How to Inflate an Inflatable Paddle Board

How do you inflate an inflatable paddle board? Should I use a hand pump or electric pump? Why isn't my pressure gauge working? Air escapes from my paddle board? What pressure should I inflate to?

All of these questions will be answered here! 

Key Highlights

  1. Starting the Inflation Process: Begin by placing your SUP on a smooth, hazard-free surface, ensuring the valve is in the closed position to retain air.
  2. Choosing Between Hand Pump and Electric Pump: Insights on how to securely connect the pump hose and the differences in inflation methods.
  3. Understanding Pressure Gauges: Tips for reading your pressure gauge correctly and what to do if it's not registering pressure.
  4. Optimal Inflation Pressure: Guidelines for inflating your paddle board to the recommended PSI for optimal performance and safety.
  5. Troubleshooting Common Issues: Solutions for air escaping from the board, inactive pressure gauges, and dealing with a noisy electric pump.
  6. Deflation and Storage: How to safely deflate and store your inflatable SUP to maintain its longevity and performance.

Inflate your Paddle Board

Regardless of whether you are using a hand pump or an electric pump, start by laying your inflatable stand up paddle board out on a smooth surface free of any rocks or other sharp objects.

Open up the valve cap and push the valve stem (or valve pin) and twist it. You will notice that the valve stem will change positions to be either pressed down in the open position or to be up in the closed position.

valve pin on an inflatable paddle board

You want the valve stem in the closed position with the valve stem up. This is what will prevent all the air from escaping when you remove the pump hose later.


Inflate your paddle board with a hand pump

Start by inserting the tip of the pump hose into the valve and twisting until the pump hose is locked in place. It should be able to remain securely in the valve without you holding it there. If it falls out, try inserting the tip of the hose again, more firmly.

Inserting the pump hose on an inflatable sup board


Make sure that your hand pump is set to the highest pump setting before you start to pump. On most pumps this will be "double action" but some higher end pumps have a "triple action" setting.

You can find this setting on a lever or plug located on your SUP. If your pump has a plug and it is not labeled, it is in "double action" mode when the plug is fully inserted.


A plug type pump in double action mode

A plug type pump in single action mode

Begin to inflate your paddle board by moving the pump handle all the way up and down over and over again.

When the  inflatable board is inflated enough that it becomes difficult to continue pumping, switch to the lower setting and continue to inflate paddle board. If your pump has more than two settings you will have to do this multiple times.

Inflatable paddle boards can be significantly inflated before the pump gauge shows anything. A paddle board may even seem to a beginner to be totally inflated before the needle on the pump gauge has moved at all.

Keep pumping. The pump gauge on a hand pump often wont show any pressure until 7+ PSI (pounds per square inch).


pump for inflatable paddleboard


You need to keep pumping until the pressure is at least 12 PSI, ideally you would keep inflating until your SUP reaches 15 PSI (or 1 bar). This is when the pressure inside the SUP pushing out is the same as the air pressure of the atmosphere pushing in on the SUP and the inflatable paddle board should seem completely hard to the touch.


This board is fully inflated to 15 PSI


Your SUP may have a different recommended pressure. You can typically find max and recommended PSI listed around the outside of the valve.


pump for inflatable paddle board

Once your PSI gauge is reading the right pressure for inflation, stop pumping, grab the pump's hose and twist it the opposite direction that you did when you inserted it.

If you correctly set the valve stem to the closed position, you may hear a small rush of air for a fraction of a second but there won't be a huge rush of air and you won't have to adjust the valve stem at all after removing the hose. Replace the valve cap and go ride!


Inflate SUP using an electric pump

The inflation process using an E-pump is very similar to the manual pump.

After you have the board laid out and the hose connected, connect your pump to a power source like your car or a battery, turn on the power, select your desired PSI and hit go.

The pump should inflate on its own until it hits the pressure it was set for and then turn off automatically.

Using an E-pump is easy, fast and takes very little energy. It's a great option for those who get exhausted pumping a board up by hand or want to get out on the water as fast as possible.


inflatable paddle board


How to deflate an inflatable paddle board

Deflation is much easier than inflation and takes much less energy.

