In this article, we break down the benefits of owning an inflatable board vs. a hard board. To understand inflatable paddle board benefits and whether you should buy an iSUP vs. a hard board, check out this short guide below!
Within the paddling community, there is debate on iSUPs vs. hard boards and whether to own an inflatable paddle board or a regular epoxy/hard board.
Most people are confused about what to purchase it comes to these two choices. And that’s understandable. You want to buy the correct board for your recreation activities for the long term.
Of course, the easiest solution we can present is to just buy one of each. That way you have both of your options covered.
Realistically though, this is not always possible.
While traditional hard paddle boards have been the go-to option for experienced paddlers, inflatable stand up paddle boards (iSUPs) are quickly gaining popularity due to their many benefits. In this article, we will explore the advantages of iSUPs over hard paddle boards.
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. A huge inflatable paddle board benefit.
Benefits of an Inflatable Board (iSUP) vs. Hard Board:
Inflatable standup paddle boards are often less expensive than hard boards, making them a more budget-friendly option for those who are just starting out or those on a tight budget.
2. 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! This is one of the biggest inflatable paddle board benefits.
3. Easy to Store + Portability
The biggest inflatable paddle board benefit is the ability to 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!
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 board’s durability check out this video:
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 paints 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).
Benefits of a Hardboard vs. Inflatable Board:
1. Slightly Higher-Performance
Current inflatable boards (including the 11’ Atoll inflatable paddle board) are improving by the year. However, 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 lengths 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.
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.
Conclusion: Inflatable Paddles Boards (iSUP) vs. Hard Boards
That wraps up our breakdown of inflatable paddle boards vs. hard boards. As you may have guessed, there are benefits of an inflatable board and a hardboard. To make it completely simple, if you wish to adventure with your board, paddle in rivers and rocky lakes, and want the ease with which you can store it, then an inflatable paddle board is the right one for you.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for performance in the surf or for a race, a nice carbon fiber or fiberglass board will be the way to go. We hope that clears up any confusion or speculation! If not, drop us a line, we are ready to help you decide which board to buy – today!
Bonus tip: If you are still brand-new to the sport of SUP and would like a comprehensive breakdown regarding everything there is to know about the sport then check out our guide How to Paddle Board: Everything You Need to Know to Get on the Water.