Inflatable paddle boards took the world of SUP by storm and they continue to gain popularity.
While these boards are affordable and durable, there are still doubts about their reliability. Nobody wants to spend a lot of money on a paddle board, only for it to come apart after a few months (or pop when you take it out for a paddling session).
So, like many other people, you may be wondering: are inflatable paddle boards worth the money?
The simple answer is yes.
Let’s get into the details.
How Are Inflatable Paddle Boards Different from Traditional Paddle Boards?
The main difference between a hard (i.e. ‘traditional’) board and an inflatable board is, unsurprisingly, the construction.
Hard paddle boards are built using solid materials like wood, plastic, and fiberglass. They are neither inflatable nor collapsible.
Inflatable paddle boards, on the other hand, have a drop stitch core and layer(s) of PVC on top of that. You inflate them before use and they’ll take the shape of a SUP. Once you’re done you can deflate and roll them up for storage.
Do Inflatable Paddle Boards Pop Easily: Are They Safe?
This is an important question because when it comes to water safety, you can’t be too cautious. Besides, there have been cases of inflatable SUPs popping so it’s actually a good question.
But you have nothing to worry about. Inflatable boards are safe and don’t pop easily. The materials used to make a quality inflatable paddle board are military-grade. Your SUP can take a beating and handle any kind of condition.
Try to avoid cheap no-name inflatable boards as those may have poorly done seams that can pop easily.
Why Inflatable Paddle Boards Are Worth the Money
I would confidently vouch for inflatable stand up paddle boards any day, and here’s why.
Inflatable SUP Boards Are More Durable
iSUPs are tougher than solid paddle boards and they handle impact better. The military-strength material used to make iSUPs doesn’t puncture easily. Your inflatable will also most likely bounce off an obstacle instead of getting damaged.
You can drop your inflatable on concrete or bump into a rock while paddling a river and it won’t get ruined.
You can’t say the same about a traditional paddle board. They dent more easily.
If you take good care of an inflatable board it can last a lifetime, especially if it’s high quality.
iSUPs Are More Affordable
The price of SUP boards ranges from $200 to about $3000. Those on the cheaper side are mostly inflatable. It is easy to find a quality and durable iSUP for less than $500 and one with premium features for about $700.
Most reputable inflatable companies even make an entry-level board that is still well-made but cheaper than their other boards. You don’t need to break the bank to get a great iSUP that will last.
This isn’t the case with traditional paddle boards. A good hard paddle board will cost you at least $1000.
They Are Easy to Store and to Carry Around
Inflatable SUP boards can be deflated, rolled up, and packed into a bag that you can easily carry around. They will also fit in smaller spaces like under the bed, in your closet, or into a corner somewhere–perfect if you have limited storage space.
These boards tend to be lighter and even smaller paddlers can carry them too.
Hard boards are a little heavier and you can’t roll them up. Carrying a hard SUP board, especially a long racing board or large fishing SUP, is not a fun task. And don’t forget that you have to buy a roof rack for transporting it with your car too.
You also need big storage space–so if you have a small apartment a solid board may not even be an option for you.
Inflatable Boards Are Great for All Kinds of SUP Activities
Another reason why I believe that inflatable boards are worth the money is because of how versatile they are.
There’s so much you can do with a good all-around inflatable stand up paddle board. You can try basic paddling, SUP fitness, short SUP tours with your kids or doggo, or even a little whitewater paddle boarding.
What About the Downsides?
If you’re considering an inflatable paddle board, here are the downsides you should be aware of.
iSUPs Don’t Make the Best Performance Boards
The difference in performance between inflatable SUPs and solid boards continues to get smaller. However, hard stand up paddle boards are still the clear winners as far as performance is concerned.
If you’re looking for a high-performance racing or surfing paddle board, an epoxy SUP is your best option.
Inflation Takes Time and Effort
I don’t know a single paddle boarder who enjoys the process of inflating and deflating a board, especially with a hand pump. It takes time and effort that you’d rather use for paddle boarding.
One of the best things about traditional paddle boards is that they are always ready to go. You don’t have to worry about inflating or traveling around with a pump.
How Much Should I Spend on an Inflatable Paddle Board?
You have seen that inflatable SUP boards can be ridiculously cheap or seriously expensive. What is a good amount to spend on an iSUP and still ensure that you get a good inflatable paddle board?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer because there are several factors involved.
But here is an easy way to figure that out. What are you looking for?
Are you on a tight budget and only want a basic inflatable SUP board for casual paddling? If the answer is yes then you can set aside $350 to $500. That can get you a quality but cheap inflatable paddle board, like the Gili Air.
TIP: Read our Gili Air Review.
Mid-range inflatable SUP boards come with better features like multiple action mounts for gear and better quality accessories. This is where the more popular inflatable paddle boards fall. They generally cost $600 to $900.
If you’re looking for a higher-quality board that’s versatile, this is the amount you should expect to spend.
Now, if you need a premium quality board, designed mainly for a specific SUP activity like fishing, you might have to get an expensive inflatable paddle board, costing $1000+. This could be a Red Paddle Co board meant for racing or a Bote fishing SUP with all the bells and whistles.
Are Cheap Inflatable Paddle Boards Any Good?
There are so many cheap paddle boards on the market and, honestly, some of them are pretty good.
If you decide to get a cheaper board, I’d advise you to be careful because it’s very easy to end up with a low-quality paddle board with equally low-quality accessories.
You’ll soon find yourself having to get a new paddle board after a few months.
Unfortunately, most inflatable paddle boards in the sub $400 category can disappoint you. They feature poor quality construction and low-quality materials so they might not last long.
But in that category, you can also find some good boards. Always try to go with an entry-level SUP from a reputable company like iRocker, Bluefin SUP Boards, and Gili. They usually have a cheaper alternative for beginners, but the boards are still made using high-quality materials.
It’s also important to buy a board with a reasonable warranty period if you’re buying cheap–like one year. This way, you’ll be covered in case the paddle board is defective.
So, are inflatable paddle boards worth the money? Yes, they are!
Inflatable stand up paddle boards feature drop stitch construction with PVC layers, making them extremely durable. They handle impact better than epoxy boards because they don’t dent as easily.
Contrary to what some people may think, iSUPs don’t pop easily. They are not like cheap inflatable pool toys.
Lastly, inflatable boards are versatile and easy to transport and store.
If you’ve been thinking about getting an inflatable board, go for it! They’re reliable and amazing.