December 02, 2021 22 min read

Best River Paddle Boards

Women with her dog paddle boarding in river

If you’re interested in taking up paddle boarding on streams and rivers, then you’ve come to the right place. We take a look at some of the best paddle boards for river paddling - no matter your skill level!

River paddle boarding is an exciting adventure where you can ride whitewater rapids or slowly cruise with the current. Certain paddle boards have a better overall design and build to ride the river.

We’ll review the best paddle boards for rivers and explain what features make them ideal for river paddle boarding.

Best Paddle Boards for Rivers

Paddle Boards Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Price
1. GILI Meno 10’6/11’6Blue gili meno 10'6 inflatable SUP

10’6 x 35” x 6”

11’6 x 35” x 6”

23 lbs

24 lbs

450 lbs

485 lbs

Check Price
2. GILI KomodoGili blue komodo inflatable iSUP board 10’6 x 33” x 6” 21 lbs 340 lbs Check Price
3. GILI Manta RayGili red manta ray inflatable SUP

12’ x 45” x 8”

15’ x 56” x 8”

35 lbs

52 lbs

725 lbs

1150 lbs

Check Price
4. GILI Mako Gili Mako SUP for river 10’ x 32” x 6” 20 lbs 270 lbs Check Price
5. Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6Red paddle Co ride inflatable SUP 10’6 x 32” x 4.7” 22 lbs 220 lbs Check Price
6. ROC Explorer 10’Black and white ROC explorer iSUP 10’ x 32” x 6” 17.5 lbs 300 lbs Check Price
7. iRocker NauticaliRocker nautical inflatable SUP 10.6’ x 32” x 6” 20 lbs 240 lbs Check Price
8. Goosehill InflatableGoosehill Inflatable SUP for river 10.6’ x 32” x 6” 20.5 lbs 440 lbs Check Price
9. NRS Whip 7.8NRS whip short iSUP board for river 7.8’ x 33” x 5” 20 lbs 250 lbs Check Price
10. Hala Rado 10’10 Halo rado 10'10 iSUP large board 10’10 x 35” x 6” 33.5 lbs 350 lbs Check Price
11. Hala Atcha 86Hala atcha 86 iSUP board for river 8’6 x 34” x 6” 22.5 lbs 250 lbs Check Price
12. NRS Quiver 9’8NRS Quiver shortest board iSUP 9’8 x 36” x 6” 26 lbs 250 lbs Check Price

Guide to the Best River Paddle Boards

A great river paddle board will encompass as many of the qualities listed above to make for a safe and enjoyable ride down the river.

We’ll review each board individually and demonstrate what qualities helped each board to make the list.

1. GILI Meno 10’6/11’6

The GILI Meno comes in two sizes, 10’6 and 11’6, and is an all around iSUP with an ideal design for river paddle boarding. Its width ensures stability, and the extra-large EVA deck pad provides the grip you need for river paddle boarding.

The GILI Meno has significant storage capacity, and multiple attachments points to load it with gear for a day on the river. It is perfect for beginners and is an all around paddle board to use for river paddle boarding as well as recreational use.

Blue gili meno 10'6 inflatable SUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price

10'6 x 35" x 6"

11'6 x 35" x 6"

23 lbs

24 lbs

450 lbs

485 lbs

Check Price

Special Features

The GILI Meno comes in two sizes with an ideal length and stable width for river paddle boarding. The hybrid nose allows the Meno to lift upon the waves without losing speed.

The stability of the Meno is increased with a tri-fin setup of snap-in fins. The Meno package comes with two side fins and three additional center fins in 3”, 4.5”, or 9” size so you can change your fin setup based on the depth of the river or desired performance.

The GILI Meno has tons of storage room with front and rear bungee storage spaces and 18 D-rings, 5 action mounts, and 3 Scotty mounts. You can ride the river all day and attach a SUP cooler, cup holder, or attach a fishing rod holder to use along the journey.

The Meno package comes with all you need to get directly onto the water. A dual chamber, triple action pump will rapidly inflate your SUP, and you can transport it in a wheeled SUP backpack. The package also includes an ankle leash, five snap in fins, and a carbon fiber paddle.

Materials and Construction

The GILI Meno is crafted with military grade PVC with drop stitching to make it lightweight, yet durable. An additional carbon fiber rail provides increased rigidity to support a large weight capacity.

