Tahoe SUP Tahoma 11’ ($999)
Paddleboard makers have experimented with countless designs and features over the years. But it’s unusual for an odd shape to gain our trust. With the inflatable Tahoma, Tahoe SUP delivers a novel catamaran-inspired board that’s stable, fun, and packed with possibility.
We cruised the Tahoma around a calm harbor in central California and even paddled out into open ocean. The board’s twin hulls skimmed over flat water and pushed easily through surface chop. At 34 inches, it’s wide and stable enough for a paddler to step easily along the length and width of the deck. There’s enough volume to carry 450 pounds of gear, like scuba tanks and coolers. A variety of tie-downs and mounts accommodate a huge assortment of accessories, including fishing-rod holders, a kayak seat, and even a transom mount for a small outboard motor.
The Tahoma is heavier (35 pounds) than some of its inflatable brethren. But what you get in return is a really practical design. The three-chamber board is constructed with PVC and didn’t flinch when we bumped into sharp barnacles. A comprehensive array of fins (two short ones on the front of each hull, and two small and one large in the rear) boosts responsiveness and improves tracking. Inflating the Tahoma’s three chambers took about 11 minutes with the included pump—longer than some other inflatables we tested. Still, those minor trade-offs are worth it for so much versatility. This is the most adventure-ready board on the market.
Red Paddle Co. Compact 9’6” ($1,899)
Best Travel Board
Built to be the most portable SUP ever, the inflatable Red Compact achieves its goal and more. The board, pump, and included paddle stow inside a backpack that, all together, is sufficiently small and light (28 pounds) to be stowed in an overhead bin or hiked up to an alpine lake. After taking the Compact for a walk along the beach, we inflated it in four minutes flat. The board’s length means it has less than exceptional glide, but 32 inches of width give it stability, and it was incredibly maneuverable. The twin fins kept us from drifting in chop, and we had no problem surfing small waves.
Boardworks Navigator 11’6” ($1,099)
Best Touring Board
With its timeless touring shape, the long and wide Navigator cruises over flat water. In our testing off the coast of California, the down-turned nose powered through chop and even sliced through small waves. The flat rocker and volume at the front made the board feel much longer than it is and allowed for a forward stance, ideal for efficient glide. The 31-inch-wide Navigator tracked with the precision of a race board but didn’t pitch and roll like a more narrowly hulled design would. Boardworks’s signature soft and smooth deck pad was easy to stand on for hours, and a slide-out handle provided good grip for lugging the Navigator to and from the water.