Inflatable SUP vs Hard SUPs
Getting On Board
Paddleboarding is a great sport for those who love being outdoors on the water. With a plethora of fun activities ranging from relaxing yoga to thrilling surfing, paddleboarding offers a wonderful escape for beginners and veterans alike. However, there is a major decision that all paddleboarders will face at some point during their paddleboarding journey - which is better, an inflatable stand up paddleboard (inflatable SUP) or a hard stand up paddleboard (hard SUP)?
Transporting Your Board
When deciding between an inflatable SUP and a hard SUP, portability is one of the key factors to consider. Remember, before you can begin to enjoy the water, you have to get there first! If you’re tight on space, or don’t feel like carrying a 10-12’ board wherever you go, an inflatable SUP may be the better choice for you. When deflated, an iSUP takes up about the same amount of space as a small backpack, and most quality iSUPs even come with one! This means you can actually take your board on holiday around the world without having to pay hefty fees in the process.
Where hard SUPs are concerned, you will likely need a car rack so that you can mount your board for road trips. Using public transport or flying with a hard SUP will be a challenging feat. The only real point of contention that you might find with an inflatable SUP is that you will need to inflate and deflate it from time to time. The inflating process usually takes about 10-15 minutes, but it does mean you will need to carry an air pump with you.
Winner: inflatable SUP
Storing Your Board
When you’re done having the time of your life, you’ve got to find somewhere to store your boardIf you live in a city with small apartments, or have a significant other who doesn’t approve of having a giant paddleboard in your living space, you might find that storage can be difficult. Fortunately, an inflatable SUP can be deflated and stored anywhere a backpack can fit. You can essentially have your cake and eat it, too!
A hard SUP simply does not provide this type of storage convenience; so keep that in mind when making your final decision between an inflatable SUP and a hard SUP.
Winner: inflatable SUP
Can Your Board Take a Beating?
Let’s be frank, paddleboarding is the type of sport where the chances of your board encountering rough conditions are high – be it through clumsiness or more adrenaline-fuelled activities. While most would assume that hard paddleboards hold a clear advantage over inflatable paddleboards in this regard, the truth is a little more surprising than you might think.
Inflatable paddleboards are made of ultra-tough, often military-grade materials that are extremely bump and drop resistant. Hard boards are made of things like epoxy and fiberglass, which are brittle. If you accidentally drop your board because your hands are wet, or you find yourself on the business-end of sharp coastal rocks, you’re going to be in for a really expensive fix and a really bad time on a hard SUP.
Since inflatable boards have a bit of give and flexibility, you are less likely to puncture them or damage them from drops. Over time, inflatable paddleboards are actually more durable than hard paddleboards, which is why more and more SUP rental schools and agencies are opting to bolster their fleets with inflatable SUPs.
Winner: Inflatable SUP
Activities and Performance
Both hard SUPs and inflatable SUPs come in a variety of shapes and sizes that make them ideal for different activities on the water. Be it fishing, yoga, racing, surfing, touring, or any other activity, chances are you can find a hard or inflatable board to fit those needs.
When it comes to surfing and outright speed, hard SUPs generally have a slight edge over inflatable SUPs. However, when it comes to stability, inflatable SUPs have a larger volume than hard SUPs of the same footprint, making them more stable. An additional bonus is that inflatable SUPs can carry a heavier load than equivalent sized hard SUPs, meaning you can bring a companion along for the ride, or even a furry friend!
If safety is a concern, it’s comforting to know that falling on an iSUP is definitely less painful than falling on a hard SUP. Softer materials tend not to leave bruises or cuts while tough epoxy and fiberglass can really hurt, especially if you find yourself on the wrong side of a powerful wave.
Winner: Tie. It depends on the activity and setting.
What Will it Cost You?
While you can find boards of all sizes and price ranges, most commonly, you’ll find that inflatable SUPs are cheaper than equivalent hard SUPs – especially at the higher end. The savings only mount up when you consider that you don’t need to pay for additional storage space for an inflatable SUP and also don’t need a roof rack on your car to transport it.
A slightly more subjective method of measurement is cost per use. This is essentially the price of your board divided by the number of times you use it. Because inflatable SUPs are so convenient to transport and can be taken anywhere, chances are, you’ll be using them more regularly than an equivalently-sized hard SUP. With this in mind, inflatable SUPs are almost certainly going to be better value for money.
Winner: inflatable SUP