Pros & Cons

  • Hybrid hull to get on top of waves with minimal drag
  • Interchangeable snap in fins
  • Ample storage space
  • Multiple attachment points with 18 D-rings, 5 action mounts, and 3 Scotty mounts
  • Package includes carbon fiber paddle
  • Great package with high quality backpack and paddle
  • 2 year warranty
  • Every purchase supports donations to ocean conservation
  • Nothing!

2. GILI Komodo

The GILI Komodo is an all around inflatable paddle board with an overall design that makes it perfect for river paddle boarding. The length and width provide the stability to ride the river but adapt to recreational use to enjoy SUP fishing, SUP yoga, or riding with friends.

A large EVA traction pad will help maintain your footing on a rolling river, and many D-rings and attachment points mean you can pack the gear needed to ride the river for days!

Gili blue komodo inflatable iSUP board

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10'6 x 33" x 6" 21 lbs 340 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The GILI Komodo has a hybrid hull to help it rise upon river waves without the added drag to slow you down. Its tri-fin setup includes two side fins and one central 9 inch fin, and the fins easily snap in to exchange with either a 4.5 inch speed fin or 3 inch river fin. The ability to interchange fins reduces your chances of dragging rocks in a shallow river.

The Komodo has a wide deck for a stable stance, and an EVA deck pad extends from the nose to the tail for a comfortable ride. It has a large front and rear bungee storage area to pack your dry bag and gear, and includes multiple attachment points for additional accessories with18 D-rings and an action mount.

The GILI Komodo comes with a package that includes a dual-action inflation pump, ankle leash, and SUP backpack. Three grab handles help you transport your Komodo easily to the water and a paddle holder secures your paddle when you need your hands free.

Materials and Construction

The GILI Komodo is built with triple layer fusion construction with durable PVC that makes it durable enough to resist puncture from rocks or debris, yet still lightweight.

Pros & Cons

  • Stable and durable all around board to ride rivers but also use for recreation
  • Multiple attachment points to attach accessories
  • Ample storage capacity for gear
  • 2 year warranty
  • Purchase supports ocean conservation efforts
  • Interchangeable snap in fin setup
  • Single chamber pump

3. GILI Manta Ray

If you’re looking for a gentle cruise down a wide river, the GILI Manta Ray was built for you - as well as many of your friends. It’s a mammoth board which can hold multiple riders or simply carry the cooler for your sandbar gathering.

The Manta Ray is not a SUP for whitewater or surfing, but would be the perfect party barge for a river float or an all around paddle board for everyday fun.

Gili red manta ray inflatable SUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price

12' x 45" x 8"

15' x 56" x 8"

35 lbs

52 lbs

725 lbs

1150 lbs

Check Price

Special Features

The GILI Manta Ray is a spacious board built to hold five or more riders and their dog too! Despite its large size, it has 8 inches of thickness for a stable and durable build. The fins setup is one central 9 inch fins and four additional side fins for traction. It is not built for speed, but it tracks well for a gentle float as the ultimate party SUP.

A comfortable large EVA traction pad is grooved so you and your friends will ride comfortably without slipping. With 22 D-rings and 9 action mounts, you can attach drink holders for everyone and load your cooler and dry bags in the spacious front and rear bungee storage areas.

The Manta Ray package comes with TWO dual-chamber inflation pumps and TWO travel paddles. If your friends want a ride, then they can help inflate the board and paddle too. A rolling SUP backpack will haul your SUP to the water with ease.

Materials and Construction

Made with military grade PVC the Manta Ray can withstand bumping into rocks and debris for a river float. With lightweight materials, the large board can still be easily carried to the water by multiple grab handles on the periphery.

Pros & Cons

  • Extra large size and perfect to carry friends
  • Durable to withstand a river float
  • Paddle holders for both included paddles
  • Rolling SUP backpack included to help transport to the water
  • 2 year warranty
  • Purchase supports ocean conservation efforts
  • Would be too wide for one paddler alone
  • Pricey

4. GILI Mako

The GILI Mako is a shorter board that’s a perfect size for a small paddle boarder or for your child to have their own SUP to ride the river. It has a wide stable deck for a wide based stance and its lightweight, short design makes it maneuver well.

