All Out War
How do you want your paddle board adventure to turn out? Do you picture yourself paddling rocky rivers, engaging in a little sup surfing, or taking a leisure ride through the river?
Board design varies more than you would think, and the differences between hard sup boards and inflatable sups are many.
They each have their own distinct advantages and features, but in the end, the best choice will be determined by what kind of paddling you want to engage in.
I’ll be breaking down the two major kinds of paddle boards. Pointing out what they are good for and how they will serve you.
The Benefits of Inflatable SUP Boards
Let’s start off with inflatable boards. I would consider inflatable paddle boards (iSUP boards) to be the best paddleboard for beginners. This is because these boards are easy to transport. Transporting hard paddle boards can be a pain because there is no way to work with their size.
With inflatable paddle boards, you can take the air out of them, fold them into a bag and take them wherever you please, making a great beginner-friendly option.
An inflatable sup board also weighs less than a hard board, and you are less likely to get injured using one. This is because this type of board isn’t as stiff and heavy as a hard paddle board. If you were to fall off your paddle board and bump into it, the pain would be significantly less than with a hard board.
Paddle boarding is easier and safer with an inflatable paddle board.
The Benefits of Hard Paddle Boards
Everything you just read about inflatable paddle boards may have convinced you to join the land of quality inflatables. However, hard paddle boards have many advantages of their own, even epoxy boards can count on many features that inflatables simply cannot.
The main reason why you would want a hard board is performance. Hard paddle boards perform a lot better when it comes to handling waves and varied weather and water conditions. Strong winds are pushed aside, and a heavy current generally isn’t enough to capsize you.
Hard paddle boards are faster to get into the water since you don’t have to wait for them to inflate. Once in the water, hard boards can travel at faster speeds than an inflatable paddle board.
Hard boards give you better glide, performance, and speed than inflatable sup paddleboards.
Figuring Out Which Paddle Board Is the Best for You
Alright, now both types of paddle boards sound appealing. How are you ever to choose between either one? That is what this section is for.
I’ll be running down all of the key qualities and features that you need to consider before purchasing a paddle board. As you progress through each section, consider which ones are the most important to you.
Only with a solid understanding of what paddle boards offer, will you be able to make the right choice between inflatable and hard boards. Remember that certain factors, such as whether you own a large car or not, will also be the key to choosing wisely.
Paddle Board Portability
If you thought loading up your vehicle with your skis, bindings, boots, and jackets was bad, just wait until you have to safely secure a hard paddle board to the roof of it.
When it comes to portability, it is obvious that hard boards are not the best option. You can’t shrink them down to size. You’ve got to purchase either roof racks or, if you’d rather avoid that option: foam blocks and ratchet straps, in order to load them onto your car.
Sounds like a lot of work… because it is. Not to mention all of the extra money and time that you will have to spend buying and then installing everything.
On the other hand, inflatable boards can shrink down to a fraction of their inflated size. Better still, most inflatable paddle boards come with a backpack that you can use to store your deflated sup and air pump.
Transportation is an easy win for the inflatable paddleboards.
How Much Storage Space Is Offered?
Storage space is important because many people love to paddle board with a companion. Sometimes this companion takes the form of a dog and other times, a loved one, one that doesn’t walk on four legs… I hope.
Storage space is a category that is determined on a board-by-board basis. I’ve seen some truly gargantuan inflatable sups and some tiny hard paddle boards. Typing doesn’t matter, however, whether you want fiberglass or epoxy boards, you should search for a board that has action mounts and parts to attach D-rings and other paddle board accessories.
Larger and wider boards tend to have the aforementioned features. But the wider your board is the more speed and acceleration you lose. If this sounds like a worthy trade-off then no problem, but as your skill level increases, you may want a challenge.
A challenge that your wide and cumbersome board will not be able to give you. Minimal storage space does have its benefits.
Which Board has Higher Durability?
Durability comes down to build quality. Any paddle board that is made from PVC material is going to last you a while. Even with intense usage.
Most people would think that an inflatable board will pop upon receiving a significant impact, but these boards are more durable than the word “inflatable” lets on.
In fact, inflatable paddle boards, on average, are more durable than epoxy sups. This is because they have a thick surface and tight drop-stitch core technology that holds it all together.
Solid paddle boards (solid SUP boards) chip and crack; they aren’t impenetrable. Sure, a sharp rock could still ruin your day, but for the most part, inflatable boards tend to be more durable than solid boards or rigid paddle boards.
Keep in mind that you should still be wary of any hard surfaces when sup surfing or paddling through a river. Paddle boards are durable, but they are not unbreakable, and inflatable paddle boards lose their strength over time.
Hard sup will last longer since they have more volume to rely on. It takes more to crack an inflatable paddle board but less time for it to weaken. Although, I will be giving this point to the inflatable paddle boards.
Which Board Performs Better?
The clear winner here is hard sups. A hard paddle board has more mass, this extra thickness allows it to brush off harsh winds and heavy waves. This is why hard paddle boards are more durable in the long run and why they perform better in general.
But there is more to their overall performance than just stability. A hard paddle board is leagues faster than an inflatable sup. Their tight structure and weight allow them to barrel through any inconveniences, making it easier for them to pick up speed and maintain it.
They reach higher speeds due to higher weight capacity than that of an inflatable sup board. Due to your weight not having as much of an effect on the weight of the paddle board, it can carry you with greater ease.
Higher performance has a clear winner, and it is hard paddle boards of any kind.
Which Board is More Affordable?
This is another category won by the inflatables. Inflatable sups are cheaper than a hard paddle board on average. The only thing that you’ll have to look out for is buying too cheap. Remember that when it comes to paddle boarding, the lower the price gets, the lower the quality.
The Life Span of Inflatable Paddle Boards
I touched on this briefly in the durability category of the previous section. Inflatable boards are more durable than solid paddle boards or epoxy boards. The military-grade PVC used in their construction is heavy-duty.
However, if you are wondering how long the life span of an inflatable paddle board is, I’ve got the answer for you. First and foremost, it depends on how often you use it.
Frequent uses will give you around three years of longevity. For those that only paddle on occasion, you can expect your SUP to last you around four years, anything more than that is rare.
My Final Thoughts
Paddleboarding is a great activity for the mind and body. As long as you know what kind of paddling you want, the board will come to you. For those that crave speed and top paddle board performance, get a hard paddle board, also known as solid paddle boards or rigid boards.
Everyone else will be happy with an inflatable board. There is not much more to it than that.