ARE INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS WORTH IT?
There is no doubt that inflatable paddle boards have taken the marketplace by storm, but are they worth it? As a rigid paddle board manufacturer, the automatic answer is a firm NO. However, that would be too easy. Instead, let’s analyze inflatable paddle boards and try to answer the question.
Inflatable paddle boards can range in price from a couple of hundred dollars for a no-name brand, to over two thousand dollars for the top brands’ best models. Determining why the great variance in price is an article in itself and is best left for another day. However, like rigid boards, technology, materials and craftmanship have significant roles in a product’s price.
ADVANTAGES OF INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS
COST. Inflatable paddle boards can be purchased very cheaply. For as little as two hundred dollars with free shipping, you can be a proud owner of an inflatable SUP.
EASY ENTRY INTO THE SPORT. Because inflatables are so cheap, a new buyer can take up paddle boarding without much of an investment. For buyers unsure if they’ll like the sport long term, the cost effectiveness of cheap inflatable paddle boards can be attractive.
EASY TO STORE. Inflatables come rolled in a backpack sized bag. They are easy to store and can be kept in a closet when not in use.
EASY TO TRANSPORT. Because inflatables are stored in backpacks, they are easy to transport. From the trunk of a car to an airline, you can take your inflatable paddle board almost anywhere with relative ease.
DISADVANTAGES OF INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS
LACK STIFFNESS. All inflatable paddle boards strive to be as stiff and rigid as hard paddle boards. Rigidity assists in rider balance. More importantly, it helps to transfer the rider’s energy into speed and stroke efficiency.
POOR PERFORMANCE. Inflatables don’t perform as well in the water as rigid paddle boards. Being less stiff, more energy is required by the paddler on an inflatable to travel the same distance at the same speed. The bottom of the paddle board needs to be considered as well. Cheap inflatables tend to have a flat bottom and poor performance. Rigid boards, and top end inflatables have concave or double concave bottoms for improved speed, agility and glide.
PRONE TO PUNCTURE. Let’s face it. Inflatable paddle boards are prone to puncture. That’s why so many of them come with puncture repair kits. Rigid paddle boards are not sold with repair kits. Enough said!
LESS CONVENIENT. While inflatable paddle boards are easier to store and transport than rigid boards, they are also less convenient to use.
Before inflatable SUP owners can start their paddle, they have to do the following:
At the end of the day, not only does the inflatable SUP owner have more tasks to do to pack up compared to the rigid SUP owner, the inflatable owner also has to wait for their board to completely dry before repacking it. Otherwise, mold and mildew will grow.
LONGEVITY. Because of how inflatable are made and what they are made from, they simply do not have the lifespan of a rigid board. Glued and stitched together like fabric, inflatable boards just aren’t built as strongly as rigid boards.
CAN YOU TRUST IT? To be water safe, it is always important to think of worst-case scenarios and be prepared.
For experienced paddle boarders, it is common to paddle far way from shore. Unlike beginners who may stay a couple of hundred feet from shore, experienced paddle boarders often paddle as far as a couple of kilometers or a mile off shore. If for some reason an inflatable paddle board starts to lose air, it may sink before reaching shore leaving the paddler to swim to land. Rigid paddle boards could snap in half and still provide flotation assistance to the paddler.
SO… ARE INFLATABLE PADDLE BOARDS WORTH IT?
Inflatable paddle boards are less expensive than rigid boards. However, the intrinsic nature of their design means that all except the best inflatables perform worse than a rigid paddle board and are less capable in more dynamic water conditions. This is trading performance for price.
Inflatable product longevity is inferior compared to rigid boards. A rigid board may last decades with proper care. No inflatable will last that long.
After looking at the advantages and disadvantages of inflatable paddle boards, it becomes clear that inflatables are only worth it for people who are more interested in price over performance. If you’re unsure if this sport is for you, then an inflatable may be a good choice for your first board. However, if you want to enjoy paddle boarding for all it has to offer, then it is better to spend more money and invest in a quality hard board. Better performance will lead to more fun.
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.
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