The RIBs that will take your summer to the next level

Whether you're just getting started or looking to up your water sports game, these are the RIB brands to know

Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) first came into existence in the late 60s. Developed in Wales and originally used as work boats by harbour officials and lifeboat crews, these bumpable water dodgems have evolved into highly technical race boats and pleasure craft. RIB makers in general have significantly upped their game recently, both in terms of build quality and comfort. Gone are the days of having to choose whether to sit near the bow and get thrown around “like a beachball at a Nickelback concert,” as per Hot Rod, or sit near the stern and turn up at your destination looking like you just rode the tidal wave at Thorpe Park.

Innovative hull design, thanks to naval architects like Adam Younger, allow RIBs to sit up on the wake and ride more smoothly through waves, creating less drag and splash-back. A stepped hull creates pockets of air beneath the boat that act like cushions and reduce water contact, while the low centre of gravity and proximity to the water creates unbeatable stability and makes the driving experience that much more exhilarating. Plus, you can run them up the beach or tie them on the dock without stressing about damage. Ideal for pootling around or long-distance cruising, they’re easily adjustable to any lifestyle. Discover our favourite brands and what we think they do best.

Arksen

Adventure brand Arksen, a play on the words arctic and ocean, unveiled the first of its Discovery series, the Arksen 8, in early 2024. The new model, currently in production, comes with a bow mounted diving platform doubling up as a handy way to disembark when nosing in. The hardtop canopy can have a retractable sunroof and, our favourite feature of all, the optional wet bar or barbecue grill behind the console makes for great entertaining space. Designed by explorers for explorers, it’s a truly intrepid family RIB.

Best for: Adventures

Cobra

The Nautique is a timeless classic in UK waters and Cobra has perfected the family RIB. Whether you are after a 6 metre bay hopper or 9.7 metre double engine ballistic missile for petrolhead dads, they have got you covered. Great for ferrying people to and from The Hut in Colwell Bay, the all-British brand gets the family vibe but also does tenders and amphibious beach cruisers. With more than 35 years under their belts, theirs are safe hands to be in.

Best for: Families

Northstar

With a comprehensive range of 21 recreational models, Northstar has options for virtually all needs and is the perfect entry level – but by no means basic – RIB. And of course, if you are a bit more advanced, Twisted Marine, Northstar’s sole UK distributor, can customise any of their boats into a finely tuned, wave eating machine. Their latest model, the Orion, benefits from an Adam Younger stepped hull meaning a far more enjoyable ride in choppy conditions.

Best for: Getting started or levelling up

Rupert

If you are a high-profile billionaire with a security detail, and need something water-based for your bodyguard that looks a little intimidating, get a Rupert. While the name won’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of your enemies, their no-nonsense approach to design might. A gun turret wouldn’t look out of place on the bow. These are specialist boats that look the part and show you mean business.

Best for: Professionals

Ribeye

Hailing from Dartmouth and benefiting from royal recognition, family-run Ribeye has cornered the bespoke superyacht tender market. Ribeye understands the necessity for practicality on a yacht tender and climbing aboard from the water is not always easy. Having come up with a convenient way to get on and off the beach without getting your linen trousers wet, the optional Beachlander system is also ideal for activities like diving and snorkelling. Ribeye offers reliability to overworked yacht engineers and stylish comfort to discerning guests. The PRIME RIB series caters for family affairs and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay recently gave his seal of approval describing the NINE41 as “the Rolls-Royce of the seas.”

Best for: Activities

Goldfish

Speed and power are at the heart of what Norwegian brand Goldfish does. Its routes in offshore racing are still very much apparent, offering high speed training to owners using the Norwegian Maritime Authority syllabus, the Sjøfartsdirektoratet. If you had to read that twice, try saying it out loud while keeping a straight face. The latest addition to their fleet, the X10 Scout, is a voyager’s wet dream and can reach an eye watering 80 knots (90mph). Furthermore, there’s enough room beneath the console for two adults to take a nap.

Best for: Arriving first

Sacs TecnoRib

The Guccis of the RIB world with their Italian flare, Sacs Marine has partnered with TecnoRib, makers of the trademark Pirelli speedboats, to produce their brand-new Strider 15 designed by yacht architect Christian Grande. Capable of comfortably sleeping four within its 5 metre wide deck and deep V hull, this “high-performance maxi-rib” is ideal for touring the Med and pit stops at La Guérite.

Best for: Entertaining

For more essential summer gear, check out our guide to the best BBQs...

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