In addition to riding the river waves, it would be a great board to take to the coast to surf along the shoreline or one that your children can use to join your paddle adventures.

Gili Mako SUP for river

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10' x 32" x 6" 20 lbs 270 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The GILI Mako is the shortest board in the GILI quiver, and is designed to maneuver well. It has a tri-fin setup with a central 9 inch fin and two side fins, but all are easily removed to potentially  swap out for a shorter river fin.

The Mako has a grooved EVA traction pad to help keep your footing, and a paddle holder to keep your paddle from falling overboard. There is great storage capacity with front and rear spacious bungee storage areas to secure your dry bag, and five action mounts provide attachment points for additional accessories.

The Mako package includes a SUP backpack, ankle leash, inflation pump, and a fiberglass paddle. You have all you need to unload at the river’s edge and simply hop on your board.

Materials and Construction

The GILI Mako is built with military grade PVC to provide durable construction to resist a rugged river terrain, yet it remains lightweight for better performance.

Pros & Cons

  • Shorter board for children or river surfing
  • Durable board with withstand rocky rivers
  • Snap in fins that can be exchanged for smaller fins if desired for shallow water
  • 2 year warranty
  • Purchase of GILI SUP supports ocean conservation
  • Shorter board less optimal for longer river tours than a longer board
  • Shorter board may be less stable for larger riders

5. Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6

Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6 is an all around inflatable paddle board great for recreational use, but also has all the traits for a great river SUP. It maneuvers well and has the stability to ride rivers and the shallow fins make it easy to glide over obstacles.

Red paddle Co ride inflatable SUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10'6 x 32" x 4.7" 22 lbs 220 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The Red Paddle Co 10’6 Ride is a wide and stable board perfect for beginning riders and casual river cruises. It inflates to 20 psi for a rigid base and is still lightweight to transport anywhere, and the increased rigidity means better performance.

There is no center fin to drag on rocks and the two side fins are short and flexible to avoid obstacles and will not break on impact. The twin fins help maneuver the board to ride the river current. The deck pad has diamond grooves to increase your foothold.

A front cargo system has bungees that are flush with the deck, but there are no additional D-rings or action mounts. The Red Paddle package includes a dual chamber inflation pump, paddle, leash, and backpack.

Materials and Construction

Constructed with MSL Fusion Technology and additional stiffening agents, the Red Paddle Co Ride is rigid and stable. It is durable to prevent puncture on rocks and the construction allows it to be inflated to 20 psi for better performance.

Pros & Cons

  • Quality construction
  • Great all around board
  • Flexible short fins perfect for rivers with no center fin
  • Diamond grooved deck pad
  • Rigid board at 20psi to perform well
  • Dual chamber pump included
  • Expensive
  • Minimal storage
  • No action mounts for accessories
  • Permanent fins may make storage more difficult

6. ROC Explorer 10’

The ROC Explorer has a wide stable deck and many of the qualities needed for an ideal river and whitewater paddle board. It has a durable build and is the lightest iSUP on our list to make portability easy. The ROC Explorer also comes in at a very affordable price, at under $500.

Black and white ROC explorer iSUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10' x 32" x 6" 17.5 lbs 300 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The ROC Explorer 10’ has an all around planing hull with a squared tail with the stability and durability to maneuver the river. It is incredibly lightweight to make it easy to turn and perform well. A large non-slip EVA deck pad ensures your feet stay planted as you cruise the river current.

The tri-fin set up helps you maneuver the ROC and the center fin can be removed or exchanged for a more shallow fin. The side fins are rigid and permanently attached and  a large front bungee system allows space for cargo and one rear D-ring allows for leash attachment.

The package includes SUP backpack, inflation pump, aluminum paddle, and ankle leash.

Materials and Construction

The ROC is built with triple layer military grade PVC with additional support baffles to increase its rigidity. It uses DuraWeld technology for the seams, and the ROC can withstand a beating as you bounce off of rocks or drag in the river shallows.

