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The Differences Between Inflatable Paddle Boards vs. Rigid (Hard) Paddle Boards

February 2, 2023

What are the differences between inflatable paddle boards vs. rigid paddle boards? What is the best type of paddleboard: rigid or inflatable? In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of each so you have a complete understanding of inflatable vs. rigid boards before you make your next purchase!


SUP has become an increasingly popular water sport in recent years. One of the decisions that beginners face when starting this sport is choosing between inflatable and rigid (hard) standup paddle boards. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two types of boards to help you make an informed decision.

Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards (iSUPs)

Inflatable standup paddle boards are made of a durable, puncture-resistant material that is inflated using a pump. They are typically lighter and more portable than rigid boards, making them easier to transport and store.

differences between rigid and inflatable paddle boards

Advantages of iSUPs

  1. Portability: The biggest advantage of iSUPs is their portability. They can be easily deflated and packed into a compact carrying case, making them convenient for travel or storage.
  2. Durability: Inflatable stand up paddle boards are made of puncture-resistant material, making them less prone to damage compared to rigid boards. Plus, being inflated, they can bounce off obstacles in the water such as rocks and sticks making them ideal for river SUP activities.
  3. Stability: iSUPs are often wider and thicker than rigid boards, making them more stable and a great choice for beginners or those who want a stable platform for yoga or SUP fishing.

Disadvantages of iSUPs

  1. Inflating/deflating: The process of inflating and deflating the board can be time-consuming and requires a pump. In addition, if you use a hand pump, it can wear out your arms even before paddling. However, it can also be considered a pre-workout activity before getting on the water.
  2. Performance: Although iSUPs have improved over the years, they may still not perform as well as rigid boards in terms of speed and agility. This is especially the case when it comes to SUP surfing and racing.
differences between inflatable and rigid paddle boards

Rigid (Hard) Standup Paddle Boards

Rigid standup paddle boards are made of hard materials such as fiberglass or epoxy. They are the traditional choice for standup paddleboarding and are known for their speed and tracking.

Advantages of Rigid Boards

  1. Performance: Rigid boards are faster and more agile than iSUPs, making them a great choice for experienced paddlers who want to go fast or SUP surf.

Disadvantages of Rigid Boards

  1. Portability: Rigid boards are not as portable as iSUPs and are difficult to transport or store. For example, rigid boards are heavier and often require a roof rack or large vehicle to transport them.
  2. Cost: Hard standup paddle boards are typically more expensive than iSUPs, making them a more expensive option for those on a budget.
  3. Durability: While it’s difficult to believe, hard boards are more fragile than inflatable boards. The reason for this is that hardboards are made of epoxy and fiberglass. These materials crack when they are hit with paddles or rocks, or if they’re dropped on the dock. Whereas an inflatable board, if it’s made of high-quality materials like an Atoll iSUP, it will bounce right off the dock instead.
differences between inflatable and rigid paddle boards

Which Board is Right for You?

So, what is the best type of paddleboard: inflatable or rigid?

Inflatable and rigid standup paddle boards each have their advantages and disadvantages, making it important to choose the right one for your needs. Beginners or those looking for a stable platform for yoga or fishing may prefer an iSUP. As well as those who don’t have the means to transport or store a rigid board. While experienced paddlers who want to race or SUP surf may prefer a rigid board. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and intended use.

In conclusion, both inflatable and rigid standup paddle boards have their pros and cons, and choosing the right one will depend on what you want to do on the water.

Do you still have questions about inflatable vs. rigid paddle boards? Reach out to us anytime. Our inbox is always open. Or you can call us at 8 7 7 . 6 9 8 . 8 5 8 1. We’re more than happy to discuss the differences with you to ensure you make the right choice for your needs.

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