If you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking to buy a paddleboard, we know how overwhelming it can be. Hard or inflatable? Fiberglass or plastic? The list of options is endless—but as experts, we’re here to help. Tune in monthly to read our blog posts with our top tips for being on the water, questions to ask when you’re making purchases, and more.
Today, we’ll be comparing inflatable SUPs (like ours) to hard SUPs — what’s the difference? Read on to see our extensive research on the subject — we judged both types by feel, portability, and price.
Solid standup paddleboards are most commonly built from different materials like foam, fiberglass, Kevlar, plastics and wood, and is protected with coats of epoxy resin. The foam core creates buoyancy, while layers of fiberglass, Kevlar or bamboo veneer creates durability, while the epoxy finish works to harden the board and ensure its water tight.
Feel: Hard boards are great if you prefer the feel of a highly responsive, rigid board. Although some inflatables can get very rigid (ours inflates to BLANK PSI), they don’t entirely match up to an actual hard board. Because of how rigid they are, hard paddle boards are the best option if you plan to use your paddle board for SUP surfing, racing, or long-distance expeditions.
Portability: Hard boards can be difficult to transport and can make traveling problematic. You will most likely need a large car or van. In addition, hard boards weigh significantly more than inflatable boards, so they will be heavier to carry to and from your sup destination.
Price: Generally speaking, hard SUPs are more expensive than inflatables, ranging between $800-$1500.
iSUPs are manufactured from layers of PVC plastic with woven fibers that connect the top and bottom at points inside throughout the board. They typically come in a carrying case about the size of a large duffel bag, weighing anywhere from 18 to 28 pounds. iSUPs come equipped with a valve that the rider attaches to a pump and uses to inflate the board. iSUPS are normally inflated to between 10-15 psi giving the board extreme rigidity. This extra rigidity separates them from inflatable pool toys and other low cost inflatable devices.
Feel: iSUPs are much more durable than hard SUPs when it comes to rocky or shallow areas, instead of crashing and leaving your hard board dinged up with costly repairs, inflatable boards should withstand the impact or rocks and branches with ease. In addition, standing on an inflatable SUP can be considerably more comfortable due to the reduced contact pressure, and those benefits travel up your body to your knees, back and neck. If you compare both boards with similar footprints, the inflatable can have up to 20% more volume, making it that much more stable while supporting more rider weight.
Portability: Inflatables are the easiest type of paddle board to transport — unlike with a hard SUP, you don’t need a large truck, SUV or van for transport. When deflated, inflatables roll up to the size of sleeping bag—ours only weighs 19 lbs and comes with a heavy-duty carrying pack! Our favorite part of an iSUP’s portability is how easily you can fly with them when you go on vacation.
Price: Inflatables allow for an affordable price-point, which makes them a good board for first-timers or families. Click here for current prices.
To sum it up, inflatable stand up paddle boards and hard paddle boards both have a ton of advantages and disadvantages—it truly depends on what you’re looking for. Take some time to research some brands before you buy, watch YouTube reviews, and keep in mind your budget, use cases, and how portable you want the board to be.
Curious to see what people think of our Atoll iSUPs? Click here to read our latest reviews on Amazon—we’re the top rated iSUP brand!