Inflatable Paddle Board vs Solid Board: 6 Factors to Consider Before Buying

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Don’t get stuck in the inflatable paddle board vs solid board debate. Here is the quick answer:

  • Looking for a great all-around board for leisure and short excursions? The inflatable paddle board will be your go-to.
  • Wanting a high-performance board to race with and take up SUP surfing? Then a hardboard may better suit your needs.

When researching for my first paddleboard, I spent hours learning the ins and outs of each type. After considering the pros and cons of each, the inflatable paddle board was the better option for me.

As a result, the inflatable SUP won the battle of inflatable paddle board vs solid board.

Here are the 6 main factors that I found contributed to my decision:

Table of Contents

I settled on these 6 factors as I felt they were most relevant to my search. There may be unique aspects outside of the practicality that you may search for, be sure to make the purchase decision uniquely yours.

This article will give a foundation of understanding for your choice of inflatable paddle board vs solid.

Let’s dive in!

Durability 

Quality inflatable standup (iSUP) boards companies use military-grade PVC in their production process.

As such, iSUPs are often more resilient to damage than their hardboard counterparts.

Dings and holes in a board can often lead to expensive repairs. This resilience is a leading reason inflatable SUPs are more popular on rivers.

Resilience and carefree maintenance make the inflatable standup board the winner here.

Portability

Portability was a weighted factor in my research for the best board.Although we have roof racks on our care, mounting and securing a hardboard takes time.

Inflatable standup boards will deflate and roll into a large backpack. This convenience makes inflatable boards far more portable.

When I am at home, I am about half a mile walk away from my favorite lake for paddleboarding.

When we are camping, we try to get close to the water for convenience. With two kids and a dog in tow, it makes for interesting treks from the campsite to any destination.

You could imagine that lugging around a solid paddleboard would be cumbersome. For longer walks (or treks with children), having a deflated board in a backpack makes life much easier.

Once you get to the water, you will need to spend about 5 minutes pumping up the inflatable board. Whereas the hardboard hits the water and you are off without delay.

Nonetheless, this benefit did not outweigh the portability benefits of the inflatable SUP.

Storage

In the inflatable paddle board vs solid debate, storage seems to be a hot topic.

Some believe that you should keep your inflatable board inflated while in storage. Others say that you should deflate it to relieve pressure on the seams. If you believe the latter, the storage debate is a moot point as both board types occupy the same amount of space.

I live in a house where storage space is a novelty. As such, when it comes to times of the year when I’m not using my board, I deflate it completely and pack it up in its bag.

Put less stress on the seams while in storage by ensuring the fin box is up, and the accessories are on top of the board. This should limit any pressure divots created by the accessories.

My personal experience indicates that storage is better with an inflatable.

Performance

Performance is relative to the usage the paddler is planning. Some considerations stood out nonetheless.

Advancements in material quality and design have increased the performance of inflatable boards. Many inflatable SUP boards closely rival their hardboard counterparts.

With a quality inflatable, you’ll confidently paddle on flat water and manage small waves.

The average inflatable board has 20% more volume compared to a hardboard of equal size. As such, it is more stable and can support more weight.

I planned on using my inflatable paddleboard for mostly flatwater and shorter distances. I did not need a high-performance board, the inflatable paddle board won in this category.

If I wanted to start surfing, racing, or traveling long distances, I would have bought a hardboard. An epoxy paddle board maintains technical advantages over its inflatable counterparts.

Maintenance

Most quality producers of inflatable paddle boards use high-quality, puncture-resistant PVC. This material lets the board bounce off most rocks you’ll encounter while paddling.

If you do find yourself with a tear or puncture, it can get a bit tricky. You’ll need to get your hands on some vinyl glue and patch up the board.

While I have not had to repair my board yet, it appears more difficult than you’d expect. There are great YouTube videos like this one to help you with your first patch.

A hard paddle board is more susceptible to compression dings and scratches. Damage to a hardboard is an easier repair, normally requiring a coating of resin and it’s fixed.

NOTE: Both board types will experience degradation through prolonged exposure to the sun. When storing your board, be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight.

  • A hardboard will discolor and the board integrity will weaken
  • An inflatable board will experience a diminishment of the integrity of the seams.

Cost

Whenever I am looking for any outdoor gear, I always want to make sure I get the best bang for my buck. This allows me to buy quality gear, all the while having more funds accessible to buy more gear!

While researching which board to buy, I noticed there are some great iSUP kits out there! Many kits include everything you need from air pump, paddle, repair kits, and of course the board. A personal floatation device (PFD) was the only thing not included.

While some companies are wising up to it, at the time, most hardboards did not include a paddle. I conducted more research about what the best paddles available were at the time.

Non-inflatable paddle boards were more expensive, especially as you look at specialized boards. It seemed like a high-quality epoxy board would run anywhere from $1,400 to $2,100 on average.

Quality inflatable stand-up paddleboard kits were more cost-friendly, averaging $600 to $1,500.

Being a beginner (and truly not knowing if I would really make great use of it) I opted for a Tower Paddle Board kit. I purchased the kit off Amazon. At the time I bought it, it was $599, but you can check Amazon’s current price here.

inflatable paddle board vs solid
In my search to answer the inflatable paddle board vs solid debate, I ended up choose an iSUP.

Who Wins The Inflatable Paddle Board vs Solid Debate?

So who wins the inflatable paddle board vs solid board debate? Well, that ultimately depends on you. 

An inflatable paddle board will suit you best if:

  • Storage space is limited
  • You plan to travel often with your board
  • You’re a deal seeker (like me!)
  • You’re a first-time paddler

A hard paddleboard will suit you better if:

  • You live beachside or very close to the water and do not need the portability of an inflatable
  • You plan to go SUP surfing or compete in SUP races
  • You want the freedom to unload your board and hit the water immediately
  • You want optimal performance and technical advantage.

As you build your confidence as a paddler, you can always expand your collection to include both.

Armed with this knowledge, it’s time for you to take action! Go to your favorite outdoor store, or scan through Amazon paddleboard listings and find your first board.

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AUTHOR

Whether travelling with the family in his RV, exploring the backcountry, or a day by the beach with the family, Mike has a passion for all things outdoors. In summer you will find him exploring the wilds near the camp, and in winter, Mike loves getting on his freestyle snowboard and hitting the slopes.