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Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Good?

October 14, 2022

“Are inflatable paddle boards good?”

This question is one of the most searched on Google about paddle boards every day.

It’s a fair question to ask. On the SUP scene, inflatable paddle boards are still relatively new. And they’ve grown in popularity to the point where inflatables dominate much of the market. But as we all know, just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s automatically good. Right?

Well, we have our opinion. And it’s likely you already know the answer. However, we’re not here to just say, “Yes, inflatable paddle boards are in fact, good.”

We’re here to let you know why they’re good. And why they might be the best option for almost every paddler out there.

So, if you’re one of the thousands of people who search the question, “Are inflatable paddle boards good?” And you still haven’t received an answer…

Consider this short guide a definitive one. Come along with us as we explain why iSUPs are popular and what makes them a great option for most paddle boarders.

Inflatable Paddle Boards vs. Hardboards

Inflatable Paddle Boards

Construction: We can’t speak for every inflatable paddle board brand on the market but our Atoll boards are built for adventure. This means drop-stitch technology where two layers of polyester fabric are woven together with thousands of threads. Then an air-tight coating goes over the outside surfaces of both sides of the material with an enhanced PVC layered base for extreme rigidity.

Weight: The average inflatable paddle board will weigh in at around 15-17 lbs. Considerably lighter than most hardboards.

Reasons to Purchase One:

1. Lighter to Carry and More Stability

In the water, most boards don’t look big or clunky. But when it comes to being on land, a 10’6” or 11′ board can often be gigantic for the average paddler and can be difficult to handle. The average hardboard weighs around 20-30lbs. Which doesn’t seem like much. But in a strong wind or across a long beach, it can quickly become tiring to carry. The average inflatable SUP weighs roughly between 15-17lbs, a big difference when it comes to carrying on land.

Inflatable paddle boards are also equipped with thicker rails meaning balance on the board will come much easier and quicker. In addition, paddlers will be able to carry more weight on the board. When it comes to our Atoll inflatable paddle board expect to be able to carry a cooler, your SUP pup, yourself, and even more! As long you don’t exceed the 400lb weight limit!

2. Easy to Store

The biggest benefit to owning an inflatable paddle board is of course the relative ease with which you can store a large board in a small space. With an inflatable paddle board, you do not need a dedicated area or rack to store your board(s). Instead, just deflate, roll up, and stick it into the carrying bag that is included. This can also come in handy if you don’t have a roof rack on your car. Instead of having to purchase an additional piece of expensive equipment, you can throw your iSUP into the truck and make your way to the drop point.

Added bonus: Inflatable boards can be packed up and checked in on an airplane for international SUP excursions! Never miss an opportunity to paddle anywhere in the world by bringing a board with you!

3. Durable

It might come as a surprise to most beginners but an inflatable board is much more durable than a hardboard. Due to a hardboard’s construction – that being fiberglass, carbon fiber, and epoxy resin – if you were to hit a rock, drop it on blacktop or concrete, or fall on it in the water, you are likely to crack, chip, or sometimes even puncture the base. This will result in water soaking into the foam core which can take weeks to dry and result in an expensive repair bill.

On the other hand, inflatable boards are made from military-grade PVC protecting a tight drop stitch core, which, when inflated easily bounces off surfaces, avoids punctures, and will offer a soft landing if you were to fall on the deck pad when paddling. For these reasons, whitewater river paddlers are always found paddling high-quality inflatables like our Atoll 11’ inflatable paddle boards.

To see proof of our inflatable paddle boards’ durability check out this video:

Hardboards

Construction: Most hard paddle boards are constructed in a similar manner no matter the company. Starting with a foam core, the outside is built with fiberglass, epoxy, and a form of laminate such as bamboo. In the case of race boards and performance SUP surfboards, they are layered with a lightweight material called carbon fiber. This stitched material is finished with a light coat of epoxy and paint to give it rigidity and color/design. The more carbon fiber a board is made of, the more expensive it will be, and the lighter it will be.

