SUP 101: How to Inflate an iSUP Correctly and Easily

You’re excited to go paddling on a wide expanse of blue. You either laze around on the crystal surface with not a care in the world or face the froth of the waves head-on. The sun’s high above you and everyone’s splashing out at sea. It’s another day for all watersports-goers out there! 

Everything’s going swimmingly. Especially for you and your inflatable stand-up paddleboard. It held strong and true throughout your journey. Why it’s safe and snug inside its storage bag tucked right next to your accessories. You can’t wait to bring it out and hit the waves. 

But you’re wondering about this one thing. How do I inflate an iSUP correctly? Are there specific parameters I need to know? You ask. 

As always, I got you! In this article, let’s cover a brief history of your trusted paddleboard, the issues you might face upon inflating, how to pump air into your board the right way, and some tips. 

If you’re all set, let me tell you about how those SUPs came into your hands. 

Where Did Inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboards Even Come from?

inflate an isup

Hawaii was the place to be. It’s only natural with surfing as an integral part of their culture. Then and now, stand-up paddleboarding involves standing on boards that float on water as you steer using your paddle. The sport is known for its variety, as you can fish, surf, and even do yoga while on your SUP. Pretty cool if you ask me!

But what if I tell you that the sport wasn’t entirely for recreation? That it has its roots miles away from Hawaii? 

Let’s paddle all the way back to 3000 B.C. We should thank the Peruvians for their reeds-woven Caballitos de Totora. The small vessel needed a bamboo paddle to move around at sea, aiding the locals in fishing. You can say that it’s an ancient ancestor of the SUP. 

Steering forward to hundreds of years later, Captain James Cook saw more SUP and surfing in the Hawaiian Polynesian culture. Surfing was central to their leadership, as the best wave rider was their Chief. Of course, he owned the best board and paddle combo in the area. 

If you can’t tell, I just circled back to Hawaii – specifically in Waikiki. Surf instructors Duke Kahanamoku, Leroy, and Bobby Ah Choy needed to find a way to take photographs of their students during lessons. The solution arrived in the form of John “Pops” Ah Choy, who chilled on an oversized surfboard and paddle. The sport slowly bloomed in Hawaii, but it will be decades later until SUP finds its way into the mainstream.

And that happened during the first few years of the 21st century. Through the photographs of Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton surfing in Maui, SUP rose in popularity among watersports enthusiasts! And yes, they were on surfboards while using paddles.

Naturally, stand-up paddleboarding became a well-known sport. It branches out to different types and various material compositions. It’s all a matter of preference, of course, but I’m here to talk about the inflatable paddleboards.

Now’s here what you need to watch out for while pumping some air into your trusty board. 

How to Inflate an iSUP Correctly and Easily

inflate an isup correctly

Yes, there are several ways to inflate an iSUP and they’re pretty common! While it requires a bit more upkeep and watchful eyes on your end, it’s pretty easy to spot and it can be remedied by always carrying your pump with you. I’ll go into detail in this section.

Watch that Electric Pump

First things first, before you concern yourself with how to inflate an iSUP correctly, you should always check that the electronic gauge is in tip-top shape. When using an electric pump, there is a risk of filling the board too quickly. Minding the gauge ensures that you don’t fill your board with too much air. A good tip is to have a hand pump on the side! You can switch to that one whenever you reach 11 PSI, so you can have full control while pumping. Just keep in mind that it will require more effort to inflate your board.

Oops! The Board is Under-inflated

When pumping your board with air, there is also the risk of under-inflating the board. You have to remember that you need at least 15 PSI of air in your board for it to properly function.

To know if your board is under-inflated, you can expect it to be soft to the point your feet sink into it.

Keep Tabs of the Changing Pressure

Related to the first two issues, you should keep your eye out for the changing pressure of your iSUP due to different weather conditions. For example, paddling with your iSUP under the sun for a while increases the pressure. You can resolve this by taking the time to come back to shore and let some of the excess air out. Of course, skimming colder waters decreases the pressure. With this one, you should always keep your pump close to you to maintain the appropriate PSI while you’re out there!

Gotcha, Let’s Start Pumping!

