Inflatable Paddle Board vs. Hard SUP – Which You Should Get And Why

inflatable paddle board vs rigid sup board

inflatable paddle board vs rigid sup boardAre you having a hard time choosing between an inflatable paddle board  and a rigid SUP board? Well, it is never an easy to choice to make, especially for beginners.

Both of them are amazing and they pretty much do the same thing. Their differences, however, distinguish them and make them suitable for different people.

An inflatable paddle board (iSUP), like the name suggests, is a paddleboard that can be inflated and deflated. Hard paddleboards are the traditional paddleboards. They are also known as fiberglass or epoxy paddleboards.

To know which the best stand up paddleboard is for you, you need to establish what features you are looking for and how you want to use your board. That is where this article comes in. At the end of the article, you will know which type of paddleboard is best for you, and why.

To begin with, which factors should you consider when choosing a paddleboard?

1. Performance

inflatable vs hard paddle board performance
Photo by el coleccionista licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0

The overall performance of the inflatable paddleboard and the epoxy paddleboard differs greatly. Although iSUP board manufacturers have made serious advancements in making inflatables more firm and rigid, the rigidity still depends on the pressure. This makes a hard SUP more reliable and responsive.

A serious racer is better off choosing a fiberglass board because it has increased speed compared to an iSUP and the same is true for SUP surfing. Solid paddleboards, being more responsive, are better when it comes to catching waves.

An inflatable paddleboard is the best for beginners and children. They may be rigid too, but the surface is a bit softer and might cushion you when you fall. The soft surface is also forgiving to your feet if you stand on the board for a long time.

2. Portability

rigid sup board portability
Photo by ewen roberts licenced under CC BY 2.0

It goes without saying that inflatable paddleboards are the winners here. If you live near your SUP spot, a traditional SUP will not be much trouble. However, with an iSUP, you don’t need a van or a large truck. A rolled up deflated board is just about the size of a sleeping bag, and it can fit in small spaces.

Even if you had a truck, loading and offloading your hard SUP board is not that easy as those things can be cumbersome. Carrying it into the water is also tedious—more so if you are small.

Inflatable paddleboards are ideal for you if you will be carrying them on vacations. An iSUP rolled up, will fit into a bag and make things easier. An epoxy paddleboard, on the other hand, may attract hefty airline surfboard fees when traveling via a plane. There is also the chance of it getting damaged.

The idea of traveling with an iSUP is glossy, but you have to deflate as you travel and inflate it when you want to use it. You also have to carry an inflatable paddleboard pump everywhere. This may be too much work for some people; and in that case, a hard paddleboard will do.

3. Storage

inflatable paddle boards are compactTo store a hard SUP, you need enough storage space because they are big. If you are using it a lot, the available space should allow you to move your board as many times without causing a struggle. You will also need some kind of bag or cover to protect the board from dents and dings—they ding easily. A small scratch here and there is not a reason to worry, but if it goes deep, it will allow water to enter the board.

An inflatable board can be stored practically anywhere. If you deflate it, put it in the bag and store it wherever you want—make sure it is dry. There is also no problem if you prefer to store the inflatable SUP inflated outside. Put some cover on it to protect it from the elements. Note that, when you leave it inflated for long, it will lose pressure. Some inflatable paddleboards stay inflated longer than others; it depends on the board. During winter, it is advisable to dry your board, deflate it and store it in the bag.

4. Durability

inflatable paddle boards durableInflatable standup paddleboards are far more durable than fiberglass paddleboards. Dropping your solid board could lead to severe damage that will need repair. It is very unlikely, however, that your iSUP board will suffer damages when you drop it.

That said, for whitewater paddling and rocky shores, do yourself a favor and get an inflatable. It will also save you peace of mind when you lend it out to a beginner.

5. Cost

You cannot exactly say which is cheaper between a hard paddleboard and an inflatable paddleboard. iSUPs cost just as much as some epoxy paddleboards and some are even more costly. However, there are cheap and affordable inflatable boards for sale. Although the two types of boards generally cost almost the same, you can find good iSUP boards at a very low price. So if you want a cheap option, you are sure to get an inflatable to suit your needs.

Inflatable SUP Boards – Pros & Cons

  • Durable
  • Easy storage
  • Portable
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Not very responsive
  • Less rigidity—especially after losing some air
  • Some flex (sinking in the middle)

Fiberglass Paddleboards – Pros & Cons

  • Very responsive
  • High speed
  • Rigid and firm
  • Ideal for big waves
  • Does not allow ease of portability
  • Needs too much storage space
  • Not suitable for whitewater river SUP
  • Less ideal for beginners

Both fiberglass paddleboards and inflatable paddle boards are great. They allow you to enjoy an amazing time in the water. An inflatable is durable and will serve you and your family for a very long time. It is also beginner and child-friendly. You will have an easy time while traveling with it. Even better, you do not need a big storage space for this board.

A hard SUP will let you catch those huge waves with its great responsiveness. It does not constantly need inflating and deflating. No worries about it flexing or losing rigidity anytime you are out in the water. Ready to make a choice?