For most people, paddleboarding is all about exploring waterways in flat water. You want to paddle in a straight line whilst enjoying the scenery, without feeling like you’ll wobble and fall off at any moment.
If this sounds like your type of paddleboarding, then a touring SUP is probably the one for you.
‘Touring’ can be whatever distance you feel comfortable with. A tour for me could be an hour cruising on a canal, or a 2-day trip with a sleepover at a campsite. So don’t feel like you aren’t the touring type, or these boards are too advanced for you. If you’ve been paddleboarding a few times, you’ll have no problem using a touring paddleboard.
Whether it’s a need for full-on adventure, or simply wanting to get paddleboarding during a summer evening on your local lake, touring paddleboards are pretty versatile, as long as you’re on flattish water.
I’ve really wanted to write this article for a while, because I think a tourer is a better choice for your first paddleboard purchase than an all-around/beginner board. Apart from manoeuvrability, a tourer is just a far better shape for cruising around on the water, you won’t outgrow it as quickly and I think you’ll have way more fun.
Table of Contents
What makes a good touring SUP?
You’ll notice most manufacturers who have a ‘touring’ paddleboard in their range will all look fairly similar. They’ll probably be 12” – 14” in length, have a pointy nose and some bungee cord on the deck. When we reviewed the touring paddleboards, these were some of the criteria they were judged on:
Glide – Your ideal tourer is designed to paddle long distances with as little effort as possible. The length, width, hull shape and fins can all contribute to how well the board glides in the water. Generally the longer and narrower the board the better it’ll glide.
Tracking – When paddling, the board should keep on a straight-ish course with too much correction. Similar to glide, the length, rail shape and fins of the paddleboard determine its tracking ability.
Stability – There is a fine balance between a board that glides well and stability. Design a board that’s too long and narrow and it’ll glide amazing but be very unstable. A tourer needs stability, especially if you’re carrying a tent and overnight gear.
Deck storage – How much usable deck storage is there on the board? Some boards only have thin bungee near the nose, whereas others have storage options on the nose and tail. How important deck storage is for you depends on how far you think your paddleboard adventure could take you.
Carry handles – An often overlooked feature in other tests. Carry handles are so important for touring, especially on rivers. There will be access points and barriers that will require you to carry the paddleboard over a road or around a weir. A variety of handles that are well-placed makes carrying the board so much easier.
Accessories – We came to the realisation that our experience using the touring paddleboards hugely depended on the accessories. Paddles are really important if you want to paddleboard for a few hours at a time, so the brands that provided quality paddles, pumps and bags were generally more favoured by the testers.
The best inflatable touring paddleboards in the UK
We tested these paddleboards in August in Chichester Harbour. There was around 8 knots of cross-shore wind.
Starboard Inflatable Tourer 14”
Best premium tourer
From £1,019 – View on The SUP Co
+ Thoughtful deck design
+ Perfect for heavier riders
+ Great for long distances
– No triple-action pump
There is no doubt the Starboard Inflatable Tourer 14” looks and feels like a quality, high-end paddleboard. For someone with a decent budget looking for a touring paddleboard that’ll cruise for miles and glide effortlessly, then this board is a great shout.
The features and technology in the board are quite different from the others we tested. The most prominent feature is the Deluxe Double Chamber, which is a secondary inflatable inner section around the centre of the board.
This extra stiffness means the board doesn’t flex as much as other inflatables, and you can really tell the difference in the water. The board just powers through chop instead of wobbling over it. An inflatable board this stiff will help if you’re a heavier rider.
All the testers thought the board felt the fastest in the water. Though that’s not a surprise as this was only 14” board in the test. Being the longest on the test meant the Starboard Inflatable Tourer also tracked much better than the 12’6 boards. Starboard has designed the board without much nose rocker, so the whole board sits quite flat in the water. Having almost the total length of the rail in the water helps with tracking.
The only downside of a 14” board that tracks very well is that it’s not very manoeuvrable.
Just looking at the board you can appreciate the construction and materials that have gone into making this board. You’ll see a strip of carbon-looking material that runs along with the rail, Starboard calls it Weld Rail Technology.
