Should you buy an inflatable or a solid paddleboard? Let’s take a look at the advantages of each to help you make your decision…
(Photo courtesy of Scottie Peterson)
A good paddleboard is a significant investment. One of your buying choices is whether to opt for an inflatable board or a solid board. Each has distinct advantages. Considering these will help you make your final decision.
Let’s start with inflatables…
Advantages of Inflatable SUP Boards
Inflatable SUPs transport and store easily. You don’t need a special rack for your vehicle, and they deflate and roll up when not in use.
If your living situation leaves you with little storage space, a packable board is the perfect solution. If you don’t want to invest in a rack for your vehicle, an inflatable can be transported in your trunk or back seat.
Inflatables usually come with their own pack, so you can check one an airplane, or carry it as a backpack. If you combine an inflatable board with a 4-piece paddle like Aqua-Bound’s Freedom or Lyric paddles, you’re set to go almost anywhere you can pack it.
Some inflatables are available as hybrids, so you can kayak, too (photo courtesy of Scottie Peterson)
A Soft Landing
Inflatable SUPs are softer than solid boards, which is especially good news for beginners. Falling is part of learning how to SUP, and when you know you won’t hurt yourself if you land on your board, that will help take some of the fear away.
Inflatables are Still Tough
A high-quality inflatable paddleboard—like a solid board—will last for years if you take care of it. They can be used anywhere a solid board can be used, including rivers with rocks. Since they’re covered with layers of durable PVC plastic they’ll take a beating.
We recommend buying from a paddle shop rather than a big box store. They’ll carry trusted brands that make quality products.
Great for Activities that Require Stability
If you plan to fish from your board, or take your dog(s) or small children along, an inflatable is usually more stable than a solid board. Recreational boards are designed for stability, so opt for one of those rather than a racing or performance board.
The same is true if you want to get into SUP yoga. There are inflatables specifically designed for yoga, but you can use any recreational inflatable, too, and have that stability.
If you want to fish, an inflatable is your best choice (photo courtesy of Clint Taylor)
Often More Affordable
When you get into the mid and high-range paddleboards, especially, you’ll find inflatables are generally more affordable than solid boards. Just be sure you go with a trusted manufacturer with high-quality standards.
Disadvantages of Inflatables
It takes 11-15 minutes to inflate your board, whether with a hand pump or an electric pump. So you’ll need to allow that prep time whenever you plan to get on the water.
You should also know that to hand pump your board up to its desired PSI (pounds per square inch) will give you an intense upper body workout before you even get on the water. If you’d rather save your energy for paddling, you’ll want to invest in a reliable electric pump. That’s an additional investment of $100+.
Definitely not a deal-breaker but just something to be aware of: Inflatables are quite a bit thicker than solid boards, usually 6 inches. So it’s a little more of a challenge to get back on from the water when you fall or if you’ve been swimming—especially when wearing a vest PFD.
Finally, your SUP needs to be fully dry before rolling up to store so it doesn’t develop mold issues. That can be in a yard (out of the sun, preferably) or with a quick-dry towel. Again, not a deal-breaker but just to be aware o
Advantages of Solid SUP Boards
Better Maneuverability and Speed
There’s no doubt about it—a solid board (also called rigid or hard) responds better, especially in waves and choppy water. They’re also a bit more stable in adverse conditions.
If you want to be able to use your board to surf, for competition, or to do tricks in the waves, you’ll probably be happier with a solid board.
Solid boards offer better maneuverability and speed
Some inflatables can handle most of those situations, and their design has come a long way over the years. But you’ll still get better maneuverability and speed from a solid board.
They're Ready to Go
A solid board is ready to go as soon as you take it off your vehicle or get it out of your garage. If you use a rack designed for paddleboards, it’ll be easy to get it on and off your vehicle in no time.
If you’re going to keep your board at a cabin or always use it in water with vehicle access, you’ll save time and hassle with a solid board.
Always Rigid Enough
If an inflatable board isn’t pumped up to the right PSI, it’ll sag a bit in the middle. That can affect your performance on the water. Of course, you won’t have to worry about that with a solid board because it will always be rigid enough.
Once you’re in the world of paddleboarding you may even find you want both types of boards. Then you’re free to use the best one for the best paddling scenario.
Disadvantages of Solid SUPs
The biggest disadvantage of solid SUPs is that they’re cumbersome to store and transport. If you have the space this won’t be an issue, but if not, a solid board may not even be possible.
Secondly, solid boards are usually heavier than inflatables. You can spend more to get a solid board made of lighter materials, of course, if it’s within your budget.
(Photo courtesy of Emilie O’Connor)
We hope that helps you make your decision between an inflatable and solid paddleboard.
(This was first published in 2017 and has been updated.)
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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