Which way to go inflatable SUP vs. hard SUP?

By: the windward staff   On: 26 July 2017 

So you’ve decided you want to purchase your first stand up paddle board and now there’s another decision to make. Do you want to buy an inflatable SUP or a traditional ‘rigid’ board? Both have their benefits and depending on how you will be using the board, we can help you make the right decision. By the time this article is over, your choice should be crystal clear.

In a perfect world, each person would own one of each board. There will always be times when you think “I wish we would have bought…instead”. Inflatables are great for travel, rigid boards are ready to use and require less work. It all comes down to how YOU want to use the board.

Performance

One of the major differences between fiberglass SUP boards and inflatable SUP boards is the overall performance. Advancements in inflatable SUP boards have made strides over the years with technology that make inflatable SUPs more rigid and similar to fiberglass boards. However, they still depend on air pressure so the rigidity, overall feel and responsiveness of a fiberglass based board is typically nicer. The performance differences really depend on the style of riding you are doing.

  • All-around or general cruising style riders might notice a smoother ride on a rigid board depending on the PSI of the inflatable. However, inflatable’s are often said to be more confortable to stand on for longer paddle sessions vs. fiberglass SUPs.
  • Surfers will notice less response in turns on inflatable SUPs vs. fiberglass SUPs, plus an overall softer feel which may or may not suit the rider’s style.
  • Race/Touring paddlers will notice added drag and overall slower speeds on an inflatable SUP.

Durability

If you are looking to invest on a stand up paddleboard that will last you a lifetime, you should get a hard SUP. But with enough care and proper handling, an Inflatable SUP can also last you for years to come.

Repair

Here by saying hard board, we mean EPS/EPOXY construction SUPs. This type of boards are the most common boards in the market. You can buy EPOXY repairt kit to fix small dents.

If you are not confident enough or don't have the time, it is easy to find surfboard repairer to fix small cracks or dents. The costs normally from $60 to $200 depends on how much time it will take to fix the damages. If

For the inflatable SUP, most packages come with a repair kit, consists a tube of glue and a small piece of patch. However if the leaking or unglued area is too big, your small repair kit won't be enough. There is not many professional inflatble repairers availiable, so the chance of good repair is small.

Transport & Storage

Transporting an inflatable SUP is definitely easier than a hard SUP. You don’t have to have a roof rack or large van. Just deflate it, pack it in its bag and put it in the boot of the car. Also if you like to travel abroad, then flying with an inflatable SUP is a joy. No worries about whether your boards going to come out of the plane in one piece! And no excess board charges. Just book it on as a normal bag and off you go.  Also, walking with a backpack to your secret spot a mile along the coast, is alot easier than with a hard board in your hand.

However, if you’re lucky enough to live right by the water, or are already set up with a roof rack or large car/van then a hard board is no problem (just remember the roof rack straps!!)

Pricing

You can buy both types of SUP from online shop or retail shop. My advice is if you are going to buy from online, such as eBay, always pick a product with a brand name, because you may be some sorts of warranty. Retail shop provides better post-sales service, because they can not hide away from you if something goes wrong. That's why some retail shops sell boards with big brand name, quality is better, less warranty troubles.

On eBay Australia, inflatable boards is from $350 ~ $1000+, I have tested some of them. Basically, anythings below $600 won't last too long. Also make a quick search to find the company's website, make sure it is not a non-brand garage business. It may disappear within next few days.

For hard SUP, prices normally starts from $700 to $1000+. We offer full package with good quality accessories, such as carbon paddle, premium bag and leash, some sellers offer cheap bag and aluminum paddle, some only sell boards only. Make sure you read the description carefully, don't miss the accessories as well.

What did paddlers say

Geoff James says:

There are some great Inflatable boards out there, but unfortunately I haven’t found a brand that will survive in Darwin’s tropical climate for anytime even close to half the life of a hard board. I know I’m missing out on sales, but I want my customers to come back . So far we’ve tried 5 major brands and one minor one. We continue to hope someone will solve the glue problem and offer a board with a longer warranty, that we can sell with confidence.

Conclusion

Performance: Hard SUP > Inflatable SUP

Durability: Hard SUP > Inflatable SUP

Repair: Hard SUP  =  Inflatable SUP

Transport & Storage: Hard SUP < Inflatable SUP

Pricing: Hard SUP < = Inflatable SUP

If you have enough storage space and vehicle with roof rack, hard SUP still is better than inflatable SUP. If not, go for the inflatable.