Life is full of choices. The same goes for buying a paddle board. One of the first choices you’ll have to make is whether you want a traditional hard board, or an inflatable paddle board. Each of the paddle boards come with their own benefits. Serious downwind paddle boarding enthusiasts, or surfing paddle boarders often swear by the sold epoxy boards.
It’s true that inflatable paddle boards typically lag behind traditional paddle boards in when it comes to high performance. While technology is improving, it’s not common to see people competing in races on an iSUP. But, there’s still plenty of reasons why iSUPs are an awesome option for a lot of paddlers, including me.
3 Benefits of Inflatable Paddle Boards
When you’re looking to buy a paddle board, and shopping around, you’ll inevitably notice that there’s a lot of inflatable paddle boards on the market. Not only that, but inflatable paddle boards are often cheaper than traditional hard boards, which make them a good option for beginning paddle boarders who are still testing the waters to see if they enjoy it.
1) iSUPs often Come in Low Priced Packages
Whatever your budget, you can find an inflatable paddle board package that will fit it. You can spend $2,000 or more, or $500 or less, if you’d like. Obviously, the more expensive packages tend to be higher quality boards that will perform better in the long-run. But if you’re itching to try paddle boarding, and you’re on a budget, you can still get out on the water with a decent setup.
This is ideal for beginners, because you might not know exactly what you want out of a paddle board. You just know you want to get out on the water, and see if you like it. With a low priced option, you can see what you like and then get a more specialized board in the future when you understand the sport better.
Most inflatable paddle boards packages will come with the paddle board, a pump, and a case… some will even come with a paddle. You might want to replace the paddle, but at the very least, it will get you on the water.
2) They’re Versatile & Pack-able
Imagine carrying a hard paddle board into an alpine lake, or taking it with you on an airplane. Yeah, now imagine doing those with an inflatable paddle board that’s strapped to your back. Which would you prefer?
If you want something that’s easy to transport or to gain access to remote paddle spots off the beaten path, an inflatable paddle board is the best option. This is one of the main reasons I chose my paddle board. I wanted to be able to strap the board to my back and hike it in places – and having that ability is awesome! I can park my car at a boat launch up the street, float down about 3 miles, and then hike back up, pack the board up and toss it into the back of my hatchback… easy.
3) They’re Easy to Store in Small Spaces
Similarly to above, because of their pack-ability, inflatable SUPs are also ideal if you don’t have a lot of room for storage. Say you live in an apartment… just fold your board up and stow it in the closet. Have a hatchback car? Pack it up, and toss it in. The pack-ability of inflatable paddle boards make them the ideal choice for minimalists.
Common iSUP Questions
Okay, so we covered a few of the benefits of buying an inflatable paddle board. But there’s probably a few other questions you have in the back of your noggin. So before you put down the cash for a new board, let’s address a few of the most common questions about iSUPs.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Stable?
When you think of a board filled with air, it’s hard to imagine how rigid and stable it could possibly be. As a beginner, you also want to make sure you’re getting something that will be stable and easy to ride. You don’t want something that’s going to be soft and bend like a banana when you stand on it.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case for most inflatable paddle boards. I’m sure there are some lousy inflatables out there that bend and wobble, but I’ve only had good experiences. However, this is a legitimate question. When I got my first inflatable paddle board I was worried that it might bow, or bend, thus making it a lousy and unstable ride. However, I found just the opposite.
Most inflatable boards are inflated to a pressure between 10 – 15 PSI, which gives them a surprising amount of rigidity. The more pressure the board can handle, the more rigid it will be. All of my friends had epoxy boards when I got my first inflatable, and they were blown away in disbelief by how solid it is. They also all want inflatables now to add to their quiver.
Of course, an inflatable board will bow more than a solid epoxy board does in the water. This is why most inflatables don’t compete speed-wise with traditional SUPs, but it’s also why iSUPs can be great for rough weather. On a rough day, the inflatable handles waves and chop really well, and I can out paddle my friends heading into the wind.
Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Durable?
The second most common question people ask is in regards to the durability and strength of inflatables. Everyone has an image in their head of being in the middle of a lake or ocean and their board springing a leak. The chances of that happen are highly unlikely with a good quality iSUP.
Let’s put it this way. Have you seen those inflatable Zodiak boats that Navy Seals and the police often use? A lot of inflatable paddle boards are made out of the same material.
I’m sure there are cases where boards can spring a slow air leak. That’s why most iSUPs come with a little repair kit that includes some glue. Usually, if the board does get a leak it’s around the seams, and not due to a puncture or tear from the blunt force of a rock or other obstacle. Also, most paddle board manufacturers will provide a limited warranty if you do happen to have any problems.
Still not convinced of the durability of inflatable paddle boards? How about driving a car over one?
How Long do Inflatable Paddle Boards Last?
This inevitably is a question about reliability and sturdiness. The ultimate answer is “it depends” on the board you buy and how well you take care of it. I can say that I’ve never had an issue with my inflatable paddle board, and I’ve had it for 5 years, which honestly doesn’t seem like that much time. But I can’t perceive it all of a sudden falling apart in the next 5 years even.
However, you do need to take good care of your board. If you do the following, that will probably lend to the health and longevity of your inflatable:
- Rinse Your Board After Paddling in Salt Water
- Store Your Paddle Board in a Cool Dry Location
- Avoid Long term Exposure to UV Light (limit It’s sun exposure to the time you’re actually using it)
- Don’t Exceed the Manufacturers Pressure Recommendations
- Store it Inside
Ready to Find a Paddle Board?
If you’re ready to get out on the water, here’s a few additional resources to help you find the right board, in the right price range.