Inflatable vs Solid Paddle Boards

Paddle boarding is a fun way to get fit and enjoy some fresh air. But if you’re considering purchasing a paddle board, do you know which side of the solid v inflatable SUP argument you’re on? Here’s what you need to know

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What Makes a Good Paddle Board?

When looking for a good paddle board, there are many factors you need to consider. The most important factor is the type of paddle boarding you want to do. Are you interested in racing, touring, surfing, a mixture of all 3 or just paddling for all round fun?

Critical for some but not everyone is budget, how much do you want to spend on your board? Paddle boards vary wildly in price. You can pick up a budget iSUP for just a couple of hundred dollars on Amazon but can also spend a good few thousand for a high-end board.

Once you’ve answered these questions, the next thing to decide is the size of the board. Boards come in a variety of sizes, and your choice of paddle board will largely depend on your weight and the type of water you’ll be paddling in.

What are Inflatable Paddle Boards and what are they made of?

An inflatable paddle board is a type of stand-up paddle board that is inflated using a motorized or hand pump. These boards are typically made from PVC or another type of durable plastic.

Inflatable paddle boards are often used for recreation, fitness, and yoga. They are also popular for use in fishing, touring, and racing. Some inflatable paddle boards even have features such as built-in coolers or fishing rod holders.

The Advantages of Inflatable Paddle Boards

Portability

The portability of an inflatable paddle board has many benefits. They are easy to carry in an included backpack, and can even be shipped. Inflatable paddle boards also fit easily in the trunk of a car, making them perfect for road trips or camping trips. And when you’re done using your inflatable paddle board, simply deflate it and store it away until next time.

Impact resistance

There are many benefits to using an inflatable paddle board, including their impact resistance. Unlike a traditional hard board, an inflatable board is designed to flex on impact, which helps to absorb the force of a collision. This can protect both the board and the rider from serious damage in the event of a fall.

This quality makes inflatable paddle boards perfect for beginners.

The Disadvantages of Inflatable Paddle Boards

Time Wasting

While inflatable paddle boards have many advantages, one of the drawbacks is that they can be time-consuming to set up. In order to get the best performance from an inflatable board, it should be inflated to at least 15psi. This can take some time, especially if you don’t have a multi-chamber pump. It can be annoying to watch your friends with solid boards race straight into the water while you’re on the shore pumping!

Energy Draining

Inflating an iSUP can be a time-consuming and physically demanding process, particularly if you do not have access to a high-quality pump. Electric pumps are available, but most iSUPs still have to be inflated by hand after the electric pump has done its part, in order to achieve the desired PSI.

Stiffness/Performance

iSUPs lack the rigidity of solid boards and are quite bendy, this is more noticeable in choppier water conditions and waves. While some people might not mind this, others might find it makes the board less responsive and harder to control. This is particularly noticeable when surfing or racing in rougher waters.

If you’re on flat water however, the difference is barely noticeable, this makes inflatable paddle boards ideal for lakes.

Non-Tapering shape

iSUPs have a number of advantages over traditional paddle boards, but there are some trade-offs that need to be considered. One key difference is the shape of the board. iSUPs have a non-tapering, uniform rail construction (side wall), while solid paddle boards have a tapered rail that can vary throughout the length of the board.

This can be important for surfing, as the sharper rails on a solid board can make it easier to cut into waves and carve turns.

Risk of Puncture/Seam Splitting

One of the most significant risks associated with iSUPs is puncture. Since the boards are inflated with air, they are susceptible to being punctured by sharp objects. Some manufacturers have addressed this issue by incorporating a double chamber design, but this does not eliminate the risk.

In addition, iSUPs can also develop leaks at the seams over time. Puncture repairs are usually successful and should be carried out as soon as possible. Seam separation is near impossible to fix but most reputable manufacturers would address this for you with a solution.

Seam problems are usually more of an issue with the budget end of the market.

What is a Solid Paddle Board and what are they made of?

A solid paddle board (SUP) is a type of board used for stand-up paddle boarding and paddle surfing. As the name suggests, solid SUPs are made of solid materials, such as fiberglass, carbon fibre and even wood. Solid boards usually offer a higher performance than inflatable SUPs, but also more expensive.

Solid SUPs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be used for different types of paddling. For example, racing boards are typically long and narrow, while all-around boards are shorter and wider. Ultimately, the best board for you will depend on your individual paddling style and preferences.

Pros and Cons of Solid Paddle Boards

Basically, the advantages and disadvantages of solid boards are the opposite of iSUPs.

The key advantages are:

  • Performance – solid boards are more manoeuvrable and as such are better for paddle surfing, racing in choppier water.
  • No set up time – Solid boards are ready-to-go, with no need to inflate and deflate.
  • Cannot be punctured.

The key disadvantages are:

  • Not as portable – you’ll need a roof rack for your car to be able to transport your board, unless you have a van/truck, and shipping will be expensive if you wish to travel with it overseas.
  • Generally more expensive to buy.
  • More prone to chips, scuffs, dings and breakages than iSUPs.

Note:

It’s important to note that over 50% of iSUP owners leave their boards inflated or at least partially inflated to speed up the readiness of the board between usage. This also prevents creases if rolled up and left for long periods.

Conclusion

Whether you decide to go for an inflatable or a solid SUP, it is important to do your research and find the board that is best suited to your individual paddling style. The pros and cons of each type of board have been outlined in this article, so make sure you consider all the factors before making your final decision.

If you’re a beginner, we recommend an inflatable SUP. They’re more stable and forgiving than their solid counterparts. Inflatable SUPs are also great for kids because they’re lightweight, can easily be transported and bounce off rocks and other obstacles with less potential damage to the board and the child than a solid board.