In this article, we will compare inflatable and solid paddle board.
I am Angel, a kayak ex-professional athlete, and a kayak and SUP instructor and guide with over 15 years of experience. In this article, I will explain the similarities and differences between a inflatable and solid paddle board (hard board).
Paddle boarding is one of the most popular water sports in recent years. Much like kayaking and surfboarding combined, paddle boarding involves paddling on a board to move across a body of water. It is usually done on calm waters on Oceans or lakes, whereas kayaking can handle rougher waters like rivers and streams.
That said, there are several types of paddle boards, depending on what you plan to use them for. They come in different shapes, sizes, and prices. This article will focus on the differences between inflatable and solid paddle boards. Both have their individual pros and cons, so it will benefit you to learn which would suit you better.
Table of Contents
Inflatable Vs. Solid Paddle Board
Here is a detailed comparison between an inflatable and solid paddle board.
Longevity depends on your paddle board’s build quality. Typically, the highest quality boards will also have the longest lifespan. Solid paddle boards can withstand harsher conditions because they are compact and made of heavier materials.
However, some solid paddle boards are often damaged when dropped or hit rocks in rougher waters like rivers. If you happen to crash into a solid structure, chances are, your board will get dents or holes in them. Also, having these repaired can be quite costly, especially with more expensive paddle board brands.
Inflatable paddle boards are the optimal type to use in rivers as they’re mostly built with durable plastics. So instead of getting damaged in rough areas, inflatable boards will often bounce off of them.
Stability depends mainly on the brand, quality, structure, and design of each paddle board. A high-quality 5-inch thick inflatable paddle board will be more stable than any regular solid paddle board for several reasons.
First, a 5-inch inflatable paddle board typically has a rounded rail which adds stability and balance. On the other hand, solid paddle boards tend to have tapered edges to help reduce their overall weight and make them more portable.
Because of recent technological innovations, inflatable paddle boards are now built with a more solid platform but still maintain the classic nose and tail shape to cut through water.
In terms of speed, solid paddle boards are faster and often have a smoother glide than inflatable ones. They are also better at gaining momentum, especially in calm waters where your paddling dictates all the speed and acceleration. The nose shape of solid paddle boards also cut through water better, so you do not have to exert as much effort in moving.
Inflatable paddle boards have made significant advances in speed in recent years, so they are quickly closing that gap. However, at the moment, solid paddle boards are still the faster option.
Some people have also tried inflatable paddle board racing, but nothing beats the speed with solid boards just yet.
Inflatable paddle boards are generally more comfortable than solid ones. This is because inflatable boards tend to have a thicker base, softer materials, absorb more impact, and even keep your feet and legs dry most of the time. You can just bounce off them lightly so you won’t have to worry about injuring your knees or elbows on the board when climbing onto it. Having a softer base also puts less strain on your feet as you paddle for long periods.
In recent years, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) yoga has been a very popular fitness activity. You will also do better with an inflatable paddle board than a solid one if you want to try it. There will be less strain on your back, butt, and neck as you do the many yoga poses from the comfort of your inflatable board.
Many people have limited storage space at home or would prefer to use that space for other items instead of a bulky paddle board. In that case, you will want to get an inflatable paddle board.
Solid paddle boards are typically huge and, well, solid. You will have to be creative about where to store them in your home if you have limited storage space. Some people have opted to drill mounts onto their walls to maximize the space, but some apartments, condominiums, and houses for rent do not allow that.
Putting a sizeable solid paddle board in your garage will also take up a lot of space. Not only that, you will also need to make sure you have enough clearance to move your solid board in and out of your home. paddle boards can be around 9 to 12 feet long, so you may struggle in smaller hallways and shorter doorways.
On the contrary, inflatable paddle boards are very easy to store. After deflating them, you can store them on a shelf or inside your closet. A set of several inflatable boards may even take up less storage space than a single solid paddle board. Some people simply keep them in bags under their beds to maximize space.
Their brand dictates the price of paddle boards, build quality, and purpose. But solid boards are generally more expensive than inflatable ones because they are made with more materials like plastic, fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber. However, high-quality inflatable paddle boards made with military-grade PVC layers can also get quite expensive.
If you are a beginner looking for your first-ever paddle board, you can opt to get one of the cheaper solid paddle boards. You will not feel much of a difference in quality if you are still learning the ropes of the water sport. As you become better at paddle boarding, you can slowly upgrade to higher-quality boards.
Like storage space, inflatable paddle boards have a massive advantage in portability. You simply have to deflate them into a much smaller size and essentially bring them wherever you want with ease. Inflatables are also a lot lighter to carry than even the lightest solid paddle boards you can find.
Simply deflate your inflatables and you can travel to anywhere with all types of vehicles, or even bicycles or electric skateboards.
