provide valuable tips, teach you proper techniques, and share their knowledge about paddle boarding safety and etiquette. Learning from others will accelerate your learning curve and ensure you develop good habits from the start.

By following these additional tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your beginner paddle-boarding experience. Remember to be patient with yourself, have fun, and enjoy the serenity of being out on the water. In the final section, we’ll recap the importance of choosing the right paddle board for beginners and share some closing thoughts.

Older woman paddleboarding in calm marina waters

The Bottom Line

Choosing your first paddle board as a beginner is an exciting and crucial step in your paddle boarding journey. By considering factors such as stability, size, weight, construction materials, and budget, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and skill level.

In this article, we explored the essential factors to consider when selecting a paddle board for beginners. We discussed the significance of stability and the impact of size and weight on maneuverability. We also delved into the various construction materials available and provided guidance on finding the right price range for your first board.

Furthermore, we presented our top picks for the best paddle boards for beginners, highlighting their key specifications, notable features, and suitability for novice riders. These recommendations serve as a starting point to help you narrow down your options and find a board that instills confidence and joy as you embark on your paddleboarding adventures.

We also provided additional tips to enhance your beginner paddleboarding experience. From adjusting your paddle length and wearing safety gear to selecting the right location and practicing basic techniques, these tips will contribute to a safe and enjoyable journey as you explore the beauty of paddle boarding.

Remember, paddle boarding is not just about physical activity—it’s about connecting with nature, finding inner peace, and discovering new perspectives. Embrace the learning process, cherish the moments on the water, and celebrate your progress along the way.

Now that you’re equipped with valuable insights and recommendations from our list of the best paddle boards for beginners, it’s time to choose your first paddle board and start your exhilarating paddleboarding journey. So, get out there, paddle with confidence, and let the waters guide you to unforgettable experiences!

Happy paddling!

Love paddling? Check out our list of the Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2023!

The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2023

Cruise your local waters in style with the help of these best inflatable kayaks of 2023

Best Overall
Bestway Hydro-Force 2-Person Ventura Elite Inflatable Kayak Set | Includes Kayak, 2 Aluminum Paddles, Hand Pump, 2 Fins and Carry Bag
Best Features
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R-P AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak - Pump Included - 15" - Red
Best Budget
INTEX 68307EP Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak Set: Includes Deluxe 86in Aluminum Oars and High-Output Pump – SuperStrong PVC – Adjustable Seats with Backrest – 2-Person – 400lb Weight Capacity , Yellow
Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
Explorer K2
This affordable and well-rounded kayak is the perfect recreational kayak.
Multiple deck options. Aluminum ribs for improved tracking.
This inexpensive kayak is an amazing value for the money.
Best Overall
Bestway Hydro-Force 2-Person Ventura Elite Inflatable Kayak Set | Includes Kayak, 2 Aluminum Paddles, Hand Pump, 2 Fins and Carry Bag
Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1
This affordable and well-rounded kayak is the perfect recreational kayak.
Best Features
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R-P AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak - Pump Included - 15" - Red
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
Multiple deck options. Aluminum ribs for improved tracking.
Best Budget
INTEX 68307EP Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak Set: Includes Deluxe 86in Aluminum Oars and High-Output Pump – SuperStrong PVC – Adjustable Seats with Backrest – 2-Person – 400lb Weight Capacity , Yellow
Explorer K2
This inexpensive kayak is an amazing value for the money.

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and explore nature from a unique perspective. It’s great exercise, good for your mental health, and it’s full of adventure.  Our friends over at Outward Spaces have recently written about why kayaking is so much fun, but if you’ve spent much time in a kayak – you already know how much of a blast it can be.

Hard shell kayaks take up a lot of space, are heavy, and require special vehicle considerations to get them out to your local waters.  Inflatable Kayaks, on the other hand, pack away into a carrying bag, can be easily stored in a small space, and fit into just about any vehicle on the road.  Once you arrive at your water of choice, you inflate your kayak and hit the water. When you’re done paddling, the kayak is deflated, folded up, slipped back into the bag, and thrown back into the trunk. Inflatable kayaks offer convenience that get you out on the water more often and they can be just as much fun as a hard-shell kayak.

In our search for the best inflatable kayak of 2023, we looked at a number of models currently available and put together our list of the best of the best. Whether you are a beginning kayaker or an experienced pro, there is an inflatable kayak that will help you get paddling more quickly and with less hassle than a traditional kayak.

