Stand up paddle boarding is a lot of fun. It’s a great way to have a fun time out on the water and it’s great exercise too. What about inflatable paddleboards? Are they worth it? Are inflatable paddle boards any good? The short answer is yes. Inflatable paddle boards are worth it and they are a great way to enjoy paddleboarding. They aren’t like old cheap inflatable rafts. They are well made, stiff and durable. Keep reading to learn more about what is great about inflatable paddleboards.
Are inflatable paddle boards any good? 9 Reasons to choose an inflatable SUP
There are a lot of reasons why inflatable paddle boards are better than rigid paddle boards. Let look at all the advantages they have.
1 – Easier to transport
Inflatable paddleboards are easier to transport than a rigid board. You can put an inflatable SUP into a backpack and carry it around. You don’t need to put it on a roof rack. When your ready to go just chuck it into the trunk or back seat and your good to go. No loading and unloading it off a roof rack. No worrying about how well you tied down your board as your going down the onramp onto the highway.
For some tips on transporting a paddle board, see our article on how to transport a paddle board without a roof rack.
2 – Easier to store
Inflatable paddle boards are easier to store than a full size rigid SUP board. You can put an inflatable paddle board in its storage back almost anywhere. It can go in the closet or corner somewhere. With a rigid board, you’ve got to carve out a pretty big chunk of space.
I have a 12 foot long rigid KonaOne WindSUP board and at best it gets in the way of things in the garage. I had this wonderful idea to store it from the ceiling in the garage. This was a great idea until I figured out it wouldn’t clear the garage door. It ended up going on the wall where it’s only a little annoying to walk around.
3 – Take less time to setup and put away
It may seem like an inflatable paddleboard will take more time because you have to pump it up. You can speed up the pumping process a lot if you can use an electric pump. Even with a hand pump, an inflatable board will still save you time every time you use it.
Every time you use a rigid board you have to move it from where you store it and tie down to the roof of your car. This takes a few minutes to do right and you have to make sure it’s secure. No one wants a board flying off their car going down the highway. Once you get where you are going you have to untie it and carry it to the water. An inflatable is way easier to carry. If you care about your SUP board your using a carry bag for it which needs to be removed and put away also. You might have to attach a fin as well.
If you have an inflatable paddle board you can just throw it in the car. Get where your going. Carry everything close to the water and inflate it.
After your done, you have to carry the rigid board back to your car. You have to put it back in its bag. You have to carry it back to your car. Put it back on the roof. Tie it down again. Go home. Once your home you have to untie it from the roof and move it back to where you store it at.
If your using an inflatable just deflate it, roll it up and put it back in the bag. Throw it in the car. That sounds a lot easier than loading a rigid board back up and it is. You don’t have to worry about your inflatable board being stolen off the roof rack. If you want to just leave it in the car you can.
One thing that will really speed up the process is an electric air pump. It can get tiring pumping up a board. Use an electric pump to make it easier. See our guide to the best inflatable paddle board pumps to learn more.
4 – More durable than an epoxy rigid board
You can bang an inflatable paddleboard into things without much risk it will get damaged. You can drop an inflatable paddleboard and there is little to no risk you will damage it.
Take a 10 to 12 foot long rigid board. These are awkward objects to carry at best. Guess how often you will swing it and knock into things by accident. Often. Every time you hit something with you, chances are really good you will leave a permanent ding or dent in it. If you drop your Epoxy rigid paddleboard off the top of your car it’s going to get damaged when it hits the pavement.
5 – Softer when you fall on them
The deck of an inflatable paddleboard will have some give. After all, it is a big inflatable cushion. When you fall on it, it’s going to be a little soft everywhere. A rigid board will be hard and rigid except where the deck padding is. If you fall a lot on a rigid board you will feel it.
6 – Weigh less
Inflatable paddleboards weigh less than similar sized epoxy rigid paddle boards. An inflatable board will weigh between 19 and 30 lbs. Most weigh between 20 to 25 lbs. A rigid paddle board will weigh 25 to 45 lbs depending on the size and construction. It’s a lot easier to carry a 20 lb board than a 30 lb board.
7 – Can be taken on airplanes
You can take an inflatable paddleboard with you on a flight. You can carry it on a plane if the backpack fits within the standard carry on dimensions. If it won’t you can check it as a standard piece of baggage without an oversize fee. If you want to paddleboard where you’re going it’s easy to bring your own board. You don’t have to worry about finding a rental when you get there.
8 – Have more volume and can hold more weight
Inflatable paddle boards tend to be thicker than their rigid counterparts. This means they have more volume for the same length and width. More volume means they can float more weight. If you are a larger paddler, you will want to get an inflatable to get the largest most stable board you can find. See our guide to the best paddleboards for big guys to learn more.