And we’re finally here! This section will answer the question that’s been swimming in your mind! How to inflate an iSUP? I’ve included the step-by-step approach when using both an electric pump and the manual pump. Both do a good job in inflating your inflatable stand-up paddleboard, so I’m keeping covering both tools. 

Inflate an iSUP: How about an Electric Pump?

  1. Prepare your pump and gauge. 
  2. Take your board out of its storage bag and unroll it. 
  3. Ensure that the inflation cap, or yellow pin of the valve, is upright. This means that the air does not escape right after you finish pumping air into your board. If you’re unaware of how the right fill orientation looks, keep an eye out on an arrow and a cap on the pump. 
  4. Turn to the inflation side of your iSUP. Take the pump and attach its hose to your paddleboard. 
  5. Attach the other end of the house to the valve. Twist the lock until tight. 
  6. Start inflating and pay attention. Electric pumps do not stop until they attain a certain PSI. Once it reaches 10 PSI, note the sound of the pump working hard to fill up the rest.
  7. Once you get to 12 PSI, you may opt to use a manual pump to finish the pumping process or continue inflating with your electric one. Do not let it exceed 15 PSI. 
  8. Disconnect your pump, pull up, and replace the cap.
  9. Bring your iSUP out at sea and start paddling!

Inflate an iSUP: How about a Hand Pump?

  1. Prepare your pump and gauge. 
  2. Take your board out of its storage bag and unroll it on a smooth surface. 
  3. Install the gauge and attach the hose to your pump. 
  4. Unscrew the cap on your board. 
  5. Again, ensure that the valve head is upright. Note that when it is entirely pushed in, it lets you deflate your iSUP. When it’s pushed out, it allows for inflation. 
  6. Attach the other end of the hose to the valve. 
  7. Leave the pump standing firm ground. Plan your feet on either side of the pump. Position your hands facing the center of the handles. 
  8. Start inflating. You may notice the first few pumps until you reach 10 PSI requires minimal effort. A little past that requires much more. 
  9. Once you reach 15 PSI, disconnect the pump. Quickly twist the hose shut and pull up.
  10. Replace the cap. 
  11. Hit the water and start paddling!

More Tips on How to Inflate an iSUP Correctly

While I’ve finally answered your pressing question on how to inflate an iSUP, I would still love to give you some extra tips! Inflating your board sounds like a simple task, but I still want you to get the easiest experience possible. After all, you will need a lot of your time and energy once you hit the water with your board and paddle.

Know the Right Valve Stem Position

I’ve mentioned this earlier in the step-by-step approach. I’m repeating it here to ensure proper inflation of your board. Insert the hose into the valve end by pushing down, turning clockwise until it stops turning. If the fit is too loose or not suitable at all, consider changing the rubber washer for a thicker or thinner one.

Ensure Proper Connection

When inflating your board, ensure a proper connection with the valve head upright and no air rushing out. Make sure that the stopper is fitted correctly until you find it difficult to inflate on the upstroke. Remember to stop pumping once you reach 15 PSI.

Pump with Your Legs

Since inflating your inflatable paddleboard requires much work from your arms and back, use your legs to pump up and down once you reach that difficult spot. Transferring all of that work on the bigger joints of your legs means that you can store more energy for all that paddling!

You Can Take Breaks!

inflate an iSUP correctly and relax
Go and inflate that iSUP correctly! It’s worth it.

This is for those who prefer hand pumps all the way! When pumping air into your board manually, take multiple breaks to save up on all that energy. You shouldn’t waste that all in one go since you’ll be paddling for a long while out in the expansive seas. Trust me, once you inflate an iSUP correctly, you will thoroughly enjoy it. It is worth it!

And you’ve finally reached the end of this article on how to inflate an iSUP correctly! I’ve covered a brief history of paddleboards, usual issues encountered during pumping, a step-by-step procedure when using both hand and electric pumps, and of course, some tips. I hope that this guide is helpful for those who are new to the sport and even for those who find the inflation process difficult. After all, you have to save up all of that and energy into the actual paddling! You can bookmark this article in case you need to remember a few things! 

Would you like to hear more experiences about inflatable paddleboards from avid SUPers? Thisg like how to inflate an iSUP can be answered pretty easily, all you have to do it ask. Let us know all about it! Drop by my Facebook and Instagram to interact more with me and the SUP community!

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