Some people who love paddleboards maybe have questions about the difference between the hard and inflatable paddle board. Actually, both technologies have different advantages in some circumstances and have some overlap in the middle.
For all around leisure paddling, the inflatable SUPs are much better overall, due to the the advantage in durability, portability, weight, versatility, and injury prevention. But if you are going to buy a board mainly for SUP surfing or racing, the hard board will contribute to a certain technique. It is ok to feel stuck between the two because both types of SUPs have their benefits. Figuring which type is right for you all depends on your needs and lifestyle.
To help you make decision easier, we will go through the various factors that differentiate hard boards and inflatables.We guarantee that after you finish reading this, you will have your own decision.
10 Key Factors to Decide the Difference Between the Inflatable SUP and Solid SUP
1. Material and components
4.Durability and stability
8.Maintenance and management
9.Wind and chop
11. Less Fuss
Inflatable stand up paddle boards, or iSUP, are manufactured from layers of PVC plastic with woven fibers that connect the top and the bottom( called drop-stitch seam). Drop stitching is a series of fibers that form a web, allowing boards to hold their shape. By adding multiple layers of PVC, combined with various gluing and sealing techniques. Throw carbon fiber into the mix. Then we can see the inflatables can be handled like higher performance boards. Some factories will put a strip of carbon fiber along the length of a board. It can be further to stiffen the ride.
It typically comes with a carrying case about the size of a large traveling bag. Isup comes with a valve that the operator can attach to a pump (most often included with Isup) to inflate the boards, normally around 15 PSI. Some even are equipped with strips or rods to increase the stiffness. Some come with flexible, built-in fins with fin boxes for replacement fin options. Isup is bit lighter than most hard boards because they are mostly constructed with air and plastic.
Hard paddle boards are often considered the traditional board, also commonly referred to as epoxy boards. These are made using an EPS foam core wrapped in multiple layers of fiberglass and resin. The foam core creates buoyancy, while layers of fiberglass creates durability and rigidity. The epoxy finish works to harden the board.
Many epoxy boards have air vent installed on the deck, used to prevent delamination the epoxy resin from the EPS foam blank. It is important to make sure that the board is light enough for you to manage, provide ample floatation (volume) for your weight.
Inflatables are the easiest type of paddle board to transport. You do not need a large truck, SUV or van because when deflated, inflatables roll up and pack down so you can toss it in a close when not in use, throw it in your car for a road trip, or check it in for a flight, carry it on your motorcycle or bicycle and you are ready to go. Most manufactures will include backpack so you can you can take your sup on a hike to a remote lake.
Hard board are more cumbersome. Transporting an epoxy SUP requires protective board socks or travel bags, car racks, and the space needed for the board. Hard paddle boards weigh more so they will be heavier to carry. Damage and dings are more likely to happen in transit to the water.
When you choose a paddle board between an inflatable and a hard board, you need to take your home storage space into consideration. If your home has insufficient room, an inflatable will be your best choice. You can roll it up and keep it out of direct sunlight. Once in the backpack, you can store it behind the sofa, under the bed, in the garage…
After your purchase a hard board, you need to consider where you will store it during SUP season and off season. You need confirm whether you have clearance to maneuver your board(9 to 12 feet long). There are numerous paddle board wall racks that can carry multiple boards.
Durability and stability
The durability of a paddle board should be one of your first thoughts. When you are out on a water adventures, you do not want to be worrying about how fragile your board is. Inflatables are more durable than hard paddle boards. Inflatable paddle boards are significantly harder to damage and will withstand the majority of common accidents with zero to little damage level.The layered construction of inflatable SUPs reinforced firmness with durability.You will have more protection, because its inflatable nature will be less likely to hurt yourself when you should fall on it. If you drop your hard board from the car roof, there is a chance that it will come with a ding. Frankly, the only real concerns with an inflatable are the seams. Cheaply made Isup may not use quality materials and techniques, and run the risk of the seams splitting and leaking. However, major damage like a puncture to a seam is more difficult to fix than a crack in a hardboard.
