Inflatable paddle boards have come a long way.
Most paddlers didn’t trust them at first. Some of the models were disappointing because of flex and poor performance. There have even been cases of others bursting.
Today, many paddlers—ourselves included—seem to prefer inflatable SUP boards. The manufacturing technology has advanced and they are reliable.
But are inflatable paddle boards worth it now? How do they compare to the traditional hard boards? Why would anyone buy an inflatable paddle board?
We’re going to answer these and more questions here.
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What Are the Differences Between Inflatable and Solid Paddle Boards?
The main difference between inflatable SUPs and hard boards is the construction.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards all have a dropstitch core. It is then covered with a layer or multiple layers of military-grade PVC.
Solid boards, on the other hand, typically have a foam core. Over that, you have layers of fiberglass and different materials such as wood, veneer, or carbon.
The other difference is probably the shape. Inflatable SUP boards have a uniform thickness while hard boards are tapered.
Is a Hard or Inflatable Paddle Board Better?
This depends on the specific paddler and what they are looking for.
If you want a SUP that is affordable, durable, versatile, portable, and easy to store, an inflatable board is better.
iSUPs are great for beginners, anyone in the market for an all-around board, and families. The soft surface of an inflatable is child- and pet-friendly.
A hard paddle board is better for people who care more about performance. These would be advanced paddlers who are into SUP racing and surfing. Hard boards are nimble and glide better.
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5 Reasons Why Inflatable Paddle Boards Are Worth It
Here are some reasons why we highly recommend inflatable paddleboards.
1. Portable and Easy to Store
This is probably the biggest benefit of owning an inflatable SUP board.
Before you buy a paddle board, the first thing you have to think about is storage. Proper storage ensures that your SUP is safe.
Most inflatables come with a bag that fits the board and all the accessories (paddle, pump, leash, etc.). It is the size of a sleeping bag once deflated and packed. It can go under the bed or in the closet.
Even a family of paddle boarders with multiple SUPs doesn’t have to worry about limited storage space.
You’ll also have no stress when it comes to traveling with your inflatable paddle board. Several deflated iSUPs will easily fit in the trunk of your car. You don’t need a roof rack or any special equipment.
An inflatable board is worth it if you want to travel all over the country, exploring new SUP spots.
2. Affordable Compared to Solid SUP Boards
Inflatable stand up paddle boards are generally cheaper compared to hard boards.
You can easily get one regardless of what your budget is. Some are super cheap, going for $300 or less. Good mid-range inflatable SUP boards cost from $450 to about $800.
Hard paddle boards are a little more expensive. It is difficult to get a quality solid SUP under $700.
3. They Last Longer
This is another great reason why an inflatable stand up paddle board is worth considering.
Their military-grade construction makes them unbelievably durable and virtually indestructible. We have seen people run their iSUPs over and even throw them off a roof. And the boards held up.
The SUPs just bounce off rocks and other obstacles. (They can still be punctured by a sharp object though).
Hard stand up paddle boards get dents and dings more easily.
Inflatable paddle boards are suitable for every family member. They are comfortable for kids and pets. Your furry friend won’t slide off or scratch the paddle board.
The soft surface also makes inflatables the safer option. If someone falls and hits the SUP, they’re less likely to get hurt.
A solid paddle board has a hard unforgiving surface.
5. They Are Versatile
Traditional epoxy paddle boards are extremely responsive and glide with unmatched speed. This is what makes them great for racing and catching waves.
But inflatable stand up boards can do more. They are great for fishing, yoga, whitewater paddling, SUP with family members, and so much more.
What Are the Disadvantages of Inflatable SUPs?
While inflatables are amazing in many ways, they are not perfect. So let’s take a look at their disadvantages.
a. They Have to Be Inflated
A hard board is convenient. You can grab it and head straight to the water for your paddle boarding session.
This is not the case with an inflatable SUP board because you have to inflate it first. If you have a hand pump, inflating it to the recommended air pressure can be a workout. Even with an electric pump, it still takes some minutes.
You also have to deflate your SUP after you’re done. This can be too much work for some people.
b. Don’t Perform As Well As Hard SUPs
Most inflatable paddle boards are exceptionally rigid and perform well. But hard boards still stand out in this area.
They are maneuverable and knife through the water with impressive speed. If you will be participating in serious races with pro paddlers, an inflatable may not be the right board for you.
A good inflatable paddle board will not flex. As we said, the construction of iSUPs has come a long way.
Unfortunately, this is still a problem with some inflatable models. You should be careful, especially when buying cheap paddle boards.
How About Cheap Inflatable Paddle Boards: Are They Worth Buying?
If you look around, you will see so many cheap inflatable SUP boards. Some of them cost as low as $200 and even less.
Are they all bad? Should you consider getting one if your budget is really tight? Is a cheap iSUP worth it?
We own some fantastic budget paddle boards, so we know there are good cheap boards out there. But like we mentioned, you have to be careful.
Always let these three factors guide you: brand reputation, warranty period, and product information.
Buy from a brand that is well-known and one that has a professional website and contact information. Check what other paddlers are saying about their paddle boards and customer service.
A quality inflatable paddle board will always have a warranty.
5 Common Myths About Inflatable Paddle Boards
A lot has been said about inflatable SUPs, but not all of it is true. So let’s debunk some of the most common myths about inflatable paddle boards.
1. Inflatable Boards Don’t Last
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Anyone who owns a well-made inflatable paddle board will tell you this is a lie. Most people cannot believe how durable these SUPs are.
They can take whatever you throw at them. Hard paddle boards cannot survive most of the durability tests that are performed on iSUPs.
Here is our favorite one.
2. Inflatable Boards Perform Poorly
Sure, most inflatable paddle boards may not be as maneuverable and fast as hard SUPs.
However, you can now get inflatable boards designed for racing.
The difference in performance between these two paddle board types is getting smaller. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses.
3. Inflatable Boards Are Only Good for Beginners
Inflatables make great beginner boards but any paddle boarder can use them, regardless of skill level.
They are suitable for flat water paddling, fishing, yoga, white water paddling, and even catching small waves.
4. Inflatable Boards Are Way Too Expensive
This is not true. While there are some really expensive brands, there are also affordable ones. Inflatables are way cheaper than hard boards.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a quality inflatable paddle board. Just make sure you follow the advice above when buying a budget SUP.
5. Inflatable Boards Are Hard to Inflate
Even with a manual pump, it will take you less than 10 minutes to inflate a blow-up board.
Most inflatables now come with quality hand pumps in the package. You won’t get worn out before you start paddle boarding.
If you buy an electric pump, this process will be effortless.
Final Thoughts: Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Worth the Money?
Our answer is yes, they are.
Inflatable paddle boards are durable, they can take a beating. You can expect your iSUP to last for years. Inflatables are also affordable, versatile, portable, and easy to store.
They may not perform as well as hard paddle boards but they have many benefits that make them worth it.