Inflatable VS Hard Paddleboards

Paddle boards come about in multiple varieties. Despite the multiple choices that are on the market, they can be pretty much categorized into two main types: inflatable, and hard.

Which is the Best PaddleBoard to Purchase?

Since paddle boards basically have two main types, you may have a tough time deciding on the best one to purchase. All in all, both are good. However, your board of choice should be dictated by the specific use as well as various specifications you desire. The specifications should include the rigidity of the board and the durability. The quality is also a key factor when purchasing any kind of board. With that said, a good guide would come in handy for you, which is why we created this article. You will gain more knowledge about paddle boards than you probably wanted after reading through the article. When you understand the various pros and cons that go hand in hand, you will be in a much better position to make a better decision when you decide to purchase one.

The prices always vary. A cheaply made board will likely cost you less, but one that comes from a big brand company with guarantees, quality will cost you a lot more. When it comes to the quality of the board, it might be expensive, but they a quality choice is typically a very durable one. On the other hand, cheap inflatable paddle boards don’t often withstand high PSI levels (air pressure), thus resulting in a less rigid board or even popping. These paddleboards are typically made of low-quality materials and even things like high temperatures can ruin them. So many low end companies are categorized as get-rich-quick schemes and thus offer low-quality products. Because of this, it is always good to look out for manufactures who value quality.

Besides quality, inflatable paddle boards are suitable for traveling. However, heavy-duty paddle boards are preferred since they are less prone to the wear and tear. Nonetheless, they both have various pros and cons. So let take a deeper look into those pros and cons starting with Inflatable SUPS first:

inflatable paddle boards

Inflatable PaddleBoards

The newest of the growing breed of paddleboards. You would first think that it might be too soft and not able to support someone without flexing in the middle, but amazingly, most are very ridged and can withstand a lot of weight and abuse.

There are so many inflatable standup paddleboards to choose from and the price ranges are all over the place. Most inexpensive inflatable boards are all made in the same place (China) and just have different stickers or logos slapped on them. You can expect these boards to last a season or two and be prone to puncture easily.

I would generally stick with a bigger brand name company like Tower Paddle Boards or Isle ISUP’s so that you get a decent warranty and good customer service.

The pros of inflatables:

  • They are easy to transport – They are smaller and more compact when in a deflated state. As a result, they can fit into a backpack, a car trunk among other places. In short, they are quite convenient. On the other hand, hard boards are difficult to transport since their size is fixed; therefore, the size of such boards cannot be tampered with.
  • Suitable for traveling – They are easy to transport which makes them ideal for traveling. Furthermore, these boards are very easy to carry since they weigh less while in their deflated states. As for hard, they are quite inconvenient since they size cannot be reduced. As a result with a hard board, you’ll need a truck or car racks for sure.
  • Soft Surfaces – While paddling lets’ say in a river or any other water body, you may tend to fall. For example, when paddling in a large water body such as a river that has rocks, the displacement by the rocks may be dangerous. As a result, you may want more surface area and displacement. However, since they are soft, you are guaranteed a safe landing spot in case you fall. Also, the soft surface is ideal for beginners.
  • Great Stability – They are some the most stable boards because of their displacement.
  • Needs less storage space – They don’t need a lot of room to store. After deflating an inflatable paddle board, you can store it in a drawer if it was big enough. So if you are low on storage space,this might be a better option.
  • Very Durable – They are more suited to rough terrains. Rough terrains include paddling in areas that have rocky shores. The durability feature is showcased by its ability to bounce off whenever it comes into contact with a hard place such as a rock. However, such paddle boards are very durable unless they are subjected to sharp objects.

The Cons Of Inflatables:

  • Mobility –  They don’t turn as quickly as hard boards.
  • Not As Rigid – An inflatable is rigid, especially after lots of pressure being applied. However, as compared to hard boards such as the fiberglass, inflatable paddleboards do not have the same rigidness.
  • The price – They can be more expensive at times compared to the price of hard SUP.
  • Sinking – They are filled with air, so if something happens and the board pops, it could sink vs a solid board that tends to be made of fiberglass and or foam which will always float.
  • Puncturing – It is much more likely and easier to puncture an ISUP vs a hard paddleboard. This is something to consider before you make any kind of purchase. Keep in mind where you paddle board as to what you choose.

Tips on How to Avoid Buying Low-Quality

To start with, you must check the recommended PSI levels for the specific paddle board you want to purchase. If the PSI of the board appears to be less than 14, you should not buy it. Boards that can withstand a higher PSI tend to have better quality since the threads within the board are stitched together better. With that said, a one with a higher PSI guarantees a higher form of rigidness, thereby ensuring a higher performance. Also, good quality paddle boards can withstand higher temperatures.

