Stand Up Paddle Essentials: Choosing a Hard or Inflatable SUP?

Having a hard time deciding between a Solid or Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard? At SUPDubai.ae we find the term “Hard SUP”, “Solid SUP” or “Rigid SUP” misleading as it implies that the alternative inflatable paddle boards are soft, wobbly or unstable. That may have been true last decade but is definitely not the case anymore as the design and technology that goes into building an iSUP (short for inflatable SUP) has improved dramatically over the past few years.

At 20 PSI recommended pressure (and max pressure of up to 25 PSI on some models), most latest generation iSUPs are stiff enough that you can drive a truck over them without causing any damage whatsoever.

To put that into perspective, a FIFA regulation football must be pumped between 8.5 PSI and 16.5 PSI before every game, and commonly car tires are pumped to about 30 PSI. Some models are designed with a batton system that inserts in the rails of the board for added stiffness.

We therefore prefer to use the term “Composite SUP” to describe the boards that do not need pumping. This term refers to their composition instead of stiffness which as discussed is common to all SUPs from reputable manufacturers.

However, the question still remains: Hard or Solid or Rigid boards vs. Inflatable? What are the pros and cons?

Consider the following when choosing between an iSUP and an Composite Paddleboard:

hard-or-inflatable-sup

1. What sort of paddler are you?

The Performance Paddler:

Racing at a high level in any sport requires a significant investment in equipment. Usually one board just won’t cut it. Every condition (flat water, long distance, sprints, Downwinders) demands differences in board design (rocker line, rail shape, bottom profile, fin setup, volume size, and many more variables).

iSUP manufacturing technology has improved significantly over the past few years and if you are racing in flatwater conditions there is no reason why you shouldn’t beat a hard board to the podium. In fact, there are currently Racing series exclusive to inflatable boards, such as the N1SCO powered by the Naish ONE 12’6.

iSUPs, however, do not have the variety of bottom, rail shapes and other variables that hard boards have. In addition, the boards flex slightly more than finer glass boards and much more than the stiffer carbon construction boards. These differences will cause an inflatable to suffer when racing in swell or very choppy conditions.

The Weekend Paddler:

This is where most of us are at and we can fit anywhere in the inflatable/hard board spectrum. In fact, sometimes you want both!

If wave riding is your passion then you may go for a performance surfing Composite SUP for the surf and a racing iSUP to cover long distances on the flat days.

You may invest in a full carbon racing machine that cuts through chop or a 14’ downwinder and also have an inflatable allrounder for the kids.

The Traveler/Explorer Paddler:

It goes without saying that it is much easier to travel with your iSUP than with your hardboard. You won’t have to deal with excess board charges, oversized luggage limitations, damage to your board by baggage handlers, roof racks or webbing straps.

Inflatable SUPs offer you the unique joy of having your board neatly folded in a backpack and exploring remote coastline, rivers or lakes.

Remember to get a 3pc paddle with your board so it can easily fit in the bag.

2. How do you plan to transport and store your SUP?

transport-bag

If you live on the Palm then you can skip over this part and get an Unlimited SUP! Just make sure you store your board out of the sun. For those of us who currently do not have that luxury, transportation and storage are major factors in choosing between iSUPs or hard boards.

In our experience, transporting your hard SUP can be a pain. Not only is it when most of the accidental damage happens, it is a sticking point: get that board on your roof rack (or put the roof racks on first) and strap it down. That’s when you appreciate rolling your inflatable into a backpack and into the back of your car.

Storage is extremely important as we have seen several SUPs damaged from unnecessary sun and heat exposure. You need a cool shaded area to store your boards. The larger the board the larger the garage or shed needed to store it. Inflatables cannot be beaten for convenience as you can fit your iSUP into a cupboard.

3. How much do you want to spend?

The price of an inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard is around the same and in some models more expensive than it’s equivalent composite board in a standard glass construction. However, the price of hard boards increases when you choose sandwich, wood, carbon or custom constructions.

Resale value also varies. Inflatables will hold their value for longer as they wear less. Hard boards will get more wear and tear such as paint scratches from your paddle knocking the side of the board, straps causing pressure damage during transport and cracks and dings from other forms of abuse. Which brings us to…

4. How do you treat your gear?

Again, hard boards wear faster than inflatable SUPs. If you are rough on your equipment and care about the condition and resale value then go for an iSUP.

We hope this serves you as a guide and aids you in finding the perfect standup paddleboard. If you need any assistance or expert advice please contact us with your requirements.