Should you purchase an inflatable or hardboard stand up paddle board? If you are in the market for your first SUP, no doubt you have asked yourself that question. I know that I’ve been asked it dozens of times over the years by my paddle boarding students, friends, and even family members. I’m going to tell you what I tell them. Hardboards are better!
Yes, I know that this isn’t surprising coming from a guy who manufacturers hardboards, but give me a chance to explain. My belief of hardboard superiority was developed through personal experience with both platforms and from the experiences of others.
The goal of every inflatable stand up paddleboard is to be as rigid as a traditional hardboard. Why? A rigid board provides better power transfer. When you paddle, you extend energy through your body into the board. A softer platform absorbs some of this energy and decreases stroke efficiency. When your paddling around the shore, this doesn’t matter. However, if you want to paddle for 45 minutes or longer, it makes a big difference.
No matter how inflatable brands try to market their products, they are essentially selling you a big balloon. That’s why every inflatable SUP comes with a patch kit. At some point, the manufacturer anticipates that you will spring a leak.
Hardboards can be damaged too. They can sustain punctures but it takes more to puncture materials like fiberglass, bamboo, polyurethane or carbon fiber. Most often, these boards are affected by cosmetic damage like scratches and scrapes.
I’ve often had paddle boarding students claimed after a lesson on hardboard that they found the hardboard to be more stable than an inflatable they had previously tried. Initially, I discounted these statements as the result of a successful lesson, but I heard it too often to ignore. Besides, it makes sense. Hardboards are more stable because they offer better rigidity.
Ease of Use
How easy is it to use your SUP? Think about it. You have driven to the beach, the weather is great and you’re anxious to get on the water and go for a rip! If you own hardboard all you have to do is remove it from your vehicle’s roof, put the straps in your trunk, walk to the beach, strap on your leash and go. When your day is over, you carry the board back to your car, get your straps, attach your board to the roof, and off you go.
Now, if you have an inflatable, you have to take it out of the bag, unroll it, connect the pump, inflate the SUP, store the pump and storage pack, strap on your leash and go. At the end of the day, you have to, let the SUP dry, deflate it, roll it up, repack it, and go to the car. No thank you!
Transporting several stand up paddle boards on a vehicle’s roof is really quite easy once you learn how. However, you do need to purchase a rack, pads and straps. Quality equipment will likely cost $200+. Never mind the fact that you need to own a vehicle in the first place just to transport a hardboard.
Inflatable paddle boards fit into a large backpack. If you don’t own a vehicle, or like to take a SUP with you when you travel, inflatable paddle boards are the way to go.
Hardboard owners have to have a storage space that is at least as long as the board. Most first time paddle board owners purchase SUP’s between 10 – 12 feet in length. Does you residence have a storage space suitable for something that long?
On the other hand, if you have space in your bachelor apt for a large duffel bag and a paddle, an inflatable SUP will fit in nicely.
No doubt about it. As a general rule, inflatable stand up paddle boards can be purchase at substantially lower prices than hardboards. The cost to manufacture inflatable boards is much less than hard boards. Inflatables enable buyers on a limited budget to own their own board.
Overall, owning a traditional stand up paddle board is the right decision in my opinion. This platform offers better stability and durability than inflatable boards, and they are easier to use day in and day out. However, for people who live in an apartment, don’t own a vehicle, or have a limited budget the inflatable option is the way to go. If those factors aren’t a concern for you, stick to the hardboard. You won’t regret it.
The Wappa Blog
Written by Wappa's founder Layne Pennell, the blog's aim is to educate and share his love of stand up paddle boarding with anyone interested in SUP.