Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard Pros And Cons

I’ve been paddling inflatable SUP’s for a few years now and over that time I have become very clear as to the pros and cons of using an inflatable board.

I personally think there are a lot of great pros to using an inflatable stand-up paddleboard. However I thought it was important to share both the good and the bad before deciding whether it is right for you.

We’ll start with the positive aspects of owning an ISUP first.

Pros

Easy to transport – The most common reason for wanting an inflatable board seems to be because they are extremely easy to transport.

They are compact and small when deflated and fit nicely into a large carry bag/backpack. You can transport them easily in the trunk of your car, in an RV, on a larger boat or even on an airplane.

Basically they are very convenient to take anywhere. I have even known people to take them on a cruise ship, which is pretty awesome!

Great for traveling – This goes hand in hand with the above comment on how easy they are to transport.

It can be very difficult and not to mention costly to travel with a fiberglass board.

Inflatables make it super easy. You can check them onto an airplane often with no extra fees as they don’t weight very much or take up much space.

Bringing a board along on your travels opens up a whole world of possibilities.

You will have the opportunity to paddle in waters that you never would have been able to otherwise.

Softer surface to cushion your fall – Everyone falls at some point while stand-up paddling. Hopefully the weather and the water are warm but it’s inevitable, especially when first starting out or when paddling in waves.

I find that although ISUP’s can be extremely rigid, they do not have the same hard surface as a fiberglass boards do.

Therefore if you should fall, you are less likely to feel the impact. This can be especially great for beginners or children.

Very stable – For the most part I would say that inflatable SUP’s are more stable than a hard-shell board.

I find them much easier to learn on and in general just an overall more stable ride.

Can easily store in a small space – There is no need for a garage or storage shed.

These boards can be deflated, rolled up into their carry bag and stored in a closet.

For this reason they are great for people who lack storage space.

Extremely durable – Believe it or not ISUP’s are actually better suited for river paddling and rocky shores.

These boards are not flimsy and whereas a fiberglass board might get dinged if it crashes into rocks, an inflatable will just bounce right off.

They are tough and unless you really abuse it by jabbing sharp objects into it, any type of repairs is unlikely.

Great for dogs – Since I got a new dog this year, I knew that I needed to take him paddling with me.

My inflatable board has been perfect for him. It is stable and the surface allows he to sit without his paws sliding around as he might do on a fiberglass board.

They are the ideal choice for those who want to SUP with their pup!

Cons

Now on to the cons…

Maneuverability – Although I rarely have any issue with this myself I will admit that an inflatable board is not as quick or easy to maneuver as a fiberglass board.

The hard-shell boards can be sleek and shaped for quick response. Except for a couple of inflatable SUP’s that I have tried, I would say they do not turn or respond quite as fast as a fiberglass board.

Rigidity – If you get the inflatable board inflated to the proper air level, they are extremely rigid and they perform well.

However it is still an inflatable and will not be quite as rigid as a fiberglass board.

Price – They are not cheap. Many people think that inflatable SUP’s will be much cheaper than a fiberglass board.

However in my experience they can be just as pricey. The majority of them are a quality product and the price reflects that.

Flex – Flex or a sinking in the middle of the board is a common complaint with inflatable stand-up paddleboards.

This is something that I experienced myself when I first started out and felt very frustrated with it as flex in the middle really limits the performance.

However over time I have learned that most of us who have had that problem simply did not have the board inflated to the proper level.

If you take the time to get the board inflated properly there will be no flex… especially with the good boards.

Typically the heavier you are, the more air pressure the board will need.

Bottom Line

There you have it… the good and the bad to owning an inflatable SUP. In my opinion they are totally worth it and my board of choice.

I use them all year round and love the convenience that they offer.

If you decide that an ISUP is right for you then our Top 5 inflatable SUP list is a good place to start your search.

Comments

  1. Well, the best thing about an inflatable is you can get it on a plane! So I use an inflatable when I fly, and a hard board when I drive my own car.

  2. Jessica Harlan says:

    Thank you for such an informational site! I’ve been agonizing over the right ISUP and your reviews are so helpful. Leaning toward the Sea Eagle Longboard, thanks to your review.

