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Inflatable vs epoxy SUP pros and cons

Inflatable vs. Hard Paddle Board - Which is Best?


Quick Answer: For all-around leisure paddling, inflatable SUPs work best overall, due to advantages in durability, portability, weight, and injury prevention. But if you are buying a board mainly for surfing or racing, certain technical attributes of hardboards make them worthy of consideration.


Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Boards, once considered a novelty among SUP boards, have evolved over the years and have become the new normal and the starting point when shopping for a paddle board. Here are seven comparison points to guide your decision on whether to purchase an inflatable SUP or a hard board:

  1. Inflatable paddleboards have been proven over time to be more durable than epoxy SUPs. Quality inflatables are made from military grade materials that are not subject to the vulnerabilities of hard boards – dings and holes that require expensive repairs. This is why inflatables far outnumber hard boards on rivers, where impact with rocks is a factor and why SUP schools and rental agencies are increasingly opting for inflatable fleets to minimize board damage from careless handling by students and renters.
  2. Inflatable SUPs don't hurt as much when you fall on them. Falling onto a hard board can hurt. An inflatable paddle board is much easier on the body of the rider -- and anybody else the board might come in contact with.
  3. A softer deck reduces fatigue. Standing on an inflatable SUP is similar to standing on one of those expensive rubber mats used in commercial settings to reduce fatigue. Your feet will be more comfortable and relaxed due to the reduced contact pressure, and the benefits travel up your body to your knees, back and neck.
  4. Inflatables are lighter, and a lighter board gets used more. For a given board size, an inflatable will usually weigh less than an equivalently sized hardboard, making it that much less effort to get it to the water.
  5. Blow up boards can be checked in on an airplane for travel. An inflatable SUP can be rolled up to fit in a bag that can be placed in the trunk of a car or checked in on an airplane for travel. Taking your SUP board with you on vacation can save hundreds of dollars in rental costs while giving you the independence to paddle on your own schedule.
  6. Hard boards take up a lot of storage space. An inflatable SUP can be stored on a shelf, without requiring a high ceiling or taking up an entire wall of storage space. An entire fleet of inflatable SUP boards can be stored in a small closet.
  7. Inflatables Perform Better In Varied Settings. Advances in material technology and design have resulted in inflatable SUP boards that have rigidity rivaling a hardboard while also having distinct performance advantages over fiberglass or epoxy boards. If you compare an inflatable and a hard board with the same footprint, the inflatable can have up to 20% more volume, making it that much more stable, and supporting more rider and passenger weight. With performance advances, inflatables are increasingly being used in competitions and by casual SUP racers. 'Hardboard like performance' is no longer something to aspire to, rather inflatables have distinct advantages that have seen them come into their own. 

Want expert advice on choosing an inflatable SUP board?  Check out our 2019 Inflatable Paddle Board Buying Guide.

Pumped Up SUP is an online store specializing in high-performance inflatable stand up paddle boards and accessories. We're always happy to answer your questions - just give us a call at 1-877-777-1769.