Your Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board (iSUP)

Embarking on the adventure of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) introduces you to a world where balance, strength, and serenity meet. If you’ve settled on the versatility and convenience of an inflatable stand-up paddle board (iSUP), you’re in for a treat. But, not all iSUPs are created equal. Here’s what you need to understand to ensure you're investing in quality, performance, and durability.

Key Highlights

  1. Construction Quality: Opt for iSUPs made from military-grade PVC with woven drop-stitch technology for enhanced firmness and durability.
  2. Deck Pads: Choose EVA deck pads that cover the entire deck, providing comfort, stability, and space for extra gear or companions.
  3. Board Rails: Look for iSUPs with reinforced rails, indicating higher durability and the ability to withstand high pressure and impacts.
  4. Fin Box Flexibility: A universal fin box offers the versatility to change fins based on activity, enhancing your paddling experience.
  5. Shape Variability: Select the right iSUP shape based on your preferred activities, from fishing and yoga to river running.
  6. Accessory Essentials: Ensure your iSUP package includes a fin, dual-chamber pump, backpack, leash, paddle, D-Rings, and possibly a kayak seat.
  7. Manufacturer’s Reputation: Invest in brands with a solid track record in the SUP industry for peace of mind and quality assurance.

So, you’ve decided that you want to get into stand up paddle boarding and you figure that an inflatable standup paddle board (iSUP) will fit your lifestyle better than a hard SUP. 

Where do you start? Do you go to your local Big Box store or favorite online e-tailer?  There is a whole lot more than meets the eye when it comes to iSUP technology.  Here are a few things to consider.

two inflatable stand up paddle boards


1. The Heart of the iSUP: Construction Quality

The construction of your iSUP is crucial. Inside, a world of 'magic' unfolds with the board’s core technology. Opt for a poorly constructed iSUP, and you might find it sagging or 'taco-ing' under weight. The ideal iSUP is crafted from military-grade PVC with a drop-stitch core, ensuring robustness and durability.

What’s Drop-stitch? Imagine thousands of tiny threads connecting the top and bottom of your board, expanding as you pump air in, keeping the shape rigid and stable. Traditional knitted dropstitch can leave your board feeling bouncy, whereas the newer, woven dropstitch offers a tighter weave for enhanced firmness and stability, plus it’s lighter.

Fusion Technology: This advanced technique eliminates the use of glue for a smoother, more durable finish. Fusion technology bonds the layers of PVC more seamlessly, making the board stiffer, lighter, and more visually appealing.

glide inflatable paddle board


2. Deck Pads: Comfort Meets Functionality

The deck pad should not only feel good underfoot but also provide stability and durability. Opt for an EVA deck pad that covers the board’s entire deck, allowing space for companions or pets. Look for pads designed with die-cut techniques for lasting color and pattern durability.

shop inflatable paddle boards

3. Board Rails: The Indicator of Durability

The rails of an iSUP endure much abuse. Quality iSUPs will have reinforced rails with additional layers, not just a line of tape, ensuring they withstand high pressure and impacts.

4. Fin Box: Flexibility in Fin Choices

A universal fin box, like the USA fin box, offers the versatility to swap fins based on activity—be it river running, surfing, or flat-water cruising—unlike proprietary fin systems that limit your options.

5. The Shape of Adventure: Choosing the Right iSUP

iSUPs come in various shapes to suit different water activities. Whether you’re into fishing, yoga, or river running, there’s an iSUP shape for you. Beginners might prefer an all-around board to sample a bit of everything.

Inflatable paddle board shapes

6. Accessories: What Should Come Standard

A well-equipped iSUP package should include essentials like a fin, dual-chamber pump, backpack (preferably with wheels), leash, 3-piece paddle, D-Rings, and possibly even a kayak seat. Missing essentials might be a red flag


inflatable paddle board with accessories

7. The Manufacturer’s Reputation: Your Assurance of Quality

Invest in an iSUP from a manufacturer with a solid track record in the SUP industry. Those who also produce hard boards are often more experienced and reliable, ensuring you’re supported throughout your iSUP journey.

Conclusion: Navigating Your iSUP Purchase

While the allure of picking up an iSUP might seem straightforward, understanding the nuances of construction, materials, and accessories will guide you to a purchase that brings joy and longevity to your paddleboarding adventures. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now ready to navigate the vast sea of iSUP options with confidence, ensuring your selection not only matches your lifestyle but elevates your paddleboarding experience to new heights.

Related Topics

SUP Gear for River Paddleboarding

SUP Boarding with Kids

Paddleboarding Tips to Follow on a Windy Day

Why Paddleboards are Superior to Kayak