This touring package is full of premium features that help justify its price point. The bag was one of the most comfortable, the carry side strap on the deck is very helpful and the magnetic water bottle is a welcome addition, especially for those half-day trips.
There is decent deck storage which is no better than other boards in the review, but good nonetheless.
I was going to write at £1,319 the Starboard Inflatable Tourer 14” isn’t the best value for money, because it didn’t come with a paddle as standard. However, shops like The SUP Co are now including a Starboard Lima Tufskin 3 Piece Paddle, making this full package very reasonable and the best premium touring paddleboard package on the market today.
Weight: 12.8 Kg
BecauseSUP Mission 12’6
Best value tourer
From £559 – View on BecauseSUP’s website
+ Well-built construction
+ Carbon paddle and triple action pump included
+ 2-year warranty
– Rated 2nd worse for looks
For pound-to-pound value, the BecauseSUP 12’6 Mission Inflatable Tourer is up there with the best we’ve come across. For a blend of quality, performance, great accessories and price, you won’t get any better than this board. The BecauseSUP Mission 12’6 package could easily be compared to boards that are pushing the £1,000 mark, so to get this tourer for just £559 is phenomenal.
With a maximum 20 PSI, the board felt rigid enough, stable and comfortable on the water. The glide and tracking felt similar to most other 12’6 boards, and most testers thought the performance was as expected. I’d like to see slightly less rocker on the nose, because I think this board has a strong enough construction to pierce through any chop.
The construction is where we start to see the differences between BecauseSUP and others in the same price bracket. You can see the nose and rails have significant reinforcement with materials and build more akin to the Starboard or Red Paddle Co boards.
Whilst the board performed well on the water, it was the accessories that transitioned this board from good to great. BeacuseSUP make a big deal about this on their website and we have to agree, accessories are often overlooked and can be just as important as the board itself.
In the BecauseSUP Mission package, you’ll get a full carbon paddle as standard. This paddle was so much better, lighter and stiffer than any others in this test. Using a stiff carbon paddle makes such as difference to your experience paddleboarding, especially when cruising long distances.
Along with the carbon paddle, the double-chamber pump is up there as one of the best and makes pumping up for inflatable much easier and quicker.
Finally, I really loved that BecauseSUP include a quick-release waist belt in the package. So many magazines, experts and brands recommended this as a key safety device, especially if you’re touring on a river.
The only thing lacking is aesthetics. If BecauseSUP can find a graphic designer to make the board look classier, then they could be in for the best inflatable manufacturer in the UK.
Weight: 9.5 Kg
Bluefin Rouge 12’6
Best looking tourer
From £759 – View on Bluefins website
+ Best deck layout
+ Highly rated amongst testers
+ 5-year warranty
– Not the most stable
A new board in the Bluefin range, the Rogue has bridged the gap between the popular Cruise (all-rounder) and Sprint (race). The Rouge is their dedicated touring board and we’re certain it will be a popular choice for riders looking for a mid-price board for full-day adventures.
The Rogue was very well received amongst all testers and has all the attributes that make it a great tourer.
To start with the shape is interesting and slightly different to other tourers in this test. The profile shows a much wider nose than tail, which has been developed because the front of the board is where you’re likely to carry your bags. It makes total sense to have the cargo area wide, stable and buoyant.
The further back you go on the board, the narrower its gets. Generally speaking, a narrower board is a faster board, and all the testers agreed the Bluefin Rogue felt quick on the water. However, the payoff for the speed is a board that seemed a touch more wobbly than others, not by a crazy amount but if you’re a beginner or larger rider, this board might not be for you.
Bluefin started to get a reputation as a manufacturer that create durable, sturdy boards, but were very heavy to a point that put some people off buying them. It’s great to see they have addressed and solved this issue with their current crop of boards and at 12.3Kgs, the Rogue can easily be picked up and transported.
Talking of being picked up, Bluefin has nailed it with their handle placements which were the most balanced out of all the touring boards we tried.
