Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is one of the fastest growing water sports today. It's fun, a great core workout, and easy for almost anyone. Boards vary in length, width, materials, and shapes which impact things like cost, stability and maneuverability.
To-date almost all SUPs are designed for a single paddler. You'll occasionally see a SUP with a parent and a young child or a paddler and their four legged friend but generally they are meant for one person. Those who wanted to go out with friends, family, or coworkers have had to assemble an armada of individual paddle boards and travel in a pack across the water. There's now another option: Multi-person paddle boards!
A few manufacturers are now coming out with giant multi-person inflatable paddle boards that can fit as many as 10 adults on a single board. These boards are very stiff like their solo paddle board cousins and can move quickly across the water with a group of in-sync paddlers. They are excellent for showcasing the importance of working together and are almost always seen with smiling paddlers and unbelieving bystanders.
I suspect these will not become popular purchases for individual consumers due to their high cost ($3000 and up) but are becoming more available in rental operations where the cost can be divided across many customers. Also, outfitters typically have electric pumps that can make inflating them more manageable. You can certainly manually inflate them but it is typically done with four people pumping for an extended period of time. Even so, it's definitely something you have to try at least once.
There are a few different styles out there for you to try. One is a long, skinny cigar shaped board that basically looks like a really long solo SUP. These are fast in the water and having a team rowing in unison and with great balance is very important. I've seen models that can hold 4-6 paddlers. The other style is a double-wide board fitting 8-10 side by side paddlers along it's length (typically 18-20'). This is the style we have (we actually have two!). It's more stable and more versatile which is great for less experienced paddlers. We've been having lots of fun taking groups out on them where we setup races, tug-of-wars, balance eliminations, and use them as general swim platforms.
If you're looking for something new and fun to do with a group of folks, multi-person paddle boarding may be a great option. They are a great way to bond with people and make you feel like a kid again. I'd recommend you rent one to try it out before you purchase one to ensure it's something you enjoy and will get a lot of use out of. Now get your swimsuit and cape and let's SUPER SUP!