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.
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!
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.
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.