Inflatable SUP boards seem to be the better option for most paddlers. Their durability is remarkable and most of them are affordable. They also don’t require a roof rack for transport or a large storage space.
But some people worry about the safety of iSUPs, as they are called. While SUP is a generally safe activity, it is done on the water. There are many possible scenarios, and they are not all good.
It is natural to wonder whether your SUP will be reliable regardless of what happens. So, are inflatable paddle boards safe?
Read on to find out.
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How Safe Are Inflatable Boards?
It is easy to understand why someone would question the safety of an inflatable paddleboard.
The fact that it is inflatable means that it can be punctured. That can’t be good, especially when you’re in a remote place, far from shore.
While that is true, it is not common at all.
Inflatable SUPs have a drop stitch core. Two layers of fabric (top and bottom layer) are joined together by thousands of tiny threads.
This prevents the SUP board from bulging when inflated. It’s what gives it the board shape.
On top of that, manufacturers apply a layer or multiple layers of military-grade PVC. The more the layers, the more rugged the inflatable board will be.
Others go a step further and add a carbon fiber layer on the rail. When fully inflated, an inflatable SUP is super rigid and will keep you afloat.
So back to the puncture issue.
Puncturing an inflatable paddleboard is harder than you think. If that happens, it is unlikely that it will be a huge tear. You’ll be able to paddle to shore and repair the puncture using the provided repair kit.
The chances of a quality iSUP bursting and losing all air at once are pretty low. You will have to inflate it up to 3 or 4 times the recommended air pressure for that to be a likely scenario.
Besides, some inflatables have two inflation chambers (the Bluefin Cruise Carbon comes to mind). They will still float in case of a serious tear or rupture in one chamber.
Another thing that makes inflatable stand up paddleboards safe is their soft surface. Falling is inevitable when SUP boarding, especially for beginners.
The soft surface of an inflatable board won’t hurt if you fall and hit it. You can’t say the same about hard boards.
Can Rocks and Other Obstacles Damage an Inflatable Paddle Board?
Inflatable boards can take a serious beating. They are virtually indestructible—more durable than a fiberglass board.
In fact, an iSUP is the best choice for whitewater paddling. A hard board could never handle constant bumping into rocks and other obstacles. It will get dinged.
An inflatable will bounce off the rocks instead of getting dented. The military material is so rugged and it takes a lot to damage it.
That said, you should still take care of your paddle board. Don’t drag it along the ground and avoid contact with sharp objects like nails.
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Do Inflatable Paddle Boards Lose Air?
This is another area of concern when it comes to safety while using an inflatable stand up paddleboard.
As long as your blow-up SUP is inflated, you have nothing to worry about.
But inflatables tend to lose air slowly over time. What happens if you’re in the middle of nowhere and your board can barely keep you afloat?
Again, this is highly unlikely—unless your SUP has a large tear.
Most inflatable stand up paddleboards have a recommended maximum pressure of 15 psi.
The pressure will drop over time, but it doesn’t happen drastically. You can paddle for days without having to reinflate. And even though it drops to say, 12 psi, your inflatable SUP will still be super rigid and stable.
Besides, you can always bring your pump and repair kit on long touring or camping trips.
Stand Up Paddle Board Safety
Regardless of the type of board you’re using—hard or iSUP—safety should be your top priority.
Wear a leash every time you go stand up paddle boarding. It ensures that you’re not separated from your board. This could save your life in an emergency.
Don’t forget your personal floatation device (PFD). It keeps you afloat when you fall into the water, preventing you from drowning. There are many comfortable paddle board life jackets that are perfect for SUP boarding.
Check the water and weather conditions. Only go paddling if you’re sure you can handle it. Don’t overestimate your skill level.
Check your inflatable stand up paddle board for a puncture, especially if you’re planning a long trip.
Most inflatables come with a repair kit. You can fix a minor cut in a few minutes.
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Final Thoughts: Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Safe?
Yes, inflatable stand up paddleboards are safe. They are made using military-grade materials and are more durable than you think.
These boards can take a lot of use and abuse. You don’t have to worry about your iSUP getting damaged every time you bump into an obstacle.
The chances of having a seam fail and your SUP deflating instantly are also minimal. Quality inflatable SUPs have reinforced seams that won’t come apart.
If you have been thinking about getting a blow-up board, go for it. They are safe and reliable.