In the 1940s, the surf instructors in Hawaii stood on top of their surfboards to allow them to check their students easier. This later evolved into what is now called Stand-Up Paddleboarding. Stand-Up Paddleboarding is one of the most talked-about water sports here on my website. You may have read a lot of my articles on stand-up paddleboarding already.
In case you haven’t read them yet, stand-up paddleboarding is a water sport wherein the rider is standing on a board floating on water while using a paddle to propel themselves and the board through the water. It has been getting more popular for the past ten years. It is now one of the most renowned watersports in the world.
If you want to try Stand Up Paddleboarding for the first time, you begin by deciding whether to get an inflatable SUP Board or an Epoxy Stand Up Paddle Board. The former choice was once considered something new among SUP boards. This has changed over the years and it became people’s starting point when buying a paddleboard.
Globalization of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Now, how did Inflatable SUP Board come into production? Well, it all started when Red Paddle Co. stood at the forefront of this frontier in 2008. This type was easier to transport, store, and navigate. You can reach tighter waterways with an inflatable SUP board while being more durable than the harder counterparts.
Naturally, inflatable SUP boards only continued to grow in popularity due to the continuous innovation and development from companies. This brought about a big change in the paddleboarding world. Before this age, riders mostly used hardboards made out of foam cores reinforced by laminates of fiberglass, carbon, and thin strips of wood. The construction of these boards was mostly used for kayaking, surfing, and other sports.
Of course, if it was good for racing and navigating the waves, inflatable SUP boards had their cons, too. It’s very much fragile and cumbersome, making it impractical for a lot of paddlers. The elite SUP enthusiasts still prefer the durability of hardboards, while more casual goers are satisfied with the touring types.
Stand-up paddleboarding has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go. But think of it, the sport continues to grow as there are a lot of designs and types to choose from.
Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle board vs. Epoxy Stand-Up Paddle Board
To answer the question in the title of this article, let’s talk about the specifics first. The stability of an inflatable SUP board is mostly dependent on the design’s thickness. This is seen through the difference in rail construction, as a well-made 5-inch board has a uniformly rounded rail. See, increasing the thickness of an inflatable SUP board of the same outline to 6 inches reduces the stability it offers, making it completely different from a hardboard.
With that in mind, inflatable SUP boards have been proven to be more sturdy than epoxy SUPs time and time again. This is thanks to military-grade materials that can withstand scuffs and holes that hardboards can’t. It’s for this reason that inflatable SUP boards are more available in rivers, schools, and rental agencies. It saves the instructors and centers a lot of trouble and money.
In terms of the paddleboarding experience, skimming those waters with an inflatable SUP board is noticeably better. Firstly, the boards are much easier on your body, making falling on them less painful. Its softer deck also means less fatigue, as you’ll be standing on an expensive rubber mat feel of a board for hours on end. The reduced contact pressure means not only relaxed feet, but all that comfort traveling up to your hard-working body parts. That’s from your knees, back, all the way up to your neck!
Now, how about travel and ease of use? The good news is that the inflatable SUP boards are much, much lighter than hardboards of a similar size. You can deflate these models, roll them up to fit in a bag. Handy for any kind of travel. It saves up a lot of space and a lot of money! Plus, you can paddle on those locations with the freedom of using your own SUP.
Lastly, what’s storage like? Well, in comparison to hardboards that take up so much space, our main inflatable SUP boards can be stored on a shelf. You don’t even have to consider the logistics of having high ceilings or a big wall for it to fit!
I think it’s safe to say that an inflatable SUP board can match up to the performance of hard boards. The type is flexible, especially since it possesses a rigidity that can rival fiberglass and epoxy boards. A high-quality inflatable SUP board means that you can paddle one on flat water, small waves, and even white water! It can even have up to 20% more volume, rendering it more stable and supporting more weight. Indeed, I recommend inflatable SUP boards to both casual and competitive paddleboarding alike.
How to Choose between an Inflatable SUP Board and Epoxy SUP Board
Now, you don’t feel really sure which between the two models you should pick? I’ve got you on this one. To know which one is the best for you, let’s look at this in terms of four things.
