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What are the differences between a surfboard and an inflatable SUP? - Turn The Tide, a blog by HeySurf

What are the differences between a surfboard and an inflatable SUP?

If you’re just about the take the plunge and purchase a new board, you’ve likely come across the dilemma of what type of board you should invest your money into. Though there are several styles of boards out on the market, this particular article will aim to help you decide if you should opt for a traditional surfboard or go for an inflatable stand-up paddleboard (iSUP). There are pros and cons when looking at both of these types of boards, but ultimately, once you look at our 5 ranking categories, you’ll be able to gauge what is most important to you, and ultimately decide which board fits your needs best. Let’s dive right in!

1. Activities

When picking out a board, you should carefully consider what activities you will be using it for. If you plan on using your board for a variety of different water sports, then you’ll want to definitely select an inflatable SUP. These boards are ideal companions for activities like fishing, yoga, touring, cruising, surfing on small waves, and of course, paddleboarding. 

If you’re looking for a purpose-built board for performance, then a traditional surfboard is likely going to suit you better. That being said, if you buy a surfboard made of poor materials, you won’t be able to reap the benefits. You need to find a board made of high-grade fiberglass or strong epoxy to really excel if performance is what you’re after. The thinner rails, rigidity, and heavier construction are features that experienced surfers can use to gather speed and carve up large waves, which most inflatable SUPs can’t handle.

2. Design Features

Inflatable SUPs are generally thicker, broader, and rounder than traditional surfboards. This means that they are great for balancing and staying upright on the water. Thanks to their large volumes, they can also be used to carry larger loads, making them great boards for people who are heavier, or for those who need to bring equipment, or pets along for the ride. However, since inflatable SUPs need to be inflated before use, their design inherently means that they take more time to set up and pack away than a traditional surfboard. 

Traditional surfboards are generally thinner, sharper, and have narrower rails. This makes them great for maneuvering, building speed, and doing tricks. Their design makes them well-suited to faster-paced and precision-based water sports, and their lightweight construction means that they can glide longer distances, too. However, not all hardboards are built the same, and you will only enjoy these benefits if you purchase a board that is light and of great quality. 

3. Durability

While one might think that hardboards would win this category by a landslide, this is certainly not the case. Inflatable SUPs are softer, which means they can take bumps and dings, especially from blunt objects, without cracking. Quality inflatable SUPs will also feature drop stitch material, which helps these boards stay relatively rigid without the drawbacks of being too brittle. Repairing an inflatable SUP is also as simple as lathering any rips or tears with glue and applying a patch onto the torn area. It’s super cheap, super easy, and super convenient!

On the flipside, hardboards can take more abuse from sharp rocks, but even then, scratches and dings may affect your board’s overall performance. If your surfboard ends up properly cracked, though, you will need specialist care to return it to its former glory. This can end up being very expensive and time-consuming, which is definitely something to consider when choosing between an inflatable SUP and a surfboard.

4. Versatility + Portability

Inflatable SUPs are designed to be a versatile and portable as possible. Not only are they able to excel as a jack of all trades, but some iSUPs can also double up as kayaks! This means you could use one board to go paddling, then surfing, and finally kayaking all in the same day! When you’re done, transporting an inflatable SUP is extremely easy since once they are deflated, they can fit into a small backpack. This makes them perfect for travelers who don’t want to leave their beloved board behind when searching for the next amazing surfing destination.

When it comes to hardboards, you can certainly find boards that are versatile, but it is best to pick a surfboard that clearly specializes in a particular activity to really excel. As far as portability is concerned, without a surfboard rack on your car, you won’t really be able to take your board to many places, nor will you be able to store it easily, either. If you’re a frequent flier, bringing your surfboard along for the trip is almost impossible. 

5. Safety

When it comes to safety, inflatable SUPs are certainly going to be better for you, especially if you are a beginner or prone to falling. Thanks to the forgiving nature of an iSUP’s construction, falling on your board or having your board hit you after wiping out will not leave any serious injuries. 

On the other hand, if you do not practice how to fall properly while using a hardboard, you should expect to have a few bumps, bruises, and dings after getting out on the water. Because of a surfboard’s rigidity and hard materials, falling onto your board can be a very painful experience. This is compounded further if your board is propelled at you after wiping out. 

Wave Goodbye to Your Indecision

Now that we’ve broken down the strengths and weaknesses of inflatable SUPs and traditional surfboards, you should have an easier time making a decision about which one will better suit your lifestyle. By looking over the five ranking categories and finding which board fits your needs best, you should be able to make a purchase that you love so that you can have the maximum amount of fun while never getting bored of your board!

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