    At a SUP class I took, the instructor was a fan of inflatables (she owns the NRS Earl 6) but warned that one big drawback is when you’re paddling in cold water, because cold makes air contract, even a fully inflated ISUP will lose pressure when it gets onto cold water. Have you found this to happen to you, and is it something that can be fixed easily? (i.e. do you bring your pump and top off the air while you’re on the water?)

    • That is true with all inflatable SUP’s and kayaks. In very cold water/weather they can lose some air. I’ve never had it be an issue however and I’ve paddled right through the winter months. I wouldn’t personally give it a second thought unless you were going on a all day or multi-day adventure in freezing cold weather. In that case you might want to bring your pump along and add a few pumps half way through the day just to top up, which would be very easy to do.

      • Jessica Harlan says:

        Thanks – I am glad to know that it’s not a deal-breaker. Just ordered the Longboard, to take advantage of their big sale that ends today. Again, thank you for the invaluable information on your site, it was so helpful in learning about the world of ISUPs!

  3. Been learning about ISUPs and now deciding on which one will fare the best for use in coastal waters. I live in Singapore, tropical climate and surrounded by sea.
    What should I be looking for in an ISUP and grateful for your recommendation on which one to buy.

    • Hi Gavin, I’ve been to Singapore several times, I have a brother who lives there. I’d recommend a 6″ thick board. I find Singapore water choppy and the 6″ thickness will offer more stability. As for length, it doesn’t really matter, more so depends on what you’re looking for. A longer board will be better for touring and speed, a shorter board will be easier to maneuver and play in surf. I think either the Sea Eagle or the Red paddle boards would be great for your coastal waters. Both are super strong and fine for your crazy humid hot weather 🙂 The Red boards are really popular in Australia… I’m not sure if they would be cheaper to ship over there. Hope that helps, good luck!

      • Thanks Allison, that’s been helpful. I think both the Sea Eagle and Red boards have got local dealers that can help with orders but I’ve been wondering whether I can get a better deal online. Will make my comparisons for price, and thanks once again for your insight. Love the website!

  4. I bought the Sea Eagle 11’6″ needle nose ISUP package it comes with everything but the leash but they sell a good one I also bought, The package includes a nice backpack , A 3 piece SUP Paddle, A four piece kayak paddle,a nice kayak seat,A hand pump,with air gauge,two hoses one for board one for seat, I live in North Florida so in the summer I enjoy it on the ocean, It takes me only 10 minutes to inflate to 15psi, Know one can believe its an inflatable, It is solid no flexibility at all, Now in the winter months because the ocean temperature is only 55 degrees, I use it on the St Mary’s river with it set up as a kayak, It handles so well, I have no trouble paddling up stream even, I have owed canoes and kayaks this thing works better than those going up stream. It loses no air in 50 degree water, Plus the best part is I transport it on my motorcycle no problem at all just but the backpack on and go. People can’t believe that it all fits in the backpack, There’s enough room for life jacket and a towel. The whole package is 1049 dollars but I have A SUP And A Kayak that I can take any where on my motorcycle.

  5. Rex Baeumler says:

    Hi Allison, I appreciate you information on isups.
    I’m wondering if you have tried the Tower adventurer 2 10′ 4″ or Tower iRace 12′ 6″ isups? I was at the beach and a family had one of each of these boards and the Dad let me try the adventurer 2, I liked it but I’m really interested in the iRace, not that I want to race just for the added speed it provides. However the adv. 2 is 32″ wide while the iRace is 30″ wide. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the iRace. Have you tried 30″ wide boards? If so did you notice a big difference in stability? I weigh 215 lb 5′ 8″ tall so factor that in. Thank you, Rex

    • Hey Rex, I haven’t tried either yet unfortunately. I’ve heard good things about the Adventurer 2. The iRace looks great and I imagine it would paddle much faster and smoother than the Adventurer 2. I have paddled many 30″ ISUP’s and I find there is a slight difference in stability between a 30″ and a 32″ width but it won’t be major… especially if they are 6″ thick. The length and thickness of the iRace will help with the stability. I don’t think you’d have any trouble with it.