Weight: The average weight of a hardboard is around 20-30 lbs. The weight can vary based on length, width, and volume (thickness).

Reasons to Purchase One:

1. Slightly Higher-Performance

Though current inflatable boards (including the 11’ Atoll inflatable paddle board) are improving by the year, at the moment, hardboards still offer slightly higher performance in the right environment. Speed and turning are enhanced on a hardboard due to heavier construction materials given that you have one designed for both. This means longer length and thinner rails. Conversely, some hardboards that are designed with increased volume, a more rounded nose, and a wider base will often paddle slower than an inflatable. It all depends on the size and shape.

2. SUP Surfing and Racing

Don’t get us wrong, inflatable boards designed for surfing can easily handle small waves, but when it comes to 5’+ waves, a hardboard is the better option due to the increased rigidity and smaller rails for turning/carving. In addition, you’ll have a longer glide with a hardboard, which will result in a smoother experience as you paddle to catch waves. When it comes to racing, hardly anything beats a 12’6’’ or 14’ carbon-fiber board for speed and glide. The lightness of the board combined with the narrow shape and the longer length all lend boards designed for racing to be the ultimate speed machines.

3. Faster to Get on the Water

If you have the means to transport a hardboard to a drop-in location you can skip the small task of inflating your board before heading out. In relation to this, you don’t have to worry about deflating and waiting for the board to dry before packing it up and heading back home. With a hardboard, you show up, drop in, paddle, load back up, and head home. It’s a bit of a quicker process.

Top Advantages To Owning An iSUP

Easily Travel

Before we even knew inflatable boards existed, when Atoll was just an idea that had yet to be formed in our minds, we started on the water with paddling hardboards. And as one does with the sport, our activities, and our sites on where to paddle, began to expand. We wanted to see the world with a SUP. We wanted to hop on a plane, find a faraway shore, get on our boards and explore something new. With adventure in our hearts, we decided to bring our first boards with us. That meant we had to pack them for the plane.

Packing Hardboards

To begin the laborious process, we first thought it would be a good idea to wrap them in bubble wrap. Then, we covered the outside with cardboard and packing tape. And finally, we squeezed them into oversized board bags. Feeling the weight of our boards, we had to check with the airline to see if they would accept our oversized bags. And on top of that, pay an extra fee just to have them checked! Our next grand obstacle – making our way through the airport with these giant bags without hitting anyone in line! And once we were safely on the plane, we prayed they would make it to our destination safely with no holes or cracks.

This was a few years ago, at the inception of SUP, before we even knew inflatable boards existed.

Now – we take the stress out of vacation.

With an inflatable paddle board it’s easy to travel by car, train, even airplane. Just roll your Atoll iSUP into its carrying backpack and get moving. Check it at the airport with no problems. And there is no stress involved when it comes to the unknown question about whether it will make it there undamaged!

Trust us, the convenience with which you can travel with an inflatable paddle board is not to be underestimated.

White Water and River Paddling

WARNING: Do not take a hardboard white water or river paddling! Unless it is designed for such purposes and is constructed with durable plastic like that of a kayak.

Otherwise, you will leave the river with a damaged board and plenty to fix!

But with an Atoll 11’ inflatable paddle board you’re ready to pack in, pump up, and paddle out at any river location around the world.

Inflatable paddle boards are the best type of boards to paddle in a river environment for their durability and stability. Rocks, sticks, and other debris will not harm your board unlike the fiberglass shell of most hardboards.

And if the whitewater is your preference, be sure to check out our specifically designed fin that lays shallow in the water so you won’t hit any rocks or take any sudden spills when paddling.

Store Your iSUP Anywhere

Before you even begin to think about purchasing a hardboard you first have to consider where you’re going to store it.

This can be a major pain point for some. Especially if you live in an apartment or in the city.

