inflatable paddle board featured image

Should you choose an Inflatable SUP or a hard paddleboard?

So, you’re one of the tens of thousands of people around the world looking to purchase their very own paddle board! One of the most popular outdoor activities in recent years, paddleboarding truly provides entertainment and fun for people of all ages!

Providing a unique take on traditional surfing, a paddleboard allows for any water enthusiast to hop on their board and move through the water as fast or as slowly as they like! Not only is paddle boarding incredibly fun, but it can also provide a killer workout since it uses your arms and core.

If you’ve done more than a few searches online looking for which paddle board to buy, you’ve likely come across two distinct types of boards to purchase: the inflatable paddle board and the hard paddle board.

If you’ve yet to have the pleasure of trying a paddleboard on the water, you’re likely left wondering which one is best.

While we would love to give you an exact answer, the truth is, it all depends on what you’ll be using the board for, your budget, and a variety of other factors.

 In this guide, we’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of each to give you helpful tips on choosing which one is right for you.
inflatable vs epoxy

A Brief History of Stand Up Paddle Boarding

While paddle boarding has only recently become mainstream, the sport has surprisingly been around since as early as 1,000 B.C. Some historical evidence shows that paddle boarding was used in countries such as Israel, China, Italy and even Peru for thousands of years.

Used by farmers, fisherman, and women who wanted to navigate the calm waters of rivers and lakes, paddle boarding was both a reliable and effective form of water transportation in the past.

Paddleboarding saw another surge in popularity in the early 2000’s and continues to build a loyal following.

Though you likely have no intention of using a paddleboard like they were used thousands of years ago, grabbing a paddle board and spending hours on the water is an incredible way to enjoy the outdoors while providing a full body workout. Both challenging and different than your standard outdoor activities, paddle boarding continues to grow in popularity across all age groups and cultures.

Despite being incredibly simple in practice, paddle boarding is a challenging activity for beginners and seasoned veterans alike.

In fact, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, stand up paddle boarding was listed as the most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants.

 Now that we’ve explored the brief history of paddleboarding, let’s take a more in-depth look at the differences between the inflatable and hard paddle boards.


Inflatable vs. hard epoxy paddleboard

While there are dozens of unique styles of paddle boards to choose from, all paddle boards generally fall under one of two categories: inflatable, and hard frame. Most inflatable boards can easily pump up thanks to their highly effective design. That said, they may require an additional stronger pump to help get air pressure to a safe, functional level.

As the name implies, inflatable paddle boards or an iSUP needs to be inflated before being used. This makes storage easy but adds to the setup time.

Hard frame paddle boards remain the same shape and size whether in use or sitting in the garage at home. Often slightly larger than regular surfboards, paddleboards do require a fair amount of space to both transport and store.

Transportation and Storage 

transporting your SUP

transporting your SUP

When it comes to transportation and storage, inflatable paddle boards are clearly a better option. If you have a small car, for example, it may be difficult to fit a hard frame paddle board in your trunk. With an inflatable paddle board, however, you’ll have a much easier type transporting your board to and from the water, especially if you have a few people who also brought their boards along.

Inflatable boards aren’t only more comfortable to transport; they are also easier to store when the day is done. A regular sized hard paddle board can take up a fair amount of space in your home or garage, so it’s important to consider that when buying a board.

One board may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s not uncommon for one board to turn into several after your friends and family join in on the fun.

Stability 

Because hard paddle boards are generally sturdier, the type of activity you intend on doing with your board plays a large role in choosing the right model.

An inflatable board can easily handle the calm waters of a lake or small canal but may struggle in moderate ocean currents. Hard paddle boards generally offer more stability against harsher water conditions.

Speed in The Water

If you’re looking for a paddle board that offers maximum speed, a hard paddleboard might be your best choice. Depending on the quality of board you buy, the speed differences between the two types of boards may be minimal. Some awesome inflatable paddleboards can cut through the water, but like all good things, they come at a steep price.

 It ultimately comes down to your personal preference. Generally speaking, if speed is a high priority, you’ll want to invest in a hard paddle board.


Quality of Materials

Because the quality of materials used for the hard paddle boards tends to fall on the premium side, hard paddle boards can land on the pricey end of the spectrum. Though there are quality budget options for both hard and inflatable paddle boards, inflatable boards are considered to be more cost-effective.

That said, it’s much easier to scratch or damage a hard paddle board compared to an inflatable one that is built and designed to be more flexible.

If you’re looking to paddle board recreationally and convenience or budget are high priorities, an inflatable board is a solid option.

If you’re looking to take paddle boarding more seriously and want the highest quality available, investing in a hard paddle board is likely your best choice.

 Now that we’ve covered the major differences between the two types of boards, let’s look at a few critical factors for choosing the right board for you. Asking yourself these questions before deciding which board to purchase can save you time and headache.


What to Look for When Buying A Stand Up Paddle Board


Cost

Is cost a major concern? If so, an inflatable board might be the best choice. That said, some high-quality hard paddle boards are affordable for most budgets.

Brand

Because your paddle board is something you’ll be using for a long time, it’s important to choose a high-quality brand that you can trust. There are a handful of excellent companies out there dedicated to creating the best paddle board experience, so do your research.

Experience Level

Are you looking to use your board more leisurely? Alternatively, are you wanting a board that will be the best of the best?

Storage and Transportation

Inflatable paddle boards are generally much easier to transport and store than hard boards, so consider your home and vehicle when making your decision.

Location

Are you planning on using your stand up paddleboard in a lake, ocean, or canal? Remember, hard paddle boards often offer more stability than inflatable boards.

Durability

If you have young children or you know you might bang up your board here and there, consider investing in an inflatable paddle board that can handle a few more scratches and drops than a hard paddle board. You can always add a hard board once you get the hang of things.

​ 

Inflatable vs. hard paddle board: which one should you choose?

To quickly recap, here are the pros and cons of each board.

Inflatable Paddle Boards

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable for most budgets.
  • Can be transported and stored with ease.
  • Resistant to minor scratches and other marks.
  • Doesn’t offer nearly as much control  compared to hard paddle boards.
  • Can be challenging to inflate if you forget your pump.
  • Takes time to deflate.

Hard Epoxy Paddle Boards

Pros

Cons

  • Offers much more stability and speed than an inflatable board.
  • Are generally made from high-quality materials that enhance performance.
  • Perfect for long-form water travel.
  • Slightly more expensive than inflatable paddle boards.
  • Can be difficult to transport and store depending on how many you have.
  • Prone to scratches and damage after a few drops.

Wrapping Up

While some paddleboard users swear by inflatable boards, others love hard boards just as much. The reality is, both boards offer unique benefits and disadvantages depending on what you are looking for in a paddle board.

Generally speaking, inflatable boards are an excellent board to start with given their incredible flexibility, reasonable cost, and ability to transport and store easily.

That said, if you’re looking to push your limits in the water and want a high-quality board that can provide the speed and stability needed, a hard paddle board will do the trick.

 Whichever type of paddle board you choose, you’re in for one great time on the water!


About the Author Thomas

I suppose you could say I came to surfing later than most. I didn't grow up by the water, but after years working the 9-5 grind I felt its draw and decided it was time to lead a slower life. These days I try and spend time in the water every day and consider the ocean as my living room: a place to relax, have fun, and just enjoy life.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: