A lot of people included have been skeptical about inflatable paddleboards and whether they can pop or not. When I was looking for a board, I wanted something hard and rigid, not a pool toy that could deflate after I scraped across a shell on the sand. But were my preconceived notions misguided?
Inflatable paddleboards will not pop during regular use. Generally, inflatable boards are as tough and durable as rigid boards. The same places that could potentially compromise an inflatable paddleboard board would also be hazardous for the rigid ones.
The rest of the article will cover the pros and cons of inflatable paddleboards versus traditional rigid models. You can then decide for yourself if they are any good and worth giving a try out on the water.
What Areas Can Inflatable Paddleboards Be Used?
Inflatable stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) can be used in all the places a rigid one can be used. In fact, Inflatables are preferred when being used in white-water river conditions because of their durability.
What Areas as Dangerous?
There are places where an inflatable SUP could be more susceptible to puncture, but these places would be hazardous for a rigid board as well.
One example would be paddling over oyster beds. If you have ever been unlucky enough to have stepped on an oyster, you know that they can be extremely sharp. Unfortunately, what those shells do to your body, painful cuts, slashing rips, and deep punctures can also do to your board.
A rigid board will come away with dings, scratches, and possible punctures. An inflatable could be scratched, but not deep enough to lose air, or could be punctured. If punctured, you have minimal time to get back.
While doing my due diligence, I was able to debunk the myth that inflatable SUPs were super susceptible to puncture. I also came across a few more benefits to inflatables. Once I owned one, I found out, first-hand, what I was missing out on.
What Are the Pros of Inflatable Boards?
1. Inflatable SUPs are Lighter
Forty pounds doesn’t sound all that heavy. That is what my 11 foot rigid SUP weighs. If you add on a 1/2 mile walk in the sand with a gusty breeze, you will realize that 40 pounds can become quite cumbersome.
You are not only keeping that weight off the ground, but you also have to stabilize it against the wind. SUPs have convenient carry handles, but an 11-foot board is still cumbersome and will catch the wind and act as a sail. There have been times where I was nearly worn out just from the walk from my truck to the water.
My Inflatable SUP, on the other hand, is about half the weight of my rigid board. It makes it a much more enjoyable trip from the car to the water. It also makes getting on and off the vehicle easier, especially if you own a taller vehicle like a van. Trying to hoist a 40-pound stand-up paddleboard onto your rack after a long paddle can be a real struggle.
2. Inflatable SUPs are Easier to Store
If you don’t have a lot of space to store a SUP, an inflatable is a better choice than a rigid SUP. After you finish with your paddle, you can rinse your board, then make sure it is dry, and then just roll it back up. Once rolled, it only takes up about as much space as a sleeping bag.
If you are using your SUP a lot, you can store it inflated. It will store just the same as a rigid SUP, so you do have options.
3. It’s Easier to Travel With Inflatables
Along the same lines as storing a SUP, traveling with a is much easier with an inflatable than with a rigid.
An inflatable SUP can be rolled into a carry-on-sized package. It can be placed in a large backpack or a small suitcase if you are flying. My inflatable even has a blade that breaks down into three sections. It and the pump can also be placed in the bag.
If you were going camping near a remote lake and had to hike in, a SUP in a backpack would be a lot easier to take than a rigid board.
4. Inflatables Have a Softer Deck
Most likely, you are going to fall off your board at one time or another. You will certainly part ways with it if you are SUP surfing. It is never any fun to get hit in the head, but I can tell you from experience that getting hit in the head is much worse with a rigid board, than with an inflatable.
So, especially for those who plan to surf with your SUP, an inflatable will be kinder to your body when the two meet suddenly.
Most rigid stand-up paddleboards will have a padded traction pad. But after the pad, there is no give. This adds to leg, ankle, and foot fatigue on long paddles. The added give of the inflatable board helps with leg fatigue.
On a personal note, I like to set an anchor and sit with my legs over the side. I will read, have a snack, or most likely fish for a while in this position. The Softer deck of the inflatable makes sitting for a while much more comfortable.