When traveling to paddle boarding locations, your vehicles will have limited space to transport your solid boards in. Some people opt to install attachments to store them on their car’s roof, but that exposes the boards to the elements for hours, damaging them over time. Having an inflatable paddle board reduces this risk as you can deflate your board and store it in the trunk or the back seat comfortably. You don’t even need electricity as you can use a manual pump to inflate your paddle board.
There may be times that you have to take flights to get to your favorite paddle boarding spots. In that case, you have to check in your boards for a fee. Although most airlines will accept solid paddle boards for check-in, this can get quite expensive at times. An inflatable paddle board will be much cheaper to check-in, not to mention being easier to transport to the airport in the first place.
Even when fully inflated, inflatable paddle boards are still generally lighter. Military-grade PVC is much lighter than wood, fiberglass, or plastic that manufacturers often use in solid boards.
Due to technological advances, some high-quality inflatable paddle boards are now built super lightweight and can weigh as little as 17 pounds. On the other hand, a regular solid paddle board weighs almost double the amount, clocking in at around 30 pounds.
Solid paddle boards can get really heavy if you have to carry them everywhere, especially in secluded paddle boarding locations. You often have to bring them all the way from your car to the water. But with inflatable ones, you can get them with ease and simply inflate them once you are near your spot.
Solid paddle boards can endure strong weather conditions better due to their shape, weight, and materials. Since they weigh almost twice as heavy as the inflatable version, they are not as susceptible to wind resistance. They are also easier to control in stronger winds because they are denser and have sharper-shaped noses, tails, and fins.
These boards can also handle a wide array of weather conditions better, including strong winds and larger waves. There is also a lower risk of your board being lifted off the water.
Your inflatable paddle board can feel sluggish at times in strong weather conditions. A thicker base means more surface area for the wind to give you more drag. In some extreme cases, very strong winds have lifted and even flipped inflatable boards, which can potentially cause injuries to yourself and others.
If you plan to use your paddle board for surfing, you should opt for a solid paddle board. You can get shorter solid paddle boards around 10 feet long which are ideal for surfing. They are built with a planing hull and are much easier to maneuver than longer paddle boards. Some high-quality shorter paddle boards can even come close to proper surfboards in terms of surfing performance and glide.
paddle boards come in different builds, so try to get the 2 + 1 fin setup if you plan to go surfing with it. This type of board has a large center fin and two smaller fins on each side. Also, try to look for a board with a planing hull as they are flat and wide, optimal for surfing, leisure paddling, and even SUP yoga.
You can still surf on an inflatable paddle board, but your experience will largely depend on your board’s build, quality, and shape. Weather conditions will also affect your surfing experience when using them as they aren’t as sturdy as solid boards.
|Inflatable paddle board||Solid paddle board|
|Longevity||Military-grade materials have more longevity.||Lower quality materials may break down over time.|
|Stability||5-inch inflatable paddle boards have superior stability.||Stability depends on the brand, quality, shape, and structure|
|Speed||The thick platform and surface area make it slower.||Solid paddle boards are much faster and have a smoother glide.|
|Comfortability||Generally more comfortable and absorb more impact.||Harder base and less comfortable.|
|Storage Space||Easier to store in limited storage space.||Take up a lot of space for storage.|
|Affordability||Generally more affordable but the top of the line can be quite expensive.||More expensive due to more materials being used.|
|Portability||Easier to transport because you can deflate and store them.||Take up a lot of space and are more difficult to transport.|
|Weight||Super lightweight materials.||Almost twice as heavy as inflatable boards.|
|Weather Endurance||More susceptible to strong winds and weather conditions.||Can withstand strong weather conditions due to its weight and structure.|
|For Surfing||Not ideal for surfing due to its thick platform and susceptibility to weather conditions.||Optimal for surfing due to its shape and structure. Has better glide and speed than inflatable boards.|
Here are some commonly asked questions when it comes to comparisons between inflatable and solid paddle board.
Is inflatable paddle boarding better than hard paddle boarding?
It depends on your skill level, weather conditions, and general purpose. Inflatable paddle boarding is more stable and comfortable, especially for activities like SUP yoga but hard paddle boards are better for surfing.
Inflatable paddle boards last for how long?
If you purchase high-quality ones and take good care of them, an inflatable paddle board should last you at least 3-5 years before they start to show signs of wear.
Are inflatable paddle boards prone to punctures?
Inflatable paddle boards use high-quality military-grade PVC and other materials, so no, they are not prone to punctures. The only way to puncture a paddle board is intentionally stabbing it with sharp objects and with significant force.
In summary, both inflatable and solid paddle boards have their individual pros and cons depending on their brand, shape, quality, and structure. For starters, solid paddle boards are sturdier, more stable in bad weather, and better for competing. On the other hand, inflatable boards are easier to transport, more comfortable to use, and are generally more stable and durable in the long run.
If you’re looking for smoother glides and also want to go surfing, solid paddle boards are the way to go. For leisurely paddle boarding all over the world, inflatable boards are the most convenient to bring with you.
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