It may surprise you that inflatables can compete with hard board for stability.This comes with the advances in drop stitch and PVC, allowing for a solid platform.The inflatables have fat, rounded rails and the thickness is the same from the nose to the tail. Oftentimes,Isup have more volume and higher weight capacities, which can help when it comes to the stability. Of course, stability is going to depend on the width of your chosen board and the strength of your core. A board with a higher weight capacity is generally more stable. Inflatable SUPs tend to be more beginner-friendly than hard boards.
If you are interested in a higher performing SUP for your daily workout or even getting into racing, hard boards offer better glides, momentum, less drag and more stable while cutting through the choppy water at a faster pace. Most professional paddlers have a group of hard boards of various shapes and sized. Hard boards are also a much better choice if you plan on surfing,compete, or going to for longer distance. The rigidity of the hard boards will give you a lot more control. You will get better maneuverability from a solid board. An inflatable SUP does not lack performance. High grade material result in a rock-solid deck and a rigid board that is perfect for yoga, fishing,and taking passengers on board. The stability is a major plus-point for inflatable boards.
The price of the paddle board depends on how specialized you go. Most retailers bundle everything together so you get a board, paddle, leash, fins, and pump(if you are going for an inflatable).
A good high-end inflatable stand up paddle board can cost between $500 and $1600. We always recommend you purchase for the price range for an Isup to ensure you get the best durability and lifespan.
High quality epoxy boards can cost between $1300 and $2000 or even more. This is because the materials are more expensive, it is a longer process for manufacturing, and shipping and handling cost are higher.
Inflatable SUPs always lighter than a hardboard with the same dimensions while offering greater weight support. A lot of inflatable boards weight somewhere in the low to mid 20 pounds range, while hard boards can weight anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds. This difference in weight between inflatable paddle board vs. hard paddle board also affects their performances in the water.
Maintenance and management
The maintenance and repair process may not be one of the first things people think about.
If an inflatable SUP gets a tear or puncture in the PVC, you have to get vinyl repair glue and fix a patch in place.This can be difficult, and many people get it wrong if they don’t know what they’re doing.
Hard paddle boards are far easier to repair.Dings and scratches are only superficial and you can continue to use the board. If there’s a crack through the fiberglass, you need to repair it with resin.
However, major damage like a puncture to a seam will be more difficult to fix than a crack in a hardboard.
Additionally, both inflatables and hard boards degrade with prolonged sun exposure. Over time, there can be issues with the glue and PVC material holding inflatables together, while hard boards will discolor and suffer a weaker outer layer. In comparison, a well built and properly maintained epoxy hard board can last a very long time.
Remember to always wash off saltwater from both inflatable and hard paddle boards for good maintenance practice.
Wind and chop
Hard boards are typically sleeker with much thinner rails. Hard boards will keep you lower to the water and won’t get blown around.This means that there is less surface area for the wind to hit and affect the direction that you are pointing in. If you are smaller, hard boards will definitely give your way more stability during a windy day.
inflatable SUP's are more flexible than hard boards which leads to lower performance and a wobbly, less stable feel and absorbs energy, resulting in lower board speeds. The flex is especially noticeable in rough conditions and in the surf. Flex is less much of an issue in smooth, flat water, so it depends what you plan to use the board for.
You’ve all seen people sweating and pumping their inflatable SUPs on a sunny day. So you can choose an electric air pump to pump your isup. We have an article to talk about how to pump Isup with an electric air pump. Hard boards can just pop off the roof rack and hit the water. iSUPs need some love and attention.
Keep in mind that you will need to inflate and deflate your inflatable before and after you go paddling. If you’re more of a load and go type of person, a hard paddle board will be your best friend.
One of the largest differences between an inflatable paddle board and a regular hard paddle board comes down to your preference of convenience versus performance. Ultimately, whether you’ll want to buy an inflatable or hard SUP will be determined by the type of activities you want to do with it. If you’re looking for a more recreational, easy to use board, an inflatable is the best option. If you want something geared for high performance, and have the room to store it, a hard board will be a great pick.