Inflatable SUP vs. Hard board, an honest comparison, Best SUP for you?

Inflatable SUP vs. Hard board, an honest comparison,  Best SUP for you?

Inflatable SUP compared to hard paddle board- the best SUP depends on how you use it. Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards are great for flatwater paddling and convenience but generally not as suitable for rough water paddling and surfing.

This video is an honest comparison of Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboards and hard epoxy boards.  Most iSUP videos on YouTube are marketing videos that don't tell the whole story, so we set out to make this video which we hope is informative and will help you choose the best paddle board for your needs.

Covered in the video: the pros and cons of iSUP boards, what they are good for and what they are not as suitable for, which would be the best SUP for your needs, differences in inflatable SUP construction, longevity, survey results, and recommendations. Truth: some are facts, some are opinions, your comments and questions are welcome down below.

Pros of inflatable boards:
1) Portability for transport, storage, travel, etc.

2) Durability, especially for blunt impacts such as smooth rocks, ideal for rivers and rocky shorelines where epoxy boards can get damage easily

3) Safety-soft surface, this is especially helpful for beginners who often try to break their fall by falling onto the board instead of into the water

Cons of iSUP's:
1) Pumping up/ longer setup and breakdown- a hard board is ready to go, a iSUP takes some time to set up and inflate.  For this reason (and because it is better for the board) almost half of users surveyed keep their boards inflated even when not in use.

2) Flex- inflatable SUP's are more flexible than hard boards which leads to lower performance and a wobbly, less stable feel and absorbs energy, resulting in lower board speeds.  The flex is especially noticeable in rough conditions and in the surf.  Flex is less much of an issue in smooth, flat water, so it depends what you plan to use the board for.

3) Limitations of shape- Inflatable have fat, rounded rails and the thickness is the same from nose to tail.  Hard boards have finely tuned rails and are tapered (less thick) in the nose and tail area, with the volume generally focused on thee standing area, this gives the designer/ shaper many more options to optimize performance.

4) Longevity and seam issues-  The PVC material and glue break down over time and more quickly in heat and UV exposure.  Leaving an inflatable SUP in the sun can cause the air inside to expand, increasing pressure on the seams that can get softened/ weakened by the heat, causing it to give. Once an inflatable starts to leak at the seams, it is very difficult to repair, this usually means it has to be replaced.  In comparison, a well built and properly maintained epoxy hard board can last a very long time.

5) Risk of puncture- see below for a link to a paddler whose board is punctured during a paddle adventure in Alaska.

6) Lower performance in some conditions- see video for more details.

Our recommendations: Get a well made inflatable board from a reputable manufacturer, or choose a hard board for better performance in surf or rough water.

Inflatable SUP survey results:

Please participate in our survey here:

For more information about our $599 iSUP closeout sale (while supplies last):

Videos mentioned and in B-roll:
Alaskan SUP adventure- board puncture video (at 5:10):
Grand Canyon SUP river trip:
Paddling iSUP's in Venice:
Waterfalls of Iceland:
Makaha SUPsquatch at Uncle Buffalo's contest:
Foil iSUP:

One point I forgot to put in the video: Thinner iSUP's are better for surfing as the thinner rails work better for carving on the wave but the downside is more flex. Thin boards flex a lot even if inflated over 20 psi, the thicker the dropstich material is, the less the board flexes. The difference in flex between 4" thick and 6" thick iSUP's is dramatic. So for flat water, get a thick iSUP but for surfing thinner is better if you can deal with the flexing. Just don't expect an iSUP to get anywhere close to the performance of a good surf SUP hardboard. Tripstix, a new German business, is working on an inflatable board with tapered rails, and nose/ tail as well as vacuum chamber granule stringers, it looks promising but I think they will run into several issues with this construction as well: For now we are focused on hard boards and possibly two part hard boards for airline travel as we feel that the inflatable technology is just not there yet (for performance boards).

I hope this helps you in the quest to find the best SUP for your needs!

Aloha, Robert Stehlik


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