The Best Inflatable Kayaks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1

Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1 Inflatable Kayak

Due to its balance of quality construction, included accessories, and affordable price, the Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1 is our best overall inflatable kayak of 2023. The Ventura Elite X1 is a great-looking kayak built for 2 paddlers. It features a premium coated nylon cover that is oil-proof, waterproof, Uv resistant, and puncture resistant. The Ventura Elite X1 comes with everything you need to get out on the water right out of the box and includes 2 aluminum paddles, and hand pump, 2 removable skegs, a gear bag, a carrying bag, and a patch kit. It features a drop-stitch I-beam inflatable floor for stability and the 2 skegs are interchangeable to customize the ride to your tastes.

What we love: The 2 storage compartments – the front gear bag + storage behind each seat allow you to bring your gear along and ensure it stays put.  We also think the teal color looks pretty sharp.

Length: 10′ 10″
Width: 34″
Weight: 35lb
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 440 lbs

Best For Touring: AQUAGLIDE Navarro 130 Convertible Inflatable Kayak

AQUAGLIDE Navarro Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The AQUAGLIDE Navarro 130 is a single inflatable kayak that’s built for touring but can also handle the rapids.  The Navarro 130’s unique zip-on deck cover makes this kayak look for like a traditional kayak than others on our list and keeps water out while keeping you dry. At 13 feet and 3 inches long, the Navarro is longer than most kayaks on our list – especially considering it’s only a single kayak.  This extra length adds speed and makes paddling easier, earning the Navarro 130 our “best pick for touring” distinction. At only 35 lbs, the Navarro 130 is easily handled by 1 person. This kayak also has a hex shell covering its pontoons making it more durable and quicker in the water – both great features in a touring kayak. Unlike other inflatable kayaks on our list, the Navarro comes only with a seat and storage bag, so you’ll have to pick up a paddle and pump separately.

What we love: The extra length adds some speed that makes this kayak more fun and easier to paddle for long periods of time. The extended deck on the front and rear help to keep water out.

Length: 13′ 3″
Width: 37″
Weight: 35 lbs
Seating Capacity: 1
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

Best Features: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak

Advanced Elements AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The full-featured Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a 2-person touring kayak that takes flexibility to new levels.  Its “AdvancedFrame” name comes from its built-in aluminum ribs that help define the hull shape to improve tracking and durability.  This aluminum frame helps it perform more like a traditional kayak while also protecting it against bumps and scrapes.  Optional deck covers can be purchased to change the look and function of the kayak. Choose between single or double “closed” decks to help keep you drier when paddling in rougher conditions or stick with the included standard “open” deck for easier maneuverability and access in the kayak.  No matter what you choose, the decks can be easily swapped – making this a “convertible” kayak and giving you options. The AvancedFrame Convertible also has three seat attachment points – one in the front and one in the back for double paddlers or attach a single seat in the middle for a single paddler only.  At 15 feet long and boasting a weight capacity of 550 lbs, this kayak is especially helpful for taller paddlers or those who have a lot of gear to bring along.  Included with the AdvancedFrame kayak is a duffle bag for storage, hand pump, and 2 folding seats.  The various seat arrangements, aluminum frame, and options to purchase additional deck configurations earn the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak our “best features” designation.

What we love: The 3 seat attachment points give you options. With the built-in aluminum frame ribs, this kayak tracks really well and is comfortable for long trips – even if you’re on the taller side of things.

Length: 15′
Width: 32″
Weight: 52 lbs
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs

Best for Fishing: Elkton Outdoors Steelhead 130

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Fishing kayaks give anglers the ability to get out where the fish are. An inflatable fishing kayak adds the ease of packing away the kayak when you’re done for the day.  The Elkton Outdoors Steelhead 130 is a fishing kayak that’s well-equipped to land the big catch – again and again. Its padded high-back seat and included footrest will keep you comfortable all day long.  What makes this fishing kayak stand out is the placement of 5 modular equipment mounts to equip your kayak for some serious fishing.  Attach commonly available rod holders, bait trays, downriggers, and more to customize your fishing setup using the 5 mounting points.  The Steelhead 130’s 10-foot, 10-inch length won’t win you any races, but its 39.5 inches of width provides more stability when fishing and gives you a bit more room for your gear. Its width combined with its drop-stitch inflatable floor gives you a stable fishing platform. The Steelhead also includes a paddle, removable skeg, travel bag, padded seat, footrest, and dual action hand pump. It can be used in both salt and fresh water and is rated for up to class III rapids.

What we love: The module equipment mounts allow you to trick out your kayak with all of your gear to build the ultimate kayak fishing setup.