Often, people underestimate the size of a SUP. Sure, in the water a 10’6’’ board doesn’t look like much. But take it outside of the water and stand it up and you will see how truly massive these boards can be.

And that is just your average hardboard. Some raceboards measure in at 14’ long!

With an inflatable – no need to stress about storage. Simply roll your board up when you’re finished and store it anywhere! For the winter months, our favorite spots include the garage or a closet.

Drop It

Have you ever been carrying your hardboard and suddenly you feel this strong sensation of pain emanating from your fingertips and into your forearm? You go to switch hands and suddenly – pop! You drop your board on the hard concrete and on the side there is now a nice crack just waiting to soak up water the next time you paddle.

Not fun. And neither is that repair bill you will inevitably have to pay once you get it fixed.

Well, with an inflatable board, if your hand becomes tired and you accidentally drop your board on a hard surface you won’t hear anything besides the soft bouncing noise your board makes as it lands on the concrete unharmed.

That’s the beauty of an inflatable paddle board – the durability. While we don’t recommend you stab your board with a knife, our Atoll inflatable paddle board can bounce off most surfaces unscathed.

And that leads us to our next point.

Lend it to a Friend/Great for Beginners

Beginners can be rough on paddle boards. Often they run into obstacles like docks or rocks or piers or piling – whatever environment you are in, beginners will often find the perfect place to bump into something. On top of that, they often fall on the board itself, causing cracks, holes, and other damage.

Just like our previous point, hardboards often won’t survive such torture. But inflatable paddle boards will!

The advantage of durability is solely in the corner of the inflatable paddle board and that makes it perfect to loan out to friends or put beginners in a position to not hurt your board…or themselves.

Another added advantage – our Atoll inflatable paddle boards are perfect for beginners as our boards are designed with stability in mind. The 6’’ thickness and 32’’ wide base of our boards are stable and thick enough to hold more weight than most boards. Both qualities will put anyone ready to begin paddling on the path to success.

Not to mention, it is easier to transport. No need for car racks or a truck bed when you let your friends give it a spin!

So, be the selfless lender that you are, and let your friends try your inflatable paddle board with no worries.

Easily Bring Your Furry Friends

We get asked this question often – what about dog nails? Will they pop the board?

With an emphatic howl, the answer is no.

Dog nails will do no harm to an inflatable paddle board. And more so than that – they are the best boards to bring your pup for a ride.

As you might have already realized, when pet owners bring their pups along for a ride, the best place for them to hang out is on the nose. On a fiberglass board, this section is often very slick, especially when wet. Instead of a fun time on the water, your pup will have trouble gripping the board and will most likely fall in the water while at the same time causing you to lose balance and fall in as well!

On a foam top board, your pup’s nails will tear into the soft surface and leave marks that will become unrepairable.

But on an inflatable board, like our Atoll iSUP, the surface is strong enough to resist any tears from nails and provides enough grip for dogs of any size to comfortably sit, stand, and go along for the ride.

So if you have a pup who is interested in SUP, an inflatable paddle board is your best choice.

What To Look For In A Good iSUP

The Right Inflatable Technology

As we’ve already said, some boards are built to last. And some, are built with low-quality materials that can be damaged simply by the sun.

To know what to look for before you buy, always make sure the inflatable boards are built with these components.

Woven Drop-stitching

This term gets thrown around these days by different board companies. Some actually use woven drop-stitching like Atoll Boards, and some just like to say they do.

But, what does it means?

To put it simply…

The woven part is made of polyester threads that run through the vinyl in a criss-cross pattern. You can think of it as similar to carbon fiber. By adding this pattern by drop-stitching the material you create a higher resistance to stretches and bends.

Meaning — your board is built tough.

So, when it comes to inflatable boards, always look for actual woven drop-stitch technology.

Double Layer Construction

This one is simple — an extra layer of material doubles the durability of a board. Especially if military-grade materials are used. With this combination, you’re going to receive a board that is thick enough to withstand bumps and bruises in any paddling environment.