5. Inflatable SUPs are Less Expensive
When I bought my first SUP many years ago, there was no way I was going to buy a “raft.” I was determined to find the best oversized surfboard that would hold all 200 pounds of me and not cost more than $1000. I accomplished my goal and got an excellent board for right at a grand.
Recently, after being impressed with one of my buddy’s inflatable boards, I bought one. He spent $750 on his plus another couple hundred for leash and paddle. I looked deep into the specs and found one that I absolutely love that only cost $275 with paddle, pump, and leash included in the price.
There are a few minor drawbacks to it, But I have to tell you, If I had it to do over again, I would definitely have gone with the inflatable first. Not that $300 is throw around money for me, but if I decided I didn’t like to paddleboard, then I could have gotten away from the sport a lot cheaper.
As it turns out, I still have both boards. Oh, one other thing. I would have loved to have two boards when I started. Sometimes it is just more fun to share being out on the water with someone else. At the price difference, I listed above, I could have bought three inflatable SUPs for the price of my one hardboard.
Notable Drawbacks of Inflatables
While the pros largely outweigh the cons, in my opinion, there are still a few negative things that I thought were worth mentioning.
1. Prep Time
The biggest drawback for me when using an inflatable SUP is the prep time. Even this is just a minor inconvenience. The first time you set up an inflatable SUP takes only 15-20 minutes, and that is coming out of the box it was shipped in. Pulling it out of its storage bag and getting it ready for the day takes about 5-10 minutes, including pumping it up.
One little caveat to this is that you can save some time with a SUP by waiting to inflate it until you get to the water. You can just transport it in its storage bag and not have to deal with the hassle of strapping it to the roof of your vehicle. Like I said, though, either way, it’s no big deal.
Putting a rigid board away, all you have to do is rinse it thoroughly, hang it on the wall, or place it in a rack. An inflatable, on the other hand, needs to be rinsed, but you have to wait for it to dry, or actively dry it before you can roll it up for storage. Otherwise, you will dramatically shorten the life of the board by allowing mold and mildew to grow.
2. Maneuverability and Tracking
With all of the great things about Inflatable SUPs, there is one category where I think they come up a bit short: Performance. Now you will hear different stories from different people, but I like how a hard stand-up paddleboard performs better than my inflatable SUP.
The most significant issues are that my inflatable SUP tends not to go as straight and is not as quick to turn. Inflatables are, in my experience, more susceptible to wind. It is harder to keep an inflatable going in a straight line with a crosswind blowing. This is because the inflatable rides higher in the water.
A rigid SUP, on the other hand, sits lower in the water. While this reduces the effect that wind has on it, it does increase the impact that current has on the board.
So, there are a few of the drawbacks to having an inflatable that I have run into. And again, these are just nit-picky things. If you wanted to put a number on it, I would say that performance on an inflatable SUP is 10% less than on a Rigid stand-up paddleboard.
Will My Dog Pop an Inflatable Paddle Board?
Inflatable paddle-boards are extremely resistant to punctures. Unless your dog has razor-sharp nails, you are probably fine. However, if you want to trim his or her nails before going out on the board, it might not be a bad idea. And definitely leave the cat at home.
Inflatable SUP Construction
Without going into too much techie detail, I wanted to talk a little bit about the construction of inflatable SUPs. The basic shape of the SUP is achieved by cross-stitching two pieces of material. Cross stitching allows for the board to have the SUP form.
This form is then covered in a liquid PVC coating, which gives the board its water-tightness and helps the board be puncture-resistant. The more layers that are applied increase the strength and weight of the board.
The stronger the stitching and PVC application, the more air the board can hold. The more psi a stand-up paddleboard is able to handle, the more rigid it can become.
Word of caution, though. Don’t over-inflate an inflatable SUP or use a high-pressure pump. Otherwise, your SUP really will go POP!
After using many boards, including an 11-foot inflatable, I have come to realize that inflatable SUPs are as tough and durable as a rigid board, if not tougher. I highly recommend giving one a try, it’s a great option for most people.
Thanks for reading!
I have lived near the coast most of my life and I love all types of watersports. Stand-up Paddleboarding is my favorite way to get out on the water, stay fit, and have fun. I was the founder of FitFunSUP.com