Inflatable vs Hard Paddle Boards: Which is Right for You?

Our latest article in the inflatable vs hard paddle boards debate.  You will want to read this article before you buy.


stand up paddle boards can be a hard sup or an inflatable sup board

Paddle boarding is like walking on water, but with a twist. Instead of using your feet, you stand on a board, and instead of walking, you use a paddle to glide through the water. It's a great way to explore the ocean, lakes, and rivers, and enjoy the outdoors while getting a good workout at the same time. You can choose to paddle on your own or with friends, and it's suitable for all ages and skill levels. From leisurely paddling to adrenaline-fueled SUP racing, there's a style of paddle boarding that suits everyone's taste.

There are two main types of paddle boards: inflatable and hard boards. Inflatable paddle boards are made of high-quality PVC that can be inflated and deflated for easy transport and storage. They're generally more affordable than hard paddle boards, making them a popular choice for beginners. Hard stand up paddle boards, on the other hand, are made of sturdy materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, and/or plastic. They're more rigid than inflatable SUPs, which gives them better performance and speed. They're also more durable than inflatable SUPs, but tend to be more expensive. Ultimately, the choice between an inflatable SUP and hard board depends on your specific needs and preferences, such as storage space, transportation, and budget.

Pros and Cons of Inflatable Paddle Boards

inflatable sups for river paddling are a lighter board

Inflatable boards have several advantages and some disadvantages over hard boards. We'll explore their pros and cons in depth here.

Advantages of an inflatable paddle board

inflatable board design to catch waves in direct sunlight

Inflatable paddle boards are like the superheroes of the paddle boarding world. They're lightweight, portable, and easy to inflate and deflate, making them the perfect travel companion for your aquatic adventures. Plus, they're more durable than you might think - the high-quality PVC material can withstand bumps, scratches, and even punctures. Best of all, they're more affordable than their hard board counterparts, so you can spend less money on gear and more on the experience. Inflatable paddle boards are also great for beginners, as they're more stable in the water and slower than hard paddle boards, allowing you to focus on your technique and get comfortable on the board. So whether you're cruising down a calm river or exploring the ocean waves, an inflatable paddleboard is a versatile and reliable choice that won't disappoint.


flat water sup board with high weight capacity or a hard board

If you're the type of person who loves to explore new bodies of water, then you'll love the portability of inflatable boards. Unlike hard SUPs, inflatable boards can be deflated and rolled up into a compact size that fits easily into a backpack or even a suitcase. This means you can take your paddleboard with you on your travels without worrying about storage space or transportation. Plus, inflatable paddle boards are lightweight, which makes carrying them to and from the water a breeze. You can take them on road trips, plane trips, and even hike to remote lakes and rivers without breaking a sweat. The portability of inflatable boards also means you can explore a variety of waterways and have endless adventure possibilities, whether you're on vacation or just exploring your local area. So grab your backpack, your paddle, and your inflatable paddle board, and get ready for some epic adventures on the water!

Durability of the inflatable SUP

epoxy boards are a hard board not an inflatable sup

When it comes to durability, inflatable boards are the tough guys of the paddle boarding world. Made of high-quality PVC material, these boards can withstand all kinds of bumps, scrapes, and even punctures from a sharp rock without losing their shape or functionality. This makes them a great choice for paddle boarders who want to explore rocky coastlines, shallow rivers, or other rough terrain without worrying about damaging their gear. In fact, inflatable boards are often more durable than rigid boards, as they can bend and flex without cracking or breaking.

And if you do manage to puncture your inflatable paddle board, don't worry - most come with a repair kit that allows you to fix small holes quickly and easily. So whether you're an adventurous paddle boarder or just want a board that can withstand everyday wear and tear, an inflatable paddle board is a reliable and sturdy choice.

Price advantage: inflatable board

inflatable vs quality brands of hard sups

If you're looking for an affordable way to get into paddle boarding, then inflatable SUPs are the way to go. These boards are often much less expensive than a hard board, making them a great choice for beginners or anyone on a budget. Plus, you don't need to spend a lot of money on additional gear, like roof racks or special storage space, since inflatable SUP boards can be easily deflated and stored in a small space. And just because they're more affordable doesn't mean they're low quality - inflatable SUP boards are made with high-quality PVC that is durable, lightweight, and performs well in the water.

So whether you're a casual paddler or an adrenaline junkie, you can enjoy all the benefits of paddle boarding without breaking the bank. With an inflatable paddle board, you can focus on the fun and excitement of being on the water, without worrying about the cost.

Disadvantages of the inflatable stand up paddle board

hard sups have good weight capacity

As with all things in life, there are some disadvantages to inflatable SUP boards. So let's delve into those below.