9 – More stable because they have more volume
Because inflatable paddle boards have more volume they are more stable. A wider board will be more stable than a narrow board. A board with a lot of volume and more width will be the most stable option. If you want an easy to stand on, stable paddleboard, an inflatable board is the way to go.
If you are still wondering are inflatable paddle boards any good, check out the below video for a good comparison between inflatable and rigid paddle boards.
Inflatable vs Rigid paddle board. 3 Reasons to choose a rigid board
There are a lot of reasons why inflatable paddleboards are better. There are a few places where rigid paddleboards have the advantage. Let us take a look at why rigid paddleboards are better than inflatable paddleboards.
1- Inflatable paddle boards are not as rigid as an epoxy rigid SUP board
Modern drop-stitch construction and produce very stiff structures. They are not as rigid as an epoxy rigid board. You can make a lightweight stiff structure with epoxy, foam, and fiberglass. You can make a really really stiff structure with epoxy, foam, and carbon fiber. Drop-stitch can’t match the stiffness of a well made composite board.
2 – Inflatable paddle boards are slower than rigid boards
Because a rigid epoxy board is stiffer it will go faster. It won’t flex as much going over waves so less energy will be lost. Rigid paddle boards have a shape advantage. You can mold any shape you want for a composite rigid paddleboard. With drop-stitch you can make a large flat board with some curvature and that is about it. You can make as efficient a bow shape and you can’t optimize the bottom shape. Some paddleboards will have a slight v-bottom hull or other shape.
A rigid composite board will be faster due to it’s rigidity and more efficient shape.
3 – They don’t maneuver as well as rigid boards
Rigid paddle boards are stiffer and can have a more efficient shape. This means they can maneuver easier than an inflatable board. They don’t bend and flex as much going over waves so they lose less energy. The energy from every paddle stroke goes more into doing what you want it to do. Less energy is wasted by board flex or board drag.
As a beginning paddleboarder, you will not notice this. The difference in performance doesn’t come into play until your an experienced paddleboarder. If you are racing or surfing in larger waves you need all the performance you can get. The little advantage a rigid board can give is worth it.
Are inflatable paddle boards any good FAQ
Q: Are inflatable paddle boards worth it?
Yes. Inflatable paddle boards are worth their cost. They can seem expensive at first, it is important to realize they are still much cheaper than a rigid board. A really good inflatable paddle board can be had for $500. A really good rigid epoxy paddle board will cost at least $900. You can find cheaper rigid boards but they are small volume, not durable or heavy. Inflatable paddle boards are more convenient and easier to use.
Q: Are hard or inflatable paddle boards better?
For most recreational paddleboarders, an inflatable board is a better choice. Rigid boards only have a few advantages. They only come into play when you want or need a higher performance board for racing or surfing waves.
Q: Are inflatable paddle boards good for beginners?
Inflatable paddleboards have several advantages that make them better for beginners. They have more volume which makes them more stable and easier to stand on. They are softer when you fall. As a beginner, you will fall often trying to stand up. They are easier and more convenient to use. The paddleboard that gets used more is the one that is less hassle to use. See our guide to the best beginner inflatable paddle boards to learn more.
Q: What should I look for when buying a paddle board?
You should look for a paddleboard that is big enough for your size. You should find a board with the features you want and that fits your budget. A more expensive board will have better construction and be stiffer. It will come with a better paddle. Some of the best brands for inflatable paddle boards are:
For more paddleboard shopping information see our paddleboard shopping guides.
- The Best Cheap Inflatable SUP boards Helpful Guide
- The Best Inflatable SUP Under $500 Helpful Guide
- The Best Paddle Boards For Big Guys
- The Best Beginner Inflatable Paddle Boards Helpful Guide
Q: What size paddle board should I get for my height?
If you are over 6′ tall you should get a board that is at least 10′ 6″ long. If you are under 6′ tall you can use a 10′ board.
Q: What size sup do I need for my weight?
If you are under 200 lbs you can use a 10foot paddleboard. If you are over 200 lbs you should consider a board that is at least 10 foot 6 inches long and at least 30 inches wide. The larger you are, the larger volume board you need.
Q: Should you wear a life jacket paddle boarding?
It depends on how comfortable you are on the water and what the conditions are. The US Coast Guard considers paddleboards a vessel which means they require a PFD to be carried with you. Whether you wear it or not is up to you. See our guides for the best paddleboard PFDs to learn more.
Q: Is there a weight limit for paddle boarding?
There is no weight limit for paddle boarding. There are paddleboards made with enough volume to float a 400 lb person. There is no reason why a larger person can’t paddleboard. See our guide to the best paddleboards for big guys to learn more.
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.