Pros & Cons

  • Inexpensive board great for all around and river use
  • Durable construction for river obstacles
  • Large non-slip EVA deckpad
  • Removable center fin to exchange for shallow water fin
  • Wide, stable board perfect for beginners
  • Complete package to get you onto the water immediately
  • Aluminum paddle instead of carbon fiber
  • Minimal D-rings and no action mounts
  • Side fins are permanent - makes storage more difficult

7. iRocker Nautical

The iRocker Nautical inflatable SUP has a hybrid hull design with a wide, stable deck to make it an ideal all around board that works well for river cruising. With ample storage space and attachment points, you can load up the iRocker for an all day river adventure on this durable, quality SUP.

iRocker nautical inflatable SUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10.6' x 32" x 6" 20 lbs 240 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The iRocker Nautical is a lightweight paddle board with a wide deck to make it stable for beginners as well as cruising the river. The hybrid nose allows you to cut through the water at higher speed. It has a front and rear storage area to load your dry bag or cooler.

The tri-fin setup includes three nylon flip-lock fins that are easily removed and exchanged for smaller fins if needed in shallow water. The nylon fins are more flexible to resist damage upon impact with rocks.

There is optimal capacity for accessories, with 13 D-rings and one action mount. You can attach a seat to convert your SUP to a kayak, and the large deck pad will not let you slip in the river rapids. The included package consists of a SUP backpack, ankle leash, inflation pump, and fiberglass paddle.

Materials and Construction

The Nautical is made with dual layer drop stitched PVC and support baffles with a reinforced rail to increase durability and rigidity.

Pros & Cons

  • Hybrid design for better performance
  • Multiple attachment points for gear
  • Wide, stable SUP for rivers
  • Removable fins to exchange for river fins if desired
  • Single chamber pump
  • Fiberglass paddle not as good as carbon fiber

8. Goosehill Inflatable

The Goosehill Inflatable SUP has a classic all around design and is perfect for a river cruise on calm water. It has a wide deck for stability with a tremendous weight capacity. It is a durable SUP to use for everyday recreational paddle boarding or for your next river adventure.

Goosehill Inflatable SUP for river

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10.6' x 32" x 6" 20.5 lbs 440 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The Goosehill inflatable SUP is lightweight and easy to maneuver. The tri fin setup makes weaving across the river easy, and you can swap out the removable center fin for shallow river fins if needed.

A large front bungee storage area provides room for gear, but there are no action mounts or additional D-rings. A center grab handle makes transport of this lightweight SUP easy. The large three-piece EVA deck pad improves your traction and reduces your risk of fall.

The package includes a single-chamber pump, SUP backpack, ankle leash, and aluminum paddle.

Materials and Construction

Goosehill uses Super Construction Enhancement technology for a durable and rigid inflatable SUP with laminated layers and a drop stitch core. The board will not sag in the middle and will be durable to withstand river obstacles.

Pros & Cons

  • Inexpensive all around board that easily adapts to river use
  • Wide, stable deck
  • Large EVA deck pad
  • Durable build to resist damage
  • Permanent side fins may make storage difficult
  • Minimal attachment points for accessories
  • Aluminum paddle

9. NRS Whip 7.8

The NRS Whip 7.8 is a short, rigid board built to maneuver waves or to surf the river. A special acrylic coating on the deck and its inflation capacity at 20 psi increases the rigidity to make it perform well.

NRS whip short iSUP board for river

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
7.8' x 33" x 5" 20 lbs 250 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The NRS Whip has increased rigidity to improve its performance thanks to an acrylic coating to make the deck more rigid and because it inflates to 20 psi. The short, rigid board makes surfing river waves easy with a high rocker to prevent submerging its nose.

A D-ring on the nose and the rear provide attachment points for your water bottle or a leash, and three grab handles make it easy to transport. There is no center fin and two nylon coated side fins are able to resist damage or breaking if they hit rocks.

The  large deck pad lacks grooves, but still ensures you won’t lose your footing while riding the waves. The package includes two sets of fins: all water and whitewater, plus an inflation pump, and a carry bag.

Materials and Construction

Durable heavy-duty PVC with drop stitching and reinforced sidewalls help this board to resist damage from river rocks or obstacles.

Pros & Cons

  • Rigid board at 20 psi and deck coating for excellent performance
  • Interchangeable fins for your chosen activity
  • High rocker for a great surfing board
  • 3 year warranty
  • No paddle included
  • Minimal storage space
  • Deck pad is not textured for better water drainage and grip

10. Hala Rado 10’10

The Hala Rado 10’10 is a large board perfect for a larger paddler for both flatwater and whitewater paddle board journeys. It is designed for river paddle boarding and includes a unique retractable fin design that prevents damage when encountering rocks or shallow water. The Rado has a pronounced curve in its rocker hull to make it possible to surf the river waves.