Slower than solid boards

inflatable vs rigid sup every square inch

While inflatable paddle boards have many advantages, they tend to be slower than hard paddle boards due to their design. Inflatable paddle boards are made of PVC and drop stitch material that is inflated to create the board's shape, which can make the board more flexible and less rigid than hard boards. This flexibility means that the inflatable paddle board can absorb more energy from the water, which can slow down the board's movement through the water. Additionally, the inflatable paddle boards thickness can also contribute to its slower speed, as it creates more drag in the water.

However, this doesn't mean that inflatable paddle boards can't perform well in the water - they're still great for leisurely paddling, exploring calm waterways, and enjoying the scenery. And if you're looking for a faster inflatable paddle board, you can always choose one that is designed with speed in mind or invest in a performance hard paddle board. Ultimately, the slower speed of inflatable paddle boards is a trade-off for their many other benefits, like affordability, portability, and durability.

The disadvantage of inflating and deflating your paddle board

rigid paddle boards and inflatable sups

Ah, inflating and deflating an inflatable paddle board - it's a workout in itself! First, you've got to lug the board out of its storage space and unfold it. Then, you've got to find the air pump and start inflating. And let's be real, you're going to need to take a break or two in between because your arms are burning and you're starting to see stars. Once the board is finally inflated, it's time to hit the water and enjoy your day on your inflatable paddle board.

But wait - you've got to deflate it and pack it up when you're done! And just when you thought you were done with the workout for the day,you now have to squeeze the air out of the board, which feels like it's taking forever. Plus, there's always the risk of accidentally puncturing the board while inflating or deflating it, which can add even more frustration to the process. But hey, at least you'll have some killer arm muscles after all that inflating and deflating, right?

Or you could just buy an electric pump and call it a day!

The disadvantage of less rigidity

inflatable sup boards and rigid boards

One of the key differences between inflatable paddle boards and hard boards is their rigidity. While solid paddle boards are made of rigid materials like fiberglass and foam, inflatable SUPss are made of flexible PVC material that can be inflated to create the board's shape. As a result, inflatable SUPs tend to be less rigid than their hard counterparts, which can affect their performance in the water. A less rigid board can make it more difficult to maintain stability and balance, which can be challenging for beginners or anyone attempting more challenging maneuvers.

However, this flexibility also has some advantages, like making the board more forgiving and less prone to damage in rough waters or rocky shorelines. And with advances in inflatable paddle board technology, many models are designed with additional rigidity features like woven drop-stitch construction, which allows for a more rigid and stable board. So, while inflatable SUPs may be less rigid than hard boards, they still offer a great option for those looking for a more portable, durable, and versatile paddle board experience.

Pros and Cons of the hard board

hard or inflatable sup are both stand up paddle boards

So now it's time to take a hard look (see what I did there?) at the rigid SUP. We'll explore the pros and cons of the original stand up paddle boards.

Advantages of the hard board

military grade pvc on inflatable paddleboards and inflatable kayaks weight capacity

Some distinct advantages of the hard SUP is it's speed, stiffness and performance in waves. We'll explore those aspects below.

Do you have the "need for speed with your SUP board?

hard sup is another word for non inflatable paddle boards

Solid paddle boards are faster than inflatable SUPs for several reasons. First, hard boards are constructed with rigid materials like fiberglass or foam in epoxy boards which are designed to create a smooth and stable surface that glides through the water with less resistance. In contrast, inflatable paddle boards are made of bendy lavers of PVC that can absorb more energy from the water, creating more drag and slowing down the board's movement. Additionally, solid paddle boards have a thinner profile than inflatable paddle boards, which means they create less drag in the water and can move faster with less effort from the paddler.

Finally, hard boards can be designed with specialized shapes and fins that optimize speed and maneuverability, which is harder to achieve with inflatable SUPs due to their less rigid construction. While the inflatable boards tend to have other advantages like portability and durability, the rigid paddle boards are generally the better choice for those seeking high-performance and speed on the water.

SUP surfing advantage goes to the hard SUP

inflatable stand up paddle board is a board inflated with air

Riding ocean waves on a inflatable SUP is like trying to surf on a banana - it's just not going to work out very well. Inflatable paddleboards can be great for flat water paddling, but when it comes to tackling the waves, rigid boards are the way to go. Rigid boards are designed to be more firm and stable than inflatable paddle boards, which means they can better handle the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of ocean surf. They're like the high-performance sports car of the paddle board world, while inflatable SUP boards are more like a reliable family sedan. With solid paddle boards, you can take on bigger waves, sharper turns, and more challenging maneuvers with ease. And let's be real, when you're out there in the waves, you want a board that can handle whatever the ocean throws at you. So, if you're ready to take on the ocean surf like a pro, leave the iSUP boards at home and bring out the big guns aka a hard SUP.

Disadvantages of hard SUP boards

boards inflated per square inch are the right board

There are, of course, some disadvantages to hard boards. The main ones are: expense, portability, storage and durability (unless it's a Glide hard paddle board).

