Which is better – inflatable SUPs (iSUPs) or hard SUP boards?


Which is better between inflatable SUPs (iSUPs) and hard SUP boards?

We are frequently asked which is better: hard SUP boards or inflatable SUP boards (iSUPs). Here is our fast response, along with the benefits and drawbacks of both.
Quick Response

In terms of general leisure paddling, inflatable SUPs perform significantly better due to benefits in weight, durability, storage, versatility, and mobility. But there are some technical aspects of hardboards that make them worthwhile of consideration if you are purchasing a board primarily for SUP surfing or racing.
The Center for Water Sports

Individuals using inflatable SUP boards
Man using a SUP

Cons & Pros

Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards (iSUPs), once regarded as a novelty among SUP boards, have advanced significantly over the past few years and have now established themselves as the new norm and the first kind of SUP boards to consider when thinking about your first paddle board.

Following a thorough analysis of inflatable SUPs vs. hard boards, we have come up with the following seven comparison criteria to help you decide whether to buy an inflatable SUP or a hard board.

Over time, it has become clear that iSUPs are more resilient than epoxy SUPs. Quality inflatables are built of military-grade fabrics that are resistant to dings and holes that require pricey repairs, unlike hard boards. In order to reduce board damage from irresponsible handling by students and rental companies, inflatable fleets are increasingly preferred by SUP schools and rental companies, which outnumber hard boards by a wide margin.

iSUPs have soft deck pads, so falling on them doesn’t hurt as much. Even in a wetsuit, falling onto a hard board can be painful. A paddle board that is inflatable is significantly gentler on the rider’s body and the bodies of any other people it may come into touch with.

Fatigue is reduced by a softer deck. A cheap rubber mat used in professional settings to reduce tiredness is comparable to standing on an inflatable SUP. Reduced contact pressure will make your feet more at ease and relaxed, and this will also aid your knees, back, and neck.

iSUPs are smaller, and a smaller board is used more frequently. An inflatable board typically weighs less than a hard board of the same size for a given board size, making it easier to transport to the water.

iSUP boards may be rolled up to fit in a bag that can be placed in the trunk of a car and are small enough to be checked in as luggage on an aeroplane for travel. Bringing your own SUP board can allow you to paddle whenever you want while saving you hundreds of pounds in rental fees.

Hard boards require a LONG vehicle or a roof rack to transport them anyplace and take up a LOT of storage space. Without needing a high ceiling or a wall-length of storage space, an inflatable SUP can be kept on a shelf. Once deflated, a complete fleet of inflatable SUP boards can be kept in a compact area.

In a variety of scenarios, iSUPs function better. Innovations in material science and board design have produced iSUP boards with rigidity comparable to that of hardboard and notable performance advantages over epoxy or fibreglass boards. Depending on the model, iSUPs can frequently be used anywhere there is flat water, little waves, or even whitewater.

An inflatable board can have up to 20% more volume than a hard board with the same footprint, making it significantly more stable and able to carry more rider and passenger weight. With improvements in performance, inflatables are being utilised more frequently in contests and by recreational SUP racers. Hardboard-like performance is no longer a goal, and inflatable SUPs have a number of advantages that have helped them establish themselves.
Man using a SUP board that is inflatable.
FAQs about inflatable SUP boards
FAQs about inflatable SUP boards

Here are some of the inquiries we receive about inflatable SUP boards most commonly as a specialist inflatable paddle board retailer:
How Durable Are Inflatable Paddle Boards?

We might say in response to this question that it could last anywhere from three to ten years or more, but the truth is that an inflatable SUP’s lifespan will rely on the quality of the board you purchase, the usage it receives, and of course how well you take care of it.

In truth, based on our personal experience, we can say that our sister company Hampshire Kitesurfing & SUP Centre has been using and selling iSUP boards for the past ten years, and as far as we are aware, every single one of those boards is still in use.
Is it possible to repair inflatable paddle boards?

Inflatable SUP boards can indeed be repaired from a variety of damages, sometimes by the owner and other times by a professional repair facility.

A “repair kit” is provided with EVERY inflatable SUP board we sell.

To be honest, however, using the repair kit is unlikely to be necessary. The repair kit is a reference to early single layer inflatable SUP designs where the question was asked, “what happens if it has a hole in it”? Use the repair kit was always the response.

Nowadays, iSUPs rarely need to be patched, and when they do, it’s usually due to thoughtless mistreatment of the board, like dragging it across a pavement, or substantial hit with a sharp rock or other object in the water.
What PSI (pounds per square inch) should I set my paddle board’s inflation to?

We advise inflating an expensive inflatable SUP board (all of the iSUPs we sell) to a pressure of 15 PSI. There is no need to go any higher because an iSUP performance level will already have reached the ideal stiffness.
Floatable paddleboards: Are they more stable?

The thickness of a paddle board’s design has a significant impact on its stability. Because of the difference in rail design between iSUPs and hard boards—which are narrower at the edges—a 5″ thick iSUP will typically be more stable than a hard board.

A hard board needs the rail to be tapered at the edges to minimise weight, whereas an iSUP board that is 5 inches thick will have a rail that is uniformly rounded. An inflatable paddle board with the same outline that is 6″ thick loses stability, which is fundamentally different from a hardboard. Although less so, the shape of the nose and tail also affects stability.
Can I keep the air in my inflatable SUP?

If you don’t need to make your iSUP board more compact for storage or transportation, there’s no need to deflate it. As long as you don’t store your inflated SUP board in full sunshine, a hot car, or another warm environment, there are normally no negative effects to doing so. Many of the SUP schools we work with regularly keep their boards inflated all summer long without seeing any negative effects. However, if they want to store them inflated solely to handle changes in air temperature, they are encouraged to let a little air out of them and do so. By letting some air out, you can prevent the pressure inside from getting too high. For example, if an iSUP is inflated to 15 psi at 20 degrees air temperature and the area in which it is stored warms up to 30 degrees, the inside air pressure will rise to up to 18 psi (by 20% in a 10 degree change in temperature). Naturally, this needs a little “top up” of air pressure to reach the ideal 15 psi before being used again.
Can You Surf on a Paddleboard Inflatable?

Surfing on iSUP boards may be really enjoyable. Any iSUP can be surfed, but how well it performs in the waves will depend on the rigidity, shape, and design of the board.

The height and calibre of the waves you want to ride will also have a significant impact on the finest inflatable SUPs for surfing. You could surf a wooden door with fins glued on as an example, but how well you would do depends on your surfing ability (Kelly Slater level or not)!

The water offers a variety of stand-up paddleboarding chances, and surfing can mean different things to different people. For instance, a surf-specific hard board design has important performance advantages for shoulder-high or huge wave surfing, yet a performance inflatable offers excellent opportunities for having fun in the surf for everything below that.
Can you race on a SUP that is inflatable?

On iSUPs, many racers participate. The ability to check in an inflatable SUP for air travel is a huge advantage for anyone having to travel to take part in any SUP race event. There are indisputable technical advantages to a hard board when it comes to SUP racing, but the gap has closed in recent years.
The superiority of inflatable paddle boards

We must therefore draw the incontrovertible conclusion that “Yes” is the response.

iSUPs perform significantly better than hard boards for uses that are specific to the sea, lake, and river, which is advantageous for most SUP paddlers. We qualify that statement by adding that hard stand-up paddle boards “may” perform better for big wave surfing and competition level SUP racing.

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