Halo rado 10'10 iSUP large board

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
10'10 x 35" x 6" 33.5 lbs 350 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The Hala Rado has a wide deck and a respectable length to provide a stable SUP for river paddle boarding. The Hala Rado has a unique retractable “StompBox2” fin system with a central retractable 8 inch fin and two 4.5 inch side fins. If your board approaches a boulder or shallow water, the fin automatically retracts for smooth passage and without damaging your fins.

The Hala Rado has a more pronounced rocker to make it easier to surf river waves without burying the nose. The deck is covered with a large diamond grooved deck pad and a raised stomp pad at the rear allows for better footing to step back and maneuver your board. The swallow tail design improved overall performance.

You can store plenty of gear with 12 soft rigging points to secure gear and a front bungee storage space provides extra storage space. The total package includes an inflation pump, carbon paddle, single-chamber inflation pump, and SUP backpack.

Materials and Construction

The Hala Rado is crafted with Thick Fusion Construction with welded seams for extra durability. It is lightweight and durable, and has a front, read, and two side web grab handles for easy transport.

Pros & Cons

  • Retractable fin to avoid damage by river rocks or shallows
  • Large spacious deck
  • Increased rocker curvature to get up on top of waves to surf
  • Large diamond grooved deck pad
  • Impressive 5 year warranty
  • Rigging attachments are raised instead of flat D-rings - could be stepped on while riding

11. Hala Atcha 86

The Hala Atcha 86 is a short board with more curve in its rocker, which means this board is ready to surf the river. Its wide and stable deck provides good footing as you hit the whitewater and maneuver the rapids, while the unique retractable fin design prevents damage to your fins if you hit a rock or shallow water.

Hala atcha 86 iSUP board for river

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
8'6 x 34" x 6" 22.5 lbs 250 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The Hala Atcha 86 is a short board that is easy to maneuver rapids and has a high rocker to surf steeper holes along the route. The board performs well and has a retractable center fin and two flexible side fins to resist damage by rugged river terrain.

Six flexible attachment points along the board combine with a front bungee area to provide storage space for your dry bag. The large diamond grooved deck pad and raised rear stomp pad ensures you won’t lose your footing as you weave through the rapids, and the swallowtail improves your performance as you cut through the water.

The included package includes a rolling SUP backpack, inflation pump, and retractable fins.

Materials and Construction

The Hala Atcha has thick fusion construction and welded seams to make it durable and still lightweight., while the grab handles make it easily portable.

Pros & Cons

  • Stable board designed for surfing
  • Retractable fins to prevent fin damage
  • Swallow-tail design
  • Performs well
  • Impressive 5 year warranty
  • Raised attachment points could be stepped on or in the way
  • Paddle not included

12. NRS Quiver 9’8

The NRS Quiver 9’8 is a shorter board with a high rocker perfect for river surfing and whitewater. It has nylon fins that resist damage in shallow waters and has a rigid design due to a special deck coating and 20 psi of inflation and this improves overall performance.

NRS Quiver shortest board iSUP

Dimension Weight Weight Capacity Price
9'8 x 36" x 6" 26 lbs 250 lbs Check Price

Special Features

The NRS Quiver has a short deck with a high rocker perfect for whitewater or river surfing. It has a wide stable board that inflates to rigid 20 psi and also has an additional stiffening agent on the deck to make it perform well.

There is no center fin and two nylon-reinforced side fins that are removable and interchangeable and can flex to avoid damage by obstacles. Six D-rings provide attachment points for accessories or cargo and three grab handles are placed for easy transport.

The Quiver package includes two all-water fins and two whitewater fins at 2 inches and 5 inches each, an inflation pump, SUP backpack, and a pressure gauge.

Materials and Construction

Heavy duty PVC drop-stitch construction and couple of sidewalls make this a durable board to resist damage from river rocks and shallow water.

