If you are in the market to buy a new SUP, you are probably faced with the question whether an inflatable paddle board or a fixed paddle board is better - which is better?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this.
However, there are some key differences that we can help you with.
We'll explain how to choose the right paddle board for you, taking into account your height, weight and the place you're going to explore. And then we go through the different factors that differentiate hardboards and inflatables.
From travel and storage to durability and repair costs. Learn the difference between stand up paddle board types and get one step closer to deciding which one is right for you.
WHAT ARE INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS?
Before we begin, let's clear up a few things about iSUPs - there are many myths about inflatable boat quality. Some people think that inflatable SUP board is cheap, flimsy and lacking in performance. However, this is not the case.
Modern iSUPs are built using quality materials and construction methods that are used to produce premium products. The military grade PVC is lightweight and the drop stitch seams ensure maximum durability. This makes them the perfect choice for beginners learning the ropes and also for adventurers discovering new places.
Inflating and deflating a paddle board couldn't be easier. Ease of travel and storage are the key features of inflatable boats. When fully inflated to the recommended PSI level, the board is super stiff and stable - in fact, it almost feels like you're standing on a traditional paddle board.
And as for performance?
Most all-around iSUPs are versatile for all styles of paddle boarding, including yoga SUPs, and won't get in the way of any adventure.
WHAT ARE HARD PADDLE BOARDS?
Hard paddle boards are often thought of as the traditional board, also commonly referred to as epoxy boards. These consist of an EPS foam core wrapped in multiple layers of fiberglass and resin.
While you can just grab your board and hit the water right away (no inflation time), handling a hard SUP on land and in storage is more difficult. Ideally you would live close to the water to avoid transporting a hard board as it can be uncomfortable to travel with.
However, epoxy boards are known for speed and maneuverability in the water. The fiberglass shape cuts seamlessly through the water. Therefore, they are best suited for SUP surfing, long-distance paddling and racing performance.
Paddling beginners should be careful on hard boards as they can ding easily and if you fall on them you are more likely to injure yourself.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUP FOR YOU
Before we dive into the main comparison points, there are a few key features to consider to help you choose the right SUP:
Weight Capacity - Each board has a recommended weight capacity. When looking at this, you need to take into account any additional weight you may be carrying on board, such as: B. a cool box, fishing gear, dog, buddy or family member.
Rider Height - Height and weight go hand in hand. In general, taller people weigh more. While rider height doesn't directly affect board size, it does affect the length of paddle you need. Make sure all your gear is appropriate for you so you don't sacrifice your form on the water.
Places to paddle – sea, river or flat water? Certain locations can play a big role in which paddle board you should use. We always recommend inflatables for lake and mangrove exploration as they have excellent durability against roots and rough spots underwater.
Experience level – are you a beginner or an experienced paddle boarder?
Experience level matters when choosing a paddle board. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there are suitable options in both epoxy and inflatable versions.
Imagine traveling across the country and discovering new and adventurous places to paddle. You could take on Michigan's Great Lakes or explore Florida's mangroves. This freedom of movement depends on the portability of the paddle board.
Inflatables are in their absolute element when it comes to portability. A deflated paddle board can be easily packed into an iSUP backpack along with the paddle, leash, pump and fins.
Hard boards are more cumbersome. Transporting an epoxy SUP requires protective board socks or holdalls, roof racks, and the space needed for the board. Damage and dents are more likely to occur during transport into the water than during use.
When it comes to portability, inflatable boards are the ultimate choice. They're easy to move and less likely to damage your gear in the process.
Similar to portability and travel, storage is an important difference between inflatable SUPs and epoxy SUPs. Whether you have an extra large double garage with plenty of space or limited access to an under stairs closet, storage solutions are a must for any paddle board owner. All of your gear is kept safe.
Inflatable SUPs couldn't be easier to store. Again, all you have to do is empty the board and stow everything in the backpack. It is very important that you ensure the inflatable board is completely dry before rolling it up and keep it out of direct sunlight. This prevents mold growth and damage. Once in the backpack, you can store it anywhere - behind the sofa, under the bed, in the garage, you just take your pick.