Reinforced Seams

If there was any part of an inflatable board that might be extra vulnerable to tears, breaks, or spilts, it would of course be the seams. This is the part of the board where the materials are joined together.

If you get a board like an Atoll, we make sure our seams are reinforced so you can take your board on any adventures.

Without reinforced seams, you’re looking at the possibility of a leak in a season or two.

Reinforced Rails

Rails take a pounding when on the water. This can be from objects in your paddling environment, like rocks, sticks, and other debris. Or it can be from the paddler’s banging the paddle against the rail as they move through the water.

Either way, it’s not good for your SUP. The way to counter this? Reinforce the rails just like the seams. With an added layer of material stitched to the outside of the rail, as we do with our Atoll boards, you can bounce off any obstacles and keep rolling along.

The Right Package

Every inflatable paddle board now comes with the appropriate accessories for SUP.

These include:

  • Board
  • Bag
  • Paddle
  • Leash
  • Fin
  • Air Pump

But not every accessory is built the same.

To make sure you are purchasing a board with the appropriate accessories that will last, you need to know if the bag is high-quality. If the paddle is cheap and aluminum or a mixture of nylon, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. If the leash is thick enough to support the weight of your board without it breaking. And if the air pump is a dual-action pump that inflates your board on the down and up pump.

If you want a board that will be worth the money, you need the best accessories that come along with it.

With Atoll, you only receive high-quality accessories built for the most arduous adventures.

This includes a high-quality bag that is rugged enough to be thrown anywhere you need it to go.

Stock paddles that are a blend of nylon, fiberglass, and carbon fiber for an elite paddling feel right out of the box.

A high-quality leash that won’t fail you even in the roughest river settings.

And a dual-action pump that can have you paddling on the water in a matter of minutes.

The Right Customer Service

The last thing you need to be aware of before you purchase is if a company provides customer service with its product.

We realize, not everything is perfect all the time. Malfunctions, though rare, can happen.

But it’s in times like these that the team at Atoll Boards works overtime to make sure every one of our customers is happy with their purchase.

Without backing like ours, be wary of any purchases you decide to make.

What Is More Affordable An iSUP or a Hardboard?

One of the biggest factors in whether beginners get involved in SUP is the price of a board. Not everyone has a few extra grand to spend on a luxury item. And that’s fair. But there are ways you can save money and still have your paddle board.

For those who don’t know…

Hardboards range in price anywhere from $999 to $1499+ with the carbon fiber models ranging on the high end. This is mainly due to the higher costs for construction and materials used in hardboards.

Inflatable boards range in price from $299-$899. While that $199 number might seem tempting to most beginner paddlers, we have to warn you against purchasing one of these boards on Amazon.

These types of boards fall in this price range because they are built with low-grade materials to save costs on expenses. With these materials, your board is not likely to last longer than a season or two. Plus, they don’t have the customer service to back up their products. So, if anything were to tear, puncture, or break, you’re often left with what you’ve got.

Instead, you should always purchase a board from a reputable company with customer service to back up their product.

Inflatables Are Best For Paddlers Who:

  • Are just beginning SUP
  • Want to travel with ease
  • Need a durable board
  • Have no/minimal space for storage
  • Want to paddle flatwater
  • Want to paddle whitewater rivers

Hardboards Are Best For Paddlers Who:

  • Want higher-performance
  • Race competitively
  • SUP surf
  • Have storage space
  • Don’t need an ultra-durable board

Conclusion

Are inflatable paddle boards good? Yes. Definitively, yes. But not every iSUP is created equal. With a high-quality performance board like an Atoll, you’ll be set for life. And you’ll be able to travel with it anywhere you, please.

We hope this clarifies one of the most Googled phrases when it comes to paddle boarding. If it doesn’t, reach out to us personally! We’re here to help. Until then, adventure on!

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