Read our full Bluefin Rogue review >
The accessories that come with the Bluefin Rogue are pretty decent, but I found the mini double-chamber pump a bit too small to use comfortably. Maybe a shorter person would find it OK, but being 6’3 I was pretty hunched over when trying to use their pump.
Weight: 12.3 Kg
Red Voyager 12’6
Best for ocean touring adventures
From £1,199 – View on Red’s website
+ Very stable
+ Most rigid
+ Great package
– Not the quickest
Red Paddle Co market this board as the 4×4 of the SUP world and after testing you can see why. This board can handle any conditions and is as tough as it gets.
The Voyager 12’6 may not be the quickest, but it’s one of the most rigid and stable touring board we tested.
Just stepping onto a Red Paddleboard feels different to other inflatables and you can immediately see why this board costs more than most. It’s quite hard to describe, but even the sound of the board cruising through the water is most similar to a hard board.
There are features on this board that make it totally unique. Underneath you’ll see the V-Hull which offers a shape that only (so far) hard boards can achieve. The V-Hull helps the board cut through the water to aid with tracking.
The Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) is a brilliant good idea, and Red says its adds up to around 30% more stiffness in the board. The RSS is a long plastic batten that you insert into each rail as you’re pumping up the board. The battens cover the centre area, where you’re likely to stand, and reduces flex around that point.
Although this board tracks very well and is super stiff, it didn’t glide as well as other boards on this test and that’s down to the 32” width. This extra width enables greater stability but made the board feel a little more sluggish on the water. So the Red Voyager 12’6 would be an excellent choice for touring the open ocean or choppy waters, but if you’re only going on flat lakes or canals, you’ll probably want a narrower, longer board. For intermediate riders and advanced, we’d recommend the 13’2 Voyager, its extra length and narrower width will improve glide and speed.
As you would expect from a Red paddleboard, the overall finish and workmanship is quality, which gives confidence this board is going to last a very long time. Coming with a 5-year warranty it’s clear Red Paddle Co are confident their boards are made to last.
The overall package is really decent from Red, the bag is the most comfortable we’ve tried and the Titan II double-chamber pump is by far the best available on the market. If you can afford it, upgrading to their Hybrid Tough or Prime paddles is well worth the investment.
Moloko Tempo 12’6
Perfect day tourer
From £569 – View on The SUP Co
+ Glides very well
+ Great paddle blade
+ Clean graphics
– Limited deck storage options
Coming out of The SUP Co is a newcomer called Moloko. The whole package from Moloko is all about no fuss at great value, which we found offers a lot of fun and decent performance on the water.
Our testers really enjoyed using the Moloko and thought it was one of the better boards for tracking and glide – All perfect measures of performance for a touring paddleboard.
Compared to a few other boards in this test, the nose rocker on the Tempo is short in length but quite aggressive. The nose really kicks up which can help the board cope with choppy conditions. It’s also one of the pointier noses we’ve seen on an inflatable SUP, that enables the board to pierce through chop and small waves.
The Moloko Tempo has all the components to help it compete with the big brands. Being able to inflate to 20 PSI ensures the board feels rigid on the water, giving riders confidence and trust that the board will react well to paddle and foot movements.
As we’ve alluded to with all inflatable paddleboards, it’s the whole package that can make or break how we feel about the brand. Moloko’s 3-piece fibreglass paddle wasn’t too heavy and is stiff enough, but it’s the blade that sets their paddle above similarly priced packages. The blade offers a real consistency and power that adds to the overall performance and feel of the board on the water.
Along with the paddle, the bag is another feature worth mentioning. The wheels make transporting the board from the garage to car and car to beach so much easier. It’s also made out of recycled plastic bottles is a nice sustainable touch.
The reason why we’ve labelled the Moloko Tempo as a perfect day-tourer is that the board has minimal storage bungee options and we’d like to see a few more handle placements. But overall the Moloko Tempo offers exactly what you’d want from a mid-range paddleboard at a decent price.
