Pros and Cons of Inflatable Paddle Boards - Is an Inflatable SUP Right for You?
So you're in the market for a stand up paddle board and you have heard that inflatable paddle boards are all the rage? We'll explore the various pros and cons of inflatable boards vs their hard paddle board counterparts so that you can make an informed decision.
The Pros of inflatable paddle boards
Inflatable SUPs tend to be every popular with those who live in smaller dwellings or have smaller vehicles as well as with those who like to explore the backcountry.
Inflatable boards are very portable and don't take up much storage space
One of the biggest advantages of inflatable paddle boards is their portability. Unlike hard boards which have a foam core and are bulky and difficult to transport, inflatable paddle boards can be deflated and rolled up into a compact size that can be easily carried in a backpack or carrying bag. This makes them ideal for those who travel frequently or who don't have a lot of storage space at home.
In addition to being easy to transport, inflatable paddle boards are also a lightweight board, which makes them easy to carry to and from the water. This is particularly advantageous if you have to carry your board over long distances, such as when hiking to a remote alpine lake or the ocean for SUP surfing. Because they are so lightweight, inflatable paddle boards are also easier to maneuver in the water, which can be a benefit for those who want to explore hard-to-reach places or navigate narrow waterways.
The portability of inflatable paddle boards is a major selling point for many people. Whether you're a traveler, a city dweller with limited storage space, or someone who wants to be able to take their board on the go, an inflatable paddle board can be a great choice. Just be aware that inflating and deflating the board can take some time, so you'll need to factor that into your plans.
The inflatable paddle board is durable
Another advantage of inflatable paddle boards is their durability. While some people might assume that and inflatable board is more prone to punctures and damage than hard boards, this is not necessarily the case when compared to epoxy boards. In fact, many inflatable paddle boards are made with military grade PVC material that is highly resistant to punctures, abrasions, and UV damage.
This durability means that inflatable SUP boards can withstand harsh conditions that might damage rigid boards, such as rocky shorelines, shallow water, or heavy surf. They will also hold up well over time, even with regular use. This makes them a good investment for anyone who wants a stand up paddle board that will last for years to come.
As with any type of paddle board, inflatable paddle boards can still be damaged under certain conditions. For example, if you drag the board across sharp rocks or debris, it may puncture or tear. However, with proper care and maintenance, inflatable paddle boards can be highly durable and long-lasting, making them a smart choice for anyone who wants a board that can handle a variety of conditions and uses.
Inflatable SUPs are very stable
A third advantage of inflatable stand up paddle boards is their stability. Inflatable boards tend to be wider and more stable than hard boards, which can be beneficial for beginners who are just getting started with the sport. This stability can also be advantageous for those who want to use their board for activities that require a stable platform, such as yoga or fishing.
In addition to being wider and more stable, inflatable paddle boards often have a higher weight capacity than hard boards. This means that they can support more weight without becoming unstable or sinking into the water. This can be helpful for those paddle boarders who are larger in size, or for those who want to bring along gear or supplies on their paddle board adventure.
It's worth noting, however, that while inflatable paddle boards may be more stable than hard boards, they can still be affected by wind and waves because they are lighter weight and have a higher profile. If you're paddling in choppy or windy conditions, you may still need to work on your balance and technique to stay upright on your board. Nevertheless, for those who want a paddle board that provides a stable and secure platform, an inflatable board can be an excellent choice.
The inflatable SUP board has a great price point compare an an epoxy board
A fourth advantage of inflatable boards is their affordability. In general, inflatable paddle boards are less expensive than hard paddle boards, which can make them a more accessible option for those who are just starting out with the sport or who are on a budget. This affordability can also make it easier to upgrade your board in the future if you decide that you want a higher-end model.
In addition to being less expensive up front, inflatable paddle boards can also be more cost-effective over the long term. Because they are durable and long-lasting, you may not need to replace your inflatable SUP board as frequently as you would solid paddle boards. Inflatable SUP boards also require less maintenance than hard boards, which can save you money on repairs and upkeep.
Of course, the exact cost of an inflatable paddle board will depend on factors such as the brand, the size, and the features. In general, though, inflatable SUPs offer a more affordable option for those who want to enjoy the sport of paddle boarding without breaking into their kids' college fund.
Repairing inflatable SUPs can be easier than rigid boards
Generally speaking, because quality inflatable SUPs have multiple layers of PVC material, they are difficult to puncture even if you run into a sharp rock. They do typically come with a repair kit so that most paddlers can repair the inflatable paddle board in a few minutes. If you were to puncture a rigid SUP, you will need to let it drain for a few days to the board doesn't become waterlogged. You will need to invest in some epoxy resin in the case of most hard SUPs and let it dry and then sand it down the next day.
Cons of inflatable SUP boards
Most inflatable paddle boards have distinct advantages when compared to a rigid board but there are a few areas where the hard board does win the battle in the inflatable vs hard paddle board challenge. These areas tend to be related to: performance, set up time and storage preparation time.
The hard paddle board may have better performance
A potential downside of inflatable boards is that they may not be as responsive or agile as solid paddle boards. While inflatable SUPs are generally more stable than hard boards, they can also feel slower and less maneuverable, which can be a disadvantage for more experienced paddlers who want to tackle challenging conditions or perform tricks and turns.
It's worth noting, however, that the responsiveness and agility of an inflatable paddle board will depend on factors such as the brand, the size, and the shape of the board. Some inflatable paddle boards are designed specifically for high performance and maneuverability, and may be just as responsive as rigid paddle boards. Nevertheless, if you're someone who prioritizes speed and agility, a hard board may be a better option for you than an inflatable SUP.
Set up time of inflatable paddle boards
Inflatable paddle boards require some set-up time, which can be inconvenient if you're in a hurry to get on the water. You need to inflate the board and attach the fins before you can use it, which can take several minutes.
Inflatable SUP boards take longer to set up and inflate than hard paddle boards. Depending on the manual pump that you use, it can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes to fully inflate an inflatable paddle board. This can be a drawback if you're short on time or if you're in a hurry to get out on the water. An electric pump can be a great investment to speed up the process as long as you have a car lighter to power it or a battery that you have precharged.
The other option would be to keep your inflatable paddle board fully inflated and transport it with your car roof rack. This won't damage a quality inflatable paddle board.
Prepping an inflatable SUP for storage will take longer than hard paddle boards
Although inflatable SUPs are easy to store when deflated, they require some prep to store them properly. You will want to clean the SUP board with a light detergent and then wash the detergent off with clean water. You will then want to make sure that the inflatable SUP has been dried thoroughly before rolling it up to store it in its carrying bag to prevent issues with mold and mildew. Hard paddle boards don't typically require this level of prep before putting them in their storage space.
The paddle boarding landscape has changed dramatically over the last 5 years or so as the inflatable SUP has become as popular as the hard paddle board. As we have outlined in this article, the areas than inflatable paddle boards shine are: portability, storage space, affordability and repairs. It is our feeling that these benefits outshine the downsides that we have presented.