Some ISUP’s that I would recommend looking into are:

  • Body Glove Performer
  • Tower Adventurers
  • Shoal Board Co. (Really great prices for what you get.)

hard paddle boards

Hard SUPs

Hard paddle boards come in handy if you prefer a more rigid stand up paddle board. Although an inflatable may gain rigidity after lots of air pressure, hard boards are well….always hard. People with more experience will prefer hard boards since they come in handy when paddling for long distances. Moreover, such boards allow people to glide more efficiently, and they are suitable for large water bodies such as oceans.

Hard boards are the “OG” of paddle boards. They were the first and are always a great choice when you are looking for performance or selection. You can get just about any size and shape in a hard board where as you can’t always do so with an inflatable board. 

Pro’s Of Hard Boards:

  • Strength – They are stronger, I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one much 🙂
  • Size options – It is easier to make them and they have been around longer, so there are just more options available. If you are after a specific length, you won’t always find it in an inflatable.
  • Speed – If you are after straight speed or planing ability, a hard board is the only way to go. There is a reason fast boats are made from fiberglass.
  • Durability – Over time a they will last longer than an inflatable.
  • Rigidity – Hard wins every time. Having a rigid board for racing, fishing, or in the ocean can be very important at times.
  • Cost – Foam can be some of the lowest cost boards on the market. All around some of the best paddle boards for the price in my personal opinion.

Con’s Of Having A Hard PaddleBoard:

  • Storage – Big and bulky, make sure you have room in your house or apartment before you consider buying one. This is one down fall to a hard vs an ISUP.
  • Transporting – If you live in the city or drive a car, this is a major thing to consider. I have a truck and it is still a pain to haul around a 12’6″ touring board.  Inflatables win this battle hands down.
  • Comfort – The name says it all. A lot of this can come down to what kind of pad the board has as well, but compared to an inflatable, the hard board is just firmer and not as easy on the feet.
  • Weight – Not all but most will weigh more than an inflatable will. This is just one more thing to consider if you are going to have to pack your board around a lot.

differnt types of hard paddle boards

Different Types Of Hard SUPS

We now have a better idea of the various pros and cons.  This next list will give you some insight of the various types that are on the market. This list will start with the cheapest and move to the most expensive type of hard boards.

Foam Top 

Foam-top boards are made up of foam at the core. The top part of the board is covered by a different type of foam. Then a sheet of plastic is used for the bottom of the board. Foam-top boards are not the best boards to purchase since they do puncture easily. If the board gets punctured, water may get into the foam-core. When water gets into the center of the board, the weight of the board increases tremendously. Since a puncture is not repairable on a foam-top board, it is recommended to purchase a higher quality board if you plan to use it a lot.

Fiberglass 

Fiberglass boards are of good quality. The performance of the boards are quite good. As for the build of the paddleboard, the board has a foam core and a fiberglass shell. However, some boards are now being built with carbon fiber. These boards are expensive and good quality. They are often used to surf in large water bodies such as oceans.

These boards are light but quite expensive. All in all, these boards are worth every penny. The shape of the board guarantees high performance. Professionals tend to opt for this style since it is engineered to perfection.

Composite 

Composite boards are made up of fiberglass, a foam core, and they also have additional heavy duty material that serves as a form of protection for the fiberglass to avoid any instance of puncturing the fiberglass. The heavy-duty material can range from plastic or wood. Such boards are quite efficient, and they can also be used in rivers that are quite rocky. They can take much more abuse than a standard fiberglass board.

Wooden / Hand Made

You won’t see many of these on the market if ever, but they are out there and are typically VERY expensive. Typically a wooden board is hand made. I don’t know of any that are not. These take many hours to construct and become works of art when they are complete. I have personally been a part of making one and the time and labor that goes into making one is extreme. These boards normally starts in the thousands and go up from there. Be luck if you ever own one or get the chance to ride one.

Hard boards that I personally recommend are:

paddleboard

Conclusion

You really have two choices: inflatable or hard. The prices vary no matter which you choose. For those who are after value for their money, expensive boards from renowned manufacturers are recommended.  It is a good idea to buy a board that suits the various needs you may have.

For instance, if you are to go paddling in a river that is full of rocks, an inflatable paddleboard is more suitable unless there are sharp rocks. If you are to go paddling in a large water body such as the ocean, a solid is ideal since it is engineered to maneuver better and give you more speed.

In our next blog post, we will talk about Plastic SUP vs fiberglass SUPS. Not all solid sup boards are created equal!

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