HIKS Touring 11’2
Best budget tourer
+ Great for beginners
– Poor paddle
It’ll be a bit harsh to directly compare the HIKS with the premium brands on this list. So we had to reset our thinking when testing and reviewing the HIKS Touring 11’2 board.
HIKS are a UK manufacturer that produces budget inflatable paddleboards. These SUPs are perfect for beginners and people who want a board to play on the water and get into the sport without committing to a lot of money. The boards aren’t made with performance in mind, but that’s OK for a lot of people.
The reason why HIKS have become popular in the UK is they have a dedicated customer support team in their Essex office. Having a great product is not enough, and offering top customer service, where you can pick up the phone and talk to someone about your paddleboard, really helps a brand grow.
If you’re buying your first board on a budget, then I think you’ll have more fun and get more out of a slightly longer, touring-type board than a shorter all-rounder. This is because the longer board will track better and cruise comfortably.
Our testers thought the HIKS Touring board felt stable yet manoeuvrable, solidifying this board as one perfect for beginners.
Overall we had no problems with the board, which performed as expected for the price. We wouldn’t recommend taking this board on long multi-day trips, but for the short 2 – 3 hour tour on flat water, this board will do just fine.
The only thing on the HIKS Tourer we’d like to see improved is the paddle that came with the package. This type of aluminium paddle that comes with a lot of budget packages just feels cheap, always wobbles at the joints and is pretty heavy. We have seen a few sub £400 boards come with a better paddle, which is needed if you want to give longer tours a go.
Red Compact 12’
Great for travelling
From £1,499 – View on Red’s website
+ Most portable board
+ Folds away very small
A newer size in the range, the 12’ Compact is the most portable board touring board on the market today. It’s called the Compact because it folds away into a bag that’s pretty much half the size of a normal paddleboard bag.
There are two main reasons you should buy this board over any other:
- If you live in a city and want to get to the water by public transport
- If you want to travel on a plane with your board and explore remote destinations
It really is an amazing bit of kit which is unbelievably rigid for the size, and comes with a great package including a 5-piece paddle, the best pump you’ll ever use and a very comfortable bag.
The Compact can fit into such a small bag because you fold it half before rolling up. With the end goal of folding then rolling, you can easily see the features Red have designed into the board to make it possible.
The deck pad isn’t one big piece of foam, rather it’s cut into sections and is missing along the centre where the fold will be. This makes the board easier to fold and also means the foam won’t crease. The valve and handle are off-centre too because it would be impossible to fold the board in half if they were in the way.
We thought because the Compact is so lightweight and small, surely it’ll flex and feel flimsy on the water, especially being 4.7” thick instead of 6”. Oh, how we were wrong. Similar to the Voyager, the Compact has the plastic battens that are inserted into the rail to help stiffen the board.
If money was no issue, I paddleboard in a city like London and use trains to get around, then this would 100% be the board to buy.
Samphire Touring 12’
Perfect for smaller riders
From £399.99 – View on The SUP Warehouse
+ Looks good
+ Glides well
– Not as stable as other boards
A new brand to the UK scene, Samphire have come into the market with a range of budget and simple, yet classy-looking inflatable paddleboards.
On the Samphire website, their main USP highlights their MFW construction. MFW stands for MonoFusionWeld which is 2 layers of plastic bonded together by heat, which Samphire says creates one strong, stiff layer. Samphire say MFW but we think other brands call it fusion dropstitch, but whatever they want to call it, for £399 price is pretty good.
The board itself actually surprised us on the water, it cruised around very nicely and didn’t feel sticky like some other budget paddleboards do. The feeling of glide for the Samphire is down to its narrow, pointy shape. This shape of paddleboard always lends itself to glide well along the water, but this comes with a price of feeling a bit unstable. This is not a surprise when the board’s width measures 30”, but this suggests the board is not suitable for beginners or larger riders.
For £399 you get the whole package, which includes pump, paddle, fin, leash and bag. All the accessories are pretty standard for a package this price, but similar to HIKS we would like to see a better paddle included.
Overall we liked the aesthetic of the Samphire and enjoyed the way it got about on the water.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.