The stand-up paddle board, or SUP, is one of the hottest sports products right now. People of all abilities love the comfortable standing position, the smooth and easy-to-learn paddle stroke, the upper-body and core workout, and the excuse to get out in the sunshine and onto the water. What they hate, however, is the hassle and expense of lugging a giant fiberglass board around on a roof rack. That's why there's been an explosion of inflatable SUPs, which blow up to a rigid 15 pounds per square inch and 6 inches thick, then deflate and roll up into a bag or backpack. One company has introduced a snap-together, three-section SUP. All fit in a trunk or liftback, with the inflatables compact enough to travel as checked luggage.
On to the sectionals
Point 65 Degree Rum Runner: The world's first three-section, 12.5-foot rigid touring SUP is made of roto-molded polyethylene by a Swedish maker of modular kayaks.The 50-inch-long pieces snap together with four buckles. The bow has a hollow, water-slicing, kayak-like displacement hull that includes a waterproof hatch for carrying gear.
Likes: Stable, indestructible, capacious. The Rum Runner snaps together in a couple of minutes, is rock-solid on the water (less tippy than inflatable SUPs) and loaded with creature comforts: two built-in water bottle holders, a retractable fin, rails for adding third-party options like a seat, and a waterproof cargo port big enough to stow a sleeping bag, a small tent and some clothes and food. Since it can't pop and is stable enough to bring along a dog or a child, it's ideal for all-day or overnight family adventures. The three pieces stacked in the back of my Prius lift-back with the rear seats folded down, taking up 90% of the space. It packs up much quicker than the inflatables, since there is no need to squeeze air out and tuck it into a pack.
Dislikes: It's a slow, heavy barge. It's not as transportable as an inflatable, because the segments are so big. You'd need a large SUV to carry two Rum Runners. It lacks the easy glide and speed of the inflatables, requiring double the strokes and effort to cover the same distance. At 55 pounds when built, it turns a long walk from your car to water's edge into a weightlifting session.
Price: $999 for an 11.5-foot model; $1,099 for a 12.5-foot. point65.com
In and out quickly
Bic Sport Air Touring Inflatable SUP: This simple, single-finned, inflatable, 12.5-foot-long, 25-pound SUP has a slightly pointed nose. Like most inflatables, it is made of a double-layer PVC-coated fabric with polyester filaments connecting the deck to the hull. It blows up to 6 inches thick.
Likes: Glides like a dream. It takes very little effort to get it moving fast. It comes with a pump with built-in pressure gauge, which filled up the Air in about four minutes. Includes an EVA foam traction pad; bungee-cord deck rigging to hold down gear; carry handles in the center, nose and tail; a removable 9-inch-deep fin that locks in place with a pin; and a patch kit. Rolls up like a sleeping bag and packs easily into a zippered oversized backpack.
Dislikes: None. (Like all inflatables, you need to pump it to 15 psi and no less. Otherwise it sags, is unstable and loses its glide.)
Price: $949. bicsup.com
Advanced Elements Fishbone Inflatable SUP: It's an 11-foot-long, 30-inch-wide SUP made with a double-layer outer skin, a patented, water-parting displacement hull and three removable rear tracking fins.
It cuts through flat water and tracks well due to the 5-inch-deep hull and the three sizable rear fins, including a center 9-incher, and a pair of 3.5-inch lateral fins. It includes a huge foot pad, bungee cord tie-downs in front and several D-rings for securing gear. When it's over, it rolls up and packs fast in a zippered duffle. A pump and repair kit are included. Weight: 26.5 pounds.
Dislikes: Although it has a gauge, the pump worked poorly, taking 11 minutes to reach near-full pressure. Eventually, I just used the effective Sea Eagle's pump.
Price: $999. advancedelements.com
Sea Eagle NeedleNose 126 Touring SUP: The 12.5-foot-long inflatable has a massive, sharply pointed nose and three rear fins — two built-in laterals and an add-on center 8-inch tracking fin. Weight: 25 pounds.
Likes: A great deal, sleek, fast, and tracks so well you'd think it was a non-inflatable. The pointy bow cuts through wakes and waves, as advertised. Sea Eagle videos show that the rear "kicktail" design allows you turn on a dime. I'm not proficient enough to do this, but did find it maneuverable. Kudos to the pump (it completed the job in a blazing 3 minutes, 30 seconds) and to the two built-in lateral fins (that's two things less to lose). The high-value package includes a fold-up paddle.
Dislikes: The hard nose cone that helps makes this SUP so fast also makes it difficult to completely deflate and roll up, then shove into the backpack, which inexplicably lacks a length-wise zipper. It was frustrating. Also, the pump, although effective, does not include a gauge.
Price: $1,049; seaeagle.com
Wallack is the author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100 — and Beyond."