To deflate your SUP, start by setting it on a flat surface and opening the valve cap. Push down the valve pin and twist. A huge rush of air will immediately come out so be prepared.

The SUP will deflate on its own fairly quickly for about a minute. Allow the SUP to deflate most of the way, start rolling it up from the other end of the board to push the remaining air out of the SUP. Wipe away any loose material that gets stuck to it.


Rolling up an inflatable paddle board to force the air out

Once you fully deflate all of your boards, make sure they are dry and put them away in their storage bags for next time.


Frequently asked questions

What if air escapes from your inflatable paddle board?

If air comes rushing out of your inflatable paddle board after you remove the pump hose, it is most likely because you had the valve pin set to the open position instead of the closed position.

Next time you inflate your board, make sure that the pin is up  and not down. If it is down, open the valve cap and push the pin and twist so that it is in the up position.

If air still rushes out of your board when the stem is in the closed position, contact your manufacturer to assess the issue and discuss getting a replacement valve if you can't fix the issue.


Why do I hear a leaking noise coming from my valve?

If you fully inflated your paddle board and didn't hear a big rush of air when you removed the hose but still hear a pinprick of air coming from the board, you may need to tighten your valve.

Don't worry, this is an easy fix and it typically doesn't need immediate attention if it seems mild and you are about to go paddle.

To fix a loose valve, deflate your board on a flat surface and remove the valve cap.

If you don't deflate your board, you could accidently twist the valve the wrong way and the top of the valve could come flying out of the socket and cause severe injury

Use the valve wrench that comes in the patch kit of your inflatable SUP board and insert the teeth into the corresponding holes along the outside of the valve. Press firmly down so that the valve socket inside the board is held firmly in place and twist so clockwise one quarter to one half of a turn.

If done correctly, the leaky noise should be gone the next time you inflate your board.

If you hear a leaking noise coming from somewhere other than the valve, your board may have a small puncture. To find out how to assess and fix a puncture hole or worn down spot on your inflatable board, check out our blog post here.


stand up inflatable paddle board


Can I keep my paddle board inflated between uses?

Yes! If you are going to be using your board again soon, it is totally ok to leave it inflated between uses. Just make sure to store the board laying down (rather than an upright position) so that your board won't fall over and get damaged.

If you are planning on storing the board long term such as over the winter, you should deflate the board a bit to give the seams and drop stitch a rest and either store it flat or store the rolled up board in its carrying bag.


How long does it take to inflate a paddle board?

If you are using a hand pump and have some experience, it takes about 15 minutes to get a board tight and hard to the touch at 15 PSI. If it is your first time, it may take you 20-30 minutes. Electric pumps can inflate a board easier and faster at about 10 minutes. They also have the added benefit of allowing you to get other tasks done while your board is inflating.


What do I do if I lose my valve cap?

The valve cap on your paddle board is important to protect the valve stem and prevent something from hitting it and causing damage or unexpected deflation. Losing or breaking the cap isn't necessarily a disaster but you should get it replaced as soon as possible.

Contact the manufacturer of your board and they should be able to send you a replacement cap to put on your board.

Until then, you can get creative and find ways to protect your valve stem if you are planning to stand up paddle before your replacement comes.


My electric pump is super loud, is it broken?

No! Electric pumps usually have two phases. In the first phase, it is easy to fill the board because the board is at low pressure. In this phase, it doesn't have to work as hard to fill up the board so the sound made is relatively quiet.

In the second phase, the pump is working much harder to inflate the board because it is at a higher pressure. In this phase it will be very loud and you will hear a noticeable change a few minutes into the inflation time as it changes from phase one to phase two.


Is an electric pump faster than a hand pump?

An E-pump takes about 10 minutes to inflate a paddle board while a hand pump takes 15-30 minutes depending on your experience level. An E-pump has the added benefit of running on it's own after you start inflating so you can walk away while it is running.

If you're dying to check out our sweet collection of boards for the Spring or want to buy an electric pump to make your set up routine easier, check out our shop!


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How to Care For Your Inflatable SUP

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