Is It Portable?
With inflatable SUP boards, you don’t have to worry about carrying them everywhere, as you can deflate them and roll them up to the size of a sleeping bag. Just toss them into a travel bag with everything else you need. Now, you get to spare yourself from all of the pesky airline surfboard fees.
On the other hand, hard paddleboards require you to have a large car and the right equipment for you to bring with you on your trips.
I recommend getting a hardboard if you’re more of a load-and-go type of person and an inflatable one if you don’t mind inflating and deflating it upon every use.
Do You Have Enough Storage Space?
When contemplating between an inflatable SUP board and hardboard, make sure you have a good grasp of how much space you have at home and how much you’re willing to accommodate. If the place is quite tight and with minimal room, I suggest you get an inflatable SUP board.
Now, if you’re set on getting the harder variants, have a spot for one during SUP season and off-season. Make sure that there is a lot of clearance so you can still move the board around the room. Take note that the recommended clearance is about 9-12 feet long.
Is It Durable?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, inflatable SUP boards can match up to hard boards’ sturdy builds. If you drop an inflatable SUP board, you don’t worry about those scuffs and scratches! You might stress out more once you drop hard boards, as any damage would require immediate repair. That’s bad for the wallet, too.
See, now that’s why you see more of the inflatable types in the whitewater and rocky rivers.
Does It Perform Well?
This one is especially important to those who love to paddle on more intense waters, those who follow through long expeditions, or those who SUP competitively. Admittedly, hard paddleboards provide superb performance compared to inflatable ones. These are more agile, have better glides, and catch waves more easily.
But according to a certain speed test, hard paddleboards were discovered to be 5% faster than inflatable SUP boards. So, inflatables aren’t that far behind in terms of performance.
If you are looking for an inflatable SUP board, check out my review of this Atoll SUP board. Check out the pumps I reviewed too.
Proper Care for Inflatable SUP Boards
Now, that you’re up to speed on what you need to know about inflatables, it’s time to talk about caring for your trusted board. In this section, I’ll cover all the answers to your questions. I hope this helps!
How Long Do Inflatable SUP Boards Last?
First things first, you have to know the average lifespan of an inflatable paddleboard. It’s actually around 2 to 12 years, but there are still a lot of factors at play. Think about the quality, how you use your board, how long it is exposed to sunlight. Inflatable SUP boards can get pricey, too, so better take good care of it so you can have it take you for many, many journeys.
Can You Repair Them?
You most certainly can! And you can do it either by yourself or a qualified repair shop. For self-repairs, you can use the patch kits which come with some inflatable SUP board packages. This kit is mostly used for holes, of course.
Nowadays, this need to patch is rare for performance-level SUPs. These circumstances usually come about due to significant damage from pointed rocks and careless use of your boards.
What PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) Should I Inflate My Paddleboard?
For something high-end, I recommend inflating it to a pressure range of 15-17 PSI. Once filled up to that level, a good inflatable paddleboard will achieve optimal rigidity. Some companies recommend going upwards of 20-25 PSI, but that provides little to no rigidity and puts much more stress on the board.
Should I Keep My Inflatable Paddleboard Inflated?
If you don’t have any problems with transport or storage, there is no need to deflate it. There aren’t any downsides to keeping it like that, as long as you keep it away from direct sunlight or in a hot vehicle. I assure you that there won’t be anything wrong with keeping it inflated for a time.
Now, you’re all set with what you need to know about inflatable stand-up paddleboards. After a short brush-up on its history and globalization, a comparison between inflatables and other hardboards can give you a bigger picture. And I even added how to care for SUP once you get one. But, hopefully, this article is helpful in your journey of picking a paddleboard.
Are you still brimming with questions about inflatable SUP boards that you want to be answered? Join the community on my Facebook and Instagram to meet more like-minded people. We’re all excited to chat with you!
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Here at Stand Up Paddle board world I try to show you as many different paddle boards as I can. I’m a true water sports fanatic and I would love to get everyone enthusiastic about my passion as well. Read my different reviews and find out which paddle board is the best to get you started with this amazing sport!
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