  6. kathy blanton says:

    Hi Allison,
    I bought the Sea Eagle NN 116, partly due to your recommendation. Your website is awesome, btw. Your dog is adorable too! I have mainly been on the fiberglass boards but rented some inflatables too in the past two summers here in Colorado. I like this board alot, it turns well and goes about as fast as the fiberglass rentals i was on. But I am really finding it to be fairly unstable, It feels like it’s going to tip if i get out of position while paddling just even a little bits, or just even turning my head back to look at something! I’ve had it out about 4 times now in mainly flat water with my feet on the outside of the handle area. I’m wondering if i’m not standing on the right spot on the board? Since it’s got the narrow tip do you need to stand further back or is this just a longer learning curve? i pump it to 12 psi and there’s no flex at all so i don’t think it’s an air pressure issue. Any tips you can give me would be appreciated.

    • Hi Kathy, I think you will feel more stable over time. It is very common to feel unstable when turning your head or getting out of position for the first little while… especially on a board with a pointy tip such as this one. I would suggest making sure the board is inflated to 15 PSI… even if it feels rigid at 12, pump it to 15 anyway. That will help. As far as standing position I usually stand just slightly behind the center carry handle. You could try standing even slightly further back if you’re still feeling unstable but if you go too far the nose will be out of the water. So usually just behind the carry handle is a good spot. Good luck!!… Your stability will improve each time you go out.

  7. Do you know anything about the California Board Company’s Nautic inflatable board?

    • Hi Ron, I haven’t tried the CBC Nautic nor have I heard much about it unfortunately. Just did a little research and it looks like a nice board, the priced is right too. I did review the CBC 132 Current and I liked it a lot. The quality was good and it was fun to paddle. The Nautic looks like a good all-around SUP, probably quite versatile and stable. If you end up trying it I would love to hear your thoughts.

  8. Hi Allison,
    I want to buy a ISUP for two reasons, for exercise and fun, I weigh around 330-340 and have 3 grandchildren
    and another one on the way, the oldest one is 7 and I would like too take her also with me sometimes when I
    go to visit, I would appreciate your advice on which boards you think I should check out, I’m hoping too lose
    around 120 pounds eventually.

    • Hi Frank, Take a look at the NRS Baron 6. It says it holds up to 275 lbs. but they can usually hold much more weight than stated. It’s a big board, stable and rigid. I think it would suit your needs well. The Tower boards are another great option, they can easily hold up to 400 lbs. The Adventurer is the only one I have reviewed and although I found it basic it is super strong and easy to paddle. They have longer boards that might interest you however if you want to paddle with the grandkids. The 12’6″ iRace is a great ISUP, paddles well and would definitely suit your needs. Hope that helps!

  9. Michael O'Hara says:

    Thanks for your recommendations. One thing I’d like to know is the longevity of inflatables. I see warranties from 3 months to 3 years. Do most boards hold up past the warranty? How long before you need to replace an inflatable. I saw a review saying the seams we’re giving out after 2 years on one individual’s paddle board. I haven’t seen very many comments about them wearing out, but would like to know what to expect (generally speaking).
    I’m looking at an aqua marina monster as an entry level family board because of the price and weight capacity. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    • Allison says:

      Hi Michael, If the board is taken care of and stored away out of the elements it should last many years. I have boards that I have been paddling for almost 5 years now and I haven’t had any issues. I expect them to last many more years. That being said leaks and seam problems can happen although they are often easily repaired. I haven’t tried the Auqua Marina board yet unfortunately. It looks decent and seems like it would be a good family board. Unfortunately I don’t know how good the quality is with that company but in general if you treat them with a little care it should last a long time.

  10. Jassica Smith says:

    Great post and first time that is more difficult to balance you sup board..

  11. I’m just starting out and gave only hired regular SUPs. Your article was mast informative but there has to be another con to the ISIP info already given. Blowing it up. I would need another device and how does it run? A compressor, what if there isn’t one available where I am going. What other means are available to inflate ? I need to do more read reasearch.

    • There are a few pump options. The regular hand pump that comes with the board usually works well. An electric pump is handy and takes far less effort. There is also the K-Pump or a compressor can be used as well but tends to be slower to inflate.