The Great Debate: Inflatable Paddle Boards vs. Hardboards

In Spotlight by Daniel

Congratulations!

You've finally decided to purchase your first SUP board.

But like most first-timers out there - you're left with a ton of questions.

And foremost being - should you buy a hardboard or an inflatable one?

It's a great debate in the paddling world.

There are, of course, pros and cons to owning each type.

If you wish to eliminate all doubt, the best piece of advice we can give you is...

Purchase one of each!

But obviously, that's not always feasible.

And we understand, the process of choosing a board can be a challenge...

Paddlers come in all shapes and sizes, and on top of that, everyone has a different skill level, paddles in a variety of environments, and in changing conditions...

With each factor having a profound effect on what board will work for you.

To make your choice just a little bit easier, below are a few general guidelines that should help you choose between an inflatable board or a hardboard.

Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact the team at Perfect Paddles. We are here to help! In any way that we can.

Inflatable - Benefits

Easy to Store: The biggest benefit to owning an inflatable is of course the relative ease to store a large craft in a small space. With an inflatable, you do not need a dedicated area or rack to store your board(s). Instead, just deflate, roll up, and stick it into the carrying bag that is included. This can also come in handy if you don't have a roof rack on your car. Instead of having to purchase an additional piece of expensive equipment, you can throw your iSUP into the truck of your car and make your way to the drop point.

Added bonus: Inflatable boards can be packed up and checked in on an airplane for international SUP excursions! Never miss an opportunity to paddle anywhere in the world by bringing a board with you!

Lighter to Carry: In the water, most boards don't look big or clunky. But when it comes to being on land, a 10'6'' or 11' board can often be gigantic for the average paddler and can be difficult to handle. The average hardboard weighs around 24-30lbs. Which doesn't seem like much. But in a strong wind or across a long beach, it can quickly become tiring to carry. The average inflatable SUP weighs roughly between 15-17lbs, a big difference when it comes to carrying on land.

Durable: It might come as a surprise to most beginners but an inflatable board is much more durable than a hardboard. Due to a hardboard's construction - that being fiberglass, carbon fiber, and epoxy resin - if you were to hit a rock, drop it on blacktop or concrete, or fall on it in the water, you are likely to crack, chip, or sometimes even puncture the base. This will result in water soaking into the foam core which can take weeks to dry and an expensive repair bill. On the other hand, inflatable boards are made from military-grade PVC protecting a tight drop stitch core, which, when inflated easily bounces off surfaces, avoids punctures, and will offer a soft landing if you were to fall on the deck pad when paddling in the water. For these reasons, whitewater river paddlers are always on high-quality inflatables.

Pro-Tip: If you are leaning towards purchasing an inflatable board and want to be paddling in moving water (rivers, waves, wind, etc.) you may want to invest more into a board that is built with higher PSI and tougher materials. Like all things - you get what you pay for! However, if you are a mellow paddler that wants to stick with calm waters such as lakes, then saving a few bucks won't hurt you too much.

Versatility: SUP is a versatile sport. You can enjoy waves in the ocean, a yoga class in the bay, an adrenaline rush in the whitewater, or just cruising in the back bay. An inflatable board is a great board to purchase as your first SUP because it offers the perfect platform to learn each of these activities. And if you do fall on it, you will not damage the board or yourself. As you progress in your skills, you can find the environment where you enjoy SUP the most and purchase a hardboard that fits the need. With your inflatable SUP a perfect choice for friends and family to learn on as well!

Hardboard - Benefits

Easier to Get on the Water: If you have the means to transport a hardboard to the drop-in location you can skip the hassle and time-consuming task of inflating your board before heading out. In relation to this, you can also skip the hassle of deflating and waiting for the board to dry before packing it up and heading back home. With a hardboard, you show up, drop-in, paddle, have fun, load back up and head home. It's a much quicker process.

High-Performance: Though current inflatable boards are improving by the year, at the moment, hardboards still offer higher performance. This includes being able to handle wind better. Instead of the hollow core of an inflatable, you are paddling the solid foam core and the extra weight of a hardboard allowing you to paddle against the wind and stand a chance. In addition, speed, turning, and glide are all enhanced on a hardboard.

SUP Surfing and Racing: Hardboards offer greater maneuverability and nimbleness. This alone makes them better suited for surfing and racing. Don't get us wrong, inflatable boards designed for surfing can easily handle small waves, but when it comes to 5'+ waves, a hardboard is the better option due to the increased rigidity. In addition, you’ll have a better glide with a hardboard, providing a smoother experience as you catch waves.

(Example of an average hardboard)

At this point...

You're probably thinking, "This is all great information, but it doesn't really clear anything up for me. Which board should I purchase?"

Allow up to break it down for you in simple terms...

Purchase a hardboard if you want one that is super responsive, is great in waves, can take on the wind with ease, you have the means to transport and store it, and don't have the patience to inflate your board anytime you wish to go.

Grab an inflatable board if you are a true beginner, plan on river paddling or messing around in the waves to learn how to surf, don't have a place for storage or transport, want to take it with you on trips, are prone to falling or accidents, and want something ultra-durable.

Does that clear it up?

If not, drop us a line - we can offer guidance no matter what you're thinking!