Hard SUP boards will cost you more

If hard paddle boards were a celebrity, they'd be living in a Beverly Hills mansion with a personal chef and a closet full of designer clothes. That's because they come with a high price tag compared to inflatable paddle boards. Hard paddle boards are made from materials like fiberglass, epoxy resin and a foam core that are expensive to produce, which drives up the cost of the final product.

Additionally, hard paddle boards require specialized shaping and finishing techniques that require a skilled craftsman, which can also contribute to the higher price point. It's like comparing a tailored suit to a store-bought one. The tailored suit is going to cost more because of the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into making it. However, with the higher price tag comes some benefits, like higher performance and better speed, which can be worth it for serious paddlers. But for those looking for a more budget-friendly option, inflatable paddle boards are a great alternative that offer many of the same benefits at a lower cost.

The portability and storage constraints of a hard board

inflatable sup board with drop stitch fabric and displacement hulls for sup racing

If inflatable paddle boards were a backpacker, hard paddle boards would be a limousine - they may be luxurious, but they're not exactly easy to transport or store. Hard paddle boards are typically much heavier and bulkier than inflatable paddle boards, which can make them a challenge to move around or store in small spaces. You might need a truck or roof rack to transport them, and they definitely won't fit in the trunk of your car.

While hard boards may not be as portable or easy to store as inflatable paddle boards, they do offer some advantages in terms of performance and durability (if it's a Glide board). So, it really depends on your priorities - if you're all about the portability, inflatable paddle boards are the way to go. But if you're willing to sacrifice a little convenience for excellent performance and speed, a hard board may be worth the investment.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Inflatable and Hard SUP Boards

direct sunlight on inflatable sups or rigid paddle boards for small waves or whitewater paddling

Let's explore the four areas that need to be considered in the inflatable vs hard board argument.These areas are: intended use, transportation, storage space and budget.

How large a vehicle do you have?

inflatable board or inflatable sups have a higher weight capacity

Transporting a hard paddle board can feel like trying to move a small car - it's heavy, cumbersome, and can be a real hassle. First and foremost, you need to have the right vehicle to transport it. Unless you have a large truck or van with a roof rack, you'll need to strap the board to the roof of your car, which requires some heavy-duty tie-downs and a lot of patience.

Once you've secured the board to your car, you'll need to be extra careful when driving, especially if you're going on the highway or navigating rough terrain. Epoxy SUPs can be easily damaged if they shift or move during transport, so you'll want to take it slow and avoid sudden movements. And when you finally get to your destination, the real fun begins - unloading the board and carrying it to the water. This is where the weight of the board really comes into play, as even a short distance can feel like a marathon if you're carrying a heavy board. In short, transporting most boards is no easy feat, but for those who are willing to put in the effort, the rewards of high performance and speed are well worth it.

With an inflatable SUP, you can simply throw it in your trunk or back seat and then inflate it once you get to the alpine lake or beach you plan to paddle on.

How much storage space do you have?

stand up paddle board design over the past decade

If storage space were a house, an inflatable SUP board would be a tiny home and a hard stand up paddle board would be a mansion. That's because hard paddle boards require a lot of room to store, whereas inflatable paddle boards can fit in the smallest of spaces. A hard paddle board is typically much larger and bulkier than an inflatable paddle board, which means you need a decent amount of space to keep it safe and protected.

You might need a dedicated storage room or garage, or at least a sturdy wall mount or rack to keep it off the ground. On the other hand, inflatable paddle boards can be deflated and rolled up to fit in a small bag that can be stored in a closet or under the bed. You could even take it on a trip and store it in your luggage! This makes inflatable paddle boards ideal for those who don't have a lot of storage space or who live in small apartments. So, if you're looking for a paddle board but don't want to sacrifice your living space, an inflatable boards tend to be a better solution

What's your paddle board budget look like?

softer deck with multiple layers on the flip side of and inflatable stand up paddle board

A hard board can cost you an arm and a leg, while an inflatable SUP can be purchased with just a few coins from your couch cushions. Okay, maybe they are not quite that cheap, but you get the idea. While hard paddle boards require a significant investment, you can snag an inflatable paddle board for a fraction of the cost. So, if you're looking for a paddle board but your budget is more of a loose change jar than a trust fund, the inflatable SUP might be the way to go. And hey, if you end up hating it, at least you didn't have to sell your first-born child to pay for it.


kayak seats for inflatable sup racing

The choice between an inflatable vs rigid paddle board comes down to few distinct factors. The prospective buyer needs to weigh their storage and transportation capabilities as well as their budget and compare those to their wants and needs in terms of paddle board performance. Due to improvements in technology over the last few years, we're sure that either type of stand up paddle board, will provide you with years of enjoyment.