Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Harder to Stand on?
Inflatable paddle boards, also known as iSUPs or inflatable SUPs, are a type of stand up paddle board that can be inflated and deflated for ease of storage and transport. Unlike traditional rigid paddle boards, which are made of hard materials such as fiberglass or epoxy, inflatable paddle boards are constructed from durable materials such as PVC and drop stitch technology that allow them to be inflated to a rigid form.
Inflatable paddle boards are becoming increasingly popular among the beginner as well as intermediate to advanced paddler because of their convenience, durability, and affordability. However, we are often asked if inflatable paddle boards are harder to stand on then hard paddle boards. The purpose of this article is to answer that question.
Advantages of the inflatable paddle board
When paddle boarding first hit the watersports scene, stand up paddle boards were essentially large surfboards and were made from the same EPS foam, epoxy resin and fiberglass that surfboards were made from. Because paddle boards are typically 10 - 12 feet long and up to 35 inches wide, portability and storage space became an issue. Epoxy boards also tended to be fairly fragile and they were quite expensive.
Inflatable paddle boards offer convenient storage and transportation options
One of the main advantages of inflatable paddle boards is their portability and storage convenience. Inflatable paddle boards can be easily deflated and rolled up into a compact size, making them a breeze to transport and store. Unlike rigid paddle boards, which require a large vehicle and storage space, inflatable paddle boards can fit into a small bag or backpack.
This makes inflatable SUP boards an excellent choice for paddlers who travel frequently or who have limited storage space at home. Inflatable paddle boards can also be easily transported on airplanes, buses, or trains, making them a popular choice for those who enjoy paddle boarding at various locations.
The portability of inflatable paddle boards means that paddlers can enjoy their favorite water sport anytime, anywhere, without the hassle of transporting a bulky, heavy paddle board.
The best inflatable paddle boards are quite durable
Inflatable paddle boards are made of durable materials such as PVC and are constructed with drop-stitch technology, which allows them to hold air pressure and maintain their shape. They can withstand the weight of a rider and the pressure of the water without bending or buckling, and can typically support up to 400 pounds, which makes them suitable for paddlers of various sizes.
Inflatable paddle boards are also resistant to punctures, abrasions, and UV rays, making them a popular choice for riders who want a board that is durable and low-maintenance. These qualities make inflatable paddle boards not only portable and easy to store, but also a sturdy and stiff option for paddle boarding.
Cost advantage goes to the inflatable SUP
Inflatable paddle boards are generally more cost-effective than hard SUP boards, making them a fine option for those who want to enjoy paddle boarding without breaking the bank. While the cost of inflatable paddle boards can vary depending on the brand, quality, and features, they are generally less expensive than their hard board counterparts. This is because the materials used in inflatable paddle boards are less expensive than those used in rigid boards, and the manufacturing process is simpler, which reduces production costs.
But are inflatable SUP boards harder to stand up on?
The answer to this question is a definite "maybe". We will discuss the various factors that may affect the stability of an inflatable SUP board and let you decide for yourself.
The quality of the materials used in making an inflatable paddle board can make all the difference
Many of the budget boards available use only a single or dual layer PVC construction whereas the best inflatable paddle boards use a quad PVC construction where the layers of PVC are fused rather than glued together. Not only does the fusion construction make for a more durable board but it also makes for a more rigid, maneuverable board.
On the inside of the board, you will want to make certain that the drop stitch fabric that holds the top layer of the board to the bottom layer is woven drop stitch rather than the knitted drop stitch which is used by budget brands. Woven drop stitch makes the board feel less "spongy" than a knitted drop stitch board and makes for a very stable board.
Quality materials like woven drop stitch and multi-layers of fused PVC can give an inflatable paddle board 90% of the rigidity of a hard board, which in turn makes the inflatable SUP board easy to stand on. Inflatable paddle boards made with less PVC and knitted drop stitch, tend to "taco" which means the nose and tail lift up, making them much more challenging to stand on.
The deck pad plays an important rule on how easy it is to stand on inflatable paddle boards
The deck pad or traction pad can also make a big difference as to how easy the inflatable board is to stand on. A smooth comfortable deck pad will be far easier on the feet than a traction pad with little nodules on it. In theory, those nodules improve the grip of your feet but in reality, they become quite painful after a few minutes of standing on the paddle board.
How the thickness of the inflatable SUP affects the stiffness of the board
The thickness and stiffness of an inflatable paddle board can also impact its stability. A thicker and stiffer board is generally more stable, as it is less prone to bending or flexing under the rider's weight. Thicker and stiffer boards also displace more water, providing additional stability. Conversely, a thinner and less stiff board may be more prone to bending or flexing, which can make it feel less stable on the water.
How board size and shape can make it easier or harder to stand on the inflatable paddle board
The size and shape of the board can have a significant impact on board stability. A wider board with a flatter rocker (the curve from nose to tail) provides more stability and is easier to balance on, making it ideal for beginners. Whereas, a narrower board with a more pronounced rocker is less stable but more maneuverable and faster, making it better suited for experienced riders who are tackling whitewater or ocean waves.
A longer board like a touring paddle board also tends to be more difficult to stand on then an all around board because the touring board is a more narrower board which makes it a less stable board.
Comparing the stability of rigid and inflatable paddle boards
One of the main differences between inflatable and rigid paddle boards that affects stability is the construction of the boards. Inflatable paddle boards are typically thicker and wider than rigid boards, which makes them more buoyant and stable in calm water conditions. Inflatable boards are also made of a flexible material, which can absorb impacts and movements from the water, leading to a smoother ride. This flexibility can also make inflatable boards less stable and bouncier in choppy water conditions, as they can flex and bend under the rider's weight.
Rigid paddle boards are typically made of a stiffer material that provides a more solid platform for the rider. This can make them more stable in choppy water conditions and during high-speed paddling. Although, they may not be as forgiving or comfortable for riders as inflatable boards in rougher conditions like whitewater.
The choice between inflatable and rigid paddle boards ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including the rider's experience level, the conditions they plan to paddle in, and their personal preferences.
Most paddlers don't have any more difficulty standing on an inflatable paddle board than they do on a hard paddle board, as long as it is made with quality materials like multi-layer fused PVC and a woven drop stitch core because these boards typically have 90% of the stiffness of a hard stand up paddle board. If you have a cheap inflatable lightweight board, you will find it more difficult to stand on due to the lower weight capacity and the spongy feel that it's thinner PVC walls and knitted drop stitch will give you.