Pros & Cons

  • High rocker and short board great for river surfing
  • A durable build that resists damage from rocks
  • Rigid board to perform well with 20 psi and deck coating
  • Comes with two interchangeable fin sets
  • 3 year warranty
  • No paddle included
  • Minimal storage capacity

How to Choose a SUP for River or Whitewater

Gili komodo inflatable SUP in river

Rivers have a variety of terrain for a paddle board to maneuver. You might have long expanses of flatwater with a mild current or you might experience fast moving rapids to surf. Knowing the terrain you hope to explore helps determine which SUP is right for you.

We’ll review the paddle board features to look for when choosing a river SUP.


A river paddle board can be designed specifically for whitewater use or be an all around board with ideal dimensions for riding the river. We’ll go through the different types of river paddle boarding and which board is ideal for each.

River Running

River running refers to riding the current downstream, while maneuvering obstacles along the way. A board designed for river running will be stable with a width of at least 35-36 inches with a length of 9’6” or longer depending on the desired speed.

You need a board that can maneuver obstacles in the water. A board of this dimension will be slower and not track as well if your hope is only flat water paddling, but it works well when you need to weave in and out of oncoming rapids.

River Surfing

Surfing river waves entails paddling into a wave and then riding the wave. It requires a shorter board with more of a rocker so that the nose does not get submerged. These boards are typically in the 6-8 foot range and 33-35 inches in width. The tail will be rectangular or widely rounded.


Crossover paddle boards are not advertised specifically for whitewater or riding the river, but they usually consist of all around boards of particular dimensions that easily adapt to river use.

These boards are capable of adapting to rapids as well as paddling upstream or cross-stream. They are not likely advertised as river boards, but will be an all around board in the 9-11 inches length with about 32-34 inches in width.


Women underwater above her two inflatable SUP

A paddle board’s fin setup can make all the difference in its performance and configuring the number and type of fins enables you to target different river terrain.

Three fin boxes typically provide what’s needed for most fin systems, but ideally, you need fins that are compatible and easy to remove.

  • One long center fin - Best when looking for speed
  • One long center fin and two smaller side fins - The typical default tri-fin configuration of most boards to allow additional maneuverability
  • Three equally sized medium fins - Better in shallower water or possible exposed rocks
  • Three extra-short fins in tri-fin setup - Best to explore shallow water
  • Quad fin setup - Leaves the centerline of the board clear to avoid obstacles
  • Five fin setup - Medium to short length will provide most lateral traction

Deck Pad

A deck pad that provides plenty of traction is best for river paddle boarding. Deep grooves in the deck pad in a criss cross or diamond pattern will typically provide better grip than a smooth brushed or crocodile pattern, and will also allow standing water to flow off of the board.

Inflatable or Hard SUP

Inflatable stand up paddle boards are preferred for river paddling. They  have a durable construction to resist damage as you bounce off of unexpected rocks, whereas a hard SUP can crack or break on impact. Inflatable paddle boards are typically more stable than hard paddle boards and therefore are preferred for the unpredictable river environment.

Other advantages to an inflatable stand up paddle board is that it can easily deflate to transport to remote river locations unlike a hard SUP. You can hike with your SUP backpack to distant river locations with an inflatable paddle board, and if you need more convincing, inflatable paddle boards are typically cheaper than a hard board of similar quality.


The board’s curvature, or rocker, is important to consider in river paddle boarding. If you plan to cruise flat waters without much chance for rapids, then you will do well with a flatter rocker shape.

If you’re river surfing then a high rocker curvature is needed, or you’ll encounter whitewater. An increased rocker is a safety issue because without the nose of the board curved out of the water, you can catch a wave and bury the nose, and launch yourself into the water.


Two women paddle boarding in river

River paddle boarding involves an unpredictable environment with rocks, rapids, sticks, or other debris appearing out of nowhere. Your paddle board must be able to bounce off without damage or risk of puncture or breakage.


A stand up paddle board with a raised tail will provide a place to plant your foot to maneuver your board. A deck pad with good grip will ensure your foot does not slip off of the tail during turns.


A wider paddle board will offer more stability, but typically the wider board will slow your travel. Beginners are best to use a wide board, and it is recommended a river SUP be at least 32 inches wide.


Generally, a longer board will have more board volume and weight capacity. An ideal river SUP should be at least 10 foot in length. A medium length board works best when desired for all around use, while a shorter board is ideal for surfing or whitewater.