Length: 10′ 10″
Width: 39.5″
Weight: 40 lbs
Seating Capacity: 1
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs

Best Budget: Explorer K2

Explorer K2 Kayak Inflatable Kayak

Our best budget pick is the 2-person Explorer K2 by Intex.  While not as durable or as featured as other kayaks on our list, the Explorer K2 offers a great value kayak for those on a tight budget.  Made for smaller bodies of water including lakes and mild rivers, the Explorer K2 includes everything you need to get out of the water including a hand pump, 2 paddles, a carry bag, 2 removable seats, a removable skeg, and a repair patch. Its inflatable seats aren’t as comfortable or durable as padded seats found on more expensive kayaks, but they do the job and are comfortable enough for short trips.  With only a 300 lb capacity, the Explorer K2 is best for kids, smaller adults, or a single paddler. The Explorer K2 doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles in the feature department, it gets the job done as a simple and inexpensive way to get out on the water.  Want to kayak without spending a small fortune? The Explorer K2 may be the right choice for you.

What we love: The Explorer K2 is an amazing value for the money. It’s a great choice for those who don’t kayak often but want a kayak when the opportunity arises.

Length: 10′ 3″
Width: 36″
Weight: 30.6 lbs
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 400 lbs

The Pros and Cons of Inflatable Kayaks

The biggest pro of inflatable kayaks is their portability.  When deflated, inflatable kayaks need less space to store, don’t need expensive roof racks to transport, and can be carried to the water’s edge by one person.

The biggest con of inflatable kayaks is how they handle on the water.  They typically are slower, don’t track as well, and can be more easily blown around by the wind compared to traditional hard-shell kayaks.

For a full rundown of the various pros and cons of inflatable kayaks, visit Outward Spaces.

What type of inflatable kayak is right for me?

It depends on how you like to paddle and what types of water you want to kayak on.  If you’re looking for a kayak to leisurely paddle on flat water (a lake or mild river) a recreational kayak like the Ventura Elite X1 or the Explorer X2 are good options.  Recreational kayaks like these will give you the most bang for your buck and will provide enjoyable experiences on the water at more affordable prices.

If you want to paddle for a cardio workout or want to kayak long distances, a touring kayak is the best choice.  These kayaks are built to be more comfortable (allowing for longer trips) and longer (allowing for more speed and efficiency when paddling). Touring kayaks are best suited for large lakes or calm ocean conditions, but can also be used in small whitewater (typically up to class III rapids).

If you are looking to kayak in rapids and whitewater, it’s best to stick with a traditional hard-shell kayak built for this purpose.  Whitewater kayaks are designed to be waterproof in case of a roll in rapids.  Inflatable kayaks aren’t designed to roll or recover easily from being overturned like whitewater kayaks are.  While many inflatable kayaks can be enjoyed on rapids up to class III, it’s best to stay away from rapids above class II when paddling one.

Finally, if you want to fish from your inflatable kayak, it’s best to look for kayaks that are designed with fishing in mind.  Look for inflatable kayaks that have good width (at least 36″) and have the ability to properly mount fishing gear on the kayak.  Inflatable kayaks with built-in rod holders and adequate space for fishing gear are the best options for fishing.  We also recommend a single kayak if fishing is the priority.  Space can get tight with two fishermen on a double kayak.

What’s the best way to inflate an inflatable kayak?

A lot of inflatable kayaks come with a hand pump.  Inflatable kayaks are typically inflated to low pressures and a hand pump is perfectly adequate to use. However, if you use your inflatable kayak often, we highly recommend purchasing a 12V electric pump, such as the OutdoorMaster Shark, to quickly and easily inflate your kayak at your car before carrying it down to the water’s edge.  The hand pumps that inflatable kayaks include are often unreliable with gauges that aren’t accurate. 12V pumps typically have digital gauges and shut off automatically at your desired pressure – making them hands-free once you start them up.

What kind of inflation valves do inflatable kayaks use?

Unfortunately, inflatable kayak manufacturers choose to use various inflation valves in their products.  Many inflatable kayaks have a combination of Boston valves and Halkey Roberts valves.  If your inflatable kayak comes with a pump, the manufacturers should also include any adaptors needed.  If you choose to purchase an electric pump as recommended above, make sure to choose one that includes a variety of adaptors.  having adaptors for various types of valves will allow you to inflate all sorts of items around the house with your electric pump – adding value to your investment.

The Bottom Line

Kayaking is a ton of fun and offers a unique way to enjoy nature.  Traditional kayaks are heavy, bulky, and hard to transport.  Inflatable kayaks are lighter weight, pack up into a small carrying bag, and can be transported easily in the back of any car.  Inflatable kayaks offer a more convenient way to tap into the adventure that kayaking offers – resulting in your getting out on the water more often.

Inflatable kayaks are available in many different types, sizes, and styles.  When purchasing an inflatable kayak, be sure to consider your budget, how you’ll use it, and what types of water you want to paddle on. No matter your paddling preferences, purchasing an inflatable kayak will have you out on the water in no time and with less hassle.

Happy Paddling!

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