We do not recommend storing an inflatable SUP at the maximum PSI rating; This can damage the seams over time. If you don't want to completely deflate your board, it's best to deflate some air and refill it when you're ready to get back on the water.
Storing a hard paddle board is easy enough as long as you have the space. There are numerous paddle board wall mounts that can support multiple boards. They're discreet and great for saving space. Be sure to check how secure the board is in the wall mounts before you leave it.
Pro Tip: Use bungee cords for extra security to ensure your SUP doesn't fall off.
The difference here is in the available storage space. If you are short on space, an inflatable SUP is a better choice.
How a paddle board behaves in the water is largely dependent on how it feels to the rider. This is influenced by the shape, design and materials used in the construction of the SUP.
Speed, maneuverability and stability are all things to think about when it comes to performance.
There is no lack of performance in an inflatable SUP. Quality materials result in a rock solid deck and rigid board perfect for yoga, fishing and taking passengers onboard. This stability is a big plus for inflatable boards.
A hard SUP generally offers greater performance in terms of speed and manoeuvrability. The water-repellent properties make them ideal for SUP surfing and racing.
While the performance of hard paddle boards and inflatables vary, that doesn't mean one is better than the other - it's a personal preference as to what style of paddling you want to do.
The durability of a SUP board should be one of your first thoughts. When you're out on a water adventure, you don't want to worry about how fragile your board is.
Inflatable SUPs are excellent. A military grade PVC material offers maximum durability, ideal for any adventure. You don't have to worry about river beds creeping into the shallow water or accidentally bumping into it when you set up for a paddle.
Whereas a hard paddle board is extremely delicate. Sure, they can handle you standing on them. But if you drop it off the car roof, slam into a mangrove root, or tip over and land awkwardly on the deck, you'll likely walk away with a dent to remember.
No wonder rental shops and group courses are switching to inflatable SUPs. The durability of an inflatable board is far superior to that of any hardboard.
The maintenance and repair process may not be among the first things people think of. However, it's worth thinking about how to manage any damage that may occur. At the end of the day, the board gets worn out and beaten from time to time.
If an inflatable SUP gets a tear or a hole in the PVC, you'll need to get vinyl repair glue and patch it. This can be difficult, and many people make a mistake if they don't know what they are doing.
Hard paddle boards are much easier to repair. Dents and scratches are only superficial and you can continue to use the board. If there's a tear through the fiberglass, you'll need to repair it with resin - a much easier process than repairing inflatable punctures.
Both types of panels degrade over time from exposure to sunlight, so it's important to protect them from direct sunlight. Inflatable boats have problems with the seams, while epoxy boards discolor and weaken.
Remember to always wash off the saltwater from both inflatable and hard paddle boards for good maintenance practice.
Aren't inflatable paddle boards more expensive? Generally yes; However, it depends on how specialized you are. The price of a SUP can be a deciding factor for many people. Most retailers will bundle everything together, giving you a board, paddle, leash, fins, and pump (if you choose an inflatable).
A good high-end inflatable stand up paddle board can range in price from $500 to $1,600. We always recommend that you go for an iSUP in this price range to ensure you get the best durability and lifespan out of the board.
High-quality epoxy boards can cost anywhere from $1,300 to $2,000 or even more. This is because the materials are more expensive, the manufacturing process takes longer, and the shipping and handling costs are higher.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS VS SOLID PADDLE BOARDS
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both hard boards and inflatable SUP boards. It's a good idea to figure out what suits you better by thinking about your skill level, where you will be paddling and what your budget is.
Inflatable boats are very versatile and can handle any adventure you throw at them. They're more durable than epoxy sheets, but just hope you don't get a crack as they're a lot harder to fix if you've never fixed a flat tire before.
Many paddle boarding schools and rental shops are switching to high quality inflatable SUPs because of their durable and versatile characteristics.
Why not join them in the change?