The thicker a stand up paddle board, the more volume and weight capacity it can hold. A large rider will displace more water, but increased SUP thickness reduces displacement and does not jeopardize the stability.


Buying a new paddle board will be an investment. If you choose the cheapest one you find, it might not last more than one year, or a poor quality build might leave you stranded in the middle of a river.

Paying more up front for a higher quality board is the better investment. Find a reputable paddle board company that specializes in SUP and you’re likely to have the customer service and warranty guarantees you deserve with any big purchase.

Tips for Safe River Paddle Boarding

Group of paddle boarders at austin river

Set Your Stance

It’s important to be as stable as possible when paddle boarding on a river. Stand with a non-staggered stance with feet shoulder-width apart. Ensure you are in the middle of the board, because if you are too far back, you will become off-balance and be less stable.

Choose the Correct Fins

Choosing the right fin setup is crucial for river paddle boarding. Beginners should stick to small fins to avoid snagging rocks or other river obstacles and risking a fall. Know the type of water you will be encountering to choose the best fin setup for the trip.

Know When to Wear a Leash

Safety is key when paddle boarding on a river and you often have to consider what could happen if you fall. Experts recommend that you avoid wearing an ankle leash when paddle boarding on a river, but instead wear a rescue belt attachment around your waist. If you were to fall and become unconscious or pinned by rocks, it’s important to be accessible by rescuers as well as be able to quickly remove your leash easily if pinned.

Wear Appropriate Footwear

You should wear shoes to paddle board on a river because there are sharp rocks and debris that could injure or smash your bare feet.

Opt for Protective Gear

A river ride is not always a simple cruise on flat water. If you might encounter rough water , then wear knee pads and shin pads to protect your legs on rocks and boulders, and always wear a PFD (personal flotation device).

Don’t Fight the Current

Don’t fight the current - you will lose. Travel with the river’s current to preserve your energy and reduce the risk of falls. If the current tries to take you to the right, but you want to go left, then follow it all the way to the right and then back around. Working against a current will exhaust you quickly.

Take Lessons

Consider taking lessons before paddle boarding on a river. The goal is for efficient paddling as you use the flow of the river. Some preliminary guidance could save you tons of energy!


🏆 How do I choose a paddle board?

Choose a paddle board based on your experience level and your desired adventure. A beginner will want a wider board and might consider a short fin set up to reduce the risk of hitting rocks. An experienced paddle boarder might grab a short board with a high rocker to surf whitewater eddies along the way.

Determine if you want a whitewater adventure or flatwater cruise down the river, and then find a board that best suits the trip, but also consider the needed weight capacity and desired fin setup. An inflatable paddle board is usually preferred due to its increased durability to resist damage and because of its increased stability.

👍 What is the best all around SUP?

The GILI Meno in either the 10’6 or 11’6 size is the best all around paddle board. It’s an inflatable SUP board crafted with high quality, durable materials to tackle any type of waterway. It comes with a quality package with a rolling backpack, dual chamber inflation pump, and carbon fiber paddle.

The Meno is an all around board perfect for riding the river, but it can also be accessorized to use for SUP fishing. Grab the Meno for recreational cruising, SUP yoga, or riding with your dog.

In addition to purchasing a quality board that will provide years of fun, your purchase plays a role in ocean conservation when GILI Sports donates to the cause with every purchase. GILI is a reputable company that stands by their SUPs with great customer support and a warranty.

🏝️ Can I use a paddle board on a river instead of a lake?

Yes. A paddle board is a great way to cruise down the river and enjoy the scenery you glide past along the way, or you can embark on a fast-paced whitewater adventure. On a river, you have a better vantage point to spot rocks or obstacles in the water as you stand high on your paddle board as opposed to when you’re riding in a kayak or boat.

Rivers flow with a current and provide the potential for faster water on your SUP journey than on a flat lake. With rock hazards and obstacles, it’s important to have a stand up paddle board that is durable. With river currents and the potential for rapids, it’s also important to find a stable paddle board to reduce falls.

❓ Do you need a river license for a paddle board?

Many locations require a permit or license to paddle board certain waterways. In certain locations in the U.S., any vessel longer than 13 feet, with or without a motor, must register with the Department of Natural Resources to be compliant. Check your local regulations before you head out.

Pat McCaw
Pat McCaw

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